Posts from mobile

Airpods (continued)

I wrote a post a couple days about how much I like Apple’s Airpods and that I was going to miss them as I head back to Android.

Well it is a good thing I wrote that post and an even better thing that so many smart and informed people read AVC.

If you wade into the comments section to that post, you will see quite a few comments explaining that Airpods can be used with Android as standard bluetooth headphones. I also got quite a few emails from readers explaining that same thing.

I tried that this morning and I worked like a charm. So I get to keep my Airpods as I move back to Android. I’m thrilled. Now if I could only keep iMessage too. Then I’d have everything that is better about iPhone on my Android.

Airpods

I broke my Pixel a few weeks ago and have been using an old iPhone since then.

I was hoping to hold out until the new Pixel comes out, but I couldn’t hold out and got a new Pixel this week which I’ve now cut over to.

The one thing I am going to miss about the iPhone was the Airpods that I got when I went back to iPhone.

The Airpods are the best wireless headphones I’ve ever used, by a wide margin.

I am going to miss them.

I am going to find the closest bluetooth version of them I can for my new Pixel.

If anyone has any suggestions, I am all ears.

No pun intended.

Oreo

I received an over the air upgrade to the Oreo version of Android (Android 8) yesterday.

It makes my phone feel even more like an iPhone. Notifications work more like iOS.

Google has polished the UI quite a bit and it is a joy to use.

I have been saying for several years that Android and iOS are copying the best things from each other and they feel more and more similar than ever.

I don’t really think it matters what mobile OS you use these days. They are both really great.

Monetizing A Free App

A number of our portfolio companies that have free web/mobile apps that are monetized by advertising have offered a low-priced subscription offering that removes the ads and, often, offers offline sync on the mobile apps.

Here are some examples:

I am sure there are other examples in our portfolio but those are the ones I am most familiar with.

I like this model a lot. As Duolingo said in their Duolingo Plus launch communications, it allows a free service to remain free for those who can’t pay for it.

It also allows those who don’t want the ads to remove them. And other value added features, like offline sync, make the subscription offering compelling for power users.

Pandora’s Plus offering is a good example of this approach and, because it is a public company, we can take a look at the numbers.

In Q4 2016, Pandora had roughly 4.4mm paying subscribers out of roughly 80mm total users, only about 5% of its user base.

But if all of those 4.4mm subscribers are to the low priced ($5) plan, then they would generate $265mm on an annualized basis. I assume that the subs revenue number is a bit larger because there is also a $10/month plan. So let’s say subs revenue is $300mm.

Pandora’s total revenue is about $1.4bn a year so subs represents over 20% of the revenue even though only 5% of the users take the subs offering.

So if you have a free ad supported service with a lot of regular power users, you should really consider adding a low priced subscription offering.

It will diversify your revenue mix and gives your users the ability to opt out of the ads if they want to.

Video Of The Week: What Is Kin?

Our portfolio Kik announced last week that they plan to decentralize their messenger app and monetize via a cryptocurrency called Kin. Here’s a video they put together explaining how it will work and why it is important:

Feature Friday: Twitter DM

I was with a friend this week and was DM’ing with someone on my phone.

He said “do you DM on Twitter frequently?” I said “yes, I use it all the time.”

Twitter DM is like any other messenger, particularly on the phone. It has the advantage of not needing to know the person’s phone number or handle on a messenger service. If you follow them and they follow you, you can DM them and chat like any other messenger.

It has the advantage of not needing to know the person’s phone number or handle on a messenger service. 

I like it a lot for that one feature – not needing to know the person’s contact info beyond their Twitter handle.

If you use Twitter a lot but don’t use DM, you should give it a try.

It’s super useful in a pinch when you need to reach someone and don’t know how.

Feature Friday: Learn Mode

Our portfolio company Quizlet, which is the world’s most popular studying tool, launched learn mode yesterday.

Here’s how it works:

The team at Quizlet has built a way to go from cramming to studying, delivered via technology that’s in our pockets. Well done.

Learn mode is available on Quizlet’s iOS app and it is in closed beta on Android and coming soon to the web.

Tap

Our portfolio company Wattpad, which allows people to write and read stories on their phones, recently launched an entirely new mobile reading (and writing) experience called Tap. In Tap, the stories unfold like you are watching someone text with you. It’s an entirely new way of writing and reading stories and I haven’t seen anything take off like this in a while.

In just a couple weeks since launching, Tap has achieved all of this:

  • Over 100 million taps in the first week

  • 25,000 user-generated Tap stories created in the first weekend

  • 40 Tap by Wattpad stories already have more than 1 million taps each

  • #2 – Top Free Apps (Books Category) in the U.S. App Store (and as high as #1 in the books category and Top 40 overall)

  • #7 – Top Free Apps (Books & Reference Category)  in the U.S. Google Play Store

While Wattpad replicated the feeling of writing and reading traditional stories (like books) on a phone with its Wattpad app, the Tap storytelling is an entirely new experience and replicates how people communicate on phones. It will be interesting to see how the two separate experiences (Wattpad and Tap) perform over time and whether there is any movement by writers and readers back and forth between the two.

The End Of The Level Playing Field

I am old enough to remember the gogo days of cable TV when entrepreneurs who wanted to launch a new cable channel would go, hat in hand and cap table in tow, to the big cable companies and beg to get distribution on their networks. 

When the Internet came along in the early 90s, we saw something completely different. Here was a level playing field where anyone could launch a business without permission from anyone. 

We had a great run over the last 25 years but I fear it’s coming to an end, brought on by the growing consolidation of market power in the big consumer facing tech companies like Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon, etc, by the constricted distribution mechanisms on mobile devices, and by new leadership at the FCC that is going to tear down the notion that mobile carriers can’t play the same game cable companies played.

Here is a quote from the incoming FCC Chair:

“Today, the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau is closing its investigation into wireless carriers’ free-data offerings,” FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said in a statement. “These free-data plans have proven to be popular among consumers, particularly low-income Americans, and have enhanced competition in the wireless marketplace. Going forward, the Federal Communications Commission will not focus on denying Americans free data. Instead, we will concentrate on expanding broadband deployment and encouraging innovative service offerings.”

It is certainly true that consumers, particularly low-income consumers, like getting free or subsidized data plans. There is no doubt about that. But when the subsidies are coming from the big tech companies, who can easily pay them, to buy competitive advantage over that nimble startup that is scaring them, well we know how that movie ends.

It is sad to see this era ending. It was a lot of fun and quite profitable too. I am hopeful that some new competitive vector, like the Internet, will come along and make all of this moot and we are spending a lot of our time looking for it. Because backing startups on a field tilted in the favor of the incumbents is not fun and not particularly profitable either.