The annual IFA Global Press Conference (IFA GPC 2018) held this year in Rome, Italy, and is a precursor to one of the two major global consumer electronics events in the year. The GPC often sets the tone for the exhibits that you can expect to see at the IFA Show come September in Berlin, Germany. The trade show, which traditionally catered to European markets, is becoming a globally recognised heavyweight on the international events calendar. In fact, many tech companies these days stagger their product cycles so that they can display their announcements at both CES and IFA, but there is one fairly distinct difference between the two – because at IFA, these products are more or less ready to go and set to hit the stores by the time the end-of-year holiday season comes around.
The IFA GPC has also become a platform for the sharing of market trends by various experts in their field. If it’s one thing we enjoy, it’s the sessions that cover the Asia Pacific helmed by Gerard Tan, Senior Director, Technology Retail Tracking at GFK Asia – and that’s because Gerald always presents an eye-opening, in-depth rundown of our purchasing patterns here in Asia.
It’s no secret that there’s been worry over the last few years that the economy is slowing down, but the numbers for 2016-2017 show that while the demand for technical goods has slowed down, consumer spending has in fact increased overall. For example, cameras experienced a 14 percent drop in sales while prices have risen by 16 percent, which is something that may surprise you. Likewise, while it may not feel like so, the market value for wearables has grown by 22 percent in APAC based on numbers for the first half of 2017.
Personal computing has become more personal these days, where on average, we spend about 140 minutes on our smartphones daily, with 85 percent spent on social and 15 percent on web browsing. Needless to say that in this increasingly connected world, it’s inevitable that online sales will eventually become king, and the numbers support this claim. In Asia, online sales of tech products have grown to more than US$46 billion over eight markets, with smartphones accounting for US$31 billion alone. TVs account for about US$7 billion while white goods – like refrigerators and washing machines – make up the remaining US$8 billion.
High smartphone access to the internet – Asia in particular – has resulted in a high number of shoppers relying on smartphones to help them shop; this is particularly so in China, where younger shoppers – up to 85 percent of ‘Gen Z’ in particular – are increasingly reliant on smartphones as their most important shopping tool.
Mobile Is Where It’s At
We live in a time where smartphones are remarkably affordable, you can now snap up a decent mid-tier smartphone for about S$200 without ‘losing out’ on features. APAC is a particularly vibrant sector where there’s actually a rising demand for high-value devices, and interestingly so despite the prevalence of competent, affordable options. Smartphone sales numbers have grown by 11 percent in developed countries in APAC while the developing countries have seen a growth of 23 percent. The proliferation of mobile devices has also been a driving force in the push for mobile payments; one-third of all smartwatches sold last year were NFC enabled, while biometric-enabled smartphones account for 64 percent of all smartphones sold last year.
Guess We Don’t Know Jack
Given the stink surrounding Apple’s decision to drop the headphone jack a few years back, the adoption rate of wireless headphones has been startling. It seems that wireless earbuds are here to stay, with an impressive 64 percent growth year on year, while 2017 has been a remarkable year for wireless sports headsets with 78 percent growth, and a bonkers one for true wireless headsets, which showed a whopping 1,271 percent growth.
Laptops Got Game
A couple of years ago, it seemed as though gaming consoles would oust the venerable PC as the main platform for gaming. But if the numbers are anything to go by, we see healthy growth numbers for gaming PCs and peripherals. When it comes to laptops, the landscape has changed tremendously over the past three years. Although convertible laptops have not quite caught on, there remains a niche, which at present, accounts for 6 percent of laptops sold in Asia-Pacific. What’s interesting is that given the gains made by processor efficiency in recent years, the ultraportable and gaming segments have grown significantly, and together they look set to account for 60 percent of laptops sold by the end of the year (22 percent gaming, 38 percent ultrathin).
TV Also Driving AI
Sales of 4K TV have also picked up in APAC and look set to approach 45 million units in 2018, which is a 31 percent improvement over the previous year. AI is also something that’s on the cusp of the new wave, and interestingly, Chinese TV manufacturers like Hisense and Xiaomi are developing ‘housekeepers’ that reside in smart TVs. The concept of the smart home is gaining acceptance globally, and roughly 50 percent of worldwide consumers are sure that smart homes will change their lives in the near future. In fact, 75 percent of Chinese are sure of that, which partly explains the companies’ aggressive approach.
Photography Tech Makes Its (DxO)mark
The camera market is something that we know to be growing, given the advances in smartphone photography and the pressure smartphone manufacturers face in pushing the limits of photographic performance with every new iteration. As we already know, the improvement in smartphone camera tech has been jaw-dropping over the last couple of years, and we have come to the point that it becomes natural to look to cameras with APS-C or Full Frame sensors as the logical purchase should you wish to upgrade – these cameras are essentially mainstream products these days and no longer belong exclusively in the realm of enthusiasts and professionals. In fact, as of now, it is the Full Frame and APS-C cameras that are driving the value growth in SEA. Just last year, there was an increase of 13 percent in the sales of APS-C cameras and while Full Frame category has grown by 16 percent.
In short, things are looking positive with consumers in Asia spending more across all major tech devices. The data shows why Asia is still a desirable market filled tech-savvy consumers that are willing to spend on new tech. With the region embracing mobile payments and with China leading the way for affordable AI-powered devices, the APAC region will have a major say in the tech landscape in the years to come.