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Verizon launching a $50 Yahoo!-branded smartphone

Verizon launching a $50 Yahoo!-branded smartphone

In a market that is now pushing costly 5G service and regularly sees smartphones from leading brands Apple and Samsung retailing for upwards of $1,000, there’s a real opportunity to offer customers something more budget-friendly. At just $50, Verizon’s brand-new Yahoo!-branded smartphone is the epitome of budget-friendly – needless to say, a price that low comes with some caveats.

The new phone is essentially a re-skinned ZTE Blade A3Y model that only offers 720p resolution in a 5.4-inch display, 2GB of RAM, 32GB of memory, and Yahoo!’s apps are all pre-installed. There’s no support for 5G, as you might expect, but what Verizon is aiming to do is drive customers towards its Yahoo! Mobile service, which launched in March and offers unlimited talk, text and data on Verizon’s 4G LTE network for $40 per month. Verizon bought Yahoo! in 2017 for $4.8 billion and has been exploring the best ways to use the once mighty Internet empire.

The trojan horse-like approach that Verizon is taking with its new Yahoo! smartphone could work with the older demographic that’s still regularly visiting Yahoo!’s various portals and using its email service. The device doesn’t have any of the bells and whistles of far more expensive smartphones, but it doesn’t have to at the $50 price point. Moreover, customers get an optimized Yahoo! experience as the apps have been fine-tuned for the smartphone while owners also receive free access to Yahoo! Mail Pro for ad-free email.

Interpret’s New Media Measure® indicates that Yahoo! services are regularly used by almost 40% of individuals over age 45 in the US, and nearly half of Verizon customers in the US use Yahoo! websites, with one third using the brand’s email client.

T-Mobile starts its new chapter in live TV services

T-Mobile starts its new chapter in live TV services

As wireless carriers continue to roll out their 5G service offerings, T-Mobile (#2 in the nation) is aiming to provide its customers with a new live TV platform to take advantage of that increased bandwidth. The new internet-based streaming service, TVision, includes multiple channel packages and prices. Like Sling or YouTube TV, the service is viewable anywhere but is only available to T-Mobile’s wireless or internet customers.

TVision Live offers three channel package tiers at varying prices, as low as $40 per month, along with 100 hours of cloud-based DVR. The more aggressively priced TVision Vibe is just $10 per month and includes 30 live channels but limits concurrent streams to two (rather than three with TVision Live) and makes DVR functionality an added $5 monthly cost. Finally, TVision Channels includes a la carte premium channels such like Starz and Showtime at additional costs. The new streaming service from T-Mobile will be available on most streaming sticks/boxes, except Roku, and the company is also launching its own $50 TVision Hub, a 4K Android TV dongle that’s been specifically designed for an enhanced TVision experience.

The new service is T-Mobile’s second attempt in the live TV business, following its launch of TVision Home in early 2019. The previous version was available in limited markets and closely resembled a traditional pay TV service, including over 100 channels and a set-top box. The new version of TVision appears to be more scalable than the original, a reported priority for T-Mobile.

There’s been no word yet on whether T-Mobile will offer specific discounts or bundles with its own wireless service, as AT&T did during the launch of HBO Max. Like AT&T, T-Mobile also has the advantage of already having a profitable core business. “T-Mobile’s video services both promote and are subsidized by the carrier’s core wireless service,” Interpret VP Brett Sappington told Forbes. “For this reason, T-Mobile could have significant advantages over virtual MVPD rivals in their ability to preserve prices and cost-effectively market these video services.”

The good news for T-Mobile is that several of its customers are already accustomed to general live TV streaming services, with adoption rates similar to those of AT&T customers (AT&T has offered its own streaming live TV services since late 2016). T-Mobile’s customers also have higher adoption than customers of Verizon, according to Interpret’s New Media Measure®. Verizon has previously partnered with both YouTube TV and Hulu to offer streaming services to its customers.

iPhone 12 makes its debut in a smartphone market dominated by Apple

iPhone 12 makes its debut in a smartphone market dominated by Apple

Apple recently unveiled not one, not two, but four new models of iPhone, ranging in price from $699 for the iPhone 12 mini to $1,099 for the iPhone Pro Max. Apple will continue to sell the iPhone SE ($399), iPhone XR ($499) and iPhone 11 ($599), but consumers interested in making the switch to 5G wireless service will need to upgrade to one of the four new iPhone 12 models.

With the upper end of the new iPhones, it’s clear that Apple is making a significant push with more serious photographers. The iPhone 12 Pro and Pro Max both come with a Lidar sensor, which should significantly improve focus speed for the device’s camera while also enabling AR functionality. The Pro models also include a telephoto lens in addition to wide and ultrawide lenses and feature bigger camera sensors overall. From an entertainment perspective, Apple is offering a ceramic-protected OLED display for the first time – the Pro Max offers the largest display ever in an iPhone, coming in at 6.7 inches, compared to 6.1 inches for the 12 Pro and 5.4 inches for the 12 mini.

The design of Apple’s iPhones hasn’t changed drastically in recent years – it’s been more evolution than revolution. And while some critics have accused the company of failing to truly innovate in the smartphone category, the fact is that most consumers don’t care that much and are more than happy to switch to or upgrade their iPhone when the need arises. For the past few years, the iPhone’s market share in the US has continued to increase, jumping from 31% of consumers in 2018 to 41% in Q1 2020, representing about 135 million Americans, according to Interpret’s New Media Measure®. Meanwhile, one of Apple’s closest competitors, Samsung, has held onto its 30% market share in the US, but hasn’t been able to grow it. Samsung launched updates to its lineup of phones over the summer.

“It’s going to be a significant challenge for Samsung or another smartphone manufacturer to unseat Apple,” said Harry Wang, Senior Vice President at Interpret. “The brand is incredibly strong in the US and often sees attractive deals with major wireless carriers. iPhones are also tied to a built-in App Store ecosystem that many users have bought into with numerous app purchases, making them more likely to want to stay within that ecosystem when upgrading their smartphone.”

Health conscious consumers are buying more fitness trackers during the pandemic

Health conscious consumers are buying more fitness trackers during the pandemic

When stay-at-home orders started being issued in the US back in March, the cold weather may have dissuaded some from pursuing outdoor activities. As the warmer months came around and many experienced a greater desire to spend time outside while staying socially distant, a portion of the population decided to focus on fitness.

Manufacturers of wearables have looked to capitalize on the fitness trend with more affordable options for those who want to track their activities without paying for the higher-end bells and whistles of premium smartwatches. Apple Watch SE, for example, is one of Apple’s lowest priced options at $279, while the Fossil Gen 5E costs $249 and the Fitbit Versa Lite retails for just $130.

Aside from the fact that some wearables can help users detect COVID-19, the focus on fitness is gaining traction, as Apple recently launched its Fitness+ subscription to compete with the likes of Peloton, Fitbit Club, and Nike Training Coach. Interpret’s New Media Measure® indicates a clear uptick in fitness tracker ownership during the pandemic, climbing from 29% to 34% among Millennials and from 23% to 28% among Gen X consumers. Boomers saw a 2%-point increase as well, but younger generations are likely to be where fitness tracker manufacturers will see the biggest revenues.

Interestingly, while Gen Z ownership remained flat, the 25% baseline was already higher than that of Gen X, a promising indicator for general interest in the technology among very young individuals that companies like Apple and Google-owned Fitbit will want to pay attention to.

Consumer electronics recycling is a growing business with serious environmental impact

Consumer electronics recycling is a growing business with serious environmental impact

Between smartphones, computers, televisions, video game systems, and other gadgets, consumers purchase and eventually discard numerous devices each year. As technology plays a greater and greater role in everyday life, figuring out how to properly manage e-waste is becoming big business – potentially worth $40 billion in the next few years – and it’s also critical to the health of the environment and ecosystem.

Many electronics not only contain glass, metal, and plastic that can be recycled, but they often have lead, mercury, cadmium, chromium and other heavy metals that are hazardous to the environment and humans. Properly processing these metals and toxic chemicals is critical to prevent them from polluting water sources and the environment at large. It’s also an area that’s likely to lead to further investment and job creation.

Amazon, for example, recently invested in a battery recycling firm that was founded by a former Tesla executive. Electric vehicle batteries and other lithium-ion batteries are becoming a key component in e-waste management. Amazon’s investment into Redwood Materials (which had already received $40 million in funding earlier in 2020) comes as part of the company’s $2 billion Climate Pledge Fund.  

It took some time for the average person to become accustomed to recycling paper, plastic, and glass as they put their garbage cans out for pickup. There will likely be a similar adjustment period for people with their consumer electronics. According to Interpret’s New Media Measure®, about one third of Millennials and Gen Z individuals consider themselves highly environmentally conscious. Gen X is slightly less environmentally conscious, but attitudes appear to be shifting with younger people.

5G is becoming more widespread, but it’s a costly upgrade for many

5G is becoming more widespread, but it’s a costly upgrade for many

5G wireless technology theoretically represents a significant boost to both download and upload speeds over 4G LTE, but the necessary infrastructure has taken some time to build out, and major wireless carriers are working on three distinct varieties: low-band, mid-band, and millimeter-wave. It’s the latter that can usher in 1 gigabit per second speeds, but millimeter-wave is also limited in range and its signal is easily blocked by physical structures. Conversely, low-band is far easier to deploy, but its speeds are only a tick better than LTE. Mid-band is a compromise between the extremes and could be where we see the most action from T-Mobile, AT&T and Verizon.

2020 marks the first year in which the three leading wireless carriers will all offer expanded 5G service coverage in the US, while heavily marketing their respective services as the “best.” Each company has its own requirements in terms of plans that provide 5G, but there’s no getting around the fact that the new technology is going to cost customers a pretty penny to upgrade. First, any person looking to use 5G will need to purchase a 5G-capable phone. Most people do not own a phone with 5G capability yet, and these high-end models are some of the more expensive ones on the market – Apple has yet to introduce an iPhone with 5G support, but that’s expected to change this month.

For Verizon and AT&T, as CNET points out, customers will need an unlimited plan to take advantage of 5G, whereas T-Mobile offers the service to any of its subscribers, including newly onboarded Sprint users. From a demographic standpoint, however, AT&T could have an advantage. Interpret’s New Media Measure® shows that the AT&T userbase has a greater percentage of high income households than Verizon or T-Mobile, with more than a quarter (26%) earning over $100,000 annually. Moreover, when it comes to early adopter mentality, AT&T users show significantly more interest in being the “first to try” new technologies.

“Mobile operators will be creative in their marketing campaigns and 5G service bundles,” said Harry Wang, SVP of Strategy and Insights at Interpret. “If the wireless market is a high-stakes poker game, 5G is the operator’s most important card to play.”