Apple have always positioned themselves as ‘different’, but as they continue the inexorable transformation into a services company, what counts as ‘different’ seems to be a lot less clear.
This week, I came across several interesting articles, each highlighting a different element of this ongoing transition.
Privacy checkup: Limit Ad Tracking up 216% on iOS, but down 85% on Android | Singular
We all know that privacy has become one of Apple’s favorite narratives.
This means it’s no surprise that Limit Ad Tracking adoption is far higher on iOS than on Android; it’s a core part of Apple’s value prop, whereas Google really just offers the option for good optics.
Apple acquires Dark Sky weather app and shuts down Android version
Apple is also bringing more things in-house.
This isn’t new — Apple has always been a closed ecosystem, and like most big companies, they do acquisitions all the time. But the scope seems to be getting wider. Weather tracking (or TV) is not a core competency of Apple. It isn’t really an area where they have an obvious way to add unique value.
Moves like this one indicate that they have the luxury of controlling the end-to-end for an increasing number of things, and they’re essentially saying ‘why not?’
Report: Apple software update hints at expansion of search ads | Mobile Marketer
On the flip side, to continue funding this world of ‘why not’, Apple needs new revenue streams.
Apple Search Ads have been a runaway success over the last few years. However, Apple’s previous foray into mobile advertising, iAd, never got anywhere close.
With this new expansion, it seems Apple may be taking tiny steps back in that direction again. Some of the main issues last time around stemmed from Apple’s unwillingness to play nicely with third-party standards — perhaps this more selective approach will help them avoid those issues on the second attempt.
Daring Fireball: Amazon and Apple Strike Deal for Prime Video In-App Purchases and Subscriptions
The ‘App Store Tax’ is written in stone...except, apparently, when it isn’t.
Amazon has managed to escape the walled garden, and this article is a very deep exploration of what this looks like in practice. Two thoughts:
- This is really complicated. I wonder how many dev hours it takes Amazon just to maintain all the different payment flows, vampirically sucking away time from other work.
- These standards seem very subjective on Apple’s part. The qualification criteria for this program includes implementing a whole lot of OS integration features. What happens when Apple wants to enforce adoption of another iOS feature in future?
The Virus Changed the Way We Internet - The New York Times
Some of these changes are great, and I hope they stick (for example, relying on local news instead of partisan sites).
However, one of the headline takeaways is how users appear to be moving from mobile back to desktop. That one deserves a bit more scrutiny.
I suspect this change is temporary, and extremely contextual. Of course people use bigger screens when it's convenient and easy to do so. But no one is going to lug around a MacBook — let alone a big screen TV — when they're out living a normal daily life.
As soon as some form of ‘normal daily life’ is possible again, we'll all go right back to mobile...except with a fresh reminder of all the compromises it entails (which is why it's more important than ever to invest this time and focus on getting mobile UX right!)
Google Commits $800 Million In Coronavirus Aid, Small Business Support
From one perspective, this is an incredibly generous program. Google (and Facebook, which has a similar initiative) deserve the praise they’re getting.
...but at the same time, this move is also profoundly self-serving, if you consider how ad bidding works under the hood.
Here’s the short version: Google and Facebook both use sophisticated algorithms that are highly dependent on the second-highest bid. But if no one is counter-bidding (as is happening, with all this reduced demand), they earn far less across the board.
This Monopoly money they’re handing out WILL help small businesses. That is absolutely true, and a laudable result. But it will also help these companies take in more real money by keeping bid volume high.
Amazon to suspend delivery service competing with UPS, FedEx - Reuters
This will be temporary.
It’s a few years old at this point, but Why Amazon is eating the world remains an excellent read.
Privacy & Security
Twitter notifies users that it’s now sharing more data with advertisers - The Verge
There are really two threads at play here:
- GDPR compliance efforts are becoming more nuanced over time — companies that took a ‘same everywhere’ approach at first are starting to realize it’s worth the effort to optimize by region.
- Twitter in particular has been burned by this sort of thing in the past, but it’s been over a year since they finished tightening up their systems. It seems that they are now ready to move forward again.
Quibi app review: short-form streaming in a shifting landscape - The Verge
The launch of Quibi — a new mobile streaming service, if you hadn’t heard — is all over the news this week (as much as anything can be ‘all over’ right now, balanced against our ongoing global catastrophe).
There are plenty of reviews of Quibi’s content. I’m intentionally linking to a review of the app because this is a fascinating test of ‘is an app really better?’
Why? Much as mobile web is typically an adaptation of desktop web, streaming apps have really just been an adaptation of a TV experience. Of course, by now we all recognize the engagement benefits of a native app over a mobile website, and Quibi takes this thesis of ‘what happens if we design it for mobile?’ to a whole new level. It will be fascinating to see if consumers treat it as more than a gimmick.
COVID-19 Community Mobility Reports
An interesting side-effect of COVID-19 is the sudden rehabilitation of Big Data.
Google has begun publishing aggregate location data, sourced from Android users, to help public health officials understand the impact of their social distancing policies. Of course Google has this info, but can you imagine the uproar a project like this would have caused even just a few weeks ago?
Now, suddenly, having a huge treasure trove of something like location data isn’t seen as a ‘possibly toxic liability’ — it’s a precious asset to leverage for the greater good of civilization as we know it.
The social distancing of America
Speaking of big data, this interactive visualization from Reuters is sourced from Kochava’s data marketplace.
The visualization shows how much less people are traveling at the moment, which is interesting in its own right, but I found it notable for the complete blank slate that is California.
(In case you were wondering, yes: this is the CCPA in action, blocking the sale of third-party data).
Stats roundup: coronavirus impact on marketing, ecommerce & advertising – Econsultancy
These numbers are UK-specific, but there’s no reason to believe the underlying trends aren’t universal.
Standing out to me in particular:
- Just Eat, an online food order and delivery service, saw a signifiant drop in activity at 8 pm on March 26, thanks to the #ClapForOurCarers event. That’s pretty awesome.
- Over the last few weeks, we’ve all been inundated with ‘we are here to help!’ messages from brands. But it turns out that around 10% of people are actually annoyed by all these messages, to the point that they intend to boycott those brands.
- Imagery of human interaction in ads is down 27.4%. This surprised me at first...until I realized my instinctive reaction to this totally normal photo from a few years ago was “wait...that’s so risky! Where’s his mask?!” This crisis is changing us in ways we don’t yet realize.
#Coronavirus has turned us all into dogs
Even after two weeks, this is still worth a chuckle 🐶
EP5: Kristina Walcker-Mayer
How Mobile Banking is Taking Lessons From Fashion E-Commerce
Kristina had never imagined working for a bank but when the opportunity came along to innovate the mobile experience for N26 she took it. Coming from a background in fashion e-commerce, Kristina asked, "How could we transform the learnings about mobile UX from e-commerce and apply them to the financial world to make everything less painful?" This and stories of why you shouldn’t build what your customers ask for and reasons to always speak your mind with Kristina Walcker-Mayer of N26.
Listen now: Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Google Podcasts | Stitcher
Mobile Growth Online with TELUS and Dashlane
Panelists: TELUS, Dashlane.
Where: virtual event.
When: Thursday, April 23, 10:00 AM (PDT)
COVID-19 will clearly be biggest thing in mobile for a long time to come, and that means it will be a big chunk of this week’s newsletter.
But outside the world of mobile, it’s great to see the many reminders of how this crisis is actually bringing people together. For example, if you haven’t yet watched Some Good News, go spend 15 minutes on that at some point today (episode 2 is even better). You won’t regret it.
It’s also awesome to see all the many ways people are banding together to help those in our industry affected by this situation. If you’re able to reach out and help a friend or former colleague this week, you won’t regret that either.
Stay safe and healthy!Alex Bauer