Archive for May 6, 2017

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Apple’s China Problem: WeChat

Ben Thompson (Hacker News):

The fundamental issue is this: unlike the rest of the world, in China the most important layer of the smartphone stack is not the phone’s operating system. Rather, it is WeChat. Connie Chan of Andreessen Horowitz tried to explain in 2015 just how integrated WeChat is into the daily lives of nearly 900 million Chinese, and that integration has only grown since then: every aspect of a typical Chinese person’s life, not just online but also off is conducted through a single app (and, to the extent other apps are used, they are often games promoted through WeChat).


Naturally, WeChat works the same on iOS as it does on Android. That, by extension, means that for the day-to-day lives of Chinese there is no penalty to switching away from an iPhone. Unsurprisingly, in stark contrast to the rest of the world, according to a report earlier this year only 50% of iPhone users who bought another phone in 2016 stayed with Apple.

John Gruber (tweet):

If it really is true that “the operating system of China is WeChat, not iOS/Android”, that’s the whole ballgame right there.


Apple has nothing to worry about as long it makes desirable iPhones. But WeChat has killed any possiblity of FaceBook or Snapchat in China.

Lucien Hoare:

Thought experiment: what would Apple do if WeChat started using private APIs (or other rule breaking feature) Could they afford to reject?

Like Uber. I don’t quite understand how WeChat is allowed in the App Store in the first place; doesn’t it offer apps within an app?

Ben Lovejoy:

Samsung smartphone shipments fell by 60% year-on-year in China during the first quarter of the year according to Counterpoint Research data. The company saw its market share in the country slashed from 8.6% in Q1 2016 to 3.3% Q1 2017.

The main reason for the fall at a time when smartphone sales in China are still growing was far stronger competition from local brands …

Roost and Nexstand Laptop Stands

Mark Jaquith:

Increasingly I found myself hunched over at a coffee shop, or curled up on a couch. Not good for my back or my neck.


That slim black plastic thing is the Roost Laptop Stand. That’s what it looks like all folded up. Here’s what it looks like in action[…]

This raises my laptop screen between 6 and 12 inches (it is adjustable), which means I’m not peering down at it, but am looking straight ahead. It seems like a little thing, but it makes a huge difference in my comfort.

I started reading the Amazon page, and which pointed me to the similar Nextstand Laptop Stand, which is $30 instead of $75.


When folded, the Nexstand is about 1” longer than the Roost, and slightly thicker. This means the Roost is more compact than the Nexstand, and for me that is a bonus - the extra inch that I save in my bag means I can stuff an extra pair of socks in that space!

When expanded though, the Nexstand’s extra inch of length makes a big difference in that it appears considerably larger than the Roost. It suggests the Nextstand can hold a thicker or wider laptop than the Roost, but the Roost is still very capable despite its smaller size. The Nexstand comes with extra clips for thinner laptops.


Both the Roost and Nexstand are excellent, solidly built stands that will hold your laptop steady. I don’t want to advocate one above the other and have personally kept both for now. The Nexstand’s price represents excellent value and there’s nothing really negative about its quality, so if price is important to you, or you have a really large thick laptop, go with the Nexstand. The Roost provides extra luxuries such as rubber paddings and a more compact frame, but for the price it’s slightly more difficult to justify - if the price point doesn’t bother you then the Roost certainly represents a more “upgraded” model.

Phil Schiller on App Store Upgrade Pricing

Kunal Dua interviewed Phil Schiller (via Federico Viticci, Steve Troughton-Smith):

The reason we haven’t done it is that it’s much more complex than people know, and that’s okay, it’s our job to think about complex problems, but the App Store has reached so many successful milestones without it because the business model makes sense to customers. And the upgrade model, which I know very well from my days of running many large software programmes, is a model from the shrink-wrapped software days that for some developers is still very important, for most, it’s not really a part of the future we are going.

I think for many developers, subscription model is a better way to, go than try to come up with a list of features, and different pricing for upgrade, versus for new customers. I am not saying it doesn’t have value for some developers but for most it doesn’t, so that’s the challenge. And if you look at the App Store it would take a lot of engineering to do that and so would be at the expense of other features we can deliver.

On the other hand, subscriptions aren’t available for all types of apps, are more difficult to implement and use, and—except for really high-priced apps—customers seem to dislike them compared with upgrade fees.

Previously: Software Pricing Damage, App Store Subscriptions Clarification, Pre-WWDC App Store Changes.

Update (2017-05-06): Mark Munz:

I’ve never seen the level of anger from loyal customers like when topic of subscriptions was brought up.

Michael Love:

I’m fortunate that my biz model allows me to monetize old users w/o upgrades, but does affect what I spend time on.

We’ve also done a major, time-consuming UI refresh on iOS, and two of them on Android, since those have a big impact on new customer sales.

But making a heavily-used feature better in ways that are only obvious to people who already bought it is not a very profitable proposition.

Whereas with paid upgrades, making a heavily-used feature better in ways that are obvious to existing customers is how you make money.

In other words, existence of ‘professional’ apps is kind of a happy accident that relied on historical circumstances we may never see again.

Update (2017-05-07): Marco Arment:

Paid upgrades aren’t always bad, but I think he’s right that they’re ideal for a pretty narrow niche relative to the entire App Store.

Siddhartha Oza:

Since OS upgrades are always free, I doubt we will ever see upgrade pricing.

Apple can’t allow OS to upgrade and a few apps stop working.

Andrew Hart:

It’s how well paid upgrades do on the Mac, and how often they’re utilised, that convinces me otherwise.

Peter N Lewis:

Upgrade pricing is not about “value for some developers” - it is about ensuring value for existing users by closing the feedback loop.

Dan Counsell:

Hands up if you’re a user and prefer subscriptions rather than paid upgrades for apps.

Jeff Johnson:

There’s a mix of app buyers:

1. Always upgrade posthaste

2. Upgrade years later

3. Never upgrade

Subscriptions scare 2 & 3 from buying app.

Diane Ross:

Apps that I recommend with subscriptions scare away 9/10 users.

Matt Gemmell:

This Schiller interview’s segment re app upgrade pricing seems extremely disingenuous. The issue isn’t “complexity”.

Will Cosgrove:

Major eye rolls when I read this quote. They want apps to be free and ad supported or VC funded money losers.

Traditional devs have no place in the app store. No one, including Apple, wants to pay for the work involved iterating apps.

Ivan Vučica:

I love “App Store has one price for an app, when you see it, you see if there’s a price on it, that’s the price” <- what are IAPs then?

Update (2017-05-12): Dan Counsell (tweet):

The idea that developers will be able to charge their users a few bucks a year and make a living from it is bonkers. You only have to do the maths to see this is going to be tough for anyone what tries it[…]


No sane person wants to subscribe to each app they use on their phone.

Here’s how I’d like monetise my apps on the App Store:

I release version 1.0 of my app on the App Store. I continue to ship free updates just like I do now. Then when I’m ready to release version 2.0, the App Store can prompt all my existing users and asks if they’d like to purchase the upgrade. The user can choose to upgrade then, or ignore it.

Kirk McElhearn (blog):

Apple doesn’t generally use the excuse that something is too hard. But Schiller makes it clear hear that this process is complex.

Update (2017-05-15): Ben Thompson:

Still, even if the U.S. government is less to blame than Smith insists, nearly two decades of dealing with these security disasters suggests there is a systematic failure happening, and I think it comes back to business models. The fatal flaw of software, beyond the various technical and strategic considerations I outlined above, is that for the first several decades of the industry software was sold for an up-front price, whether that be for a package or a license.


The truth is that software — and thus security — is never finished; it makes no sense, then, that payment is a one-time event.