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Consumers spend big on smart speakers, but small through them

(TECH GADGETS) Smart speaker manufacturers expected results from the purchase of goods via audio. The consumers results speak for themselves, people want to see products

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Remember when Amazon came out with their “innovative” new idea – – the Dash button? We reported on it a few years ago.

Well, just in case you need a refresher, Amazon created a physical representation of their digital “buy” button in an effort to make buying items from Amazon easier, especially related to items most frequently purchased (like laundry pods and toilet paper). The goal was to provide customers a way to put a sort of reminder next to their frequently purchased items, and press it when they realize they need to order more.

At first, everyone thought this was a great idea… until the price tag and the product’s limitations were shown.

These “buttons” were made of inexpensive plastic and sold for a whopping $4.99 a piece. Not only that, but each button was specific to a certain item, so you couldn’t just buy one Dash – you had to buy one for every item you bought regularly.

That means, depending on what you bought on a regular basis, a single person could have hundreds of these Dash buttons all around their house, making this strategy very unsophisticated and inefficient.

Amazon hasn’t completely abandoned their Dash buttons, as I’m sure they have users here and there, but they definitely have moved on through their Amazon speakers, guided by Alexa, an AI, and they’re not alone. However, for the remainder of this story, given their general popularity and “household name” status, I’ll use Amazon as my prime example.

Now, don’t get me wrong, smart speakers like the Echo are usually satisfactory, at least from a musical perspective, and Alexa does listen pretty well and has some pretty nifty tricks up her preverbal sleeve, but “she” does have her shortcomings.

Let me start by saying that Alexa-based devices, to me, have negatives that far outweigh the positives.

My main reason for opting out of owning an Echo or another smart speaker is the fact that Alexa is always listening. It’s creepy to me, and to many others, but Amazon lives and dies by this strategy when it comes to its Alexa products.

They’re so invested in this feature because they had high hopes that people would use Alexa for far more than obtaining recipes, setting a timer, or reading the news to you (here’s a quick list of what Alexa can currently do, as reported by The Daily Sound). One of these said features is the ability to purchase items through their voice-activated, Alexa-based devices.

Well, I can officially say from a consumer’s perspective that they failed. According to eMarketer, “while some US consumers are warming to the idea of making voice-based purchases via smart speakers, the number of those doing so is smaller than initially estimated.”

But,why? Well, the answer makes perfect sense!

No one wants to buy what they can’t see. If you’ve ever worked in telemarketing or phone-based sales in any way, you know this is true. Having worked in retail in my early professional years, I can say with complete confidence that most consumers prefer to buy what they can see and feel, and if they can’t feel it (ie: eCommerce), they sure as heck want lots of photos and videos showing it off. It’s a fact that people would much prefer a tiny screen with some visuals than something with zero visuals.

In fact, eMarketer goes on to say: “The absence of screens on many smart speaker models is an added aspect of this problem – people often want to see products before a purchase. As a result, some voice buyers are instead opting to make purchases with other voice-controlled devices that have screens, such as smartphones and tablets.”

So what did Amazon really think would happen when they completely stomped on the normal buying process (ie: seeing is believing) by removing all visuals, and instead replacing it with something akin to ordering burgers in a drive through without a menu present? Could this just be a mass experiment, using consumers as guinea pigs while they try to find a new outlet for sales?

It’s possible! After all, Amazon is a marketing machine and if you work in marketing, you know you must perform tests to find out what yielded the best results.

But as both a marketer and a consumer, I digress.

In addition, consumers are also concerned about payment and privacy via a total voice-based transaction. But that doesn’t stop everyone from using the system completely. That said, the privacy concern is real: there’s even a bracelet you can buy to jam Alexa’s microphones.

Of course, there are still reasons to get an Alexa device, but for the time being, people really just don’t trust an audio-based ordering system with no visuals.

Rachael Olan is a Texas-based Staff Writer at The American Genius and jack-of-many-trades. She's well known for her abilities in Marketing, Sales, and Customer Service, with a focus on SaaS and eCommerce businesses. Outside of writing, Rachael spends much of her time with her swarm of pets, including a 70 lb tortoise named Frankie.

Tech Gadgets

Samsung nudged out of the top smartphone seller spot by Huawei

(TECH GADGETS) Huawei beats Samsung as the top seller of smartphones for the first time ever — but can they keep it up? How will COVID change the smartphone market?

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When you think of a best-selling smartphone, pretty much anything from Samsung or Apple tends to come to mind. During the second quarter of 2020, though, Huawei–a Chinese company–takes that title.

This is a surprising disruption of what we’ve come to expect from smartphone sales, no less so because of the United States’ ban on technology products from China. Indeed, Engadget points out that 70 percent of Huawei smartphone sales occurred within China, something that plenty of manufacturers thought would spell a significant hit for the company.

Huawei themselves actually predicted a 20 percent drop in smartphone sales during 2020–a figure that both failed to come to fruition (the company’s sales only dipped by five percent during the second quarter of 2020) and was heavily influenced by the ban. Nevertheless, their sales topped even Samsung’s during this quarter.

The smartphone company’s success can be attributed, at least in part, to China’s swift response to the Coronavirus pandemic, thus capping the sharp decrease in smartphone sales seen worldwide during 2020. By selling largely internally, Huawei was able to best their own predictions of doom and propel their brand forward.

These sales don’t come without some drawbacks. One major aspect of the tech ban on China is that Huawei phones cannot ship with the Google Play Store app or proprietary apps installed–something that virtually every other Android phone can do with free reign. This is a situation that is unlikely to change under the current administration.

Additionally, Samsung is set to release new products in the third quarter of 2020, so they expect to top Huawei once again. Surely, Huawei’s success may very well be a fluke insofar as they were able to maintain sales in a market in which every other company saw dramatic changes to their numbers.

Perhaps the most notable takeaway from this situation is Huawei’s circumstantial timing. In a world where smartphone sales took a backseat to hand sanitizer panics and mask shortages, Huawei was in the right place at the right time by marketing to home-based buyers. As this pandemic progresses and the tech ban on China tightens, it will be interesting to see how–or if–China continues to innovate in this way.

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Tech Gadgets

Recording your smartphone’s screen is easier than you think

(TECH GADGETS) Screen recording your mobile device is a valuable trick, but not many people realize how easy it is. Here is how it’s done.

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Recording your smartphone’s screen may seem like a gimmick at best, but there are some pretty valid applications for a screen recording, be they demonstrations of technology, walkthroughs for your mom to watch at Christmas, or documentation of a particularly hilarious thread on Twitter. Here’s how you can record your phone’s screen if you have an iPhone or Android.

Firstly, keep in mind that not all phones have a screen-recording option. If you’re running an iPhone 4 from 2010, you’re out of luck. More pressingly, most Androids don’t allow you to record the screen without downloading a third-party app–something that, thankfully, will be fixed later this year when Android 11 drops. We’ll cover both an Android 11 and a prior versions method so you Android folks don’t get left out.

If you have an iPhone that’s running iOS 11 or later, though–that’d be anything from the iPhone 5 up–the process of recording your screen is exceptionally simple, if a little tricky to set up the first time.

From the Settings app, you’ll need to open the Control Center option, tap Customize Controls, and tap the plus icon next to Screen Recording. This adds the Screen Recording option to your Control Center.

Once you’ve done that, you can open the Control Center–by swiping down from the top-right corner of the screen (iPhone X and up) or swiping up from the bottom of the screen (iPhone 8 and prior) and tap the circle-within-a-circle icon to begin recording your screen’s contents after a three-second countdown.

You can stop the screen recording by tapping the red icon at the top of your screen and then confirming the choice, after which point the recording gets saved to your Photos app.

Android 11 users have a similarly easy way to record their screens. To activate your screen recording widget, swipe down from the top of the screen to open notifications, then swipe down again to expand the menu into settings. Swipe right until you find the Screen record option, then tap it and follow the on-screen prompts. You can then tap Start to begin recording the screen; when you’re ready to stop, swipe down again and tap Tap to stop.

For Android users who aren’t using Android 11, there are a few free apps you can download from Google Play to record your screen. AZ Screen Recorder and Super Screen Recorder are both free to use for recordings with no watermarks and no time limits, and while both are ad-supported, you can avoid these ads by paying for the professional versions if you like.

Keep in mind that using any third-party app to record your screen can result in that app sharing your data. While it isn’t likely that your data will include the recording itself, it’s probably best to avoid recording any sensitive information if you aren’t using the Android 11 screen recording feature.

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Tech Gadgets

Get rid of mosquitos this summer with this non-toxic, killer light

(TECH GADGETS) Brace yourself, folks. There’s a new mosquito killer in town, and guess what? It doesn’t use toxic chemicals or citronella.

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They’re so ubiquitous that many states claim them as their official state bird. They’re recognized as being arguably the most deadly animal in the world. They spread disease, incite ire and wrath, and ruin summer picnics. Scientists call them “Culicidae,” but we know them by their street names. They’re the common mosquito, and suffice to say, we all hate them with every fiber of our being.

But here’s the problem. As much as we hate the little suckers, getting rid of them is an almost impossible feat. Sure, you can spray yourself from head to toe with toxic chemicals to ward them off. So what if you wind up growing an extra limb in the process? You can use that spare hand to slap the surviving bugs. Or here’s another idea: did you know that mosquitoes are attracted to carbon dioxide? And you know what makes you give off extra carbon dioxide? That’s right. Running. So skip the afternoon jog and you should be right as rain. What’s a little extra paunch when trying to stop the spread of malaria?

Then there’s citronella. Don’t even freakin’ get me started on citronella. Is it all natural and safe? Sure, of course it is…but you know what else is all natural? Cyanide. But nobody is over here advocating for using cyanide to end all of your mosquito woes. I mean, yeah, it’ll make you not care about them anymore. But it doesn’t exactly mean it’s good for you. (Author note: seriously, please don’t take cyanide. I really don’t have to elaborate on this, do I?) While citronella is a known mosquito repellant, its scent is nothing short of vile. If you have citronella candles burning at your next cookout, you can say goodbye to both the flying pests and myself. It’ll keep both of us away. Guaranteed.

Then there’s this new product, which is apparently a novel way of attacking the mosquito problem head-on. Combining a special type of ultraviolet LED light, which is evidently downright irresistible to mosquitoes, with something called “bionic temperatures” (which means literally nothing to me, and my mad Googling left me empty handed on the definition of this term), this device is evidently the miracle tool that we’ve all been waiting for. Evidently these bionic temperatures boost the range of this light, sending off a beacon that summons skeeters both far and wide.

At the risk of sounding like an infomercial — but wait, there’s more! Then this nifty little device literally sucks the nasty bugs into its body with a peripheral vortex (a fancypants way of saying it’s a spinny air trap) and get this: it desiccates the everliving heck out of them. Oh yeah. That would be the “physical air-drying” storage box at the base of the machine. So, in summary, this device hails mosquitoes like a dinner bell, goes all twisty sucky vortex, then mummifies the little suckers. Nice.

And yes, friends. It’s safe and all natural, but totally not in the cyanide-which-kills-you-dead kind of way. It’s also quiet, non-toxic, non-polluting (also very valid considerations!) and the best part? It doesn’t reek of citronella. Apparently this magical little mosquito killer can be had for a ridiculously low price on the vendor’s website (another author note: totally not a shill, just really hate both mosquitos and citronella) of just about $30. So if you were thinking about having a barbeque this summer and you wanted to socially distance yourself from the mosquitoes, why not give this product a try? After all, nothing says you’re living the plague-free life quite like a coronavirus-ridden summer full of dehydrated mosquitos, right? Right.

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