Posts from mobile

Mobile Matures and Consolidates

comScore released its annual US mobile app report yesterday. The data comes from a large mobile panel of US smartphone users that comScore maintains.

The story is one of maturity and consolidation, themes we have visited a lot on AVC in the last few years.

This is the most interesting slide in my view:

digital-media-time-spent

If I am reading this chart correctly, digital media time spent across desktop web, mobile app, and mobile web only grew 2% in the last year. That is a significant slowdown from prior years when time spent spent was growing 20% per year or more driven by very large growth in mobile.

Again, this is US data only. The US is among the most saturated markets in the world. But even so, this is a pretty significant slowdown.

This is the second most interesting slide in my view:

top-25-mobile-apps

Ten of the top twenty-five mobile apps (also ten out of the top twenty mobile apps) by UV are owned by Facebook, Google, and Apple. That’s not new news. The number was similar last year. But this level of consolidation in a maturing market is quite telling.

So is there a ray of hope anywhere in the comScore report? If there is, it is with Millennials who use all of these top apps frequently, but are also drawn to a different set up apps that are younger and less mainstream:

millennials

Snapchat is the poster child for an app (and a company) that has taken a different approach and built a lasting and defensible mobile franchise in the process. There are some other names on this list that I think are heading in a similar direction and three of them are USV portfolio companies (SoundCloud, Wattpad, and Kik).

Feature Friday: Bluetooth Headphones

With Apple’s much anticipated announcement that they are eliminating the headphone jack on iPhone 7 and moving to bluetooth as the default way to connect your headphones, I figured we would revisit a topic I’ve brought up here a bunch. It has even been a feature friday – a couple years ago.

I’ve been using bluetooth headphones on and off for over ten years. As bluetooth has gotten better and more reliable, wireless headphones have gotten easier to use.

All of that said, I don’t currently use bluetooth headphones with my phone. I’ve gone back and forth from wired to wireless to wired and right now I am in wired mode.

I am going to get the iPhone 7 and when I do, I will give the airpods a try. I expect they will be a quality product. If not, Apple has really messed up. And I don’t expect that to be the case.

I’m curious what all of you think about bluetooth headphones and what you think of Apple’s decision to do away with wired headphones.

Breaking Through

I exchanged an email with a friend who is trying to get a mobile app business off the ground. I told him that he and his team are attempting to do something that is hard and has gotten a lot harder in the past few years.  He replied that he is looking for a way to break through. I encouraged him and wished him well.

This morning I did something I do on a regular basis. I went through the iOS and Android app store free app leaderboards looking for non-game apps that have broken into the top 100 and stayed there for months. I could not find any. It’s possible that I missed something. My technique is not scientific. I just browse and use my memory, which is not exactly a foolproof method. There are better ways to do this but I like to do it this way.

I think launching a consumer focused mobile app and getting sustained traction (>1mm MAUs for six straight months), is almost impossible right now. That doesn’t mean it can’t be done. I am sure there will be exceptions that will prove the rule.

What is a bit surprising to me is how many entrepreneurs, particularly experienced entrepreneurs, are attempting to do it right now and how many investors (angel, seed, VC, etc) are backing teams doing this. It just seems like the odds are stacked against these sorts of businesses right now and that there are other more fruitful places to spend your time and energy.

But hope springs eternal in startup land. That’s a good thing, of course. Optimism should be encouraged. And so I am rooting for everyone trying to get a mobile app off the ground, including my friend.

Would You Pay For News?

I asked my kids this question last week. And I got three different answers.

One of my kids said “Absolutely. I do pay for several news apps and I like them a lot.”

One of my kids said “It depends on the user interface. I really like Pocket and do most of my news reading in that app.”

And one of my kids said “No way. News should be free. I get all of the news I need online for free.”

I have asked a number of other millennials this question this past week and got a similar set of responses.

The “no way” answer was stronger with the men. The “absolutely” answer was stronger with the women.

The answer that interests me the most is the user interface issue. I like to read in a mobile browser on my phone. I can follow links most easily that way. And I can share links most easily that way. And reading news is, for me, an interactive and social experience. I really like sharing links and getting shared links. So I want a least common denominator user experience that most easily facilitates that.

But I know a lot of people who use “read later” apps like Pocket and Instapaper. Clearly the user experience question looms large in the news business.

And there is also the question of what is news. Almost everyone told me that they value “long form news content” but not “headlines.” And so it is not surprising that we see news organizations like The New York Times and Washington Post investing more in long form content.

I am curious how the AVC community thinks about paying for news.

The Tortoise And The Hare

One of my favorite childhood stories is Aesop’s The Tortoise And The Hare.

I just love the idea that slow and steady ultimately wins the race.

I thought about that story when I read that Pokemon Go had set a record with 75mm downloads in its first few weeks in the app stores.

Mobile games have these explosive take up rates but don’t last forever.

Contrast that with something like Minecraft which emerged slowly but seems to chug along getting more and more popular each year.

And, outside of the games sector, I can’t really think of any super popular technology product (app or device) that blasted off and sustained itself over a decade or more.

When I ran this question by my brother in law last night, he mentioned the iPhone and the iPad, but both of those were relatively slow builds, certainly compared to these mobile game launches.

We could not think of a huge product, in tech or outside of tech, that blasted off and was a sustainably popular product for a decade or more.

Can you?

Nailing It

I saw dozens of pitches for what was essentially YouTube between 1998 and 2005. But when YouTube launched, it was pretty clear pretty quickly that they had nailed it and nobody else before them had.

I saw way more pitches for what was essentially Pokemon Go between the arrival of the iPhone and now. But when my daughter told me to download Pokemon Go and play it, I immediately realized that they had nailed something that nobody had before them

AVC regular LIAD tweeted this today:

You are not alone LIAD.

I recall seeing John Geraci‘s ITP senior thesis project in 2005 which was a web version of this idea powered by Google Maps, and understanding that we all want to interact with interactive media in the real world.

I’ve always loved the idea that we could do a massively public treasure hunt together using the web and mobile. But it took over ten years since I first saw this idea to have it really happen.

It made me smile when Emily told me to download it and I am still smiling days later. And I have a gym right outside my front door.

gym on W side hway

Feature Friday: GBoard

Quite a few friends and family members of mine are loving Google’s new GBoard third party keyboard for iOS. I am currently on Android and Google has not released GBoard for Android. So unlike most feature fridays, I am not going to be able to explain why I like this feature so much. I expect there are plenty of AVC community members who can do that in the comments.

At USV, we have looked closely at the third party keyboard market. It’s a big opportunity to get in between a user and the two dominant mobile operating systems. There could be a lot of value in doing that. But we ultimately determined that the mobile keyboard market was likely to be dominated by Apple and Google for a bunch of reasons. The emergence of GBoard only reinforces that view in our office.

But you can understand the strategic importance of Google gaining market share in the iOS keyboard market. Every key that is typed on a mobile phone is information for Google’s machine learning algorithms. So getting prime real estate on iOS is super strategic. It is also a smart way to defend their search franchise on mobile.

It sounds to me that Google has delivered a fantastic third party keyboard for iOS. If you have used or are using GBoard, I’m interested in your thoughts on it in the comments.

The “Yes And” Slack Bot

I wrote a blog post a while back about collaborating on a list in Google Sheets. At USV, we do a lot of list making in Google Sheets. But Sheets doesn’t have a great conversational interface for coming up with new entries for the list. So we use email to do that but the process is clunky. In that post, I suggested that we might write a slack bot that takes a conversation in a slack channel and turns it into a list in Google Sheets.

A few days later, I got an email from Alex Godin who had built exactly that bot. We tried it out at USV, made a bunch of suggestions on how to make it better, and the result is the “Yes And” Slack Bot. It was approved yesterday by Slack and is now in their app store.

If you and/or your company uses Slack and Google Sheets a lot, you should give it a try. Details on how to do that are here.

I love it when a blog post at AVC turns into something. It happens a lot actually.