Tencent made $115 billion just from WeChat’s mini apps in 2019

WeChat and the app’s 2 million ‘Mini Programs’ have made billions from the hundreds of millions of people using them daily.

WeChat, the social messaging app from Chinese technology conglomerate Tencent, has a profitable trick up its sleeve. Beyond the app’s upfront messaging platform are millions of ‘Mini Programs’ that work as small apps within the WeChat app.

A report from South China Morning Post tells how these mini apps have made 800 million yuan. Tencent revealed the news that over 300 million people had spent a collective $115 billion in US dollar amount on Mini Programs within WeChat in 2019.

With such a visibly powerful source of income, Tencent have shared how they plan to expand the platform in 2020. They want to expand the features available to services running Mini Programs like live streaming to enhance it with some of the biggest tech trends and capabilities.

WeChat’s head, Allen Zhang said at their Open Class Pro conference: “At WeChat, we used to focus on perfecting every feature we launched. Today, we are more focused on how to prioritise and dedicate our efforts to creating value for users and customers.”

WeChat itself announced that they had reached a major milestone of 1.15 billion monthly active users last September and it has no doubt grown since. With such a great revenue stream and growth of 45% in one year we will no doubt see some exciting developments for WeChat Mini Programs in 2020.

These will be 2020’s best earbuds revealed at CES

Wireless earbuds have become massive and this year we will see a lot more competition to Apple AirPod’s for the best TWS earbuds available.

Since Apple launched AirPods, True Wireless Stereo (TWS) earbuds have become the biggest selling smart, personal audio devices. Last year they took over both wireless headphones and earphones with nearly 200% growth in sales.

We saw loads of new announcements at CES 2020 marking a remarkable upcoming year of the small listening devices to come. We’ve compiled the top earbuds to check out and keep your eyes on this year.

JBL LIVE 300TWS – £129.99 / $150

JBL had a few announcements at this year’s CES but their LIVE 300TWS stole the show, particularly in comparison to their other pair of $100 TWS earbuds.

The LIVE 300TWS comes with advanced features like voice control with Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa. They have been designed to fit tightly into the ear whilst remaining snug so as to perfectly accompany fitness and activities with IPX5 water and sweat resistance.

With TalkThru technology the 300TWS earbuds can detect voices and allow their sound to intelligently cut through your audio. AmbientAware technology offers a similar function with background noises, so you don’t miss that car coming!

JBL’s LIVE 300TWS are expected to launch in March.

Jabra Elite Active 75t – £169.99 / $199

Jabra earbuds active elite

Jabra revealed a sequel to their popular Elite 75t earbuds at CES, bringing sweat and water resistance to the quality in-ear noise-makers.

Designed with comfort in mind, the Elite Active 75t fits softly into your ears like their predecessor. They’ve been touted for having better sound quality than Apple’s AirPods.

They will last up to 7.5 hours on a single charge and by using their included charging case you can juice them up for 28 hours worth of charge on the go. With fast charging their case can give you 1 hour of listening after just 15 minutes.

They will release early this year in a range of 6 different colours.

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC300TW – £209 / $249

Audio Technica unveiled a great new offering, as that’s what they do, with their new true wireless earbuds with built-in noise cancellation.

The small devices are capable of offering HD sound and support Hi-Res audio streaming. Their 5.8mm ‘diamond-like carbon’ coated drivers offer supreme audio quality in a small package making their higher price point worthwhile.

Using Quietpoint Hybrid Digital Noise-Cancelling Technology, 2 microphones pick up environmental sounds to tune them out for a pure listening experience.

The ATH-ANC300TWs will launch in May.

JLab Go Air True Wireless Earbuds – £220 / $230

JLab jumped onto the TWS earbud ship with what they’re claiming are the “smallest fit ever” earbuds.

Their Go Air pair offer a super compact design with a slim case that make them portable as ever. The earbuds can interestingly work independently so you can use one to keep track of calls and keep an ear on your surroundings, or use both for a stereo music experience.

Using touch sensors on the earbuds you can easily choose the sound you want using JLab’s EQ3. No need for an app, do it all with a tap.

JLab’s Go Air TWS earbuds will be available in March.

Roland’s new mixing studio is perfect for livestreamers on smartphones

Roland are tapping in to the leagues of vloggers and streamers using their phones with a plug and play broadcast studio.

Roland have announced the GO:LIVECAST, their first announcement for the Consumer Electronics Show – and we got this one early! They hope that with this simple looking box they can help streamers make their smartphone broadcasts more professional with ease.

The hardware and its accompanying app give streamers the power to easily mix their sound, play other media, even harness their inner radio DJ and trigger sound effects. It works simply by plugging into your smartphone and with a Plug-and-Play setup users can jump straight into using it.

There’s a built-in microphone that offers high quality sound to replace your phone’s mic. Plug in a pair of headphones and you can mix the sound on the fly to perfect the output you want and add reverb if you’re a singer or just want to add some dramatic effect.

If you want to make it really professional then the GO:LIVECAST features an XLR input for microphones. The input can be harnessed to add a stereo connection to instruments or other mixers for a total diversity in what you can stream to your viewers in high quality. Two simple knobs help you keep control of the volumes for your microphone and any media that’s playing.

With it’s simple interface users can share photos and videos and play music or sound effects at the tap of a button. Use the partner app to set up custom libraries of media that you can access at your fingertips. The app connects with Facebook Live, Twitch, YouTube, and others for a seamless streaming experience to the top sites.

The app also offers up camera filters that can soften the footage or smooth out skin. The GO:LIVECAST works with both the front and rear cameras, whichever suits the streamer best. A second camera can even be connected via Wi-Fi and selected via one-touch switching or add a split-screen view.

Last year Roland launched a sophisticated piece of kit aimed at live-streamers on the computers, called the VR-1HD. It was capable of a lot more but it also came at a $1,500 price tag. This simplified version for smartphones is much cheaper at just $249.99.

Roland’s GO:LIVECAST will be available later this month.

Charge your phone wirelessly and blast the tunes with Belkin & Devialet’s Smart Speaker

Belkin have teamed up with house-shaking speaker makers Devialet for a Smart Speaker that keeps your phone juiced sans-cable.

Devialet are renowned for making speakers to blow your face off with crystal quality in an unassumingly small, compact package. We got our hands on their powerful Phantom Reactor speaker and you can see what we thought of the little boomer here.

They have just announced the results of their partnership with leading wireless charging company Belkin. Together they’ve combined the powers of compact and powerful music playing with wireless charging technology for the loudest phone charger around.

The SOUNDFORM ELITE HI-Fi Smart Speaker + Wireless Charger offers a Google Assistant-powered Smart Speaker packing Devialet’s high-end sound in it. With the wireless charging pad, you can charge your phone using the speaker by simply placing it on it’s sloped top using the 10W powered Qi wireless charger.

The speaker will use Devialet’s smart ‘Speaker Active Matching (SAM) technology to monitor output and eliminate distortion at louder volumes. Devialet’s other famed feature is their anti-vibration technology which works to negate the effects of vibrations from loud bass noises from their powerful sub-woofers.

Devialet CEO, Franck Lebouchard said: “We are excited to be partnering with Belkin for our first global partnership. At Devialet, we want to share the incredible audio experiences that our technology can deliver with as many people as possible.

“Partnering with Belkin on SOUNDFORM ELITE has given us the opportunity to bring our acoustic expertise and best-in-class sound architecture to an innovative new product type and reach a whole new audience of music lovers around the world.”

Belkin International’s senior vice president shared his excitement, saying: “Our heritage in audio, leadership in fast wireless charging, and Devialet’s acoustic expertise allow us to make products for consumers that are both exceptional and convenient.”

It’s an interesting pairing and we’ll be interested to see how it sounds more than anything. The SOUNDFORM ELITE speaker is expected to launch this spring and will cost $299.

JBL’s colourful, $100 take on AirPods

Apple are getting more competition every day as JBL announce their cheaper alternative to AirPods coming this year.

JBL’s new TUNE 220TWS earbuds may have a less catchy name but they’re taking on the market dominated by Apple. A recent report showed that TWS earbuds have dominated the personal audio device market in the past year as AirPods and similar devices outsell wireless headphones and earphones.

The small wireless earbuds have a simple smooth design and come in a vibrant range of colours for that personal touch. They promise 3 hours of use on a single charge and their included storage case provides 16 hours of charging.

JBL also announced their new LIVE 300TWS earbuds. For just $50 more the 300’s come with many more advanced features, such as: Voice AI control using Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa, IPX5 water resistance rating for sweat and rain, and better ear placement for a firmer hold when on the move.

JBL’s LIVE 300TWS earbuds

The 300TWS model comes with JBL’s TalkThru technology, which can detect voices and allow them to cut through your phone’s audio. TalkThru means you can have a conversation without taking your buds out. The similar AmbientAware function allows you to hear background noises so you don’t get too distracted from your surroundings.

In addition JBL’s new 300TWS earbuds have 4 hours of active battery usage and an additional 14 hours from their charging case. JBL may be looking to take on Apple’s trendy AirPods with the TUNE 220TWS but it looks like the LIVE 300TWS pairs are much better value for money. Both will be released this Spring.

JBL’s new CLUB cans find the balance between top headphones and studio monitors

JBL are looking to connect the line between the quality of studio monitors and general listening headphones with their CLUB series.

JBL have revealed a new series of headphones that look to up the game in audio quality. They’re putting studio-grade tech used by sound engineers and recording musicians inside the headphones and combining them with the staples of modern headphones.

The difference between studio monitors and your standard consumer headphones is in their frequency signals. Studio headphones aim to have a flat output so that audio can be heard at it’s rawest and most natural so they can faithfully mix it. Headphones for personal enjoyment are alternately tuned to enhance music.

The CLUB series will include JBL’s own Personi-Fi software. Listeners will be able to design their own personalised EQ curve from their mobiles. Once the EQ is set to their tastes it can be set permanently so that it’s applied automatically each time the headphones are turned on until changed by the user.

CLUB headphones will come with a Hi-Res certification, capable of producing frequencies up to 40 kHz beyond the capabilities of the human ear. The most expensive pair in the series come packing a graphene driver which is meant to produce better sound than cheaper magnetic material. Graphene also makes for a much lighter construction without impacting on it’s build quality.

All headphones in the series will come with adaptive noise cancellation which will sample ambient noise 50,000 times a second to cut out noise, according to JBL. Depending on the model of CLUB headphones, the active noise cancellation differs in it’s capabilities – whilst the CLUB 700BT doesn’t feature it at all.

JBL claim that their CLUB 950NC pair will last for 55 hours on battery power. The most advanced pair in the series, the CLUB ONE model can run for 23 hours with it’s ‘true’ Active Noise Cancellation turned on and much longer without.

JBL’s on-ear CLUB 700BT will cost $150, the over-the-ear CLUB 950NC pair will cost $250, and the CLUB ONE model will cost $350. They will all be made available this Spring.

JBL reveal their Dolby powered transformer soundbar

JBL have announced their TV soundbar which splits into pieces like a transformer inspired surround sound system.

JBL are integrating the power of Dolby Atmos into their newly unveiled Bar 9.1 soundbar. The uniquely designed speaker promises a great sound and interestingly diverse options thanks to a pair of detachable, wireless speakers on either side of the soundbar.

You can place the detachable, wireless speakers anywhere in the room for immersive sound. Each speaker recharges by being replaced on the sides of the soundbar and they can run for up to 10 hours on a single charge.

The system is packing a powerful punch with 820 watts of capability coming out of the speakers in total. A 10-inch subwoofer powers the bass for a fully rounded, high quality sound experience.

There is 4K Dolby Vision video input and built-in Chromecast and AirPlay 2 streaming options. The soundbar systems also have Bluetooth connectivity for your devices.

The JLB Bar 9.1 is expected to go on sale this Spring for $900.

Jabra announces their new earbuds and elite headphones

CES 2020 has revealed a lot of new products and Jabra have announced the sequel to their renowned Elite 75t wireless earbuds.

Jabra have revealed the follow up to their Elite 75t wireless earbuds with a focus on fitness. Their Elite Active 75t earbuds have been designed to resist water and sweat to make for a sturdy musical accompaniment for working out.

As with the originals they come with a charging case that makes for a total of 28 hours play-time, 7.5 hours on a single charge outside of the case. The Elite Active 75t will cost $199 when they release in February, whilst their standard, non-fitness based predecessor costs $179.99.

Jabra also announced a new pair of $99 headphones, the Elite 45h. The company hope that their new cans to set “a new standard for headphones in the below $100 category”. The headphones feature 40mm speakers and can last as long as 40 hours on a single charge.

The Elite 45h headphones have dual microphones built in for voice calls and using voice assistants, which are activated by one touch. Bluetooth 5.0 ensures a strong and stable wireless connection to any devices.

Jabra intend on releasing personalised sound profiles for users later this year. In their announcement they said: “Users will take a test of comprising [of] a series of beeps in the Jabra Sound+ app that calibrates the headphones based on each users’ unique profile for a truly personalised experience.”

A new report shows that TWS earbuds are the fastest growing wireless audio market, selling more than wireless headphones and wireless earphones in Q3 of 2019.

Wireless earbuds overtook headphones and earphones in sales by miles in 2019

TWS devices like Apple’s Airpods took the market by storm last year as their potential expands looking forward. 

A new report from Canalys looking at the last year in audio devices found TWS audio to be the largest and fastest growing category. With the boom in Apple Airpod sales, as well as competitors launching similar True Wireless Stereo (TWS) devices 2019 was a massive year for the fresh wearables.

They saw an incredible jump of 183% growth in Q3 last year, following on from still remarkable sales in 2018. They overtook both wireless headphones and wireless earphones to become the market leaders with nearly 45 million units sold in the third quarter alone. They represent nearly half of the 96.7 million total sales for smart personal audio devices in Q3 2019.

Canalys senior analyst, Jason Low said: “Demand for high-fidelity audio will continue to grow. However, the gap between audio players and smartphone vendors is narrowing. Smartphone vendors are developing proprietary technologies to not only catch up in audio quality, but also provide better integration for on-the-move user experiences, connectivity and battery life.

“Traditional audio players must not underestimate the importance of the TWS category. The lack of control over any connected smart devices is the audio players’ biggest weakness. Audio players must come up with an industry standard enabling better integration with smartphones, while allowing developers to tap into the audio features to create new use cases to avoid obsoletion.”

It seems that 2020 is going to be a very interesting year for the development of TWS devices like the Airpods.

The first smart speaker shower is coming

We’ve finally come to the point in technology where we will be showering under internet connected speakers and now we need to ask do we really want this?

As we continue to pad our homes out with more and more Smart technology. Kitchens are getting ‘Smart’ with AI-powered fridges, Wi-Fi connected washing machines, smartphone operated ovens to name but a few of the sci-fi appliances now part of our reality.

Kohler had some of the most surprising announcements at this year’s CES show. There’s the toilet that lights up in any colour you want and plays music out of in-built speakers. Then there’s the shower-head that not only sprays water but also plays music and connects to the internet and listens to your voice.

The ‘Moxie’ speaker features a built-in Smart speaker with an Amazon Alexa-powered voice assistant. It can be purchased as a full set with the shower-head or can be purchased and docked magnetically to your existing shower. The speaker has been specially tuned so that the sound can cut through the noise of the shower.

Using tactile controls and wireless charging it is simple to use even when fully drenched. They assure it’s totally waterproof with an IPX67 and the wireless charging should help abate most of the fears of shooting water through an electronic device onto your body!

Kohler’s touchless ‘Setra’ faucet for messy hands

Other devices revealed by Kohler show their push to transform entire houses into internet connected hubs appliance by appliance. A Wi-Fi connected water purifier is in the pipeline and another shower device will let its owners control their showers with the push of a button.

A touch-less kitchen faucet will help people getting their hands dirty prepping meals to keep their sinks clean. Oh, and did we mention an internet connected toilet with LED lighting, built-in speakers and a touchless flush? We did? Well, it bears repeating.

Kohler’s illuminated ‘Numi 2.0’ toilet