Microsoft’s Biggest Problem, in a Single Chart
Facebook Dominates Nielsen List of 2015’s Most Popular Apps.
Facebook did it again: The social network’s mobile app was once again the most-used app for U.S. smart phone users in 2o15, attracting close to 128 million monthly users on average this year, according to new data released by Nielsen this week.Facebook this year continued to hold the number one position as the top app installed on U.S. smartphones based on the average number of unique users, according to a new report out this week from Nielsen, but its mobile messaging application clocked in as the fastest-growing app of 2015. Another one of the company’s apps, Facebook Messenger, jumped to the third spot in 2015 with more than 96 million users, up from around 53 million last year.
The new Pixel C ($499 for 32GB; $599 for 64GB) is supposed to show off what a Google tablet can do, but it reminds me of the disastrous Samsung Nexus 10: a tablet with solid hardware so buggy I can’t believe it was released. Having foreseen the shift from more public social networking to private communications, Facebook forced users to install Messenger in spring 2014 by ripping out chat from its main app.
Beyond bugginess, though, I’m still not comfortable recommending the Pixel C because it’s neither the best Android device, nor the best tablet I’ve tested. Taking their place were Apple Music — the streaming audio service launched in June — and Apple Maps, which has bounced back from its embarrassing launch in 2012 to attract a total of more than 54 million users. The question now will be whether or not Facebook can do the same for its next most-promising creation, the private photo-sharing app Moments which is now replacing photo-syncing on Facebook’s social network. Netflix didn’t register in those charts up until recently because the company didn’t offer an ability to subscribe to its service within its app until September of this year. While multi-window support is coming in the future, right now Samsung is doing a much better job of designing an Android tablet experience than Google is.
Like other publishers, Netflix had long resisted Apple’s demands to share 30 percent of its subscription revenue generated through in-app sign-ups with the Cupertino computer maker, and instead redirected users to its website to sign up. However, in September, Netflix decided to make peace with Apple and offer in-app subscriptions without charging customers a premium for fees it has to pay Apple.
For what it’s worth, Facebook itself said last month that it had 1.39 billion mobile monthly users worldwide, up 23 percent year-over-year, and 217 million monthly actives (not just mobile users) in the U.S. in Canada in Q3 2015. Meanwhile, in terms of the battle between operating systems, the U.S. still slightly favors Android with a 52.6 percent market share compared with 42.7 percent for iOS.
Barely 3 percent of smartphone users owned a Windows Phone device in the past year, followed by BlackBerry which somehow still managed to claim a 0.7 percent share of the market. Remember that all these stats are U.S.-only, and are based on Nielsen’s survey data of 30,000-plus mobile subscribers, a portion of whom have mobile measurement software installed on their devices. This might be the only tablet you ever see with Nvidia’s Tegra X1 processor, which seems to be Google’s way out of Qualcomm’s current Snapdragon 810 debacle. Still, even though the stats are limited to one region, the larger trend involving a shift to private messaging and video streaming is something that’s occurring globally. As far as raw processing power goes, it slightly outpaces the Snapdragon 810 but falls short of the Exynos processors used in the latest Samsung Galaxy phones.
According to App Annie’s data, for example, apps like WhatsApp (#1), Messenger (#3) and Snapchat (#8) are the top apps by downloads as of last month, and several of the top-grossing apps in the world are video streaming apps. These trends will likely continue in 2016, as more users adopt messaging applications, and the cost of mobile data continues to drop, thanks in part to free data programs that let mobile consumers stream videos for free (assuming the FCC doesn’t put an end to these programs). If you upload a bunch of files to Google Drive, when the upload completes, the notification entry starts appearing and disappearing repeatedly from the notification list. While I was writing this review, an update from the stable Android 6.0 to Android 6.0.1—the same version on the Pixel C—came down to my colleague Ajay Kumar’s Nexus 6P phone. Load up Facebook, Twitter, or even Google Docs on a tablet like this, and instead of a smart interface tailored for a big screen, you essentially see the phone interface that’s stretched wide with lots of white space on the sides or in the middle.
Because of the way the UIs are designed, this is a smaller problem on 7-inch tablets primarily used in portrait mode, and a larger problem on 10-inch tablets that snap into a landscape dock. Apple, Microsoft, Samsung, and Toshiba have all also done better jobs with input, too, enabling pressure-sensitive styli on various tablets, which really brings drawing and note-taking to the next level. Everything is so highly magnetized that you can’t do this on a metal surface, as the keyboard will stick to the metal and the kickstand won’t pull up.
Attach it to a $20 Aukey USB-C hub and it becomes thrillingly powerful: I hooked up a wired keyboard, a mouse, and a flash drive, all of which worked perfectly with no configuration. Mouse support in particular gives Android tablets productivity potential that the iPad Pro can’t match, because it means you no longer have to reach up to control the screen by touch. But you only get the one port, which means you can’t charge and sync at the same time (Apple’s 12-inch Macbook has the same problem, and it infuriates me). It has a very shallow focal length (which makes for some cool unintentional bokeh effects) and a tendency toward both noise and blurriness in anything but the best possible lighting. It’s very difficult to rate a product that’s crippled by solvable software bugs, as those bugs may get solved, but I have to rate the product that’s on sale right now.
For productivity, Android is far behind Windows 10 tablets, with its no-compromise Office applications, wide range of different keyboard form factors, and as many open windows as you want. For education and fun, the range of properly formatted, good-looking apps and games on iOS still far outstrips the list of Android apps that properly make use of large tablet real estate.
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