SensorTower, an app analytics firm with a misleading name, reports that over 3 million apps which require support for the ARKit augmented reality toolset have been downloaded from Apple’s iOS App Store since the launch of iOS 11, and that over half of those downloads were of games. Importantly, this excludes apps which have ARKit-based features as optional extras and only focuses on those apps which require ARKit compatibility to run at all, which is obviously a narrower set of apps. Around a third of the apps available in this category are games, so they’re being downloaded disproportionately more than apps in other categories. Overall, I have to say that I’ve been surprised by how few really compelling or big ARKit-based apps there have been so far – even some of the apps demoed by Apple at WWDC and the iPhone launch seem to be missing in action so far, including an updated Pokemon Go game. That’s a little disappointing given how much noise Apple made about ARKit ahead of its launch and the high expectations many of us had for the platform. I still think more games and apps will come in time, but things are definitely taking off more slowly than I would have expected.
Instagram Offers Cross-Posting of Stories to Facebook (Oct 5, 2017)
Facebook seems determined to keep trying to make the Stories format a success in its core app, even as all the evidence shows that hardly anyone is using it. The latest push is a feature which enables users of Instagram’s Stories feature to cross-post a Story created in that app over to the Facebook equivalent as well. That will certainly provide a low-friction way to get people to create content for the Facebook Stories feature, and will therefore likely lead to at least a small increase in usage. But the big difference between Instagram and Facebook is often the size and nature of the audience. Yes, some people have big followings in both places and for them cross-posting will be natural and even useful, but for many others the appeal of Instagram is the smaller, more intimate audience they publish to there in contrast to the mishmash of people known well and not so well that clutter many people’s Facebook networks. As such, the appeal and usage of the feature is likely to be somewhat limited, for all the same reasons that Facebook’s Stories feature in general hasn’t taken off.
Kids’ Anonymous Feedback App TBH Hits #1 on App Store (Sep 25, 2017)
The hottest new app on the iOS App Store isn’t an augmented reality game enabled by iOS 11, but a new social app aimed at older school kids called TBH (styled tbh). What sets the app apart from pretty much every other social app aimed at kids is its limits, which prevent it from being used for bullying or other nastiness and instead focuses it on positive anonymous messages. In a world where pretty much every new platform eventually gets used for bullying and trolling, this one is admirable for its focus on positivity, something that shines through pretty clearly in the reviews on the App Store. At the same time, it clearly taps into every tween and teen’s desire to talk about friends with other friends in quasi-anonymous ways. The full article from TechCrunch which I’ve linked to below is worth a read fro the other details, but if nothing else the app’s success is admirable for its focus on trying to be a force for good in a world where so little else is. But it’s also notable for being yet another example of an app that’s launched on iOS first (with Android supposedly in the works), that’s thrived on limitations, and which has – like Facebook – taken a slow and steady approach to rolling out (I downloaded the app to try it out but it’s only available in certain states and mine isn’t one of them). The next big challenge, of course, is monetization – something that might be tough among the 12-18 crowd this seems firmly aimed at.
Twitter is Testing a Native Lite App in the Philippines (Sep 25, 2017)
Twitter launched Twitter Lite as a progressive web app in April with a view to providing a better option for emerging markets users relative to its native app. In writing about that news, I said that Twitter’s PWA was nice validation for Google’s push of these web apps, but that validation takes a bit of a knock from the fact that Twitter is reportedly testing a native app version of Twitter Lite in the Philippines. There’s no guarantee it gets launched broadly, but it would be further evidence that, for all Google’s eagerness to promote web apps alongside (or even instead of) native apps, the latter still dominate usage and the channels major companies still use to make their services available. I also said in that original piece that Twitter could benefit from the same kinds of benefits as Facebook by pursuing a Lite strategy, but although a Twitter product exec said a while back that Lite was driving big growth in India, the company’s Q2 results showed basically no evidence of that growth. One of Twitter’s biggest problems globally continues to be its inability to create a value proposition that appeals to new users, and whereas Facebook’s Lite app accelerated what was already very strong growth, Twitter’s app can’t solve that fundamental issue.
Variety has a quick run-down of some new data from App Annie about the usage of various mobile video apps in the twelve months to July 2017, and it shows YouTube to be dominant in that category, with 80% of total time spent for the top 10 apps. Also notable is that YouTube grossed more than Hulu on the strength of its YouTube Red subscription service, suggesting that it may be doing better than widely perceived, though that may also reflect YouTube’s role as a more mobile-centric platform while many users may pay for their Hulu subscriptions through a computer or TV box. Also worth noting is that over half the top ten video apps come from non-traditional TV brands – only HBO, Starz, CBS, and Showtime hit the top ten, while the rest are all digital-native brands. Also notable is the fact that all of those traditional TV apps have pursued the same successful strategy of opening up their entire libraries for digital rather than trying to create a digital service that’s complementary to traditional TV – that’s the winning strategy in this space, and Disney should take note as it readies an ESPN direct to consumer service for early next year.
Facebook is Testing its Houseparty Clone Bonfire in Denmark (Sep 13, 2017)
Facebook has been reported for a while to be working on a potential clone of popular video chat app Houseparty, and it has now officially launched the app in Denmark under the previously reported Bonfire name as a limited test. The features sound similar to those in the Houseparty app, which was recently reported to be achieving some impressive user metrics (though I noted some important caveats). The key to Facebook’s success here, as I also noted in that earlier piece on Houseparty, will be disconnecting this app to some extent from the Facebook social graph and allowing users to form more intimate circles of friends as they can in Instagram. That’s been a key part of the value proposition for both Snapchat and Houseparty, and it’s something that’s never come easy to Facebook, which still often seems to misunderstand its most effective competitors for users’ time.
via The Next Web
Major US Banks to Launch Zelle, a P2P Payments App (Sep 8, 2017)
Facebook and Google Dominate Top 10 US Apps List (Aug 24, 2017)
Analyst firm eMarketer has revised its usage forecasts for Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat for the coming year, and although there’s lots of data there, the point the media has latched onto is that it’s predicting use of the core Facebook app among US teens will fall this year. Though I have to imagine eMarketer is basing all this on some kind of survey of teens (notoriously difficult to do), there’s no mention of any such survey in the article from eMarketer, so I’m curious to know precisely what the foundation is, especially given that falling Facebook use by teens has been talked about for years but never seems to have materialized in a discernible way in Facebook’s reporting. None of this, though, is all that surprising, given that Snapchat and Instagram between them seem to have a lock on teens’ social media use, both driven by the increasingly raw and personal sharing these platforms enable in contrast to the broadcast nature of most Facebook sharing. While Facebook has steadily embraced its identity as a time sink filled with content loosely connected to people you know, these other platforms continue to major on true social interactions and therefore are more appealing to those at a stage of life where that’s the most important aspect of social media. Without Instagram, Facebook would potentially be staring a massive liability in the face at this point given that all its organic efforts to compete with Snapchat have crashed and burned, but with it, the company has managed to participate in rather than merely suffer from this trend among teens. And it’s now seeing the upside at least as much as the downside, with several times the user base of Snapchat overall and nearly equally high engagement. As such, I’m not sure any of these needs to be a worry for Facebook even if it’s true, as long as the trend doesn’t spread to older age groups and lead to broader disengagement from Facebook, and as long as Instagram is able to continue to capture its share of teen social media use.