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Now Snapchat lets you unsend messages like Faceboook promised

Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook messages were retracted from the inboxes of some users, six sources told TechCrunch in April. Facebook quickly tried to normalize that breach of trust by claiming it would in the coming months give everyone the ability to unsend messages. We haven’t heard a word about it since, and Facebook told me it had nothing more to share here today.
Well Snap is stepping up. Snapchat will let you retract your risqué, embarrassing or incriminating messages thanks to a new feature called Clear Chats that’s rolling out globally over the next few weeks.
Hold down on a text, image, video, memory, sticker or audio note in a one-on-one or group chat Snapchat message thread and you’ll see a Delete button. Tap it, and Snapchat will try to retract the message, though it admits it won’t always work if the recipient lacks an internet connection or updated version of the app. The recipient will also be notified… something Facebook didn’t do in the case of Zuckerberg’s messages.
The Clear Chats feature could make people more comfortable sending sensitive information over Snapchat. The app already auto-deletes messages after they’re viewed, unless a recipient chooses to screenshot or Save them, which their conversation partner can see. This could be especially useful for thwarting cases of revenge porn, where hackers or jilted ex-lovers expose someone’s nude images.
Unfortunately, the Clear Chats option could also be used to send then retract abusive messages, destroying the paper trail. Social media evidence is increasingly being used in divorce and custody battles, which an unsend feature might undermine… especially if Facebook goes through with rolling it out on its platform where messages are normally permanent. But right now, Snapchat’s priority is doing whatever it can to boost usage after hitting its slowest growth rate ever last quarter. If teens feel like Snapchat is a consequence-free place to message, whether or not that’s true, they might favor it over SMS and other social apps.
More Snapchat Spectacles and e-commerce news
Snap made a few other announcements today. Spectacles v2, which are actually pretty great and I continue to use, are now available for purchase through Amazon in the U.S., U.K and Canada. The $150 photo- and video-recording sunglasses come to more European countries via Jeff Bezos soon, such as France, Germany, Italy and Spain. Amazon will sell Spectacles in three color combos: Onyx Moonlight, Sapphire Twilight and Ruby Daybreak.

Until now, you could only buy v2 on Snap’s website. That’s because Snapchat’s eagerness to develop a bevy of sales channels made it very tough to forecast demand for its lackluster v1 Spectacles. They only sold 220,000. That led to hundreds of thousands of pairs gathering dust unsold in warehouses, and Snapchat taking an embarrassing $40 million write-off.
“We had an inventory challenge with v1,” Snap’s VP of hardware Mike Randall told me in April. “We don’t think it was a product issue. It was an internal understanding our demand issue versus a planning issue. So we think by having a more simplistic channel strategy with v2 we can more thoughtfully manage demand with v2 versus v1.” Working with Amazon and its robust toolset should help Snap get Spectacles in front of more buyers without obscuring how many it should be manufacturing.

Still, the worst thing about Spectacles is Snapchat. The inability to dump footage directly to your phone’s camera roll, and the incompatibility of its round media format with other social networks, means it’s tough to share your Spectacles content anywhere else while making it look good. Snap has experimented with a traditional landscape export format, but that hasn’t rolled out. Spectacles could strongly benefit from Snap partnering with fellow apps or open sourcing to let others show its circular always-full-screen format in all its glory.
Finally, Snapchat is launching a new e-commerce ad unit that shows a carousel of purchaseable items at the bottom of the screen that users can tap to buy without leaving the Snapchat app. This follows our prediction that Snap launching its own in-app merch store was really the foundation of a bigger e-commerce platform that’s now rolling out.
Merchants can use the Snap Pixel to measure how their ads lead to sales. The ability to shave down the e-commerce conversion funnel could get advertisers spending more on Snapchat when it could use the dollars. Last quarter it lost $385 million and missed its revenue target by $14 million.
Snapchat is also bringing its augmented reality advertisements to its self-serve ad-buying tool. They’re sold on an effective CPM basis for $8 to $20 depending on targeting. Snapchat is also turning its new multiplayer game filters, called Snappables, into ads.
Overall, it’s good to see Snapchat iterating across its software, hardware and business units. Plagued by executive departures, fierce competition from Facebook, a rough recent earnings report and share price troubles, it’s easy to imagine the team getting distracted. The long-term roadmap is fuzzy. With Stories becoming more popular elsewhere, Spectacles sales not being enough to right the ship and Instagram preparing to launch a long-form video hub that competes with Snapchat Discover, Snap needs to figure out its identity. Perhaps that will hinge on some flashy new feature that captures the imagination of the youth. That could be its upcoming Snapkit platform that will let users log into other apps using their Snapchat credentials, bring their Bitmoji, and even use Snap’s AR-equipped software camera within other apps.
But otherwise, it must lock in for a long-haul of efficient and methodical improvement. If it’s not growing, the best it can do is hold on to its core audience and squeeze as many dollars out of them as possible without looking desperate.

Snapchat preps Snapkit platform to bring camera, login to other apps

Now Snapchat lets you unsend messages like Faceboook promised

Stay Focused And Keep Shipping: What Is Facebook Thinking With Its Phone Folly?

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Earlier today, I wrote about Facebook designers asking, “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?”

Apparently, Facebook’s answer is “build a phone.”

First, Facebook announced that it was releasing its App Center in Brazil, France, Germany, Russia, Spain, Taiwan and Turkey, an expansion from exclusively English-speaking countries.

What does every good smartphone have? An app store.

Then, Bloomberg reported that Facebook is working with HTC to release a Facebook phone in mid-2013. If the report is correct, this will be Facebook’s first foray into hardware.

While a Facebook phone has been rumored for some time now, this is the first time we have heard a specific timeline for the release.

So, as has been asked many times, why is Facebook so hell bent on building its own phone?

Earlier this month, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said mobile was Facebook’s biggest challenge. But mobile and hardware are not the same thing. Yes, it’s absolutely a problem that Facebook makes very little money off its mobile site and app, especially given how much time people are spending on Facebook mobile.

But is the solution to build your own phone? Is that even a solution—or is it a loosely related, lateral product launch?

If Facebook’s push was purely mobile, they would be improving their mobile app, working on better mobile monetization plans and working with Apple and Google to be integrated into their operating systems.

Oh, wait. That’s exactly what they’re doing

Facebook relationship with Apple has never been better and it will be integrated into the next version of iOS. Facebook has a team of former Apple engineers working to improve its iOS app, and I’m sure they are working to better monetize their apps.

But by building a phone, they are going head to head with Apple and Google, fighting much more established products in untested waters, rather than collaborating.

And it’s a mistake. Facebook thinks it needs to do battle with Google and Apple in every theater. As more and more people switch to smartphones, the profit pie looks more attractive by the day.

But Jobs didn’t lead Apple into social for a reason (lol, Ping). Google hasn’t done that well, comparatively, with social. Twitter isn’t in hardware, presumably for a reason.

What’s Facebook’s end goal here? If it’s to topple the iPhone, I simply don’t see it happening. So the next most reasonable target must be to take some of Android’s market share. Not only will that be difficult for Facebook to do with their first iteration of a phone, but frankly, it’s beneath the social giant. Their resources are best spent elsewhere.

Yes, Facebook is currently reliant on Apple and Google for mobile. But it’s not a one way street–they’re co-dependent. Facebook has 900 million users; if Apple or Google were to restrict their app on their mobile devices, the other one or a third competitor could see many more customers who want Facebook mobile. It would cost Facebook far less time, energy and money to focus on top-notch apps that are well monetized than to build a phone. And it would succeed. That’s more than we can say about the unseen phone.

Facebook keeps shipping. But they need to stay focused.


Stay Focused And Keep Shipping: What Is Facebook Thinking With Its Phone Folly?

Mozilla CEO: First Boot To Gecko Devices Will Be Sold In Brazil

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Mozilla and Spain-based Telefonica officially announced their intentions to work together on an open web device at this year’s Mobile World Congress, but I’m not sure anyone expected the launch market Mozilla CEO Gary Kovacs just announced.

According to the Brazilian blog ZTop (Google Translated here), Kovacs just recently revealed the the world’s first consumer-ready Boot to Gecko devices are expected to launch in Brazil either at the end of the year or in early 2013.

Sadly, Kovacs made no mention of the juiciest tidbit: what kind of hardware we’ll get to see Boot To Gecko running on. Way back in February, Mozilla was demoing an early build of the operating system running on a Samsung Galaxy S II, and lucky developers at a JavaScript conference got their hands on free Nexus Ss running a slightly more modern build not long ago.

I doubt that Samsung connection will count for too much once it comes time to Telefonica, on the other hand, went with some slightly less recognizable Qualcomm-sourced hardware for their own demo, and I imagine we’ll see some similar white-label hardware we’ll see once we get closer to an official launch.

Really though, since most of the heavy lifting — think telephony, messaging, etc — are handled with HTML5 and web APIs, the hardware itself doesn’t need to be the most spectacular. As of last August, smartphones only accounted for roughly 9% of the Brazilian mobile market, but the country’s rapidly growing economy means that we can expect to see similarly-connected devices grow to greater prominence in the months and years to come.

The confluence of an open-source, web-based OS along with some purely adequate hardware means that costs can stay low, and Telefonica’s Pablo Larrieux confirmed that would be the case. According to him, Boot to Gecko devices will be priced competitively with existing feature phones, a trend that I’m hoping continues once Boot to Gecko starts its world tour.

[via Engadget, image courtesy of Telefonica Brazil]


Mozilla CEO: First Boot To Gecko Devices Will Be Sold In Brazil

comScore: Japan, An Early Mover In Mobile, Trails The U.S., Others In Smartphones

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Smartphone users are, country by country, starting to gradually outnumber those who are using feature phones, and at the same time, consumers have passed a different kind of penetration: a majority are now using mobile devices to do a lot more than just make phone calls.

A lengthy annual report out from comScore today, surveying mobile usage across Canada, France, Germany Italy, Japan, Spain, the U.S. and U.K., found that mobile media usage has passed the 50 percent mark, meaning that more than half of us are accessing the web, apps and content downloads on our smartphones. But it’s not always the case that more smartphones always equals more media usage. In fact, the highest usage of mobile media comes from the country with the lowest smartphone penetration.

It’s Japan, where comScore says 76.2 percent of the population is using mobile media services, but where, surprisingly, less than 17 percent have smartphones. This is in contrast to the U.K. and U.S., where the correlation is a little more direct: smartphones now respectively account for 51.3 and 41.8 percent of all devices, and 56.6 percent and 55.2 percent of mobile users are accessing mobile media.

Ironically, it seems that Japan’s early move into mobile content – the i-mode service from DoCoMo, launched in the 1990′s, being one of the very first plays at offering more than just voice and text to users – is partly to blame.

comScore notes that the prevalence of those services and handsets presented a “barrier to entry” for smartphone makers, who perhaps didn’t have as hungry a market to serve. Smartphones are making more headway Japan now, comScore says, with Android and iOS platforms accounting for 94.1 percent of devices sold and more devices coming online at lower price points. (One of those, a Disney Mobile phone with NTT Docomo running a forked version of Android, is pictured here.)

Mobile still a niche player. Japan is not the only surprise in this report. Another is that even with a majority of the people using mobile devices to access media, web usage is still minor compared to PCs. comScore notes that in the U.S. in December, handsets contributed 5.2 percent, tablets 2.5 percent and “other” devices 0.5 percent of Internet access. Together that still only makes 8.2 percent, with computers accounting for the rest. Other countries surveyed had similarly low numbers:

One other interesting disconnect in the research is that although Android is the more popular platform overall, it turns out that Apple accounted for the top three devices sold in the U.S. in 2011, and the top two in the European countries surveyed by comScore. So while Android is the platform winner, Apple wins the day on devices.


comScore: Japan, An Early Mover In Mobile, Trails The U.S., Others In Smartphones