Why cohort analysis is a game-changer for mobile app businesses

Cohort analysis removes the confusion that can arise from running simultaneous improvements and campaigns, so you can get a better sense of what is yielding the best results and is therefore worth investing in. It is a tool that enables you to look at lifespans in isolation — aggregating users at similar points in their lifespans. From there it enables you to form ambitions about how they should play out and ideas about how to accomplish that.


Mobile-First Is Old News. Think Platform-First.

Solid post illustrating the differences between the two major platforms and how to design your app experience to maximize growth. I especially liked the designation between organic & transactional engagement:

Organic sessions are more exploratory as users browse the app to find value. Transactional sessions are usually triggered by a notification that lands the user on very specific content (e.g tapping on “Joe invited you to connect” will land on Joe’s profile). As a result, transactional sessions tend to be shorter in time spent and shallower in activity (up to 50-90% less) than organic sessions.

Brian Watson at USV posted a Hackpad that listed popular apps as being in one bucket or the other. I’m not sure I agree with those kinds of rigid classifications, particularly when the author of the original piece was trying to illustrate the idea that apps should build for both use cases:

Imagine your app has a main entrance (app icon → organic) and many side entrances (app notifications → transactional). Make sure every entrance is engaging enough to drive visitors to explore the whole house.

Hypercube: Re-Inventing the Android Home Screen (@hyprcb)

c/o Hypercube

Obviously, there are lots of people trying to do this for Android. But if anything else, just read their blog (Tumblr) posts, particularly if you touch UX in any way on a founding team. Fascinating insights into what it takes to re-imagine a mobile UI from the ground up. They even built their own smartphone prototype using an Arduino board and some other parts. Watching them iterate in almost-real time is a treat. More startups should give people a peek under the hood like this.

Facebook releases visual news curation app Paper

From FB:

Your Paper is made of stories and themed sections, so you can follow your favorite interests. The first section in Paper is your Facebook News Feed, where you’ll enjoy inspiring new designs for photos, videos, and longer written posts. You can customize Paper with a choice of more than a dozen other sections about various themes and topics—from photography and sports to food, science and design. Each section includes a rich mix of content from emerging voices and well-known publications.


TechCrunch’s Josh Constine writes: 

Paper creates this opportunity for Facebook to surprise like a newspaper, but on mobile. It can show content you might have missed by bubbling up public content with lots of Likes or that a Paper editor thinks is brilliant. Sure, friends act as curators of the web at large, but not everyone’s friends share content in the areas they’re interested. I might be the only one of my friends that digs business news or foodie stuff, and Paper could deliver it to me without me having to track down specific Pages to Like.

Yeah, certainly they have the power of the news feed algorithm which they can leverage. But I don’t see this being a game changer in any way. Curated newspapers abound, with Flipboard being the most well-known example. In fact, you can get your Facebook news feed there if you want it, plus all of your other social feeds worked in. Not to mention Zite, Pulse and the more non-visual interpretations of curated news that are specific to mobile (we covered Inside just a few days ago) that are already out there.

Obviously, they’re flexing their mobile chops and I love the idea of a home-grown app development team. The odds are pretty good that they’ll hit a home run somewhere. I don’t see this particular app being the one.

Also, I don’t think the FiftyThree guys are too happy right now.

Zuck Is Finally Ready To Fight Snapchat (@techcrunch)

The thing is Snapchat can win this battle so long as this method of sharing remains en vogue. They have an established brand, they have an identity and they have, as the article states, an ecosystem completely divorced from that of Facebook or any other social network, for that matter. And they’re completely committed to that format & methodology: something that Facebook can’t claim. How many times have you seen large companies create an “X” killer only to see it die on the vine? Heck, Google is still flailing away at trying to kill Facebook with Google+. Sometimes all of the resources in the world can’t help you against an upstart that’s built some brand equity: particularly when its ethos has been to position itself as something that’s almost diametrically opposed to your service’s principles.

By the time Snapchat caught Facebook’s attention, it was too late. The December 2012 launch of Facebook Poke (a shameless Snapchat clone) was a total flop.And once Facebook was vulnerable, reportedly offering $3 billion for the service, Spiegel said no. Today Zuck has responded, albeit somewhat subtly. The stats around Messenger alone show that Facebook is ready to fight for the kids, whether the social network needs them or not.

They might not need today’s teens right now. But Facebook will need them later, particularly to help bring in the generation that follows them. Facebook has been top dog for a long time and they have a huge moat that very, very few startups have hope of competing against. They aren’t going away anytime soon. But historically, social networks have been transient and have followed the patterns of their youngest users. I’m sure that’s been causing Zuck some sleepless nights.

After Google Pressure, Samsung Will Dial Back Android Tweaks, Homegrown Apps (@recode)

It’s unclear what concessions Google may have made on its part. The company could have, for example, agreed to work with Samsung on a Nexus device or offered other cooperation.

I don’t think Google had to make any concessions, frankly. I know there was chatter about it after CES and that Samsung would have had a bigger head start than most others. But Samsung was not in a position to start building their own platform that could compete against Google, Apple & even Microsoft. Going out on their own and trying to build their own app ecosystem, trying to wrangle developer support away from the established order was not in their best interest or Google’s, frankly. I think it just made a lot more sense for both parties to work in concert: Samsung doing what they know best in terms of hardware innovation and Google concentrating on the software side.

Would Selling Motorola to Lenovo Solve Some Big Problems for Google? Yes. (@recode)

A report in China Daily said earlier that Lenovo could be acquiring Motorola Mobility from Google in a deal worth at least $2 billion. Reuters has also reported that a deal is imminent, at a price of close to $3 billion.

And sources also told Re/code that the idea had been floated by Lenovo as far back as a year ago.

So what of the patents, what many considered to be an influential part of the original Google/Motorola deal?

Meanwhile, on the patent front, Google has continued to assert Motorola’s substantial patent holdings in various cases, but courts and regulators have largely taken a dim view of issuing injunctions or large damage awards based on standards-essential patents — the patent variety that makes up a large part of Motorola’s holdings.

Seems silly to write something as dismissive as “they were in over their heads,” but it’s hard to conceive of another reason why they would sell.

edit: According to Google’s official statement, they will be retaining the “vast majority” of Motorola patent portfolio.

Google as Kingmaker: First Search, Now Mobile

I’m reading this post-mortem from former Pingjam founder Elnor Rozenrot:

To this date, I don’t know what made Google suddenly not like us. I don’t know whether we got kicked out because 24 hours before banning our apps Google launched an almost identical feature in Android 4.4 or if it’s something else. The messages we did receive stated conflicting reasons. Beyond the obvious damage, the lack of communication caused us to assume the worst and that whatever we do in the space will be killed by Google.

Obviously, we may not be getting the entire story here. But Google, as a company, is notorious for issuing these kinds of vague edicts to their partners across a multitude of platforms. It’s gone on for years. I still remember back in 2007 when I was running a small content site business getting the e-mail that my Adsense account, the core source of my revenue, was going to be terminated in 24 hours unless I changed the formatting of my ads to comply with a TOS update that they had issued hours before. No phone communication. E-mail was routed to a support team overseas where the best they could give me on timing was 3 business days.

Same goes on in organic search. As an SEO practitioner, I’ve seen it with clients and other companies, big and small. Yes, you can use their tools to clean up link profiles, request re-inclusion in search etc. But once a decision has been made, there’s very little recourse or even getting a rationale explanation unless you’re a big brand or a Sequoia-backed startup with $100 million in funding in the bank.

Now that Google’s ecosystem has spread to mobile, it seems the same types of things are going on. No dialogue with partners that have made them money, no dialogue with the industry, just proclamations issued from on high. And this didn’t impact just PingJam but a litany of developers that were using the service.

From one of several message board threads on the topic:

Unfortunately this is becoming more and more just part of being an android developer. We are an Australian Development house, that lost over 30 casion related games over the weeknd. The worst part is, we stopped all production to update our entire network of 500 apps to meet all google policies, mainly removing airpush from all our apps. Our casino games has tested Pingjam only for 1 month and bout 3 months ago, we removed all sdk and all traces of pingjam. But only apps that had pingjam on them have been removed. Been in contact with google head office in Sydney getting passed around from one manager to another, each one says send an email…..an email! Over the last couple of years we have spent over $100,000 in inapp paid fees to google alone. And there is just no one to talk to.

Founders, developers, analysts, writers and everyone else in the mobile ecosystem can badger Google to death on this subject. But it doesn’t seem likely that they’re going to change their ways. If it continues, would more developers be drawn to alternative Android stores? More importantly, could they convince customers to use them, despite concerns over malware?

Either way, his advice to fellow founders is sound and mimics Fred Wilson’s “be your own bitch” narrative:

To stress the point, if your startup has one point of failure that is controlled by one entity – do what you can to not be totally dependent on that single entity. Develop for other platforms, decouple from the ecosystem. Do whatever it takes to get out from under their thumb.

Social TV Is Broken: Here’s How to Fix It

Networks like HBO were likely paying top dollar for the privilege of showcasing their programming on GetGlue in the format that was once considered the future of the Internet–badges–but also encouraged check-ins and conversation, both of which are now common second-screen experiences.

Badges & check-ins were never the “future of the Internet.” They were only a means to an end. For Foursquare, the canonical example of the badge & check-in phenomenon, the long-term goal was always to build what they’ve finally succeeded in building: a recommendation app that functions in more or less real-time. To build that, they needed user location data. Lots of user location data. If you talk to the GetGlue team, they were likely looking for the same end-goal: granular TV recommendations based on viewing habits, chat patterns etc. In other words, reams of data that can be monetized.

That said, Seamus is right that Twitter “killed the social TV star,” so to speak. When I sit down to watch Islander games, I usually have the #isles hashtag up during and after the game to get a sense of what people are thinking. But I wonder if this is something worth Twitter really investing a lot of time and energy into, particularly when its become the natural order of things without any real investment:

Twitter should consider partnering with IMDB to get exclusive access to a custom API that filters trivia into the stream. Ever since Twitter announced custom timelines, I haven’t seen them put to any good use in TV. Twitter should expand its editorial team for political coverage, TV shows, etc., because let’s face it, 99 percent of Twitter conversation is horrible.

Just adding trivia to the firehose of stream-of-consciousness tweets isn’t really going to enhance my TV-watching experience.

h/t Tapiphany

Cop Watch app records police-citizen interactions (@torontostar)

“We hope that this will reduce the violence, but also we hope it will help people feel that they have a little bit of control in their life,” he said. “It’s not just, ‘Oh the police are doing bad things to me and I have to wait until somebody saves me.’ This way you can take an active step to make your world, your community, safer.”

@Inside: Mobile News Curated in Real-Time (@jason)

Last night marked the launch of Jason Calacanis’ Inside mobile app: a curated news experience exclusively for mobile that mimics some of what he’s already doing for his LAUNCH ticker initiative but for non-tech related news categories as well. The app is available for now for iOS & Blackberry, with an Android version coming soon.

TechCrunch has already compared it to Circa which is an apt comparison in terms of utility (note: Calacanis is an investor in Circa, which is pretty interesting). What I like about Inside though is that it’s more granular than Circa when it comes to individual news topics. For example, you can choose to follow technology as a whole or you can follow a litany of sub-topics within technology, which hopefully will extend out even further to allow users to add their own tags to stories themselves for an even more personalized experience. For me, I’ve maintained a pretty robust RSS feed over the last few years that I transferred to Feedly in the wake of Google Reader’s closure so that solution does the trick for me. But most people don’t get as crazy as I get when it comes to their news (tech or otherwise) and don’t want to spend the time sifting through 5000 blogs, news sources or what have you to add to a reader app. So I think something like this will do the trick for most non-power consumers of news.

photo (6)
Screenshot from the Inside iOS app

The only issue right now for me is that the app is still quite slow on my iPhone 5. Jason attributed this to a spike in demand in conjunction with the launch last night. But I’m writing this early in the morning here on the East Coast and it’s still very slow going in terms of getting “top news” and “all updates.” Still, assuming, those issues can be hammered out, I see good things ahead for the product: the UI is crisp and clean, it syncs nicely with your social apps and the summaries are very well-written. Whether or not it will revolutionize news consumption on mobile devices remains to be seen. But I’m looking forward to seeing what else the team comes out with to make the experience even better.

Galaxy Gear 2 to be unveiled in March or April, will look nothing like original (@Android_Beat)

According to ZD|Net Korea, Samsung will unveil the successor to the Gear in either March or April at an event in London. Said watch will have a flexible OLED screen, and it will look “totally different” compared to the first Gear.

By “totally different,” I’m assuming that won’t be just the aesthetics but the overall experience (read: compatibility with devices that aren’t part of the Galaxy family) as well. And as Stefan mentions, price was another big barrier that turned a lot of folks away from the first incarnation which hopefully they’ve mitigated somewhat as well.

Jelly’s Something (@libovness)

Some compelling points made here by Jonathan Libov about the way Jelly has been built to mimic what I guess you could call the de-cluttered nature of SnapChat, Tinder & other apps:

What Jelly has going for is the de-emphasis of the activity feed and the absence of a navigational hierarchy that would lead you to a full history of questions and answers. If you swipe away a question by accident, then tough cookies, you can’t go back. This predicament is familiar to users of Snapchat, Tinder and other “Most of it goes away” apps. Missed a snap on Snapchat or someone on Tinder you wanted to Heart? Sorry, ‘dems the breaks. 

The last point is the best with regards to unread content and the way that notification is presented to users:

The badge count on Quora is an urgent call-to-action. The end result of all those unread items is that opening Quora now seems like a chore. The “new items” indicator in Jelly, in contrast, is a subtle, gentle suggestion that doesn’t distract you from the here and now. Count me in.

Yes, a million times, yes. Mentally, I get exhausted just looking at that number because guess what it reminds me of? E-mail. All I hear is that voice screaming “you have 2000+ notifications and you haven’t responded! What the hell is wrong with you? blahblahblah.” Switching to Feedly for my RSS from Feeddler, which was notorious for that, was a win just because that red oval went away. I think a lot of people feel the same way about any app that does that now, irrespective of use case.

h/t USV.com

Apple Reports First Quarter Results – And Wall Street Does What Wall Street Does

I don’t want to spend all day beating this drum because people far smarter than I and with a greater handle on what makes the company tick day-to-day will do a better job than me of articulating why Apple is far from doomed. But the investor demands that are bestowed on Apple are completely & positively insane. One number doesn’t align with what some junior analyst on Wall Street decreed should represent number of iPhones sold and the company’s stock drops 8%. Long-term, yes, I can see one having a bearish perspective. Whether Tim Cook is the guy for the job for the next 10-15 years remains to be seen. But every other growth metric, particularly iPad sales which still have a HUGE amount of room to run, point to Apple continuing to run up huge profits for years to come.

Ben Bajarin wrote a post last March that he could probably just change the timestamp on and nobody would notice a difference between last year and today because it should represent the exact same sentiment from any sane-thinking person:

So to recap: Apple is the most profitable company, can’t make enough products to meet demand and is the most admired by its peers. Yet Wall Street and media fanatics are claiming Apple is doomed. The reality distortion field is in full effect.


With Its New Motion Ads, Adtile Is Betting Users Want To Play With Their Ads

This is an easy sell to advertisers. But it’s really hard to make ads interesting in any way for consumers. The interact-with-ads phenomenon isn’t new, as anyone bombarded with flash-game-embedded display ads in the MySpace days can attest to. Those kinds of interactions always strike me as kind of gimmicky. But maybe the Adtile team can figure something out that goes beyond the display ads currently littering devices that are magnets for accidental touches, etc. Particularly if it’s displayed in conjunction with something useful, like the coffee shop example.

The General-Purpose iPad and the Specialist Mac (@stratechery)

Ultimately, it is the iPad that is in fact general purpose. It does lots of things in an approachable way, albeit not as well as something that is built specifically for the task at hand. The Mac or PC, on the other hand, is a specialized device, best compared to the grand piano in the living room:2 unrivaled in the hands of a master, and increasingly ignored by everyone else.

Ben’s posts are always thought-provoking. What’ll be interesting to see is what other traditional use cases tablets may be able to siphon off from PCs in the future. For me, I still do most of my writing on a desktop simply because I still have too many parameters-per-post (plugins and such) within WordPress that can’t be viewed, maintained or edited from within the WP app. And spreadsheets. Everything else I can do on the tablet, including other means of content creation (Facebook/Twitter statuses, message board posts etc.)

Why the Confide App Should Scare the Crap Out of You (@ITKE)

We’ve certainly seen many examples of government officials erasing messages, using personal email addresses, and otherwise trying to evade proper oversight by the people. If government officials could send email without fear that the messages could be retrieved later, what do we think could happen? It’s not just in government that this app should scare us. It’s with corporations as well. Numerous legal cases, such as Apple-Samsung, have hinged on incriminating email messages.

It’s true, although it’s not like you would be able to get rid of anything that’s legally binding (e.g. contracts) with this app, if I understand it correctly. This seems to be purely for back and forth messaging. Ironically, I do think the HR use case could be particularly important when it comes to the anonymous reporting of wrongdoing. But I agree, it does throw up a lot of red flags, namely when you think about those who may use it to issue clandestine directives and cover up ulterior motives.

For what it’s worth, investor Fred Wilson said this about the app:

in our office we could not find a single use case for any of us.

h/t USV.com

Kantar: Android Accounted 70% Of Smartphone Sales In Q4, Samsung Now “Under Real Pressure” (@techcrunch)

Samsung, the handset maker that has led the charge for Google’s OS, is “now coming under real pressure in most regions” as it faces stronger competition from local players in markets like China. There, Xiaomi led in sales for the last 12 weeks of 2013, and other Chinese handset makers like Huawei also continued to gain ground. It’s still Android, but delivered in different, more locally focused packaging.

You have to think Google is of two minds when it comes to this news. Obviously, the growth numbers in the aggregate continue to bode well for Android’s future as far as overall smartphone penetration. But Samsung is their big money partner, particularly when it comes to the high end of the market. And with Chinese OEMs continuing to eschew the Google Play system in favor of localized, open-source version of Android, Google can’t reap the benefits of app installs the way they can in Western markets.

On the other hand, the consumers going for cheaper device manufacturers probably weren’t going to be big spenders in the app market anyway. So how much does it really hurt Google when it comes to top-line revenue? Probably not that much. The real issue will be if Samsung begins to lose significant ground in Western markets to other Android OEMs, whether they be Chinese-based (like Xiaomi, if they ever started producing phones in the US/UK) or otherwise. Could some of those manufacturers come to Western markets with an open-source Android version and try to cut down OEMs using Google’s version? Would Google be able to do anything about it?

Samsung And Google Bury The Apple Hatchet, Sign 10-Year Patent Agreement (@techcrunch)

“This agreement with Google is highly significant for the technology industry,” said Dr. Seungho Ahn, the Head of Samsung’s Intellectual Property Center. “Samsung and Google are showing the rest of the industry that there is more to gain from cooperating than engaging in unnecessary patent disputes.”

Until they get in another patent dispute with Apple, that is. This is a way for Google (and by extension, Samsung, as they have become the face of Apple’s lawsuits) to bolster their arsenal in the continuing arms race with Cupertino.

WSJ says two larger screened iPhone models due this year, plastic 5c to be scrapped (@9to5mac)

The people said Apple plans an iPhone model with a screen larger than 4½ inches measured diagonally, and a second version with a display bigger than 5 inches. Until now, Apple’s largest phone has been the 4-inch display on the iPhone 5.

Both new models are expected to feature metal casings similar to what is used on the current iPhone 5S, with Apple expected to scrap the plastic exterior used in the iPhone 5C, these people said.

The 5C always occupied a weird space: most people who want an iPhone are looking for a premium device, yet this cheaper iPhone wasn’t really cheaper compared to other smartphones. Not surprising, in hindsight, that it didn’t sell well.

The potential for a phablet-sized iPhone is interesting though.