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Christmas shoppers have seemingly endless choices in personal electronics gadgets this year.
Smartphones are the hottest products of all, outselling all other computer forms combined by a substantial margin. Credit Suisse estimates that annual global smartphones sales will surpass 1 billion units in 2014. While the iPhone is a consistent media darling, Android phone sales command 84% of the market – and still continue to rise. Samsung alone outsells Apple by a better than 2:1 rate. Android smartphones generally offer lower prices and fewer features, but the soon to be introduced Samsung Galaxy Alpha is expected to provide serious competition with the iPhone 6 at the high end of the market.
The increasing size and enhanced capabilities of smartphones has seen the coining of a new category designation in 2012 – the “phablet.” Noting that phablets had overtaken laptops and desktops in global sales in 2014, The New York Times said “phablets could become the dominant computing device of the future — the most popular kind of phone on the market, and perhaps the only computer many of us need.”
Tablet sales are expected to increase by only 11% this year, a decline from last year’s 55% growth. The iPad continues as the market leader, even though iPad sales have actually declined more than 10% this year. Small, lower priced Android tablets are the most rapidly growing category of tablets. Small, inexpensive Windows tablets are beginning to attract some attention, spurred on by Microsoft making Windows 8.1 free to manufacturers producing tablets priced under $300. Experimentation at the upper end of the size and price scales has produced tablets with folding or detachable keyboards, convertible tablets that are laptop/tablet hybrids and a “tabletop tablet” with a 19 inch screen.
Wearable technology has captured the imagination of multiple major manufacturers – Apple, Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Samsung, Nike and more all have products in the marketplace. By now, most people have at least heard of smartwatches, fitness bands and Google Glass. Wearable medical monitoring devices receive little publicity but have phenomenal potential for facilitating preventive care. Analysts predict wearable technology sales will total 30 to 50 million devices this year, with a growth rate of 100% or more for years to come. At present, these devices are fashion statements (most companies consulted fashion “name” designers) as much as they are useful devices.
Desktop and laptop sales appear to have peaked in 2011, although 2014 has seen an uptick in sales. Recent increases are attributed to the need to replace millions of now obsolete XP computers. Lenovo, HP and Dell, the current top three vendors, are increasingly focusing on the business market. Microsoft has ended sales of Windows 7 Home Premium and Windows 8, while sales of Windows 7 Professional and Windows 8.1 continue. The release date for Windows 10 is still indefinitely set as “later in 2015.”
Please remember to be a careful shopper. Research before you buy. Choose what you need, not what your friends and relatives like. If you shop online, use a credit card, not a debit card. Be especially careful on unfamiliar websites and remember Mom’s advice – “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!”