Posts from mobile

Project Fi

One of the areas we are investing in and trying to build a portfolio around is next gen internet access. We have one investment and are close to another. We’d like to build a portfolio of a number of innovative and disruptive approaches to broadband internet access in the next few years.

So any new service that attempts to make internet access easier and better is of interest to me. AVC regular John Revay sent me an email today asking if I’m going to get a Project Fi account. I told him I was thinking about it. Right now it is invite only. I’ve put in a request for an invite and maybe this blog post will help me get to the front of the line.

Here’s what I like about the Project Fi offering:

1) it’s a network of networks. i get to roam on two mobile carrier networks instead of one.

2) it supplements the two carrier networks with over a million “free and verified” wifi hotspots

3) you can get mobile data internationally at the same cost as you pay for it in the US

It’s only available right now on the Nexus6, which happily is what I’m using right now.

So I’m hoping to give it a try as soon as possible. And when I do, I will let you all know how it goes.

The AVC Apple Watch Survey Results

I’ve gotten a lot of requests to share the results of the Apple Watch Survey I ran yesterday. I haven’t had time to do a lot of analysis on the results which I will do and follow up with another post. But here are some quick stats. These numbers are for the AVC readership. I did not tweet the survey out and it didn’t get shared much so I feel that it really is representative of the AVC community and not the broader Internet universe. There have been 1,827 replies so far.

Likely to Buy – 26%
Might Buy – 22%
Unlikely to Buy – 52%

These numbers were very consistent by operating system (iOS, Android, other), geography, sex, and age.

There were a few differences to note though; The youngest cohort (24 and under) was 7% less likely to buy 19% vs 26%. That was the only cohort where that was the case.

iOS users did not differ from Android users except that they had a much higher propensity to preorder vs waiting for it to arrive in the store.

We could read these numbers many ways. We could say if Apple sells watches to 26% of iPhone users they will have a huge hit on their hands. But I don’t think we can extrapolate from the AVC community to the broader market. This is a geeky early adopted crowd.

We could note that there are almost as many people in the maybe category as the yes category. Apple has a huge opportunity to convince people over time to get a watch. I think how the maybe crowd breaks over the next year will be the single most important thing to watch in the watch category (pun intended).

Finally its quite interesting to note the relative apathy among the youngsters. We also saw them making fun of the watch in the comments. I see the same thing with my kids and their friends who are in the 18-24 crowd. It makes me wonder if the youth culture is mystified when it comes to watches or weather this is just a money thing. Maybe they see the price tag differently than older people with more disposable income.

In any case, its clear that Apple is going to sell a lot of version 1.0 watches. There is real interest and demand out there. Whether we will all be wearing them in six months is another question. We will ask that as year end approaches.

The AVC Apple Watch Survey

With the Apple Watch available via pre-order, we are starting to get some data on how it is doing. I thought I’d take this opportunity to survey the AVC community, an early adopter crowd if there ever was one, about it. Please take a minute this morning to answer five short questions about your interest and intentions for Version 1.0 of the Apple Watch.

Click here to see the early results (roughly 700 responses at 9am eastern)

Feature Friday: The Swarm Widget

One of the best things about being back on Android is widgets. And my favorite of them all is the Swarm Widget. You can see it on my home screen all the way to the right second row down.

home screen april 10 2015

I started checking in on Foursquare sometime in 2009. And I’ve been checking into the places I go every day since then. I don’t know exactly how many checkins that is (probably around 5000), but it’s an incredible database of where I’ve been and when that I value very much. When checking in was part of Foursquare it would take two or three clicks to checkin. When they moved the checkin to Swarm it still took a few clicks. You had to open the app and hit the checkin button and then confirm it.

With the Swarm widget, it’s one click, plus a confirm. It works great. I love it.

Back To Android

Last September, after spending a month on sabbatical in Europe, I decided to try the iPhone after being on Android for many years. My plan was to start switching back and forth between iOS and Android every six months. So I got an iPhone 6 and used it as my only mobile device from early October 2014 until this past weekend. I continued to use a bunch of Nexus7s we have in our homes but the iPhone was the only thing I took with me when I left home each morning.

After a few days on iOS I wrote a post about what I liked and did not like about iOS. Reading it now after six months on iOS, it is still pretty accurate. But now that I am back on Android, the two things I really miss about he iPhone are TouchID and iMessage. If Android had both of those two things, I wouldn’t miss anything. I don’t totally understand why Apple doesn’t make an iMessage client for Android. They have the most popular messenger in the US (maybe the world) and they aren’t taking advantage of it. They are doing the same thing with iMessage that Blackberry did with BBM.

I will also miss the apps that are iOS only. I am keeping my iPhone6 and will use it on wifi in my home and office to stay connected to five or six apps that I use that are iOS only. Hopefully this will make it easier when I switch back to iOS in six months.

But now I’m back on Android and happy to be back. I am using a Nexus6. I am not sure I love the 6″ form factor but I’m getting use to it. The switchover is a pain in the butt. Getting the google apps working on the phone is a breeze. I just sign into the Android device with my Google login and they are all working. That part is really sweet and way better than what I have to do on iPhone. But getting the rest of the apps I want on my phone is a pain and then logging into all of them is a real chore. I use strong passwords and 2-factor wherever possible and so that process for close to 100 apps takes hours. I spent a fair bit of time this weekend getting the phone set up the way I want it.

So what are the things I missed about Android? Here’s my list:

1) gmail with offline sync. this is a huge one for me. i’m on the subway, planes, places with no public wifi and bad cell service a lot. gmail on iOS doesn’t do offline email very well. gmail on android does it beautifully

2) google calendar. there is no google calendar app for iOS. the google calendar app for Android works perfectly for me. i missed it.

3) notifications. i thought that iOS had caught up to Android in terms of the way notifications work. but it hasn’t. android still does notifications way better. and certain apps, like twitter, work way better with notifications on Android than iOS.

4) widgets and launcher – i didn’t realize how much I would miss the ability to customize my home screen with third party launchers and widgets. Android does this way better than iOS.

5) google maps and chrome as defaults – i never was able to figure out how to direct all my apps to use chrome and google maps as defaults. so i found myself using two browsers and two maps apps on iOS. on Android I only have one and all the android apps use them as defaults. this works way better for me.

But, as I said last October, these two mobile operating systems are pretty similar to each other. There are differences for sure, as I’ve outlined, but they are actually pretty minor in the grand scheme of things. Switching back and forth is pretty easy except for the part about downloading all the apps onto a new phone and logging into into them and customizing the screens. Once you do that, it’s more or less the same experience on both devices.

Feature Friday: Archives of Live Broadcasts

I wrote about the live broadcasting craze earlier this week. There are three significant players in this market, YouNow, Twitter/Periscope, and Meerkat. I’m a shareholder in two of them (YouNow is a USV portfolio company and we own a lot of Twitter stock personally). So I’ve been quite interested to see how this market is shaping up and I’ve been using all three apps this week.

I should say that I don’t see myself as a broadcaster. That may change. But I honestly don’t know what parts of my day are interesting enough to broadcast and would be appropriate to broadcast. I’m sure the USV monday meeting would be interesting to broadcast but it would not be fair to all the companies we talk about in that meeting confidentially to broadcast that. I’m sure the SoundCloud board meeting would be interesting to broadcast but I’m equally sure the company would be mortified that I would even dare to think of such a thing. I know that I will get some suggestions in the comments and if any are good, I will reconsider the “I’m not a broadcaster” attitude I have right now.

I did accidentally broadcast two seconds on Meerkat this morning.


That happened because I accidentally pushed a button and went live without realizing it (and tweet spammed almost 400,000 followers) to my great annoyance. That’s a UX fail as far as I’m concerned and I’m not sure I’m going to open that app again.

But I do see myself as a consumer of these broadcasts. We’ve been an investor in YouNow for something like three years and I’ve spent time watching broadcasts on YouNow. It’s a classic Internet content marketplace. There’s brilliance right next to silliness. But when you catch something brilliant on YouNow, it’s kind of magical. Tyler Oakley did a YouNow last night that had 120,000 viewers and he raised $20,000 for his Prizeo challenge during his live broadcast. You can watch Tyler’s broadcast via YouNow’s archive mode.

Which leads me to my feature friday topic – archives of live broadcasts. I’m getting real time mobile notifications on my phone from Periscope and YouNow and Meerkat and I’m also seeing invitations to join these live broadcasts in my Twitter feed. But I’m pretty busy during the day when all of these broadcasts are happening. I realize there’s value in watching live (the chat, the engagement, the favoriting, etc) but honestly I can’t tune in live very often.

What I’d like to be able to do, ideally right from my mobile notifications or the tweet, is to favorite or mark to watch later (I use the favorite button on many platforms as my “read later” button).

Twitter’s Periscope also has archives. I snapped this screenshot today from my Periscope app.

periscopoe

I watched my friend Howard”s broadcasts via this archive screen this morning, further confirming that I (and Howard too) are not interesting enough to be broadcasters :)

But regardless of whether or not that particular archived broadcast was any good, I think ironically archives are an important part of the livestreaming experience and I think the leading apps should support this functionality if they want to reach the broadest user base.

Feature Friday: Swiping Through Music

One of my favorite user experiences is the SoundCloud mobile music player.  I’ve been driving a lot this winter in LA and when I get into my car, I bluetooth my phone to it and put my phone next to my seat. I can go forward and back from song to song with the buttons on the steering wheel but I find myself swiping the phone instead because the experience is so delightful.

Here’s a video I took just now of the experience of swiping through music;

 It’s also super easy to move through the song by pressing and swiping:

 Thanks go out to The Isley Brothers and The Beastie Boys for the audio portion of this blog post. If you want to hear the whole thing, it’s my song of the day.

Same Day/Same Hour Delivery

At the Morgan Stanley Internet Conference a few weeks ago in SF, I was asked to sit on stage with Bill Gurley and Alfred Lin and take questions from the moderator and audience. It was fun. Bill and Alfred are two of the best VCs in the business and it was a treat to be on stage with them.

One question we got from the audience was what company was going to get most disrupted by the Internet. Bill answered Hertz and Avis, for obvious reasons. I think he’s got a great point. I answered Walmart. Here’s why.

Until now, if you want something right away, you have to go a store. If you are willing to wait, you can order it online. But it sure feels like same day/same hour delivery is coming and coming fast now. And when you can order something from Amazon, or Instacart, or Starbucks and get it right away, there are going to be a lot less reasons to go to a store.

We’ve got a horse in this race with Sidecar and I am seeing it happening right in front of my face. These real time driver networks that Sidecar, Postmates, Lyft, Uber and a handful of other companies have built can do a lot more than move people around. They can and are moving packages around. And more and more ecommerce companies (including bricks and mortar retailers!) are doing deals with these driver networks to get their stuff to their customers on the same day and even in the same hour.

This is going to put even more pressure on companies with lots of stores, lots of in store inventory and labor, and processes, systems, and procedures optimized for the in-store experience. That’s why I answered Walmart.

All that said, I am not advising you short Walmart. Please don’t take public stock market investing advice from me. I don’t know anything about that. I’m a VC.

Battery Sharing

We were at a family event last night and all three of my kids had the battery die on their phone before the event ended. I had over 80% battery on my phone. What I wished I could do was easily give them some of my battery to get them through the night.

I had this image in my mind of holding the backs of two iPhones together and hitting a button and having the one with lots of battery give some of it to the one that was running out.

Even if such a thing required connecting the two phones with a cord, it would be pretty great.

I’m wondering why this isn’t possible, particularly the connecting two phones with a cord and having one give some of its battery power to the other. I’m sure there is someone out there much smarter than I am about battery technology who can answer this question.

Of all the great things that Apple and the Android phone companies have brought to the market over the years, the one thing that still sucks about smartphones is battery life. And with billions of people walking around with these devices in their pockets, it seems that tapping into all of that excess battery power to give a dying phone some extra life would be an incredible feature. It can’t be that they haven’t considered it. It has to be that its not easy to do. But I’m not sure why.

Back To Android

When we got back from our sabbatical in Europe last fall, I got an iPhone. I’ve been using it for roughly six months. I have enjoyed wrapping my head around the iPhone and the iPhone ecosystem. I’ve learned a bunch. And now I’m heading back to Android.

I bought a Nexus6 from the Google Play Store yesterday and plan to start using it when I get back to NYC at the end of the month. I plan to go back to iOS when the next iPhone ships, and then back to Android six months after that. In this way, I can stay current on both operating systems and ecosystems which I think is useful in my business.

There are some apps that are available on the iPhone and not on Android. I enjoyed being able to use them. I like TouchID for unlocking my phone and certain high security apps on my phone. And that’s about it in terms of things I am going to miss when I go back to Android.

I am jazzed about getting notifications back in my life the way I want them, I am jazzed about getting google apps like gmail and calendar and drive that work the way they are supposed to work, I am jazzed about having only one map application and the best one on my phone, and I am jazzed about getting back to an operating system that works the way I want to work.

The iPhone is a great phone. But its not any better than a top of the line Android phone. They are more or less the same. And I prefer Android. Which makes me a minority in the US, particularly in the mid and high end of the market.

Speaking of Android, here’s a great post from Benedict Evans on why Xiaomi matters when you are thinking about Android.