Facebook and Google define our mobile life

Happy new year, my dear readers.

Nielsen has released a new report with the ‘Top Smartphone Apps of 2016’ in the U.S., and there it becomes clear that two tech companies dominate the scenario here. Facebook and Facebook Messenger account together for 275 million of unique users per month on average (350M if we add Instagram, #8 on this list), but the next five spots go to Google, who had 511 million of unique users on average each month thanks to its plethora of services.

We have then Apple Music on the #9, and a surprising Amazon on the #10 with the biggest growth of all of them: a staggering 43% YoY.

You can tell a lot from who is on that list, but also from who isn’t. Like Snapchat, or Twitter, or WhatsApp (popular outside the US) or WeChat (China centric).

There’s also a strong message here: Apple is mostly irrelevant on the services arena, and they don’t seem to need people using their services when at least they use their devices. The cloud failure is again evident on this chart, but the contrary is true for Facebook, that has built an empire with just an app.

That is much more powerful, I’d say, than building it with hardware, because Facebook is ruling a lot of people’s lives and is their reality. That’s frightening and marvelous and daunting and incredible. Something similar could be said of Google, who all of us should fear even more for its appetite of having us and, beyond that, our data.

These are dangerous times, and to have two companies that depend on our private data and our behaviour to exist is terrifying. And seeing us not doing anything about it is even worse.

4 questions about the troubling app subscription model

The news coming about the new App Store subscription model -that, by the way, will be applied to Google Play as well– are really interesting, but I find them troubling.

There is certainly content on which subscriptions make sense, but I’m not really sure apps and games can really benefit from this model. The questions arepretty obvious:

  1. Developers won’t probably give everything they have in mind in the first version to ensure they have something new to offer in future releases for their subscribers, right?
  2. Developers that offer the (near) perfect app -at first, or through several updates- will have a tough problem to justify new updates and the subscription model itself. What will users be paying then? New features they don’t need (that can spoil the original app)?
  3. Does this subscription model give the users more rights to ask for features? That’s not the case for video, music or “text” subscriptions, but again, the case is different.
  4. What about security patches? We took for granted that when we paid for an app we had some support associated to it. What will be the new terms of use on this cases? “Only critical updates are free“?

I’m sure developers like the idea, but hopefully this will be just an option for certain kind of apps that deserve that model.

Hopefully.

Ubuntu convergence: dream or nightmare?

Last year Canonical and bq launched the first smartphone based on Ubuntu. Now they will launch the first tablet that is based on the new Ubuntu convergent platform. This device can act as a tablet, but also will act “like a full-blown PC when you connect a keyboard, mouse and display to it“.

I’ve already written about this in Xataka and Incognitosis in Spanish, so I won’t go much deeper here because mostly everyone is covering the news superficially. It doesn’t matter if the tablet maker is bq, it doesn’t matter what are the specs, and it even doesn’t matter that the device can actually offer the user a desktop experience when the tablet is connected to that display, mouse and keyboard we were talking about.

bq1

What matters is the quality of that experience. And that quality isn’t gonna be high enough to convince users to make the switch.

I’ve reviewed the bq Aquaris E4.5 Ubuntu Edition not once, but twice. I’ve followed the progress of this project since Mark Shuttleworth first mentioned it in October’2011, when no one had talked about this convergence thing before (at least, not to my knowledge), and I had great expectations even though that dream was delayed many times.

The final arrival of Ubuntu approach has been so late that Microsoft has won that race: they’ve stolen the idea and applied it to Windows 10. The execution is still far from perfect on smartphones -I reviewed the Lumia 950 XL and Continuum a few days ago, again, in Spanish- and the problems I’ve seen on that device –UX incoherences, lack of universal apps on many cases, buggy behaviour everywhere– will for sure appear to on Ubuntu.

Launching a platform that wants to change the statu quo is a big challenge, and you won’t succeed with a platform in beta or even alpha status as these two are now.

Even Remix OS  is more promising than what I’ve seen on the Ubuntu front, and I suspect that the Ubuntu team will not be able to offer us that convergence dream they talked about for so long.

In fact, I suspect this will be more of a nightmare. Not only for us, the dissappointed users, but for Canonical as well.

Google and Facebook are winning the invisible battle of mobile apps

Great insight from Peter Kafka based on a new study from Nielsen. On it we found a critical comparison: mobile OS market share vs most important mobile apps (by number of unique users).

The facts are there: even with Apple pretty close to Android in the US, five of the top 10 mobile apps are from Google, with Facebook owning three (remember Instagram?) and the latest two owned by Apple. It’s surprising to see Apple Music there (Spotify?) but I guess preinstalling that with iOS 9 makes the difference.

That graph would be pretty different outside the US. In Spain, for example, Android leads with a staggering 89,6% market share (iOS has a 7,3%, Windows has a 2,7% an the rest, a 0,4%, is for “Others”), so the most used mobile apps should benefit Google even more. There would be differences on the instant messaging market -WhatsApp is undisputable leader here, so Facebook would win again on that front- but the data from Nielsen makes this even more relevant: in the US, where iOS is strongest than anywhere else, Google and Facebook are kings amongst app makers.

As hardware has become a commodity in the mobile space, is software what makes the difference, and Google and Facebook dominate this space.

That’s really interesting.

Source: You May Own Apple’s Phone, but You’re Using Google’s Apps

The Windows 10 Mobile app debate

Tom Warren talks on The Verge about the lack of apps on Windows Phone and the gradual disappearing of several apps that are no longer available or that were available but weren’t updated.

Windows 10 Mobile will try to fix this with the technologies that allow iOS and Android developers to port their apps and games to this platform, and I recently asked one Microsoft exec if that wasn’t something that would stop native development.

He told to me that he believed it was not the case. They see that as “bridges” (and they call them that way), so those developers don’t have to start from scratch. The transition can be made softly this way, and that could lead to developers that really take advantage of the promising Windows 10 ecosystem. As Warren writes:

With constant Windows Phone change, the only thing that has remained persistent is a lack of apps. Windows 10 Mobile is rumored to arrive to existing handsets in December, but Microsoft still hasn’t officially revealed a launch date. A lot is changing in the new OS, with different built-in apps, a new design and navigation, and Microsoft’s expectation that developers will create universal apps. It’s unlikely to make any difference to the fate of Windows Phone overall. It’s another reset, and Microsoft can’t keep hitting the reboot button forever.

I doubt it will be the case: few announcements and lack of details don’t talk very well about the future, but we’ll see.

Source: Windows Phone has a new app problem | The Verge

Begun, the mobile adblocker war has

The new content blocking feature in the new iOS 9 seems to have started a renewed interest for privacy. Marco Arment just released his own tool based on the Ghostery (a well known extension for desktop browsers) database.

I wonder how many others will take advantage in iOS, Android or Windows 10 Mobile.

The name of the app, Peace, is a little bit too much for me, though. Misleading and exaggerated.

Source: Introducing Peace, my privacy-focused iOS 9 ad blocker | Marco.org