Ignore smartphone sales

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Surprise, surprise, smartphone Sales are down again. According to technology analyst firm IDC, phone sales will drop by about 15 percent in the first quarter of 2023. Sales have been declining for the past several fiscal quarters.

Much of the slowdown was caused by economic factors related to the pandemic, such as disrupted supply lines and high inflation. But another aspect that explains why few people buy phones is that, for the most part, phones are perfectly fine. Modern smartphones have reached a new level in both their design and software capabilities, and the future of phones may involve slow, iterative updates rather than big leaps of rapid improvement.

The response from smartphone manufacturers to this sales slide, at least on the surface, is, “That’s good. Companies aren’t going to stop releasing new devices every year anytime soon. They are also trying to create interest and excitement by trying new shapes. Google plans to announce a $1,700 foldable Pixel phone on May 10, hoping to get people skeptical about the phones.

Here’s some more tech news.

Apple a day

Apple has been in the health tracking game for a while. In the year In 2020, the company launched a competing service, Peloton, which equates Apple Fitness+ to the best-selling Apple Watch. Now it looks like Apple is planning to expand its services powered by machine intelligence.

According to Mark Gurman Bloomberg, Apple is expanding its digital health services to include personalized fitness coaching and mood tracking. The services may also be rolled out in a new version of the Health app on the iPad. The AI-powered part of the app takes data from your wearer and provides health suggestions throughout the day, such as when to exercise and how to eat healthy.

Apple’s Mood Monitor and some health features are expected to be announced at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference in early June. The trainer features will probably not be released until later this year.

Halo Finite

In unhealthy news, Amazon has decided to shut down its Halo product line. That means the end of Amazon’s Halo fitness trackers and alarm clocks that track your sleep. Halo devices weren’t huge in the fitness market, but they were awkward—and creepy. The fitness trackers are designed to track all aspects of the wearer, including tracking your mood and scanning your body fat. Amazon says its Halo devices will be discontinued on July 31, but the company is offering refunds to anyone who bought a Halo device in the past year.

Amazon wanted to cut costs in its operations. In November, it restructured its Echo offerings and laid off employees in its human resources, cloud computing and drone divisions. But don’t let Halo’s shutdown fool you: the company still has a strong interest in health. (Especially all that sweet patient data.) Amazon is plowing ahead with Amazon Clinic’s telehealth service, which in February acquired OneMedical, a primary care provider.

Gadget Lab Bro-diecast

Balls. About half the people on this planet have had them, but rude bags are studiously ignored in most polite society. Recently, dozens of companies have started to cash in on the scrotum by selling scrotal cleaners, lotions and deodorants for the gonads. Companies have long used society’s beauty standards to sell women’s products, and now it’s men’s turn. For the most part, the marketing worked, turning men’s grooming products into a $70 billion industry in just a few years.

This week at Gadget Lab podcast, WIRED’s fact-checker-in-chief Zach Jason joins the show for a balls-to-the-wall discussion about scrotum spray and the wider world of men’s beauty products.

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