By adaptive - May 2nd, 2016

Snapchat indulges big-time video aspirations, Facebook and Amazon just keep on making money, as the smartphone market suffers a brutal quarter. Andrew Tolve reports.

In the news


Year-over-year smartphone sales declined for the first time ever, going all the way back to 1996 when data firms began tracking smartphone sales. It’s been a meteoric rise in the two decades since (we wouldn’t be writing this Digest and you wouldn’t be reading it if it hadn’t been), but the turbo jet propelling that growth seems to be running low on fuel. According to Strategy Analytics, smartphone sales dropped from 345 million to 334.6 million units sold between Q1 2015 and Q1 2016, a three percent slip.


Granted, three percent isn’t the end of the world, but it does reveal that the novelty factor of smartphones is wearing off, and as emerging markets like China reach a point of saturation, it’s becoming increasingly hard to convince people they should buy yet another shiny, silver, rectangular thing to slide into their pockets or purses.


Just ask Apple. The company weathered a 10 million decrease in iPhones sold between Q2 2015 and Q2 2016 (down from 61.2 million to 51.2 million). The result? Apple’s revenue decreased for the first time in 13 years. Ouch. Samsung didn’t fare much better, as its smartphone sales dropped four percent year-over-year.


In the money


Apple wasn't the only company with a glum quarterly sales report. Alphabet, Netflix, Microsoft and Twitter all shared in the gloom. One company that isn’t hurting: Amazon. The e-retailer hauled in $513 million in profit in the past quarter, making this its most profitable quarter ever. Online sales are booming, Amazon Prime video and two-day delivery services are hot and Amazon’s cloud computing arm AWS continues to dominate rival services from Google and Microsoft.


Another company doing a Q1 2016 victory dance: Facebook. The company reported $5.38 billion in revenue, crushing analyst estimates. Most of that growth came from good old-fashion ad revenue, which grew 57 percent between Q4 2015 and Q1 2016. That’s just ridiculous.


In other news


Let the video wars begin. Two weeks after Facebook released its Facebook Live feature to the masses, Snapchat revealed that it’s aggressively pursuing video on its social feed as well, and that users have responded with 10 billion video views every day. That’s an increase from 8 billion daily video views just two months ago and a growth of 150 percent in the past year. Snapchat aims to differentiate itself from Facebook by allowing users to send videos directly to contacts (that disappear after being viewed) or by publishing video “Stories” that last for 24 hours on their personal feeds.  


Startup Fullscreen took its mobile video streaming service live. The service costs five bucks a month and gives users access to an independent YouTube network loaded with a mix of Hollywood flicks and TV shorts. Some of the content is new and some is old, like your classic throwbacks Saved by the Bell and Dawson’s Creek. The app surrounds its content with a social platform that lets user share comments and generate GIFs. Content is sorted by catchy titles targeted at teens and Millenials: “Hurry, Make Me Laugh”, “Binge On This”, “Girls Run the World” etc.


Mast Mobile, the startup that enables more than one number on a single smartphone, has gone live on Android. This is good news for businesses looking to save money on phone bills, as it allows them to completely do away with landlines. When a call comes in, the software highlights it as either a work call or a personal call. It also enables split-billing so that employees pay for data on personal usage. The first compatible Android phones are the Samsung Galaxy S7 and S6 (regular and edge versions).


Twitter is tired of being overshadowed by Facebook, Snapchat, Pinterest and Instagram. Its answer: Move itself from the “Social Networking” to the “News” section of the iTunes App Store. It’s true that where Twitter shines brightest is in real-time conversation about breaking events, be they natural catastrophes, national revolutions or NFL football games, but this still feels like a bit of a hail mary to up usage. We’ll see if it manages to boost visibility.


Reuters reported that Google is about to get slapped with its first big fine from the European Union for violating European antitrust laws. How much and when is still unknown, but the paper quoted anonymous sources as saying the fine will arrive in 2016. The source of the squabble is that Google insists on installing its Chrome software and making Google the default search browser on all Android phones sold in Europe. Google sees nothing wrong with this, as it’s legal in the U.S. Hence the six-year standoff with the EU. More fines are expected in the coming years.


Finally, in case you haven’t frittered enough of your life away on Angry Birds already, you can soon go see the full-length feature film “The Angry Birds Movie” (out May 20). When the final credits roll, keep your eyes trained on the screen for a special QR code that will unlock a new level on the mobile game, with a whole new batch of mind-numbing, time-gobbling terrain on Piggy Island. Stupid games, will you ever leave us alone?


The Mobile Digest is a biweekly lowdown on the world of mobile, combining Open Mobile Media analysis with information from industry press releases.

Andrew Tolve is a regular contributor to Open Mobile Media.

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