Sunday, June 10, 2018

Smartphone minimalism concept device : Blloc

Recently i came across , a minimalist smartphone brand and concept.

They are developing an android device with:

  • Modern Android Oreo 8.1 on it. 
  • Modern hardware (fast cpu, good screen, USB C , cameras, fingerprint sensor , etc)
  • VERY UNIQUE approach to the user experience from the looks of it.

Disclosure: I have not used it or seen anything more than whats available on their website, instagram, and various tech blogs. 

But i like the premise: create a novel smartphone experience that uses minimalism to create focus.

There is some info out about this concept on their site, like that its scheduled to start shipping in the fall of 2018.  The hardware specs with a number of details are also available on the site.

Overall it looks like the device is a sleek 2018 android device with a twist in the software experience:
  • Launcher with a custom home screen experience, 
  • Custom Monochromatic Black and white lockscreen and homescreen experiences.
  • Chat driven , conversational UI style.

Without seeing the actual device it reminds me of Blackberry / Palm / Danger inc .
In all the positive ways of those brands being unique and drawing a strong fan following.

Stay tuned for a future review, if i end up getting one of these to test drive or have :) 

Sunday, June 25, 2017

1st TV Ad for Opera browsers in Russia. Pretty cool .

Check out the 1st TV ad for Opera (set to run on Russian TV).

It all Starts (or started) with Opera :)

Since it is the oldest web browser still in development (since '95).


Here is the link for easy copy and paste:

Please leave a comment about what you think of the ad.

Monday, December 26, 2016

App product management: art of the DAU replaces the way of MAU


                                                                            image citations:

As the 2016 year draws to a close , it feels appropriate to reflect back. 

I'll take this opportunity to look back over more than a decade of mobile and web app product management .
As we tick over into 10 years of the smartphone era (I mark the beginning of smartphones in 2007, with the launch of the first iPhone), it is interesting to look back and draw some trends and insights. 
Maybe these lessons learned will be helpful to others in making apps in 2017 and beyond ? 

As in all things tech, the art of crafting apps is on an exponential trajectory of improvement . So it's been an especially exciting time to work in the Android and iOS app space for the past 2 years . 
As the space matures , and the scale of app products exceeded any other product class that has come before,  including: TV, books , even the web,  the industry has rapidly learned and evolved on what best practices are for innovating , launching , and scaling mega hit apps.  

At the beginning of my product management career in web and mobile back in 2005 (back when j2me apps and ruled the day for moto razr devices ;)) there were no go-to-frameworks for figuring out the health of your app product . 
There were no analytics platforms to measure user behavior , engagement , success of the UI/ UX. We were literally flying blind , with no instrumentation back then.
Even more there were no mobile advertising networks to help you build a business around your app. 

Back then the  reality of making apps was pretty bleak: 
- All key uses cases had to be done in "No more then 4 clicks" from the homescreen of your app. 
- making UX flows with more then 4 clicks was considered bad 
- monetization came from premium apps only , sold through "on deck" carrier portals 
- Ads were just a hopeful vision of the future when mobile software could be free for the masses 

If you fast forward to 2016 , things are much better now . The past decade saw the rise of analytics platforms like flurry , google analytics , kibana , appboy , and many others.

Monetization shifted from "on carrier" decks that charge to your carrier bill-->  to paid apps with in app purchase and some ads on iOS --> and now the really big app businesses have finally figured out how to harness multi hundred million dollar ad revenue streams from android purely from ads. 

The majority of the first decade of smartphones have been focussed on vanity metrics similar to the ".com" boom era : 
- Monthly Active User counts (MAU) 
- time spent inside your UI (avg session length) 
- average star ratings in google play or itunes 
- total installs 

In the pst 2 years the most successful apps have figured out that theses metrics are actually misleading , and to build an app product that reaches hundreds of millions of users you need to pay attention to Daily metrics , not monthly . 

The apps that focussed on MAU KPIs concealed systemic issues inside their products , and hid theses issues through monthly arbitrage . 

The competition in the app space is beyond brutal . So it is imperative to track your growth and retention funnel on a Daily basis . 

Daily cohort retention tables should be the cornerstone of building an audience and brand in the app space. 

From there , you have to become obsessed with building a daily behavioral product . 

Most of this Daily behavioral thinking has been popularized by a book called Hooked , written by an entrepreneur and adjunct Stanford professors named Nir Eyal . If you haven't read this book , go straight to amazon and get the book. 

In a nutshell Nir took the ideas that have been around in drug addiction research , and  neuroscience / behavioral psychology for decades and mapped them on top of mobile and web products . 
Then masterfully demonstrated how those ideas played out in facebook , Dropbox , and other mega hit apps . 

The main take away there was this : the apps that win the day engineer behavioral loops . 
They focus on creating daily behavioral patterns . This then allows you to build massive brand loyalty and a massive ad revenue business . 

Put differently , this is a shift of how product management and app development teams need to measure , track , and improve their products . Simply put all KPIs and metrics need to move away from MAU metrics and instead they need to focus on DAU metrics . 

The vanity metrics of 2017 for healthy mobile businesses should always be expressed in Daily Active User numbers . 

But to take it one step further this idea of focusing on daily behavior should play out through All product  KPIs: 
- Daily ad impressions per DAU
- Daily revenue per DAU 
- Daily ad clicks per DAU 
- Daily launches of the app per DAU 
- Daily peak load to your servers 
- Daily installs vs Daily uninstalls
- Daily average GP rating 

Once you have these daily metrics , it's all about understanding the full engagement funnel (or ratios) between several of these metrics . 

For example , consumer apps use an industry standard "app stickiness" metric or DAU / MAU ratio. 

Sequoia believes tracking this ratio for their portfolio investments is paramount . 

But to get the full picture of how to think about engineering daily behavior , consider a users journey through an app : 

1. Google Play visit 
2. Install 
3. MAU 
4. DAU 
5. Separate Ad based micro funnel 
- Ad requests 
- Ad fill
- Ad  DAU (daily impressions of ads)
- AD CTR ( daily ad clicks )
- Ad conversion (install, purchase, etc) 
6. High Value DAU user ( step above normal daily active users generating Ad impressions) 

If you can map a funnel like this , you can then understand the drop off in each step. It then becomes easier to prioritize which features to go after, because you can target each specific feature to improving the metrics of specific step in this kind of funnel. 

These observations and ideas have been proven by a group of android utility apps . 
Read my earlier post on this 2016 phenomenon here . 

Now what's in front of us as an industry , and the responsibility of app craftsmen and teams is to make sure we use the art of the DAU in a responsible and positive manner . We have to challenge our selves to make sure that we build high value behaviors for the worlds billions of smartphone users . 

The very best apps of 2017 and beyond will focus on creating daily behaviors that  empower, educate , and train theses massive audiences how to make their smartphones and apps work for them vs the other way around where the never ending firehose of carefully worded notifications and precisely engineered trigger points entrails and enslaves us to our smartphones.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Good Resources for App Product Managers part 1

Someone i work with at Opera , asked me recently:
"What are the best (App) Product management blogs to follow ? " 

I found a great list as an answer to this question on Quora :

This made me think its a good idea to capture my own personal answer to this question in a ForTechies post. So here is a list of links to my favorite Product Management resources , blogs, and actual Product Managers that are influential in the field.
Hope this helps other Product Managers discover good resources and pick up new information and ideas to evolve their art.

Top 3 Blogs of leading PM's to look up to : 

Design Blogs to round out design sense for apps:

Rapid Prototyping / Wire framing tools:
Analytics tools:
Competition Research tools:

Advertising Tools:
Marketing tools:
PR / Press tools: 
Team Resources:

  • Google Drive / Google Docs/ Google Calendar / Google spreadsheets
  • Dropbox
Video conferencing:
  • Bluejeans
  • Skype
Product / Entrepreneurship Books:

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Pokemon Go backlash from the Creatives

The backlash from Creatives against Pokemon Go is starting to come out.

Pokemon Go is for sure going to be remembered as yet another MEGA FAD.

However, as all things that become mainstream where droves and droves of "lay users" flood a service, the Creatives / Tech Hipsters turn their nose up at the crowd. 

The paintings above demonstrate this beautifully. 

Today at work , on our all staff SLACK channel someone posted these 2 paintings by a famous polish painter , Pawel Kuczynski, that is known for his  doing a social commentary on the Pokemon Go phenomenon from his vantage point. You can find Pawel's website here:

Like Tomagatchi, like Hush Puppies every handful of years some new thing sweets the US and the World and becomes the most talked about new term. For 2016 it is Pokemon Go.

The game has sky rocketed at unprecedented speeds, and has massive daily engagement. 

At the heart of it, is the emotional simplicity of the tag line : "Catch them All" 
Referring to catching as many of the varied Pokemon's out there as possible. 
It is an addictive, fun, and simple call to action. 

It's also brag worthy, to show off to your friends and family how many Pokemon's you have. 

From a technical point of view, this is a very positive thing. Pokemon Go propelled Augmented Reality game mechanics into the lime light. This is very good for the young but rapidly evolving AR and VR spaces (Occulus, Magic Leap, Meta.AR , HTC Vive, etc etc). 

From a hipster / techie / geek point of view this is a bit of a transgression against your niche world view. Before Pokemon Go was a hit, it was a game called Ingress made by Alphabet's (Google) Niantic Labs . It was an uber geeky game , with 2 teams, where the goal was to get to "portals" and to "hack" them. In short the exact same dynamics as Pokemon Go, but without the theme / packaging provided by a world famous cartoon, movie, and gaming franchise backed by Nintendo.

P.S. As a side note it is also amazing to observe how the same game gets transformed from a deep geek title , to a world phenomenon when you wrap it in a cool theme. 

Friday, May 13, 2016

The Secret Android Utility App Gold Rush of 2016

Thought i would rev up the old tech blog , and write a post on my observations of how the Android and iOS app economies are evolving in 2016. I see a few mega trends that are fundamentally re writing the paradigm of tech and start ups that has been in effect since 2007 when the iPhone launched.

3 Main drivers of a new era of "app start ups"  :

1. Mobile smartphone saturation point. 
Smartphones are pervasive. Androids with advanced 5.0 + software are now available at the $65-80  price point. This means all the dependent app studios , mobile gaming companies, even social networks like facebook are going to have slowed down growth.

2. Beijing and China as a start up hub has arrived. First real competitor for Silicon Valley.

As part of Opera Software going through an M&A bid of $1.23 Billion USD from a Chinese consortium of internet companies (click through to Fortune article) , i have spent some time in Beijing in 2015 and 2016 meeting with some of the best and brightest product teams out of Beijing. 

Here is who i have met with :

Giant Chinese Android OEM's
  • Xiaomi  - #1 private start up in china valued at 45 Billion. Met with hugo Barro and his product teams .
  • Huawei - #3 OEM in the world, massive tech conglomerate
  • Oppo - #4 OEM in the world
Beijing Software companies participating in Global and Domestic China markets:
  • Cheetah Mobile - #1 Android Utility publisher in the world. Publicly traded on NASDAQ CMCM .
  • Hola launcher (shanghai based) - 500 million downloads in 2 years, 130 million retained, 2015 Google Play award .
  • Mobi Magic - #1 app title on facebook audience ad network, 300 Million MAU Android utility on 360 Security Apps:
  • Kunlun Beijing Tech - largest game distirbutor in china with rights for rovia, EA, supercell titles .
  • Oupeng - Opera owned browser JV reaching 150 Million plus browser users in China .
It is amazing how fast and aggressive Beijing software start ups and even hardware start ups move. 
There is a "double dipping" entrepreneurial culture brewing in China that sponges up start up lessons from Silicon Valley and EU and India (english based start up stories and business cases) but also sponges up start up lessons from hundreds of ventures inside domestic china (mandarin based start up stories and business cases). 
This is creating a generation of chinese software and hardware tech entrepreneurs that are immersed in the most information and input on how to rapidly and cash efficiently launch and scale start ups. 
The venture capital from domestic funds in china, JP Morgan, Sequoia is flowing freely in Beijing. 
Many companies reach Billion and 10 Billion $ USD valuations at rates not seen in the valley , but tapping into China's massive domestic audience.

All of this is capturing super well in this blogpost about traveling and meeting Beijing start up CEO's and VC's in china by the founder and CEO of ShopKick.

3. On Android a Secret Gold Rush of Utility apps has happened in 2015 and still unraveling in 2016
The adoption of Gamification techniques and Nir Eyal's Hooked product design approach has resulted in the rise of Massive Android Utility app publishers. These companies have learned how to scale not 1 but Multiple app titles over 100 Million in 1 year. There is at least 10 software houses out china that has a portfolio of Android utility apps that reaches more than 100 million downloads via Google Play (which means outside of China). 
Not only do these utilities scale and grow at an unprecedented app scale (fully taking advantage of the Mobile Saturation scale for the first time), but they also PRINT MONEY. 

Just watch this Facebook F8 talk on stage by Yahui Zhou, who is CEO of 360 security android app. Facebook is showing that 360 Security app is top monetizing title on the facebook audience network :

The gold rush seems to be real based on how high up on the list of top grossing publishers Cheetah Mobile , 360 Security, Qihoo 360, DU booster, Lion Mobi, Swift Wi-Fi , and a half dozen others publishers all are.

Here are my other observations
(of whats happening in the app start up space in terms of who is winning and loosing) :

1. Silicon Valley companies are completely missing from this space. 
All of the Top android Utility players are from APAC . Cheetah, 360 security, DU booster, HOLA launcher, APUS launcher, Swift wifi. 

2. The previous "Old guard" of android utilities like Lookout security , AVG , AVAST security seems to have had their In App Purchase business models disrupted by a new ad supported Utility app type. 

The challenge in front of the space : Innovate or Die
1.There is too much redundant titles. 
2.The use cases being chased by this space is too limited:
  • Boosting Ram
  • Antivirus scan
  • Deleting Junk Files
  • Battery Saver
  • Scanning / Encrypting Wi-Fi
3. One scan of the Google Play app store, clearly reveals a "crowded" app space with too many redundant titles. 
But what is even more of an existential threat is that a lot of these use cases will be covered in future android OS rom updates from Google or OEM's like Samsung, Huawei, Oppo, Meizu, Micromax, Intex, Xiaomi, etc . 

Monday, February 29, 2016

Free Android app costs MWC attendees millions of Euros in roaming-data charges

Did you install the Mobile World Congress (MWC) app for Android? You need to block this app from using your mobile data NOW! After one week in MWC, we found that it was hogging huge amounts of background data. A rough estimate shows over 5 million Euros of roaming charges could be wasted by this app’s background data usage.

Last week, Barcelona was awash with over 100,000 mobile industry execs, marketers, startups, nerds and geeks from all over the world. To meet them, you need to shell out on expensive flights, over-priced hotel rooms and, what’s more, roaming-data charges.
Using Opera Max on Sony, Samsung and HTC devices, we observed over 70 MB of background data usage per day by the MWC app. All three device owners did not use the app for anything except entering the Fira. In total, these people ended up with spending 280 MB on average on background data.
Disclaimer, Opera Max is an app I product manage at Opera. At MWC I met with Techcrunch, Venturebeat, Tom’s Hardware, Kompas and other media to discuss how background data management is a huge problem for Android users. Android apps can burn up huge amounts of background data, making data plans inefficient and costly for people in emerging markets and cost-conscious consumers in general. To address this, we’ve just released an update of Opera Max with a Smart Alerts feature, which exposes the Android apps on your device that are burning excessive background data, compared to other apps.

This Smart Alerts feature in Opera Max (version 1.6) is how we figured out how data hungry the MWC app really was.  So, we investigated it via Opera Max’s data usage timeline. We were shocked to find that the MWC app was using data more than 50 times per day, all in the background and averaging over 70 MB in background data usage.
If you are like me, and were using roaming data, the MWC Android app is insanely expensive to have on your device. This app could cost MWC attendees at least 5 million Euros in roaming data charges, just for the background data alone. Here is my back-of-the-napkin calculation:
A. 1 MB of mobile roaming data (most likely on Telefonica) costs .50 Euro pence.
B. MWC 2016 had 100,000 attendees. Let’s say half of them used Android.
C. Duration of MWC was 4 days.
D. The MWC mobile app used an average of 70 MB in the background without the user knowing.
E. 71% of MWC Android users used roaming data.
The math :
A. 70 MB background-data  usage per day x .50 Euro pence x 4 days = 150 Euros per day in background-data usage.
B. 140 Euro x 50,000 Android attendees = 7,000,000 Euros in background-data charges!
Let’s apply a 29% discount on this for those users who turned off their mobile data completely. So instead of 50,000 Android-using MWC attendees with the app installed and using roaming data, let’s assume it’s 35,500. This makes the total 5,000,000 Euros in background-data charges applied due to the MWC app.

This is terrible. Most people noticed and complained about how much battery life was consumed by the app. What most folks did not realize is that the battery was  being burned up by the massive amount of background-data usage.
The GSMA should be leading the industry and app developers towards being very aware and responsible with how much data their apps use. If we want to onboard the rest of the world population onto mobile networks, we need to take seriously the idea of app developers being responsible for how they design their apps to consume data. There is absolutely no way that emerging market networks will survive the onslaught of data if apps are as careless and inefficient as they are now, 3 years from now.
I sincerely hope that, next year, GSMA does the responsible thing and leads the industry by example towards more efficient and cost effective use of data.
In the meantime, do yourself a favor - block the MWC 2016 app from using your mobile data or simply uninstall it. Read on for the details, and for a tip on how you can avoid this scenario in the future.
Please note this post, and all blogposts on are my own thoughts and opinions and not of my employer or former employers.