China’s Smartphone Decline and Self-Driving Car Wrecks

Why China’s decline isn’t a big deal

After four years of dominance over the US market, the Chinese smartphone market is finally slowing down. In the first quarter of 2015, smartphones shipped in China fell by 4.3% compared to a year ago. Small percentage though it may be, this decline has left analysts wondering if this bodes ill for the future. Far from being the developing market that it once was, China enjoys about a 43% smartphone penetration, and first time buyers are few and far between and growing even more scarce. Suffice it to say, lots of people in China own a smartphone. And it’s that “lots of people” idea that’s important, and the key to why this decline isn’t a huge problem. In a market the size of China, relative numbers (like that 4.3%) mean far less than absolute numbers. In a small population, 4% can be significant; in a population of 700 million active smartphone users, it’s less so. Determining the impact requires looking at the size of the market.

If the only piece of data you had was that China was slowing, you’d think that it would negatively impact Apple. But while this decline may be something to pay attention to for other manufacturers, for Apple it’s potentially a good thing. Apple is the only maker who’s been immune to the slowing. 2015 has already shown record iPhone sales in the Chinese market with Apple leading over Samsung and even the hometown favorite, Xiaomi. Apple is a total anomaly to low-end disruption, proving that consumers will still pay a premium for user experience. So what happens when everyone already has an iPhone? Given that Apple’s loyalty is a near-perfect 91%, it could mean a huge boost every two years (the average amount of time before someone needs to replace their phone). So given the rate of Apple’s growth in China and the average lifecycle of a smartphone, Apple could eventually be poised to sell 25 to 40 million iPhones per year in China.

How a smartphone can replace $18,000 of medical equipment

Researchers at Columbia University have just developed a smartphone accessory capable of detecting disease markers for HIV and Syphilis. The device could replace over $18,000 of bulky medical equipment and make testing in developing nations infinitely easier. The accessory has already been piloted in Rwanda, where it was shown that “full laboratory-quality immunoassay can be run on a smartphone accessory.”  

This kind of advance could be transformative in the war against infectious diseases in developing countries, where power and cost considerations can severely limit the reach of medical testing and care. Research lead Samuel Sia said notes that “by increasing detection of syphilis infections, we might be able to reduce deaths by 10-fold. And for large-scale screening where the dongle’s high sensitivity with few false reading is critical, we might be able to scale up HIV testing at the community level with immediate antiretroviral therapy that could nearly stop HIV transmissions and approach elimination of this devastating disease.“

Self-driving safety

Just in case you were wondering, “how many self-driving car accidents have there been?”, Google has your answer. 11. There have been 11, all minor. That’s next to nothing, especially considering that there are 1.3 million deaths from auto accidents every year globally.

Now, Google claims that all the accidents were the fault of other parties and NOT the self-driving cars. When talking of the 11 mishaps, the director of Google’s self-driving car project said, unequivocally, “Not once was the self-driving car the cause of the accident.” And while it may seem obvious that Google would prefer to not be in the wrong, we believe them. The fact is that humans are fallible, unpredictable machines, and the great likelihood is that self-driven cars can do a far better job than we can. Lucky nobody, either human or machine, was hurt in any of the accidents.

Will this assuage the public’s fear of autonomous vehicles? With the headway Google is making in the field, it looks like it’s coming soon, whether you fear it or not. So buckle up.

Pizza tweets

When is the best interface is no interface? This week Domino’s actually made a better app by eliminating the need to open the app. Starting May 20, Domino’s customers will be able to hook up their Twitter accounts to their Domino’s accounts, and order pizza. BY TWEET. In the textual equivalent of a grunt, you can post just the emoticon for pizza and find a hot pie at your doorstep in half an hour. This follows the general trend of social media: it used to be that you tried to get people to come to your site. Smart brands realized that it’s better to go to social media where their customers actually were, than to try and make them come to your site. This brings your ecommerce and sales to the people where they are are, and they don’t even have to leave social media for you to close the sale.

The fact that you can do this easily on a smaller screen, accessible from anywhere, and without as many hassles (think of how many steps would be involved to order a pizza order online 5 years ago, versus a single tweet today) shows us again just how powerful mobile is in the business sphere. Mobile is where your customers are.

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