The death of the featurephone in the UK – and what’s next (@guardian)

It’s true: that’s what has happened. In the UK (and US, and other countries), smartphones are approaching “saturation” – the point where there are no new users to be converted to using them. But when is saturation going to occur? And how many people will it involve? Thanks to data shared exclusively with the Guardian by Kantar ComTech, we can look at how the proportion of people with smartphones has grown over time – and make some predictions about when, and at what level, “saturation” will be reached.

Facebook Introduces AppLinks Open-Source Initiative

Very cool. Possibly the most disruptive thing Facebook’s done in a long time. The one pain point that remains acute for most users of apps is shareability: how to get that content out of the closed environment of a mobile app into the hands of someone else in the same seamless fashion as has been done in the web for years. This may work to solve that. By getting major publishers to sign off on this at launch, it makes it that much more likely that smaller developers will catch on as well and bake this into the apps they’re building.

A Gossip App Brought My High School to a Halt (@NYMag)

Disturbing stuff but unsurprising. What does it mean though? Should these platforms not be built? Should platform providers be more strict about policing anonymous social networks? Should Apple and Google ban them altogether from the App Store and Google Play? Certainly both companies have more power to police these kinds of things in a walled garden as opposed to the web, where these kinds of things used to manifest. (Formspring, as an example.)

I think back to Evan Williams’ quote on building a successful software company:

We often think of the internet enables you to do new things. But people just want to do the same things they’ve always done.

And kids (teenagers particularly) have, for the most part, always been cruel and lacking in the empathy department. Give them tools to help facilitate that cruelness and things like this happen.

Apple Interviewing Job Candidates for Mobile Payments Push (@recode)

Using those payment accounts as a foundation, the company is evaluating ways to make it easier for shoppers to buy physical products in apps and on the Web using their iPhones. The company is also considering how it might best help its customers make purchases in physical retail stores using only their phones and payment information stored in their iTunes accounts.

Was Square in Acquisition Talks With Google? (@gigaom)

Conflicting reports Sunday night centered on whether Google did or did not talk toSquare about acquiring the mobile payments company. First, the Wall Street Journal (reg required) reported that the San Francisco-based company, founded by Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey, did, in fact, hold acquisition talks with Google earlier this year. The story also claimed that Square had talked informally with Apple and PayPal about a sale.

Nike fires majority of FuelBand team, will stop making wearable hardware (@cnet)

Nike is gearing up to shutter its wearable-hardware efforts, and the sportswear company this week fired the majority of the team responsible for the development of its FuelBand fitness tracker, a person familiar with the matter told CNET.

“As a fast-paced, global business we continually align resources with business priorities,” Nike spokesman Brian Strong said in an email. “As our Digital Sport priorities evolve, we expect to make changes within the team, and there will be a small number of layoffs. We do not comment on individual employment matters.”

Can Facebook Innovate? A Conversation With Mark Zuckerberg (@nytimes)

Lots of interesting stuff here from Zuck, including admitting that the traditional Facebook experience is intentionally being un-bundled:

But I think on mobile, people want different things. Ease of access is so important. So is having the ability to control which things you get notifications for. And the real estate is so small. In mobile there’s a big premium on creating single-purpose first-class experiences. So what we’re doing with Creative Labs is basically unbundling the big blue app.

Facebook’s decision to spin off Messenger is the smartest, safest choice (@gigaom)

GigaOM’s Lauren Hockenson:

Facebook’s decision to remove messaging from its main app is bound to cause initial pain for users who are resistant to change (and reluctant to toggle between two apps to engage with a single platform), but it’s the smartest, safest choice Facebook can make to keep its service thriving on mobile.

I agreed with everything up until the end:

Features like video messaging, contact exchanging and location sharing are great parts of the WhatsApp experience that would also be at home on Facebook’s Messenger, and could take advantage of Facebook’s video and Maps content to enrich it even further. Furthermore, if Facebook does decide to finally merge WhatsApp with Messenger in the long run, it’s imperative that the company does its best to pluck the best aspects of its acquisition early on to appease loyal WhatsApp users.

Facebook is not merging Messenger with WhatsApp. No way, no how. And definitely not in light of the agreement that the FTC is making both companies live up to with regards to user privacy and data. They both happen to be messaging apps but the two services couldn’t be any different: they each have a different set of users, with different permission settings and different use cases. It makes no sense for them not to be run as stand-alone services and I think like Instagram, Zuck is smart enough to know that WhatsApp has far more value to Facebook the company as a separate service distinct from anything Facebook as a platform comes out with.

Side drawer navigation could be costing you half your user engagement (@thenextweb)

Interesting piece from Zeebox’s CEO on their experience experimenting with side (hamburger) navigation on their apps and how it performed against their existing tabbed navigation. Spoiler alert: they stuck with tabbed navigation, although the conclusion is more nuanced and dependent on what your app is trying to do and whether or not time spent in-app is a valuable metric for you.

Mark Cuban’s Cyber Dust (@Forbes)

“I’ve realized how much people fear that their digital footprint is creating a digital profile of all us.  Your Facebook page.  Your tweets. Your Pinterest, Tumbler, Instagram pages.  Your Spotify and Pandora playlists… All of these are being aggregated and evaluated to tell marketers what you like, don’t like, buy, won’t buy, your political affiliations.  Five plus years of all this data tells the world who you are – whether you wanted to or not.”

Certainly, that first class of innovators/early adopters pushing ephemerality felt that same way, although I’m not sure if everyone else that followed did or if it was just a product of social lock-in. (e.g. my friends are all doing this so I should too). Personally, I don’t think of ephemeral content as a “phase” in the evolution of social media: I think there’s enough room for choice in the matter as far as what content stays forever and what content is disposable.

Apple Poaches Amazon A9 Search Exec For Maps And App Store Search Improvements (@TechCrunch)

Apple is likely well aware that it needs to shore up its search and discovery options in both the App Store, iTunes Store and Maps, all of which are said to be areas of focus for Dupin at Cupertino. Maps and the App Store in particular have been areas that have come under fire from consumers as not necessarily the most reliable services in Apple’s arsenal, so it makes sense for the company to bring in some fresh talent to tackle these trouble spots.

Improving Apple Maps? Good luck with that. I think crafting a better App Store algorithm is a much worthier challenge.

At Google, Bid to Put Its Glasses to Work (@nytimes)

“I’m sure Google would love this to be a consumer technology, from a scale perspective, but I’m just not sure it is,” said Chris Curran, chief technologist for the United States advisory practice of PwC, a business consulting firm. “It’s a technology that’s searching for problems to solve, and it’s really a matter of where do the problems emerge?” he added.

I don’t agree. I think the problem of smartphone/device distractibility is an acute problem that becomes more pressing with every day that passes as we become more and more reliant on pulling out the phones in our pocket. Wearable technology in general (smartwatches, bands etc.) is an attempt at solving that so that we can make use of the technology at our fingertips in a more perfunctory way. So is Glass.

Unfortunately, Glass doesn’t solve that problem well enough (and at low enough cost) for it to make sense for 90% of consumers. At least not yet.

Will Facebook buy Secret? (@danprimack)

The first rumblings of Facebook’s (FB) acquisition interest in Secret came last week, with widespread talk that a $100 million offer was on the table. Mike Isaac of Re/Code quickly shot that down, saying instead that the two companies had met to explore how they could “work together.”

Which was the exact tone of the conversation Zuck had with Kevin Systrom at Instagram, Evan Spiegel at Snapchat and most recently, the two founders of WhatsApp. Seems like an offer was very likely made, although obviously not the $100 million that was originally reported. If a purchase does happen, it’ll be another example of Zuck’s strategy of positioning Facebook as a mobile-focused holding company, distinct from Facebook the service.

Railways and WhatsApp (@benedictevans)

The big problem that these products pose to MNOs, it seems to me, is not actually the threat to SMS revenue. Rather, it’s the threat to identity. We do already have number portability, but changing your number remains a major frictional issue reducing churn. But if your contact point moves to FB Messenger or some yet-to-be-founded app that explodes in the next few years, then the SIM you have in your phone today doesn’t matter at all, and you could swap it in and out from week to week depending on which mobile operator was offering the best deal – a great recipe for truly murderous price wars.

Uber is launching an on-demand courier service tomorrow (@VentureBeat)

According to a job listing obtained by VentureBeat, Uber plans to pay bike couriers between $20 and $30 per hour for “on-demand deliveries.” Uber plans to give couriers a free iPhone 4S, allowing them to “receive pickup requests from nearby customers.”

Not surprising. Will be interesting to see how they do against some of the existing delivery-on-demand services. But clearly they’re gearing up for a fight with the big fish over this stuff: Amazon.

Twitter Acquires Cover, Android Lock-Screen Developer

So what does this mean for the Cover app? For now, Cover will remain available in the Play Store while we focus our attention on our work at Twitter. If that changes down the road, we’ll provide another update here.

Sounds like an acqui-hire, although Twitter may end up utilizing their technology to create their own lock-screen; something that mimics Facebook Home, for example.

Postmodern Computing (@asymco)

What will the smartphone do for us? Does smartphone ubiquity change anything? Besides increasing ARPU slightly in a $1.2 trillion industry? Besides doubling the size of the device business? Besides creating a $20 billion app industry? How do we assess the impact of having a connected computer in one’s pocket? In everyone’s pockets? With us all day. Every day.

It’s a fascinating question and one that has proven remarkably tough to ascertain given the limitations of our traditional economic measurements. Coincidentally, I’m finishing up the latter part of The Second Machine Age: a great book that gets into the rapid exponential growth & technological progress over the last decade or so and what its implications are for the economy and really all of society at a global level. One of the chapters hones in on GDP as an antiquated measurement of economic progress and human welfare as a whole: that because of the digitization of so many traditionally physical goods and services, we need different markers and metrics to really assess our happiness and well-being.

I think smartphones are a corollary of that idea. We see physical devices being produced en masse and it’s easy to say ‘well Samsung and Apple are getting richer at our expense.’ But what about the fact that those devices now make owning a cacophony of other devices (GPSs etc.) a thing of the past? What are the tangible benefits of that? What are the benefits to consumers as a whole that the majority of apps are now freemium and have no barrier to entry on price?

We’re also aware of the significant network effects that accompany these mobile services and how quickly they can scale. I think it’s safe to assume that universal smartphone ubiquity will accelerate those trends in local markets, leading to greater innovation and greater levels of competition at the top of the stack.

Anyway, make sure you read the whole piece. Some great charts.

Apps Solidify Leadership Six Years into the Mobile Revolution (@flurry)

Apologies for the lack of posts recently. Catching up on news after a busy week. Via Flurry:

Time spent on a mobile device by the average US consumer has risen to 2 hrs and 42 minutes per day from 2 hrs and 38 minutes per day in March of 2013. Apps continued to cement their lead, and commanded 86% of the average US mobile consumer’s time, or 2 hrs and 19 minutes per day. Time spent on the mobile web continued to decline and averaged just 14% of the US mobile consumer’s time, or 22 minutes per day. The data tells a clear story that apps, which were considered a mere fad a few years ago, are completely dominating mobile, and the browser has become a single application swimming in a sea of apps.

Actually not that huge of an increase re: time in app. Not as big as last year compared to 2012.

while productivity apps saw their share double from 2% to 4% of the overall time spent.

This is a good sign and I expect this to double (maybe even triple) next year as well, particularly with the release of Office for iPad.

Also YouTube has, in this year’s analysis, been added as its own category. It was 50% of last year’s entertainment category, which isn’t surprising.

A Statistical Analysis of the App Store (@ColinEberhardt)

Interesting data points via Colin Eberhardt:

There is a big difference between the average price for each category with Business apps costing six times more than Games on average. Most of the Categories that have a lower average price are those which we associated with casual use, apps which are used for fun and pleasure. Whereas the high cost categories contain apps that are intended to deliver valuable services, where you might expect to get a return on your $12 investment.

Games are also stickier, on average, than most business apps. More opens, longer in-app time = easier to monetize via ads. Combine this with games appealing to a younger audience (less likely to shell out money for apps) and it’s not surprise games are at the bottom rung of direct pricing on average, whereas business customers and enterprises traditionally don’t have as much aversion to price.

What I’d really like to see mapped out is the correlation between ratings and app store rankings across each category. In other words, trying to quantify how much weight Apple (and Google too, of course) is giving average ratings as part of their overall App Store algorithm.