Google’s lightweight search app, Google Go, launches to Android users worldwide

Google Go, a lightweight version of Google’s search app, is today becoming available to all Android users worldwide. First launched in 2017 after months of beta testing, the app had been designed primarily for use in emerging markets where people are often accessing the internet for the first time on unstable connections by way of low-end Android devices.

Like many of the “Lite” versions of apps built for emerging markets, Google Go takes up less space on phones — now at just over 7MB — and it includes offline features to aid those with slow and intermittent internet connections. The app’s search results are optimized to save up to 40% data, Google also claims.

Beyond web search, Google Go includes other discovery features, as well — like the ability to tap through trending topics, voice search, image and GIF search, an easy way to switch between languages, and the ability to have web pages read aloud, powered by AI.

At Google’s I/O developer conference this spring, the company announced it was also bringing Lens to Google Go.

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Lens allows users to point their smartphone camera at real-world objects in order to bring up relevant information. In Google Go, the Lens feature will help users who struggle to read. When the camera is pointed at text — like a bus schedule, sign or bank form, for example — Lens can read the text out loud, highlighting the words as they’re spoken. Users can also tap on a particular word to learn its definition or have the text translated.

While Lens was only a 100KB addition, according to Google, the updates to the Go app since launch have increased its size. Initially, it was a 5MB app; now it’s a little more than 7MB.

Previously, Google Go was only available in a few countries on Android Go edition devices. According to data from Sensor Tower, it has been installed approximately 17.5 million times globally, with the largest percentage of users in India (48%). Its next largest markets are Indonesia (16%), Brazil (14%), Nigeria (6%) and South Africa (4%), Sensor Tower says.

In total, it has been made available to 29 countries on Android Go edition devices, including: Angola, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Cote d’Ivoire, Gabon, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Mali, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Philippines, Rwanda, Senegal, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Google says the app now has “millions” of users.

Today, Google says it will be available to all users worldwide on the Play Store.

Google says it decided to launch the app globally, including in markets where bandwidth is not a concern, because it understands that everyone at times can struggle with problems like limited phone storage or spotty connections.

Plus, it’s a lightweight app for reading and translating text. At Google I/O, the company had noted there are more than 800 million adults worldwide who struggle to read — and, of course, not all are located in emerging markets.

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Google Go is one of many lightweight apps Google has built for emerging markets, along with YouTube Go, Files GoGmail Go, Google Maps Go, Gallery Go and Google Assistant Go, for example.

The Google Go app will be available on the Play Store to global users running Android Lollipop or higher.

China’s Transsion and Kenya’s Wapi Capital partner on Africa fund

Chinese mobile-phone and device maker Transsion is teaming up with Kenya’s Wapi Capital to source and fund early-stage African fintech startups.

Headquartered in Shenzhen, Transsion is a top-seller of smartphones in Africa that recently confirmed its imminent IPO.

Wapi Capital is the venture fund of Kenyan fintech startup Wapi Pay—a Nairobi based company that facilitates digital payments between African and Asia via mobile money or bank accounts.

Investments for the new partnership will come from Transsion’s Future Hub, an incubator and seed fund for African startups opened by Transsion in 2019.

Starting September 2019, Transsion will work with Wapi Capital to select early-stage African fintech companies for equity-based investments of up to $100,000, Transsion Future Hub Senior Investor Laura Li told TechCrunch via email.

Wapi Capital won’t contribute funds to Transsion’s Africa investments, but will help determine the viability and scale of the startups, including due diligence and deal flow, according to Wapi Pay co-founder Eddie Ndichu.

Wapi Pay and Transsion Future Hub will consider ventures from all 54 African countries and interested startups can reach out directly to either organization, Ndichu and Li confirmed.

The Wapi Capital fintech partnership is not Transsion’s sole VC focus in Africa. Though an exact fund size hasn’t been disclosed, the Transsion Future Hub will also make startup investments on the continent in adtech, fintech, e-commerce, logistics, and media and entertainment, according to Li.

Transsion Future Hub’s existing portfolio includes Africa focused browser company Phoenix, content aggregator Scoop, and music service Boomplay.

Wapi Capital adds to the list of African located and run venture funds—which have been growing in recent years—according to a 2018 study by TechCrunch and Crunchbase. Wapi Capital will also start making its own investments and is looking to raise $1 million this year and $10 million over the next three years, according to Ndichu, who co-founded the fund and Wapi Pay with his twin brother Paul.

Transsion’s commitment to African startup investments comes as the company is on the verge of listing on China’s new Nasdaq-style STAR Market tech exchange. Transsion confirmed to TechCrunch this month the IPO is in process and that it could raise up to 3 billion yuan (or $426 million).

Transsion sold 124 million phones globally in 2018, per company data. In Africa, Transsion holds 54% of the feature phone market — through its brands Tecno, Infinix and Itel — and in smartphone sales is second to Samsung and before Huawei, according to International Data Corporation stats.

Transsion has R&D centers in Nigeria and Kenya and its sales network in Africa includes retail shops in Nigeria, Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia and Egypt. The company also has a manufacturing facility in Ethiopia.

Transsion’s move into venture investing tracks greater influence from China in African tech.

China’s engagement with African startups has been light compared to China’s deal-making on infrastructure and commodities.

Transsion’s Wapi Pay partnership is the second recent event — after Chinese owned Opera’s big venture spending in Nigeria — to reflect greater Chinese influence and investment in the continent’s digital scene.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Xiaomi tops Indian smartphone market for eighth straight quarter

Xiaomi has now been India’s top smartphone seller for eight straight quarters. The company has become a constant headache for Samsung in the world’s second largest smartphone market as sales have slowed pretty much everywhere else in the world.

The Chinese electronics giant shipped 10.4 million handsets in the quarter that ended in June, commanding 28.3% of the market, research firm IDC reported Tuesday. Its closest rival, Samsung — which once held the top spot in India — shipped 9.3 million handsets in the nation during the same period, settling for a 25.3% market share.

Overall, 36.9 million handsets were shipped in India during the second quarter of this year, up 9.9% from the same period last year, IDC reported. This was the highest volume of handsets ever shipped in India for Q2, the research firm said.

As smartphone shipments slow or decline in most of the world, India has emerged as an outlier that continues to show strong momentum as tens of millions of people purchase their first handset in the country each quarter.

Research firm Counterpoint told TechCrunch that there are about 450 million smartphone users in India, up from about 350 million late last year and 300 million in late 2017. This growth has made India, home to more than 1.3 billion people, the fastest growing market worldwide.

Globally, meanwhile, smartphone shipments declined by 2.3% year-over-year in Q2 2019, according to IDC.

Chinese phone makers Vivo and Oppo, both of which spent lavishly in marketing during the recent local favorite cricket season in India, also expanded their base in the country. Vivo had 15.1% of the local market share, up from 12.6% in Q2 2018, while Oppo’s share grew from 7.6% to 9.7% during the same period. The market share of Realme, which has gained following after it started to replicate some of Xiaomi’s early models, also shot up, moving from 1.2% in Q2 2018 to 7.7% in Q2 2019.

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Samsung showroom demonstrator seen showing the features of new S10 Smartphone during the launching ceremony (Photo by Avishek Das/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

The key to gaining market share in India has remained unchanged over the years: better specs at lower prices. The average selling price of a handset during Q2 was $159 in the quarter that ended in June this year. Seventy-eight percent of the 36.9 million phones that shipped in India during this period sported a sticker price below $200, IDC said.

That’s not to say that phones priced above $200 don’t have a market in India. Per IDC, the fastest growing smartphone segment in the nation was priced between $200 to $300, witnessing a 105.2% growth over the same period last year.

Smartphones priced between $400 and $600 were the second-fastest growing segment in the country, with a 16.1% growth since the same period last year. Chinese phone maker OnePlus assumed 63.6% of this premium segment, followed by Apple (which has less than 2% of the overall local market share) and Samsung.

Feature phones that have maintained a crucial position in India’s handsets market continue to maintain their significant footprint, though their popularity is beginning to wane — 32.4 million feature phones shipped in India during Q2 this year, down 26.3% since the same period last year.

Xiaomi versus Samsung

India has become Xiaomi’s biggest market. It entered the country five years ago, and for the first two, relied mostly on selling handsets online to cut overhead. But the company has since established and expanded its presence in the brick and mortar market, which continues to account for much of the sales in the country.

Earlier this month, the Chinese phone maker said it had set up its 2,000th Mi Home store in India. It is on track to have a presence in 10,000 physical stores in the country by the end of the year, and expects to see half of its sales come from the offline market by that time frame.

Samsung has stepped up its game in India in the last two years, as well. The company, which opened the world’s largest phone factory in the country last year, has ramped up productions of its Galaxy A series of smartphones that are aimed at budget-conscious customers and conceptualized a similar series that includes Galaxy M10, M20 and M30 smartphone models for the Indian market. The Galaxy A series handsets drove much of the growth for the company, IDC said.

Even as it lags behind Xiaomi, Samsung shipped more handsets in Q2 2019 compared to Q2 2018 (9.3 million versus 8 million) and its market share grew from 23.9% to 25.3% during the same period.

“The vendor was also offering attractive channel schemes to clear the stocks of Galaxy J series. Galaxy M series (exclusive online till the end of 2Q19) saw price reductions, which helped retain the 13.5% market share in the online channel in 2Q19 for Samsung,” IDC said.

But the South Korean giant continues to have a tough time passing Xiaomi, which continues to maintain low profit margins (Xiaomi says it only makes 5% profit on any hardware it sells). Xiaomi has also expanded its local production efforts in India and created more than 10,000 jobs in the country, more than 90% of which have been filled by women.

Google launches ‘Live View’ AR walking directions for Google Maps

Google is launching a beta of its augmented reality walking directions feature for Google Maps, with a broader launch that will be available to all iOS and Android devices that have system-level support for AR. On iOS, that means ARKit-compatible devices, and on Android, that means any smartphones that support Google’s ARcore, so long as ‘Street View’ is also available where you are.

Originally revealed earlier this year, Google Maps’ augmented reality feature has been available in an early alpha mode to both Google Pixel users and to Google Maps Local Guides, but starting today it’ll be rolling out to everyone (this might take a couple weeks depending on when you actually get pushed the update). We took a look at some of the features available with the early version in March, and it sounds like the version today should be pretty similar, including the ability to just tap on any location nearby in Maps, tap the ‘Directions’ button and then navigating to ‘Walking,’ then tapping ‘Live View’ which should appear newer the bottom of the screen.

Live View
The Live View feature isn’t designed with the idea that you’ll hold up your phone continually as you walk – instead, in provides quick, easy and super useful orientation, by showing you arrows and big, readable street markers overlaid on the real scene in front of you. That makes it much, much easier to orient yourself in unfamiliar settings, which is hugely beneficial when traveling in unfamiliar territory.

Google Maps is also getting a number of other upgrades, including a one-stop ‘Reservations’ tab in Maps for all your stored flights, hotel stays and more – plus it’s backed up offline. This, and a new redesigned Timeline which is airing on Android devices only for now, should also be rolling out to everyone over the next few weeks.

Africa’s top mobile phone seller Transsion to list in Chinese IPO

Chinese mobile-phone and device maker Transsion will list in an IPO on Shanghai’s STAR Market,  Transsion confirmed to TechCrunch. 

The company—which has a robust Africa sales network—could raise up to 3 billion yuan (or $426 million).

“The company’s listing-related work is running smoothly. The registration application and issuance process is still underway, with the specific timetable yet to be confirmed by the CSRC and Shanghai Stock Exchange,” a spokesperson for Transsion’s Office of the Secretary to the Chairman told TechCrunch via email.

Transsion’s IPO prospectus was downloadable (in Chinese) and its STAR Market listing application available on the Shanghai Stock Exchange’s website.

STAR is the Shanghai Stock Exchange’s new Nasdaq-style board for tech stocks that also went live in July with some 25 companies going public. 

Headquartered in Shenzhen—where African e-commerce unicorn Jumia also has a logistics supply-chain facility—Transsion is a top-seller of smartphones in Africa under its Tecno brand.

The company has a manufacturing facility in Ethiopia and recently expanded its presence in India.

Transsion plans to spend the bulk of its STAR Market raise (1.6 billion yuan or $227 million) on building more phone assembly hubs and around 430 million yuan ($62 million) on research and development,  including a mobile phone R&D center in Shanghai—a company spokesperson said. 

Transsion recently announced a larger commitment to capturing market share in India, including building an industrial park in the country for manufacture of phones to Africa.

The IPO comes after Transsion announced its intent to go public and filed its first docs with the Shanghai Stock Exchange in April. 

Listing on the STAR Market will put Transsion on the freshly minted exchange seen as an extension of Beijing’s ambition to become a hub for high-potential tech startups to raise public capital. Chinese regulators lowered profitability requirements, for the exchange, which means pre-profit ventures can list.

Transsion’s IPO process comes when the company is actually in the black. The firm generated 22.6 billion yuan ($3.29 billion) in revenue in 2018, up from 20 billion yuan from a year earlier. Net profit for the year slid to 654 million yuan, down from 677 million yuan in 2017, according to the firm’s prospectus.

Transsion sold 124 million phones globally in 2018, per company data. In Africa, Transsion holds 54% of the feature phone market—through its brands Tecno, Infinix, and Itel—and in smartphone sales is second to Samsung and before Huawei, according to International Data Corporation stats.

Transsion has R&D centers in Nigeria and Kenya and its sales network in Africa includes retail shops in Nigeria, Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia and Egypt. The company also attracted attention for being one of the first known device makers to optimize its camera phones for African complexions.

On a recent research trip to Addis Ababa, TechCrunch learned the top entry-level Tecno smartphone was the W3, which lists for 3600 Ethiopian Birr, or roughly $125.

In Africa, Transsion’s ability to build market share and find a sweet spot with consumers on price and features gives it prominence in the continent’s booming tech scene.

Africa already has strong mobile-phone penetration, but continues to undergo a conversion from basic USSD phones, to feature phones, to smartphones.

Smartphone adoption on the continent is low, at 34 percent, but expected to grow to 67 percent by 2025, according to GSMA.

This, added to an improving internet profile, is key to Africa’s tech scene. In top markets for VC and startup origination—such as Nigeria, Kenya, and South Africa—thousands of ventures are building business models around mobile-based products and digital applications.

If Transsion’s IPO enables higher smartphone conversion on the continent that could enable more startups and startup opportunities—from fintech to VOD apps.

Another interesting facet to Transsion’s IPO is its potential to create greater influence from China in African tech, in particular if the Shenzhen company moves strongly toward venture investing.

Comparatively, China’s engagement with African startups has been light compared to China’s deal-making on infrastructure and commodities—further boosted in recent years as Beijing pushes its Belt and Road plan.

Transsion’s IPO move is the second recent event—after Chinese owned Opera’s big venture spending in Nigeria—to reflect greater Chinese influence and investment in the continent’s digital scene.

So in coming years, China could be less known for building roads, bridges, and buildings in Africa and more for selling smartphones and providing VC for African startups.

Samsung’s Galaxy Note gets even larger (and smaller)

The first Note was a spectacle. It wasn’t just the reintroduction of the stylus. In 2011, the idea of a 5.3-inch phone was laughable. Around the same time, Steve Jobs famously mocked a push toward 4-inch-plus phones, telling a press conference, “no one’s going to buy that.”

With the average phone size hovering about 5.5 inches these days, Samsung clearly won that round. Of course, the push has been helped considerably by an ever-improving screen-to-body ratio. Jobs’ concerns about not being able to get one’s hand around a device no longer apply to a majority of these handsets.

Today in Brooklyn, Samsung is pushing things even further, with the introduction of a new subset of Galaxy Note devices. The Note 10+ is a 6.8-inch device. Among other things, the introduction of a new model differentiates the line slightly from Samsung’s other flagship line. The earlier arrival of an S Plus model meant that the S Pen was essentially the only distinguishing factor here.

Having spent some time with both Note 10 models, I can say I’m impressed with what the company has managed to do from a design perspective. The 10+ impressively has roughly the same footprint as the 6.4-inch Note 9, making carrying around such a massive device that much less absurd.

What’s really interesting here, however, is that the company took the rare action of actually shrinking down the standard Note from 6.4 to 6.3 inches. Weird, right? Yeah, well, these are weird times, friend.

The thinking behind the smaller screen was apparently to make the device more accessible to first-time buyers. That seems a bit silly when talking about a literal fraction of an inch, but the improved screen-to-body ratio makes it that much smaller.

Here are the main distinctions between the two models:

  • Note 10: Display 6.3-inch FHD+ AMOLED, 2280×1080 (401ppi); Note 10+: 6.8-inch Quad HD+ AMOLED 040×1440 (498ppi)
  • Note 10: 3,500mAh battery; Note 10+: 4,300mAh battery
  • Note 10: 8GB RAM, 256GB storage; Note 10+: 12GB RAM, 256GB storage (with 512GB option)
  • The Note 10+ also has an additional TOF sensor on the rear-camera array for depth sensing and an optional 5G model
  • Note 10: Starts at $949 ; Note 10+: Starts at $1,100

This is Samsung’s Galaxy Note 10 and 10+

Eight years later, the Galaxy Note is undeniable. The original device, unveiled at IFA 2011, seemed unfathomably massive for a handset — all 5.3 inches of it. Nearly a decade and hundreds of millions of handsets later, the line has transformed the way we think about mobile devices.

Sure the stylus hasn’t become a mainstream element on handsets outside of Note devices, but much the rest of the industry has come around to Samsung’s way of thinking about big screens and productivity. Even foot-dragging Apple ultimately gave in. These days, the average screen size hovers about the 5.5-inch mark.

With the battle of screen sizes long since won, Samsung has an entirely different battle on its hands. With the smartphone market plateauing — and even receding — for the first time ever, companies have a difficult task on their hands. How can they make continually compelling offerings every six months?

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The truth is that companies have painted themselves into a corner. Smartphones have gotten so good that users don’t need to upgrade nearly as frequently. The good ones have also gotten extremely expensive, regularly starting north of $1,000. Between the S and Note series, Samsung has moved to a six-month release cycle, with the respective phones being used to funnel new features to both lines every half a year. In the process, the company has blurred the lines between the two, with the S Pen remaining the one true differentiator between devices.

With the introduction of the Note 10 and Note 10+, however, Samsung is attempting to broaden the appeal of its secondary flagship. Like the S line, the Note has been split into two distinct devices (well, three, when you factor in 5G — more on that later). The standard Note 10 marks a rare step down in screen size — though only slightly.

The base-level Note downgrades from 6.4 to 6.3 inches. Why? Samsung believes a move to a slightly smaller form factor makes the device that much more accessible. It’s a small concession, a literal fraction of an inch. But when you consider the fact that the newly introduced Note 10+ has roughly the same footprint as the Note 9, you begin to realize how much more compact the Note 10 is.

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That’s one thing Samsung has progressively gotten better at, year in, year out. The screen to body ratio on the new Notes is impressive. I’ve read a fair amount of critical hindsight recently about how the first Note was received as being “too large.” The fact of the matter is that it was massive, even by today’s standard. Sure, 5.3-inch is nothing in terms of screen size in 2019, but back then that required a lot more phone.

You’ve likely seen plenty of renders of the device before now — and they’ve basically all proven to be true. It’s a nice-looking phone. Samsung’s leaned in further on the curves, leaving little to no bezel on the thing. The cutout camera on the S10+ has been ditched in favor of a single small hole punch floating in the center (Samsung tells me it’s ditched the dual-selfies in favor of improving the single one via software, machine learning and the like).

Also notably missing is the headphone jack. After years of mocking Apple and its ilk, the company’s inevitably eating a bit of crow on this one. The tipping point is two-fold. First, big batteries are back, at 3,500mAh on the 10 and 4,300mAh on the 10+. For reasons you know but we won’t get into here, Samsung put the larger battery on hold for a bit, in favor of additional safety precautions.

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The other big factor is the Bluetooth tipping point. The company says a majority of flagship owners are now listening to music through a wireless connection (anecdotally around 70+%). Obviously that figure drops when dealing with less expensive handsets — people buying mid- and low-tier devices are still less inclined to shell out for Bluetooth headphones. Expect Samsung to blow through this bit of news pretty quickly at today’s event.

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To help ease the shift, Samsung is including a pair of USB-C AKG headphones in the box. No dongle in-box, though. That’ll cost you.

Also gone is the standalone Bixby button. Instead, the power button summons Bixby with a long press. You can still remap that function, as well. Samsung is still pumping money into its smart assistant, but has generally acknowledged the lukewarm presence.

But enough of what we’re missing, right?

The back of the device (which sports some lovely new prism color schemes) sports a triple-camera area. There’s a 16 megapixel ultra wide, 12 megapixel standard wide angle and 12 megapixel telephoto. The 10+, meanwhile, brings a time of flight sensor, for added depth detection. It’s one of a small handful of distinctions between the models, including screen and battery size.

There are some nice software additions here, as well, including the ability to add a bokeh-style focus effect to video. Using the gyroscope and machine learning, the system dramatically reduces shake in photos.

The TOF sensor brings a 3D scanner feature to the camera, so users can scan an object and turn it into a moveable render. Honestly, that one still feels pretty niche. The company adds that there are some additional potential AR features there, though those will be in the hands of developers.

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Zoom-In Mic is a cool addition to video, which uses the mic array to direct sound recordings to the spot where you’ve focused the camera. That will be a cool one to test out when we get more time with the phone in the near future. Night Mode, meanwhile, has been added to the 10 megapixel front-facing camera for all of those low-light selfies.

AR Doodle is one of the neater camera software add-ons, letting users scribble on spots in space with the S Pen or add images and masks to faces. Move the phone around the room and they maintain their position. Add that one to the fun-but-not-particularly-useful list of AR applications.

The S Pen itself has shifted to a more solid unibody design. Samsung has also added the ability to create custom gestures with the input device On the software front the main addition is better handwriting recognition. I tried it out and it did a pretty solid job with my horrible chicken scratch.

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DeX continues to be a a key piece of the puzzle for Amazon. Here that includes new drag and drop capabilities between the Note and a connected Mac or PC. The company says the feature is much improved over past attempts at Android/desktop functionality. Honestly, the DeX branding is getting a bit cloudy at this point — that’s only made more murky by the addition of a non-DeX Link to Windows feature that brings notifications and messages straight to a connected Windows 10 PC.

That’s more of a minor branding quibble, though.

Inside you’re getting the Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 (not plus, mind), coupled with 8GB of RAM on the 10 and 12GB on the 10+. Both versions feature a base 256GB of storage (no microSD), while the 10+ also has a 512GB version.

As usual, nothing too major to complain about here. The Note 10 feels like a pretty small upgrade in the grand scheme of things. The biggest news this time out is the addition of a second, XL size.

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Pre-orders open tomorrow, August 8th for both. They’ll be in stores on the 23rd. The 10 starts at $950 and the 10+ starts at $1,100. Pre-order deals include accessories like the Charging Duo pad and Galaxy Watch Active.

There’s a 5G version of the Note 10+ available, as well, at the same time. That’s going to be a Verizon exclusive at launch, however, with pricing still TBD.

Tech stocks walloped as China retaliates in the latest salvo of its trade war with the U.S.

All U.S. stock markets were down severely today, and tech stocks were hit especially hard, as China retaliated to increasing U.S. tariffs by halting imports on U.S. agricultural goods and finally acceded to market pressures by letting the yuan slide in value against the dollar.

At one point, the Dow was down nearly 900 points before staging a late afternoon rally to close off by roughly 760 points. The Nasdaq, the marketplace which is home to a number of technology stocks, saw its value drop by 3.4% or 277.10 points.

Shares of Alphabet (the parent company of Google), Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft, Netflix, and Twitter were all down for the day. Indeed, as CNBC reported, the biggest tech stocks, Microsoft, Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Alphabet lost a combined $162 billion in market value.

Declines came as China allowed its currency to fall below what was once considered to be a red-line in the country’s currency peg against the dollar. That means that Chinese goods start to look more attractive globally as their prices decline in relation to the dollar. It could also trigger a wave of currency devaluations and protectionist measures across the globe — further putting downward pressure on global economic growth.

Stocks also continued to feel the pinch from the threat that President Donald Trump would make good on his threat to impose new tariffs on goods from China beginning September 1, 2019. Those tariffs are expected to take a bite into every day consumer goods and clothing, which adversely affects tech companies.

The big concern for these tech companies is the looming threat of that tariff expansion from the U.S. If those tariffs go into effect it would have significant consequences in these companies’ home market. 

“Assuming smartphones, tablets, smart watches, and computer systems are not categorically excluded from the final $300B tranche, we expect there will be material impact to Apple hardware product earnings,” analysts from Cowen & Co. wrote in a note quoted by CNBC .

A closer look at China’s smartphone market

In February 2013, China surpassed the United States to become the world’s largest smartphone market. More than half a decade on, it still proves an elusive target for international sellers. A glance at reports from the past several shows reveals the top spots dominated by homegrown names: Huawei, Vivo, Oppo, Xiaomi.

Combined, the big four made up roughly 84 percent of the nearly 100 million smartphones shipped last quarter, per new numbers from Canalys. Even international giants like Apple and Samsung have trouble cracking double-digit market share. Of the two, Apple has generally done better, with around six percent of the market — around six times Samsung’s share.

But Apple’s struggles have been very visible nonetheless, as the company has invested a good deal of its own future success into the China market. At the beginning of the year, the company took the rare action of lowering its guidance for Q1, citing China as the primary driver.

“While we anticipated some challenges in key emerging markets, we did not foresee the magnitude of the economic deceleration, particularly in Greater China,” Tim Cook said in a letter to shareholders at the time. “In fact, most of our revenue shortfall to our guidance, and over 100 percent of our year-over-year worldwide revenue decline, occurred in Greater China across iPhone, Mac and iPad.”

When it came time to report, things were disappointing as expected. The company’s revenue in the area dropped nearly $5 billion, year over year. On the tail of two rough quarters, things picked up a bit for Apple in the country. This week, Tim Cook noted “great improvement” in Greater China.

Smartphone sales expected to drop 2.5% globally this year

Smartphone sales have continued their global decline. New numbers from Gartner forecast a drop of 2.5 percent down to 1.5 billion. The biggest hits to the industry are Japan, Western Europe and North America, which saw drops of 6.5, 5.3 and 4.4 percent, respectively.

It’s all part of a continued trend we’ve highlighted several times before. Slowed upgrade cycles, pricier phones a bad economy. Even the world’s largest smartphone market, China, saw a drop for the year, as it battles its own economic headwinds.

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The Huawei ban has also impacted some of the larger numbers, though Huawei itself has continued to grow, thanks to healthy continued adoption in its home market. The company, however, is still suffering from negative connotations abroad, while cutting off access to U.S.-based companies will likely halt things further.

The good news for manufacturers in all this is a rebound set for the second half of next year, driven by 5G. The first handsets have started to arrive this year with others (including the iPhone) not expected until next. A lot’s going to have to happen for sales to reverse the downward trends — even temporarily. That’s going to take more handsets, wider 5G availability and lower prices, with many topping out well over $1,000 here in the States.