Mini programs are the new mobile app growth driver

Emma Lee on TechNode:

Monthly active users (MAU) for Wechat mini programs reached 829 million in June, up 11.6% year on year compared with 743 million a year ago, according to a Quest Mobile report published on Tuesday.

[…]

Mini programs offer a lightweight, convenient way to try out a limited version of a service, and are a crucial channel for apps to acquire new users who want to use the full range of services, the report said.

Beyond user acquisition, mini programs are key to providing users with practical functions without having to download a full app. When they download a full app, they need to first register for an account before they can use just a few functions. With mini programs, they can log in using their WeChat account and access the function right from the app they are in.

Ecommerce apps are using mini programs for stores, giving the vendors a place to customise the user experience when in the store. Likewise, service apps such as food delivery services and crowd-sourced review platforms are using mini programs as business pages that vendors can customise.

The battle for China's community group buying market

TechNode:

In the standard model, consumers from different cities can form a group to purchase goods—it is not restrained by geography. This standard model is often more spontaneous in the way that a shopper can share product links with anyone in their network.

But community group buying is more intentional and organized. This model usually has a community leader who takes responsibility for maintaining relationships among the residents in the buyers’ Wechat group. Consumer trust in the community leader is the foundation of this purchasing model.

The community leader often receives a commission based on how many orders are made within their community. This provides more motivation to socialize with the residents in the WeChat group.

The community model not only ends up being cheaper for buyers but the platforms, too. Since all members of one buying group live within the same community, platforms can replace individual deliveries with daily bulk deliveries to service a community.

By building on word of mouth marketing, it helps brands to strengthen the consumer loyalty and leverages on their fans to promote their brand and products.

WeChat groups can help the brands to be very specific when it comes to targeting the consumers. For example, I’m in groups for dog owners and pet owners in the neighbourhood.

Arm processors: Everything you need to know

ZDNet:

Apple Silicon is the phrase Apple presently uses to describe its own processor production, beginning last June with Apple’s announcement of the replacement of its x86 Mac processor line. In its place, in Mac laptop units that are reportedly already shipping, will be a new system-on-a-chip called A12Z, code-named “Bionic,” produced by Apple using the 64-bit instruction set licensed to it by Arm Holdings. Again, Arm is not the manufacturer but the designer of the processing cores and other on-chip parts. In this case, Arm isn’t the designer either, but the producer of the instruction set around which Apple makes its original design.

This sums up why calling them Arm Macs would be wrong.

Also, this interesting explanation about the differences between X86 and Arm:

The maker of an Intel- or AMD-based x86 computer does not design nor does it own any portion of the intellectual property for the CPU. It also cannot reproduce x86 IP for its own purposes. “Intel Inside” is a seal certifying a license for the device manufacturer to build a machine around Intel’s processor. An Arm-based device may be designed to incorporate the processor, perhaps even making adaptations to its architecture and functionality. For that reason, rather than a “central processing unit” (CPU), an Arm processor is instead called a system-on-a-chip (SoC). Much of the functionality of the device may be fabricated onto the chip itself, cohabiting the die with Arm’s exclusive cores, rather than built around the chip in separate processors, accelerators, or expansions.

As a result, a device run by an Arm processor, such as one of the Cortex series, is a different order of machine from one run by an Intel Xeon or an AMD Epyc. It means something quite different to be an original device based around an Arm chip. Most importantly from a manufacturer’s perspective, it means a somewhat different, and hopefully more manageable, supply chain. Since Arm has no interest in marketing itself to end-users, you don’t typically hear much about “Arm Inside.”

Apple/Google coronavirus API: not one US state is yet using it

9to5Mac:

An analyst of the US contact tracing landscape paints a depressing picture. Not a single US state currently offers an app that uses the Apple/Google coronavirus contact tracing API — and only four states plan to do so.

Others have launched GPS-based apps that raise immediate privacy concerns and are unlikely to see significant adoption, while the majority of states who responded plan to offer nothing at all…

After all that effort to get the API out as soon as possible to deal with the pandemic? So instead of curbing the spread of the virus, the decision is not to use something that has been proven effective. In some cases, the decision is to go with something that has greater privacy concerns.

Apple defends App Store's 30% cut ahead of Tim Cook testimony

CNBC:

For Cook, the questioning is expected to center around Apple’s App Store, which is the only way to install consumer software on an iPhone. For years, developers have alleged Apple engages in anti-competitive behavior, with complaints centering around Apple’s 30% cut of digital goods, and business practices such as requiring developers to use Apple’s payment system for digital purchases.

It’s a given that the App Store has to review the apps and ensure that the apps that we install are safe and secure. How can the process be made more easily accessible without compromising the security of our devices?

“The commission rates charged by digital marketplaces most similar to the App Store, such as other app stores and video game digital marketplaces, are generally around 30%,” the authors of the study wrote.

The Apple-backed study has four major findings:

  • Most app stores charge the same 30% cut on digital goods.
  • Retailers, travel booking services and other marketplaces can charge more than 30% for their services.
  • Distributing software through an app store is less expensive than distributing through brick-and-mortar retailers.
  • Other app stores and digital marketplaces often require users to use their in-app payment mechanism and forbid sellers from redirecting buyers to finish the transaction in another venue.

I wonder if anyone has done a comparison chart on this?

Tencent-backed Missfresh raises $495 million

Tencent-backed Missfresh raises $495 million · TechNode:

Tencent-backed grocery delivery startup Missfresh has raised $495 million in funding, billing the round as the largest single fundraising in China’s grocery delivery industry, Chinese media reported.

Instead of ordering waimai(takeout food) that is generally considered unhealthy, the trend is to order groceries before they get off work so the groceries is delivered when they reach home, just in time for them to prepare dinner. Delivery time stated on the app is within 30 minutes, though my personal experience so far is around 15 minutes.

  • The unexpected boost came as whole cities were placed under lockdown to curb the spread of the disease, forcing people to stay at home.
  • The resurgance of the grocery delivery market offers a boost to several players in the sector, including JD Daojia, Meituan, and Ele.me, Dingdong Maicai.

The lockdown forced people to cook at home and this helped with the growth of the grocery delivery industry. Pupu Mall is another emerging player.

Apple files for patent for coordinated control of media playback

Apple World Today:

Here’s the summary of the patent: “Methods and systems provide for coordinated control between multiple devices of playback of a media track or playlist. The multiple devices may form an ad-hoc network for sharing control of media. A control device may coordinate control of the playlist and facilitate playback of the media at a playback device. Then when the control device leaves the group, a second device in the group will seamlessly become the control device and control playback and playlist coordination.

“The playback device may also be the control device. The playback advice may be a network-enabled speaker. Where the playback device is separate from the control device, the playback device may maintain sufficient information to operate without a control device until a new control device is selected.”

I’m so used to taking a call from one device and then continuing it on another. It’ll be awesome if the same happens for music or even video. Though, this would need to work on third party apps to be useful to most people rather than just within Apple Music and Apple TV+.

How to remove YouTube tracking

Dries Buytaert:

After some research, I discovered that YouTube offers a privacy-enhanced way of embedding videos. Instead of linking to youtube.com, link to youtube-nocookie.com, and no data-collecting HTTP cookie will be sent. This is Google’s way of providing GDPR-compliant YouTube videos.

Time to go update your links. This ties in with removing Google Analytics from sites that don’t benefit much from the tracking.

Olympus sells camera division

Digital Camera World:

In huge news within the camera industry, it has been announced that Olympus Corporation will be divesting its imaging business to a Japanese private equity fund.

Olympus’ camera division will be owned by Japan Industrial Partners (JIP), with an agreement expected to be finalized by 30 September 2020.

According to 43 Rumors, JIP specializes in restructuring loss-making businesses to make them profitable before reselling them to “corporate acquirers” (such as purchasing Sony’s PC business, Vaio).

Olympus has fallen. After 84 years, Olympus ends its camera division. The company founded the Micro Four Thirds standard with Panasonic and remained committed to the system that has helped many beginners and enthusiasts dabble in photography by lowering the barrier of entry.

As a photographer and camera lover, I have always been fond of Olympus camera designs. My favourite is the Olympus Pen F film camera. It is a sad day, though we have to see what direction Olympus will continue to take in terms of camera making.

Microsoft Store announces new approach to retail

Microsoft:

(“Microsoft”) today announced a strategic change in its retail operations, including closing Microsoft Store physical locations. The company’s retail team members will continue to serve customers from Microsoft corporate facilities and remotely providing sales, training, and support. Microsoft will continue to invest in its digital storefronts on Microsoft.com, and stores in Xbox and Windows, reaching more than 1.2 billion people every month in 190 markets. The company will also reimagine spaces that serve all customers, including operating Microsoft Experience Centers in London, NYC, Sydney, and Redmond campus locations. The closing of Microsoft Store physical locations will result in a pre-tax charge of approximately $450M, or $0.05 per share, to be recorded in the current quarter ending June 30, 2020. The charge includes primarily asset write-offs and impairments.

“Our sales have grown online as our product portfolio has evolved to largely digital offerings, and our talented team has proven success serving customers beyond any physical location,” said Microsoft Corporate Vice President David Porter. “We are grateful to our Microsoft Store customers and we look forward to continuing to serve them online and with our retail sales team at Microsoft corporate locations.”

I’ve seen comments about how this is a PR spin and that the new approach is to move away from retail. Online retail is still retail. This has been the trend in the booming ecommerce market in China. Unless the products on sale are impulse buys, physical retail stores nowadays are more of a place to showcase items where potential buyers can test out the items before the purchase.

However, this has increasingly become less important of an issue in China due to the high quality of customer service. You can purchase many items to try for 7 days and return with no questions asked as long as you retain the original packaging and keep the item in mint condition. So there’s no need to go into a retail store. Order your item, it gets delivered to your doorstep for you to take it for a spin for a week. If you don’t like it, the delivery person comes to your door to pick up the return on the same or following day.