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What the tech is going on? The latest global trends and what to look out for in 2018

24.01.2018

Author: Arndt Politke

We’re underway with 2018 and if you’re at all interested in tech, you’ve probably already read about the latest developments in the market. 

However, you might want to take a look at what we have in stall for you. Using our world-renowned point of sales insights, we‘ve put together a guide to the major trends from last year and what to watch out for in the months to come. 

Are smartphones really still setting records? 

They may have been around for a while, but these devices are still having a massive impact on today’s tech industry. Last year, manufacturers sold a whopping 1.460 billion smartphones at an average price of USD 323, with demand in Emerging Asia and Eastern Europe boosting sales in this market. Meanwhile, consumers in North America, Western Europe and Developed Asia are purchasing premium models with improved features such as larger screens, better processing power and longer battery life. In countries like Russia and India, the sales of cheaper smartphones are gaining importance. 

Feature phones are not over the hill either. These products are proving to be particularly popular among the elderly in developed markets.  

Have tablets hit their peak? 

The increase in tablet sales and the drop in demand for PCs were big stories in the tech world a few years ago, but it seems tablets have hit their peak.

Retail channel sales of media tablets fell globally by 18% in 2017 when compared to the previous year (Jan-Oct). This was due to a severe decline in emerging markets, where these products account for 34% of the demand for computers (desktops, laptops and tablet computers). While tablets are still popular and often the go-to device for media consumption on the go, the steady rise of this product group appears to have come to a stop. 

This trend overlaps with the resurgence of personal computer sales, predominately ultra-thin notebooks. Driven by Western Europe and APAC, these products account for 10% of the global retail demand (excluding North America).

TV and the smart home 

Consumers are looking for bigger TVs, especially in China, where it’s expected they will push the average screen size to 54.1 inches by 2020. But these products are not only getting bigger, they are getting smarter – 68% of all TVs sold are now “smart”. 

The idea of the smart home will continue to grow in other areas too. Smart appliances and Internet of Things devices are experiencing triple digit growth rates as people are starting to buy into the industry vision for the connected home. That’s especially true in the United States, which – despite consumer skepticism – remains the largest market for smart devices. 

The reality of virtual reality 

For virtual reality, consumers are still waiting for the must have content and applications to arrive. 

However, given recent announcements from leading entertainment studios, such as VR storytelling in films and the broadcasting of sports matches in VR, this is likely to change in 2018. It’s also expected that stand alone and untethered devices will come into play, for example the Oculus Go.   

Meanwhile, the market is split between cheap VR head mounts where users can use their smartphones and more expensive head mounted displays for gaming. Due to weak sales of head mounted devices in 2017, this category has shown only moderate volume growth year-on-year with +2% in units. Nevertheless, a 19% increase in value indicates that the market is heading towards devices that are more sophisticated. In fact, their sales share increased from 17% in 2016 to 27% in 2017.*

Another fascinating insight is that the main sales channel for premium devices is not online anymore, but the real world, i.e. offline retail stores. For VR, it appears the immediate real-life experience of the technology is an important factor in turning buyers on to virtual reality. In Europe in 2017, 50% of sales for head mounted displays came from offline outlets (compared to 39% in 2016).*

*GfK POS data 10 European Countries 2016, 2017 

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