Google’s Next Big Move Is Small Mobile Screens

Conor Daughterty and Sydney Ember, The New York Times:

Google became one of the world’s largest corporations by selling ads next to searches, allowing advertisers to find consumers when they were thinking about buying a camera or booking a vacation to Tahiti. But much of that activity has shifted to mobile phones, a move that has eroded the company’s market share because people spend most of their time in mobile applications instead of the web.

I guess I’m different. I do of most my product research on a laptop. I go to websites I trust, focus on 4+-star products and read 1-star reviews to see if what bothers them would bother me, and then I hunt for the best price. On the other hand if I make an on-the-spot decision to buy something — which I don’t do often, thank goodness — I tend to do that on my smartphone. An easy-to-use app like Amazon is a requirement for this to work. Tap the app, search the product, click on buy. Bam. No Amazon, no compulsive buy. Hmmm… maybe I should toss the Amazon app into the trash; I bet I’d save some money. Big screen or small screen? It depends on the type of shopping I’m doing.

Speaking of money, and getting back to Google, Google has a big problem. I don’t like ads. Actually, that’s putting it nicely: I hate ads. Not that ads are terrible, actually most of them are, but ads get in my way. I clicked on a link to read something or watch something and instead of getting to the article or the video an ad pops up. That’s annoying, and that’s why I hate ads. I don’t remember when, but it was a long time ago when I started using Adblock. The Internet without ads has been a pleasant place to surf.

Google has made very little money off of placing ads next to my search results. Unfortunately for Google, I do the same thing on my smartphone. An app with ads? Uninstall, immediately.

Thanks to Google we’ve come to expect apps and web services to be free. Of course, it isn’t really because in the background Google is tracking everything you’re doing, packaging that data, and selling it to advertisers. And so do a bunch of other app developers. According to a MIT Technology Review article Luigi Vigneri et al. downloaded over 2000 free apps from the Google Play store and found about 10% of those connect to more than 500 different URLs: “And nine out of 10 of the most frequently contact ad-related domains are run by Google.” That’s why I use another browser extension called Disconnect; it does what the name says it does: disconnects from all those trackers. How is Google going to make money when most people eliminate ads from their Internet experience, and disconnect from background trackers? Here’s an idea: how about developing insanely great apps and web services and charging for them?

Most Android apps stink, but I did buy one: Pocket Casts. It’s the best Android podcast app: simple, intuitive UI, and the user experience is fantastic.