Facebook's ad platform gives a wide range of targeting information, including gender, country and, as it happens, device type. So you can see what Facebook thinks the audience for your ad would be if you aimed it at British women with iPhone 5Cs. And, as it turns out, that's an interesting answer.
So, this chart shows FB's numbers on this basis for the 5S and 5C for the USA and UK, both markets where both iPhone and Facebook have good sample sizes.
There are two obvious things in this chart: the 5S is selling better than the 5C (which we pretty much knew), but the 5C has far from flopped, and women like the 5C much more than men. You can see this more clearly if we switch to percentages and compare with the broader base.
Women are a (very) slight majority in Facebook MAUs overall (which is probably within the margin of error). But they're a little more likely than men to buy iPhones, particularly in the USA, and much more likely to buy the iPhone 5C.
What's going on here? There are a couple of dynamics:
- All iPhones are more expensive relative to the competition in the UK than they are in the USA, where the pricing structure tends to mask the price of phones.
- The iPhone 5S is sold a little more on technology than the 5C and is also more expensive (again, especially in the UK)
- The 5C is offered in a wide range of colours
So, is this gender disparity because women are more practical and buy a cheaper phone? Or because the colours of the 5C are more appealing than they are to men? Or something else?
(All this is presuming, of course, that the Facebook data is reliable, but these gaps should be large enough to rise above sample error).
Drone footage from the protests in Bangkok. Much more interesting to me than Amazon Air. (Via Next Web) All part of the question - what sorts of things become possible now that Android and ARM have collapsed the cost of connected computing?
The BBC puts essentially all of its content online for free in the UK. It's on every device, at every time, on every network, for anything from a week to a month after transmission. In effect, this is the nirvana that US consumers talk about - no blackouts, no device restrictions, no channel conflict, no messing about, and no extra charge.
And peak viewing in October was 540k, versus peak TV of 26m.
So next time you talk about how you never watch TV anymore, remember that you're a very small minority, if only for now.
Looking at the long-term trend is interesting - there's a clear step-up in use every Christmas as new devices come into the base. But this isn't really very dramatic growth. We'll have to see what happens in January after the surge of tablet sales at Christmas - that may lead to a real change in the growth rate, but it's far from certain.
That device-led surge means smartphones and tablets. These are now the second-largest viewing platform, taking share from PCs, while viewing on TVs is pretty much flat. (This is the chart for TV only, excluding Radio.) This may be because the navigation is better on a touch screen or because people prefer the hand-held form-factor (no word on Airplay or Chromecast use), or some combination of the two.
The puzzle in all of this, of course, is whether and when the growth changes and this sort of on-demand viewing becomes a majority behaviour. That might be about the right device and interface (as it was for, say, digital music). But it may also just conflict with how most people want to watch TV.
You can see the full PDF of data here.
Top items at a branch of CEX, a franchise second-hand electronics chain. A glimpse of demand, resale value and what drives footfall. (Prices are in pounds.)
The hot trend this Christmas: a cheap mifi to go with your family's wifi tablets. Lots of interesting implications. Photo taken in a pretty mixed part of London, and the staff say they're selling very well.
Of course the interesting question is whether these ever leave home, or are a DSL substitute. The speed would work but a 5 gig data cap would be a problem for video.
The interaction model for the desktop internet was pretty much settled 15 years ago. It turned out that the answer was a web browser. Stand-alone apps such as Pointcast were a mostly blind alley, and while apps persisted for email and IM, and for very specific things like music, the words ‘web’ and ‘internet’ became effectively synonymous to anyone non-technical. Over time we added Ajax and better search and better social, but everything really happened inside the browser.
In mobile this is quite different: nothing is settled. We have the web and apps and of course app stores, and then we have many complications - voice, in-app payments, web apps, hybrid apps, widgets, push notifications, social messaging apps, Google Now and Siri. Then there’s the hardware layer - images, barcodes, NFC, bluetooth, location, motion sensors etc. Innovative and disruptive new interaction models can very often find a route to market, far more easily than they could on the desktop internet. Sometimes, they scale to a hundred million users in a year to two. And we have more and more waves of innovation coming, with things like local wireless from Apple and deep linking to within apps from Android, and a very fast-evolving social messaging space, and more things in 2014 and beyond.
So, we can actually have a pretty limited idea of what the dominant interaction models will be in 5 years.
(There is a dream, of course, that all these nasty choices and options will go away and we can go back to the nice, simple, limited web, but that doesn’t seem very likely just yet.)
One of the big changes here is the removal of monopolies. If the web is not the only interaction model then web search loses power as a discovery and acquisition channel. And in parallel Facebook’s desktop monopoly on social has not transferred to mobile and it seemly unlikely that it ever will (I wrote about the reasons for this here). So both of the key channels on the desktop are smaller and less crucial, and also work significantly differently, and are pretty poor at driving some key types of engagement, now that you’re not just looking for a click on a link. This changes lots of things, and creates lots of new opportunities.
The puzzle for Google is how it brings its vast, decade-old machine learning project to bear on this new complexity of data and behaviour. The obvious problem is that data and behaviour within apps are effectively dark matter that it can’t track (hence the deep-linking initiative in Android). But this is balanced by much richer data collection. Your Android phone feeds it with data all the time - where you are, what you look at, where you go after you search and what you did the day before. The challenge is finding the right ways to collate and present that data - Google Now is one example but probably not the only one. The search box and the page of results is just one possible interface to that machine-learning project - what does Google look like after the search box?
Social faces a different set of challenges. It seems to me that on mobile Facebook will never have the near monopoly that it briefly enjoyed on the desktop - smartphones remove most of the frictional barriers that keep you on one social network. But mobile social more broadly is a vast opportunity. With web search no longer the dominant channel, social, on a far more social device than the PC, has an open door to push at. Tencent announced that the first 5 games that it launched with Wechat integration, starting in August, have had 576m registered users. Mobile social is an engagement, interaction and distribution channel, and it appears to be much richer, and probably much bigger, than social was on the desktop.
If this is the end to near-monopolies in acquisition and discovery, it’s also interesting to think about it as the end to monocultures. If the interaction model shifts away from web search, that change makes different models and different types of behaviour possible. In turn, one might ask - what models and companies and behaviours were precluded by Google on the web? What good ideas didn’t work because of the way Google did search and the way Facebook did social? How did that monoculture shape things, and how does that change now?
Chris Dixon wrote an interesting piece a while ago (link) talking about how changes in user interface technology lead to changes in productivity applications. The same might be applied to games: this Google Trends chart is a handy short-hand illustration of four games, each of which were driven by a particular model for user interaction:
- Tetris, which began decades ago, was everywhere on button-led feature phones but doesn't really work well with touch screens
- Farmville, one of the biggest of the now-dead genre of Facebook games
- Angry Birds, one of the first big mobile games hits to exploit multi-touch screens effectively
- Candy Crush, the exemplar of the trend for systematic use of psychology (link) to exploit the availability of in-app purchases on smartphones
Games like Candy Crush are massively dependant on the attitudes of the platform owners (both within the game itself and in the visibility that comes from sitting at the top of the top-grossing lists), as was Farmville before it. This would make me slightly nervous if I was in that business. And of course, this poses the question of what changes in interaction models will drive the next wave of innovation in mobile games.
7% ARPU uplift? Startling if true. But more broadly, this illustrates what localisation really means.
One of the big puzzles in trying to understand the tablet market is data. Apple is pretty much the only large manufacturer giving unit sales, and not only are Samsung and Amazon saying nothing, but there are hundred of Chinese companies making Android tablets, and few if any say anything publicly. In the phone business the story is rather easier, since Google says roughly how many Android devices are being activated outside China, and give a screen size breakdown, and the Chinese mobile operators have a good sense of smartphone sales inside China. But in tablets there is no-one with an overall view of sales.
This means that analysts have to fall back on component makers. Though there are hundreds of companies making tablets, they almost all use more or less off-the-shelf chipsets from a handful of companies. These companies have a good sense of the overall number of tablet chips that are being sold into the manufacturers. So too do the screen markers - they have a good sense how many 7” panels are being sold. So you take an estimate of tablet chip sales and an estimate of tablet screen sales (and take into account people using ‘phone’ chips in tablets) and you estimate tablet sales, both inside and outside China.
The obvious problem with this is that these devices are being used in very different ways. It seems clear that most of the huge numbers of sub-$150 Android tablets now being sold do not have anything like the web or app usage that is seen on an iPad, Nexus or Galaxy Tab, and that many are mainly used as substitutes for TV sets, with maybe some gaming on the side.
The deeper issue, though, is that estimating tablet sales in this way is a little like trying to estimate global car sales by working out how many internal combustion engines are being made, and how many tyres, but not adjusting for motorbikes, cranes, outdoor generators or 18 wheelers. Lots of ‘tablet' chips and ‘tablet' screens do not actually end up in tablets.
Consider this device, one of thousands of similar products on offer on Alibaba - an in-car video player running Android, complete (if the screenshot is to be believed) with the phone app. This probably doesn’t activate with Google, but it certainly looks like a ‘tablet’ to LG or Rockchip.
Then there’s this TV dongle - no screen, but does it have a ‘tablet’ chip? A ‘phone’ chip? If you used it to watch Youtube, what would Google think it was? (Note also the memory card slot, used for side-loading pirate movies.)
Now what about this, from Steelcase? An meeting room door with a 7” capacitive touch screen. To a component maker, this is also a tablet. I have no idea if it runs Android today, but if it doesn’t, it probably should. And if Nest doesn’t, the copies of it will.
The important dynamic here is that a combination of very cheap off-the-shelf chips and free off-the-shelf software means that Android/ARM has become a new de facto platform for any piece of smart connected electronics. It might have a screen and it might connect to the internet, but it’s really a little computer doing something useful and specialised, and it probably has nothing to do with Google.
As should be obvious, this makes counting total ‘Android' devices as though they tell you something about Google or Apple’s competitive position increasingly problematic. But to me, pointing out that ‘Android’ doesn’t necessarily competed with iPad is rather boring - what’s really interesting are the possibilities that these new economics might unlock.
A good example is this - a 2G Android phone wholesaling for $35 (just one of hundreds).
Now, stop thinking about it as a phone. How do the economics of product design and consumer electronics change when you can deliver a real computer running a real Unix operating system with an internet connection and a colour touch screen for $35? How about when that price falls further? Today, anyone who can make a pocket calculator can make something like this, and for not far off the same cost. The cost of putting a real computer with an internet connection into a product is collapsing. What does that set of economics enable?
There are other interesting hardware trends that overlap with this as well. Bluetooth LE is the obvious one - you can make a widget that broadcasts a location ID for $50 or less, stick it on a wall, and the battery will last for years. EInk is also interesting here: it needs no power to show something, only to change, and you can pass enough power over an induction touch point to cycle the screen. The problem here is cost, but why doesn’t my Oyster card show the remaining balance? Why wouldn't Coin (a product I'm rather skeptical of, mind) show the cards loaded onto it on one side with an eink display? How do these trends interact with cheap Android computing?
Marc Andreessen famously coined the phrase 'software is eating the world’ to describe the way that functions that used to be served by dedicated hardware are now being subsumed by general purpose devices - mostly smartphones. But there’s also the beginnings of a trend in the other direction - devices that weren’t smart and didn’t get merged into the phone gaining a digital presence of their own, and creating a new set of opportunities.