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Apple led wearables market in 2018, with 46.2M of the total 172.2M devices shipped – TechCrunch

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Apple devices continue to lead the wearables market, according to a new report from IDC out today, which claimed the Cupertino-based company shipped a total of 46.2 million wearables for the year. The firm also reported the worldwide market for wearable devices grew 31.4 percent during the fourth quarter of 2018, to reach 59.3 million units shipped, while shipments for the year grew 27.5 percent for a total of 172.2 million. Apple retained its No. 1 position in wearables again in Q4, with 16.2 million wearables shipped — 10.4 million of which were Apple Watches, the report said.

Smartwatches together grew 54.3 percent in 2018, and accounted for 29.8 percent of all wearables. Apple Watches accounted for nearly half that market, the report said.

IDC forecasts that Apple’s growth in wearables will continue, thanks to a strong start for the newer Apple Watch Series 4.

In addition, IDC noted it recently revised its “ear-worn” category of wearables to include wireless headphones that allow users to call upon a smart assistant through either a touch of a button or hot-word detection. That means devices like Apple’s AirPods, Google’s Pixel Buds, Bose’s QC35II and others are now being counted among the wearables category.

Much of the growth in wearables was also attributed to the increasing number of these sorts of ear-worn devices, like Apple AirPods.

In Q4, for example, ear-worn devices grew 66.4 percent from the year-ago quarter to capture at 21.9 percent market share.

The firm said the growth was due to a combination of factors, including the increasing popularity of smart assistants and the ditching of the smartphone’s headphone jack, led by Apple.

“The market for ear-worn wearables has grown substantially this past year and we expect this to continue in the years to come,” said Jitesh Ubrani, senior research analyst for IDC Mobile Device Trackers, in a statement. “It is the next battleground for companies as these types of headphones become a necessity for many given the exclusion of headphone jacks from modern devices. Add to that the rise of smart assistants and in-ear biometrics and companies have the perfect formula to sell consumers on a device that’s complimentary to the device ecosystem that lives on their wrist and in their pocket,” he added.

Meanwhile, smartwatches grew 55.2 percent to capture a 34.3 percent share. Wristbands reached a 30 percent market share, thanks to launches from Xiaomi, Huawei and Fitbit.

Xiaomi was in second place for the quarter, behind Apple, with a 12.6 percent market share compared with Apple’s 27.4 percent. The company remains strong in its home country of China, but sales of its Mi Band 3 have also done well. Of note, its Mi Band 3 accounted for more than 30 percent of all wristbands shipped during Q4.

Behind Xiaomi was Huawei, which grew by a sizable 248.5 percent thanks to Huawei and Honor phones being bundled with wearables, along with other product launches. Fitbit and Samsung rounded out the top 5, with the former returning to growth thanks to the Charge 3 and promotions around its Versa, and the latter also by bundling wearables with its smartphones.

Samsung shipped 4 million wearables in Q4, compared with Apple’s 16.2 million.

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Years after Google and Apple, Samsung finally gets eSIM working in the US

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Samsung

Samsung is finally starting to support eSIM in the US. XDA Developers reports the first working combo is the Galaxy Note 20 and Note 20 Ultra on T-Mobile. You’ll need an update to enable the feature, but then you’ll be able to throw off the shackles of your ancient plastic SIM card. Samsung flagships began shipping with eSIM starting with the Galaxy S20 in March 2020, but it never got US carrier support. With T-Mobile now supporting the Note 20, hopefully other carriers and models will follow suit.

Samsung has been pretty slow on the eSIM uptake overall. The world’s first eSIM phone was the Google Pixel 2, which launched in 2017 and was quickly supported on Google Fi. Apple started supporting eSIM with the iPhone XS in 2018, and carriers quickly enabled support.

eSIM removes the need for plastic, physical SIM cards that link your phone to your phone bill and get you up and running on the cellular network. Physical SIM cards are one of the many ways carriers cling to outdated technology. In order to be identified for service, carriers demand we reserve space in our phones for a 12×9 mm plastic card that holds 256KB of information. This might have sounded like a good idea in the ’90s when carriers cooked up the SIM card standard. But today, when a similarly sized (15×11 mm) MicroSD card can hold 1TB of data—or about 4.2 million times more data—SIM cards seem laughably out of date.

eSIM, if the mobile industry would just adopt it and abandon SIM cards altogether, would allow for easier carrier switching, since you would only have to download an app to switch service instead of having to buy a physical piece of plastic. It would let manufacturers save space inside a device, since an on-motherboard eSIM chip is much smaller than a SIM card, a SIM card tray, and an ejection system. Eliminating the slot entirely would result in one less place for dust and water ingress, too.

For phones with both eSIM and a physical SIM slot, eSIM often leads to “dual-SIM” support, allowing users to subscribe to two carriers at once. This is good for people who want to juggle multiple numbers or for someone who wants to combine the best coverage of two carriers. This is enabled on the Note 20 on T-Mobile, by the way, which lists “Dual SIM Dual Standby (DSDS) support,” meaning you’ll be on both networks at once.

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Liveblog—All the news from Apple’s “Spring Loaded” event (Tuesday, 4/20 at 1p ET)

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Enlarge / The event invitation that went out to members of the press and Apple’s partners.

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At 10am Pacific time (1pm Eastern) on Tuesday, April 20, Apple will host its first live product launch event since the company’s three-event gauntlet late last year. Tim Cook and co. are expected to put much of the focus on the iPad lineup—but other announcements, like Apple Silicon Macs, are also possible.

As longtime Ars Technica readers expect, we’ll be liveblogging the event and publishing stories about the new announcements as everything unfolds.

If there’s one thing people are confident of going into this event, it’s the fact that Apple will announce new iPad Pro models. Leaks and rumors have claimed that the new iPad Pro will look quite similar to its immediate predecessor but that it will have a faster chip, improved cameras, and (at least in the larger 12.9-inch model) a Mini LED display.

Apple may also be ready to release a new version of the Apple Pencil peripheral; if so, it would be the third iteration of the product. While we don’t expect Macs to be the event’s main focus, Apple may introduce a low-end iMac with the M1 chip, or perhaps other Apple Silicon-equipped Macs.

Other possibilities include an updated Apple TV 4K, the long-delayed Tile competitor (probably called AirTags), or new audio products like a screen-equipped HomePod speaker or a new version of Apple’s wildly popular AirPods wireless earbuds.

It’s also likely that Apple will use the stage this event provides to make the case for its upcoming privacy changes like App Tracking Transparency, which has drawn intense ire from some app developers and advertisers as well as threats of antitrust lawsuits from rivals like Facebook.

Bookmark this page and plan on returning here at 1pm EST on April 20 to see all the latest updates.

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Fitbit announces new style-focused Luxe smartband

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Enlarge / Lifestyle photo of Fitbit Luxe.

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Fitbit has just announced its first fashion-focused, bangle-style tracker—the Fitbit Luxe. True to its luxurious name, the stainless-steel Luxe will come in a $200 special edition, styled with Gorjana jewelry as its band (coming in June) but the $150 silicon band version is available for pre-order now.

Both will come with six months of the Fitbit Premium membership (usually $10 a month or $80 per year), which affords users some guided fitness programs, over 200 workout videos, deeper sleep analysis, about 60 nutrition articles and recipes, and other resources to learn about and improve health and wellness. Of course, getting people healthier has always been the name of the game for Fitbit, so with the Luxe, the company is attempting to strike a better balance between style, price, and casual activity tracking.

Sporting an OLED color touchscreen, the Luxe is the company’s first fitness band, not smartwatch, to add this bit of flair and functionality. You can swipe through your latest activity metrics, notifications from your phone (you can receive texts, calls, emails, etc. but cannot reply to them on the band), stress stats, menstrual cycle information, or do guided breath work and start tracking a workout.

The Luxe tracks sleep, offers more than 20 different exercises (some automatically), and boasts 5ATM waterproof resistance for use during swims. If you want GPS tracking, you’ll need to bring your phone along, though, as the Luxe doesn’t have GPS built in. Otherwise, the heart rate monitor, blood oxygen sensor (functionality “coming soon”), gyroscope, and accelerometer will do the rest for your fitness-tracking needs. Skin temperature sensors also help measure your stress levels, along with data from your breathing rate and heart rate variability.

All of this is used to provide context for your fitness, whether it be through measuring your activity minutes for the week, seeing if you’re hitting recommended goals, or letting you know your stress levels and offering you guided meditations from Deepak Chopra, among others, to impact it. The Luxe introduces deeper insights into this with seven-day trends that were previously reserved for Fitbit Premium members, and subscribers will still get longer 30-day trend reports. Logging other health metrics manually, like blood glucose, in the Fitbit app is an option, and such metrics will then be included in your reports.

Like almost every Fitbit, the Luxe is rated for multi-day battery life, up to five days. This should help facilitate its endeavor to be worn casually and not thought about daily. With its light fitness character (perhaps more accurately described as “wellness”-focused), the Luxe is aimed at taking care of the basics and doing so stylishly. It’s not the tracker you’ll want to train with for a half-marathon, but its standard-level activity tracking paired with Fitbit’s well-organized app and wellness insights therein should be enough to satisfy those looking for a more “set it and forget it” (and then check in on and learn from it from time to time) approach to wellness tracking.

If that’s right up your alley, then all you have to do is forget that it looks like a medical bracelet (a very fancy one, especially with optional gorjana metal and leather bracelet-styled bands) and place a preorder on Fitbit’s website. Orders start shipping “this spring” for the Luxe and in June for the Luxe Special Edition.

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