Drucker ranks Apple second best-managed company

In the latest ranking from the Drucker Institute, Apple came in #2, placing it squarely below Amazon and above Google. According to The Wall Street Journal today, this is the first ranking of US companies based on the principals of Peter Ducker, a renown business export.

Survey says people more likely to buy Amazon Echo than Apple HomePod

Having surveyed 2,200 adults in the United States, research firm Morning Consult Intelligence has found that one out of each three respondents showed interest in Apple's HomePod sight unseen, or approximately 33 percent.

However, “only” 30 percent were interested in the HomePod speaker after being shown a comparison chart with other smart speakers, namely Amazon's Echo and Google's Home.

Among those who already owned Apple products, 45 percent were interested in HomePod and 17 percent said they were most likely to buy it versus 18 percent of the Apple faithful who said they'd be more inclined to buy Amazon's Echo over Apple's device.

What about the overall survey group?

According to AppleInsider:

Within the overall survey group 17 percent said they were mostly like to buy an Echo, and 11 percent the cheaper Echo Dot. Only 9 percent said they would go for a HomePod, below the Google Home's 11 percent.

At $349, HomePod is pricier than Google's and Amazon's inexpensive speakers at $129 and $139, respectively. 57 percent of respondents said price was “Very Important” to them in a smart speaker while for 51 percent speaker quality was more important than the price.

Introduced at the Worldwide Developers Conference last week, HomePod beats both Amazon's Echo and Google's Home in terms of audio quality. The device features a four-inch subwoofer system that delivers clean bass without distortion and as many as seven beam-forming tweeters, each using its own amplifier for sound quality.

Driven by Apple's A8 chip, HomePod provides sound awareness technology that's able to detect when the device is against walls. After mapping its surroundings, it adjusts the sound output accordingly so that the most of the sound is spread out into a wide-open area instead of being muffled against a wall.

We should point out that this isn't a totally fair research because HomePod is still work-in-progress and Apple has not really shown off any other features beyond Siri interactions, HomeKit controls and Apple Music integration.

Even if HomePad makes its December debut with only the aforesaid features, Apple is almost certainly going to add additional capabilities over time via software updates, just as Google and Amazon have been doing with their smart home speakers.

Priced at $349, HomePod will launch in the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia this December before gradually expanding to the rest of the world throughout 2018.

Here’s what people are mainly using their smart speakers for

Smart speakers such as Amazon's Echo, Google's Home (and, soon, Apple's alleged standalone Siri device) allow users to get answers in the more comfortable settings of their homes.

As these things are always listening, there's no need to press a button or pull a phone out of your pocket. But what exactly are people using Amazon Echo and other smart speakers for?

A ComScore study, charted by Statista, says the most common use case is asking basic questions with 60 percent of US smart speaker owners using their device for simple requests, followed by weather queries (57 percent), playing music (54 percent), setting timers/alarms (41 percent), creating reminders/to-dos (39 percent) and more.

In what's bound to be disappointing to Amazon, the study found that very few users of smart speakers use them to order goods or services online, with just 8 percent of US smart speaker owners using their device to order food/services and 11 percent ordering products online.

According to a May research conducted by digital agency Stone Temple, providing answers to basic questions actually is not Alexa’s strong suit.

Amazon's digital assistant powering the Echo family of devices was able to answer just 20.7 percent of the 5,000 questions asked as part of the experiment.

Siri performed similar to Alexa.

Amazon said today that Echo owners and iOS customers who use the mobile Alexa app or the Amazon shopping app can now enable integration with iCloud Calendar.

Speaking of which, the comScore study found that less than one-third of smart speaker owners in the US (27 percent) use their device to find what's on their calendar for the day or add new appointments to the calendar hands-free.

Stanford study praises Apple Watch’s heart rate monitoring, calorie counting needs more work

A new medical study from Stanford University focusing on consumer fitness tracker reliability, published Wednesday in the Journal of Personalized Medicine, has crowned Apple Watch the king of heart rate monitoring while pointing out shortcomings in its calorie counting feature.

“People are basing life decisions on the data provided by these devices,” Euan Ashley, DPhil, FRCP, professor of cardiovascular medicine, of genetics and of biomedical data science at Stanford said in a statement.

The study included 29 male and 31 female volunteers who wore several fitness trackers like Basis Peak, Fitbit Surge, Microsoft Band, MIO Alpha 2, PulseOn, Samsung Gear S2 and Apple Watch. The study pitted the wearable gadgets against FDA-approved equipment.

The participants were asked to complete a total of 80 physical tests, including such activities as cycling, running and walking. They compared data against an FDA-approved 12-lead electrocardiograph for measuring heart rate and clinical-grade indirect calorimetry, which determines calories burned by measuring oxygen and carbon dioxide expelled when breathing.

Heart-rate monitoring via Apple Watch achieved the highest accuracy across measured modes of activity with an error rate of two percent, followed by Basis Peak and Fitbit Surge.

Samsung's Gear S2 had the highest heart rate error rate at 6.8 percent.

Researchers set an acceptable error rate at five percent, meaning Samsung's device fell just outside the study's acceptable buffer.

All fitness devices they tested fell short in calorie counting.

In terms of determining the amount of calories burned, Fitbit's Surge was the most accurate device with an error rate of 27.4 percent. PulseOn was the least accurate tracker in terms of calorie count with an astounding error rate of 92.6 percent. Apple Watch had an error rate near 40 percent while Microsoft Band came in at around 33 percent.

Low-impact activities like sitting caused the most inaccuracies with an average error rate of 52.4 percent compared against high-impact activities, such as walking and running.

This is due to the differences in how people exercise. “People are so variable,” Ashely said. “Some people walk smoothly and others waddle along, and that has an impact."

“The heart rate measurements performed far better than we expected, but the energy expenditure measures were way off the mark,” she added.

“The magnitude of just how bad they were surprised me.”

Each of the tested devices uses its own proprietary algorithm for calculating calorie burn, which could explain the wildly differing readings in terms of energy expenditure rates.

Survey ranks Apple as #1 wearables maker

In a report issued Thursday market research firm Strategy Analytics said that Apple has overtaken Fitbit to become the world's leading vendor of devices worn on one's body, capturing sixteen percent of the global market for wearables in the March quarter.

Apple sold an estimated 3.5 million watches during the three-month period ending in March, a 59 percent increase over the 2.2 million Apple Watch units sold in the year-ago quarter.

According to Strategy Analytics data, rival Fitbit shipped 2.9 million units in March, marking a significant 36 percent drop from the 4.5 million Fitbits shipped in the year-ago quarter.

Strategy Analytics stated:

Fitbit has lost its wearables leadership to Apple, due to slowing demand for its fitnessbands and a late entry to the emerging smartwatch market.

Fitbit’s shipments, revenue, pricing and profit are all shrinking at the moment and they have a major fight on their hands to recover this year.

The new Apple Watch Series 2 is selling “relatively well” in the US, UK and elsewhere, due to “enhanced styling, intensive marketing and a good retail presence,” said the research firm.

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Chinese startup Xiaomi shipped 3.4 million wearable units, good for a cool fifteen percent marketshare worldwide. Demand for Xiaomi's popular Mi Band fitness range was broadly flat across its core markets of Asia.

Fitbit thus far has mostly focused on fitness bands and related accessories.

That could change soon as the company is expected to add smartwatches to its portfolio. However, if an image leaked earlier this week (above) is anything to go by, Fitbit's upcoming smartwatch slated for release this fall won't win any beauty contest.

Fitbit also plans on releasing a pair of Bluetooth earbuds, codenamed “Parkside” internally, alongside the smartwatch, according to two of Yahoo Finance’s sources. A photo of the upcoming $150 earbuds (below) was leaked to Yahoo Finance earlier this week.

Last December, Fitibit acquired software assets of the struggling smartwatch maker Pebble for a mere $40 million. Following the acquisition, Fitbit put the last nail in Pebble's coffin by cancelling all new hardware that Pebble had in the pipeline.

Global wearables shipments reached 22 million units during the March quarter, marking a 21 percent increase year-over-year from 18.2 million in the year-ago quarter. Stronger demand for new smartwatch models in North America, Western Europe and Asia drove the uptick, said Strategy Analytics.

The full Wearables Market Data repot is available on the Strategy Analytics website.

BlackBerry’s global market share tanks to zero percent nearly ten years after iPhone launched

According to the latest quarterly data from research firm Gartner, BlackBerry's share of the global smartphone market is now 0.0 percent versus its peak market share of approximately 20 percent in 2009. To be precise, the Canadian company's global market share in the fourth quarter of 2016 stood at a rather measly 0.0481 percent, Gartner said yesterday.

Of the more than 432 million smartphones sold during the holiday quarter, just 207,900 were BlackBerries running the company's own operating system (BlackBerry also sells devices that run Android, like DTEK60 and Privilege). The development marks the end of an era, nearly ten years after Apple launched its iPhone.

NPD pegs AirPods unit share in December to 2 percent of headphone market

Market research firm Slice Intelligence recently estimated that the $159 AirPods earphones, which launched on December 13, have managed to capture one out of each four dollars spent online on wireless headphones during December 2016, beating Apple's own premium audio brand Beats which took a Slice-estimated 15.4 percent share of the wireless headphone market.

But according to NPD Group's December 2016 Weekly Retail Tracking Service data cited by CNET, Slice's data paints an incomplete picture of the wireless headphone market. According to NPD's own findings, AirPods have captured a modest two percent of the market in units and three percent in dollars.

AirPods earned 1 out of each 4 dollars from wireless headphones sold online in December

Market research firm Slice Intelligence estimated that AirPods, Apple's $159 wireless earphones, took one out of each four dollars spent online on wireless headphones in December 2016. Launched on December 13, AirPods grabbed an estimated 26 percent share of online revenue in the wireless headphone market, beating out Apple's premium audio brand Beats which captured an estimated 15.4 percent of the market, down from 24.1 percent between the start of 2015 and December 13.

In other words, Apple has managed to capture one-fourth of the wireless headphones market since the launch of AirPods. And if you also count Beats sales, the Cupertino company took almost 40 percent of online revenue in the wireless headphone market.

Kantar: iPhone 6s/7/Plus were 3 most popular smartphones in U.S. in November

Kantar Worldpanel previously said that iOS achieved its strongest growth and the highest market share in the United States in more than two years. In its latest survey, the market intelligence company found out that iPhone's share of the U.S. smartphone market grew 6.4 percent year-on-year in the three months ending in November 2016.

iPhone 6s, iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus were the country's three most popular smartphones during November, with the handsets taking share from Google's Android platform in most markets globally.