Mobile Digest: Snap looks to follow in Facebook’s footsteps with massive IPO

Snap may be the next big money maker to emerge from Silicon Valley’s mobile renaissance. Or it may go bust. Andrew Tolve reports.

In the news

 

Snap filed to go public last week in the highest initial public offering in the U.S. tech or mobile industry since Facebook. The company is reportedly valuing itself between $20 and $25 billion and is seeking to raise $3 billion. The IPO caps a remarkable rise for a startup that broke onto the scene back in 2012 as an easy way for teens (many of them scantily clad if clad at all) to send disappearing pictures to each other. The company has broadened its aperture since then and now delivers a platform complete with photo, texting and video sharing capabilities, along with aggregated news and other services. The platform boasts 158 million active users, the vast majority of them under 35 and deeply dedicated to the app. Average engagement hovers between 25 and 30 minutes per day per user, an astounding figure and a marketer’s dream for in-app advertising. Combined with the app’s social cache among young people, it’s no wonder interest in the company’s IPO has reached a fevered pitch.

 

In the money

 

In registering to go public, of course, Snap had to spew all the messy particulars of its business model, and it ain’t so pretty. The company had a net loss of $514.6 million last year, following a $372.9 million loss in 2015. Granted, sales rose nearly $350 million in 2016 up to $404.5 million total, and the value of the company’s data and engagement from an advertising perspective has massive potential. Where does that leave things? We’re about to find if Snap goes boom or bust.

 

In other news

 

Pinterest just got a whole lot more powerful. With Lens, a user can open the camera on their smartphone and point it at anything in real time and up on the Pinterest screen will pop a stream of pins that are similar to, if not a dead match for, that image. It could be a pair of shoes, a guitar, a pillow, a car, you name it. Pinterest is hoping to transform itself from a place where people share visual ideas with each other to a place where they make purchasing decisions time after time. The app is also adding a feature that isolates each item in a photograph — say a pair of jeans, a purse and a pair of stilettos on a woman — so users can find purchasing info on each one.

 

If you use Evernote to organize your work life and boost your productivity at the office, you’re in luck. The app is out with a complete overhaul of its interface that streamlines its most popular features and makes them easier to access and use on the go. Evernote 8.0 for iOS ditches the old home screen for instant access to recent notes. It also introduces a new green Note button at the bottom of the screen that can do everything from take a picture to record a voice message to create a note.

 

United Airlines is unleashing a suite of enterprise apps to its front-line employees around the world. Picture flight attendants whipping out iPhones at your in-flight seat to tell you exactly where you need to go to make your connection upon landing. Or imagine customer service agents who are usually tethered to their gate podiums roaming about the concourse with iPad in hand ready to assist customers with check in and other personal needs. The apps will be powered by IBM. Apple has already supplied United with 50,000 iOS devices in the field.

 

If Facebook has its way, one day you will do everything on your phone by way of its app. It's latest conquest: weather. The new Facebook weather feature lives at the top of the news feed and keeps users apprised of the weather headed in their direction. If things are looking stormy, you might get a message like "Stay dry today. Rain is in the forecast." The message then links to a complete five-day forecast courtesy of Weather.com. The feature is now live for most users on Facebook’s desktop and mobile app.

 

Google is set to roll out Android Wear 2, the smartwatch platform’s largest ever update. With Wear 2, smartwatches no longer rely on a phone to download apps, play video or make phone calls, assuming the watch has LTE. The interface now includes an easy scroll function controlled by knobs on the side of a watch, like the Apple Phone, in addition to touchscreen control. It also comes with Google Assistant integration. The first two watches to debut with Wear 2 are the LG Watch Style and LG Watch Sport.

 

How fast will mobile usage grow in the next five years? By 2021, more members of the global population will be using mobile phones (5.5 billion) than bank accounts (5.4 billion), running water (5.3 billion), or landlines (2.9 billion), according to Cisco’s latest Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast. Strong growth in mobile users, smartphones and Internet of Things (IoT) connections as well as network speed improvements and mobile video consumption are projected to increase mobile data traffic seven-fold over the next five years.

 

Things look bleaker for tablets. Sure, most of us have one if not two lying around. It’s just that the need to buy a new tablet doesn’t strike many of us as all that pressing anymore, and the numbers bear this out. Shipments of tablets in Q4 2016 were down 20.1% from Q4 2015, and total shipments for the calendar year were down 15.6% from 2015, according to International Data Corporation’s annual Worldwide Quarterly Tablet Tracker. Even worse news: The IDC doesn’t see the great white hope of “detachables” as having any real boost for the tablet market.

 

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.