Study: Electronics Use on U.S. Flights On the Rise
The use of electronic devices by airline travelers in the United States has been surging over the past four years and grew again in the first several months of 2013, according to a new study from DePaul University's Chaddick Institute of Metropolitan Planning.
Nearly 1,700 passengers on 23 U.S. domestic flights were observed at random intervals in the last several months for the study, according to its authors. Some 35 percent were seen to be using "tablets and other sophisticated devices," up from 28 percent in 2012 and 17.6 percent in 2010, they said.
Lead author Joe Schwieterman and co-author and data collector Brandi DeLoatch said the growing amount of time being spent using such devices during air travel called into question the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) long-standing ban on using electronics during takeoffs and landings.
"The study shows a rather startling increase in the use of personal electronic devices by airline passengers—a huge jump since last year. We also show that the amount of 'disrupted technological activity' due to the FAA ban on the use of devices at takeoff/landing has more than doubled since 2010. We think the FAA needs to fast-track its analysis about lifting the ban," DeLoatch said.
FAA Might Let Travelers Use Tablets During Takeoff, Landing
Among the various modern-day requirements for air travel, the ban on electronic devices during takeoff and landing has been the topic of much debate. Will my iPod touch or Kindle really interfere with the operation of a plane?
While your smartphone will likely have to remain in the off position for the foreseeable future, theNew York Times reports that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) might start allowing the use of e-readers and tablet devices during take-off and landing, provided they are switched to airplane mode.
A government-industry group set up in Aug. 2012 to study the use of portable electronic devices on airplanes will likely announce by year's end that it will soften rules on portable gadgets, the Times said, citing a member of the group and an FAA official. That will enable you to continue reading an e-book or magazine while waiting in that long runway line or as your plane makes its final approach.
An FAA spokeswoman pointed to the industry group announcement from last year, and said only that "the group has not made recommendations, yet."
"We're looking for information to help air carriers and operators decide if they can allow more widespread use of electronic devices in today's aircraft," Acting FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said last year. "We also want solid safety data to make sure tomorrow's aircraft designs are protected from interference."
Target Price-Matching Amazon, Best Buy, Others
Good news, shoppers: Target has implemented a new year-round price match policy in an effort to curb "showrooming," the practice of scoping out merchandise in a store then nabbing a better deal online.
After testing the promotion over the holidays, Target this week promised to match prices of top online retailers year-round, including Amazon, Walmart, Best Buy, Toys R Us, and Babies R Us.
Now, when consumers purchase an item at a brick-and-mortar Target store only to find the same thing online for less within seven days, Target will match the lower price. Customers can also request a price match prior to their purchase.
The retailer will also match the price of items advertised for less in the following week's Target circular. Items sold by third-party sellers through Amazon Marketplace are not eligible for a price match, according to details of the policy on Target's website.
To secure a price match, shoppers will need to visit Target's Guest Services department with proof of the lower price. A refund will be given only for identical online competitor pieces that are in-stock at the time a price match is requested.
FCC Calls for ‘Greater Use’ of Gadgets on Flights
For years now, travelers have been instructed to turn off all electronic devices before takeoff and landing, while Internet connectivity has been limited to the in-flight Wi-Fi provided by certain airlines.
While many of us have questioned whether this is entirely necessary, the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission is now looking for some more official answers.
"I write to urge the FAA to enable greater use of tablets, e-readers, and other portable electronic devices during flight, consistent with public safety," FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski wrote in a Dec. 6 letter to Michael P. Huerta, the acting administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
In March, the FAA said it was going to take a "fresh look" at the use of electronics on planes. In his letter, Chairman Genachowski said he supports the agency's "initiative to review the policies, guidance, and procedures regarding the use of such devices."
"This review comes at a time of tremendous innovation, as mobile devices are increasingly interwoven in our daily lives," Genachowski continued. "They empower people to stay informed and connected with friends and family, and they enable both large and small businesses to be more productive, helping drive economic growth and boost U.S. competitiveness."
Genachowski pledged to work with the FAA, airlines, and manufacturers on this "important" review.
Black Friday Gadget Sales Decline ‘Steeper Than Anticipated’
U.S. retail sales of consumer electronics on Black Friday dropped 5.6 percent this year, a "steeper than anticipated decline" that could signal trouble for the rest of the holiday season, according to market research firm The NPD Group.
The drop followed last year's loss of nearly 4 percent, the firm said. Black Friday tech shoppers this year went for PCs, Android tablets, and TVs, which together accounted for 58 percent of all sales dollars, up from 51 percent in 2009.
"This slow start is merely a continuation of the challenges seen in the consumer electronics business throughout 2012," Stephen Baker, vice president of industry analysis at NPD, said in a statement. "In an unbalanced market, where just a few categories deliver significant dollars, and even fewer offer any growth, the ability to deliver positive results will remain difficult for companies exposed to the entire consumer electronics marketplace."
Unit volume sales of flat panel TVs grew 4 percent overall, though revenue dropped 6 percent as a result of the average selling price (ASP) falling from $367 last year to $333 this year. Forty percent of all flat-panel volume came from 32-inch TVs, but with an all-time low ASP of just $194, these sales "dragged overall revenue down," NPD said.
On a brighter note, flat panels 50 inches and above saw a unit volume increase of 65 percent. The "star of the segment," however, was 60-inch and above flat-panel TVs, whose sales increased 10 times over 2010, accounting for 6 percent of all TV unit volume compared to less than 1 percent two years ago.
It was also good news for Android tablets, which saw a 177 percent increase in unit volume, and a 91 percent increase in revenue, even though ASP dropped to $151 from $219 last year.
Meanwhile, notebook units fell 10 percent, with sales of Apple notebooks flat and Windows notebooks down 10 percent. Windows 8 devices, with an ASP of $368, represented 89 percent of notebook sales.
Tablet, E-Reader Ownership Almost Doubles Over Holidays
Many of those who asked for a tablet or e-book reader for the holidays seem to have gotten their wish.
The amount of U.S. tablet owners nearly doubled from 10 percent in mid-December to 19 percent in early January, according to a report released Monday by the Pew Research Center. E-readers also saw substantial growth in sales during the holiday season, with the number of owners similarly jumping from 10 percent to 19 percent.
Overall, the number of Americans who own at least one tablet or e-reader surged from 18 percent in December to 29 percent this month, according to the report.
"These findings are striking because they come after a period from mid-2011 into the autumn in which there was not much change in the ownership of tablets and e-book readers," the report stated. "However, as the holiday gift-giving season approached the marketplace for both devices dramatically shifted."
Part of the increase in demand was due to price, according to the report. As for the tablet market, Amazon's Kindle Fire and Barnes and Noble's Nook Tablet were both introduced at price points much lower than other tablets. The price of some versions of Kindle and Nook e-readers, meanwhile, dropped to less than $100, making them more attractive to consumers.
Geeks Descend on Vegas, Push CES Attendance to 153K
As the long lines for cabs and the Las Vegas monorail can attest, this year's Consumer Electronics Show was packed. According to the CEA, the show attracted an additional 13,000 people into the city's convention center this year.
Approximately 153,000 people attended CES this year, up from 140,000 in 2011, and of that, 34,000 people were international attendees. That makes it the largest CES in the show's 44-year history, CEA said.
"The 2012 CES was the most phenomenal show in our history, generating more energy and excitement across every major industry touching technology than ever before," Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of CEA, said in a statement. "CES is the change agent, the catalyst, that brings executives from a wide range of industries together and helps them create better ways of doing business together. The breadth and depth of the 2012 CES, which featured more innovative technology products than anywhere else on Earth, is a testament to the dynamic and innovative global consumer technology industry, which will reach $1 trillion globally this year."
This year's CES featured 3,100 exhibitors, up from 2,700 last year, who were spread out across 1.861 million square feet of floor space and helped launch more than 20,000 new products.
Report: Google Pitching Amazon Prime-Like Shopping Service
What if you could get products from Macy's, Best Buy, and other retailers on the same day, or overnight? That's the concept Google is reportedly pitching to retailers.
If it succeeds, the unnamed Google shopping service would offer traditional brick-and-mortar stores a chance to compete with Amazon Prime, the $79-per-year service that offers free two-day shipping and even $3.99 one-day shipping on qualifying items. Google plans a pilot program in the San Francisco Bay Area, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal.
Amazon, for its part, has tried out a local grocery-shopping service, Amazon Fresh, in Seattle since 2007.
The paper notes that Google appears to be leveraging its newly struck relationships with major retailers, most likely via the implementation of Google Wallet. The unnamed shopping service would probably leverage Google Shopper, which provides an index of products and their prices, which consumers can rank for comparison's sake. As the Journal noted, however, paying for Amazon Prime can effectively lock a customer into Amazon's service, especially for items which can be sold by many retailers.