Mobile Messaging & Social Network Innovations: Sochat, Anchor, Dubsmash, Phhhoto


Four innovations in mobile messaging and social networking highlighted a session on Communications Platforms at the recent M1 Summit. The innovators were:

Phhhoto offers a photo app for iPhones and Android that basically turns a still image into a short series of moving images. | VIDEO

Dubsmash allows users to add (mainly amusing) sounds to short video clips. | VIDEO

Anchor allows users to record and transmit short audio clips and engage in group conversations. | VIDEO

Sochat offers a new chat app with features such as enabling easy communications with anyone in close proximity, relying on Bluetooth. | VIDEO

These four, while offering widely different services, share certain common traits.

They are aimed largely at a consumer audience.

Mobile and Cloud
They are dependent on smartphones, as well as cloud functionality.

Enhance Mobile
They illustrate the use of existing mobile capabilities to offer service enhancements.

“Democratization Of Mobile Tools” – Bigger Implications

The theme that emerged from the discussion was, “the democratization of mobile tools,” as the participants discussed larger implications of their companies’ business plans.

Both Dubsmash and Phhhoto represent aspects of enhancing images and videos with the user’s personal touch. This is obviously a powerful trend in mobile personal communications, with over 3 billion photos shared daily on just the major platforms, as shown in the following chart. Snapchat, for example, is offering a widening range of features for image enhancement, such as “lenses” – imposing various decorative or shocking images onto one’s facial image – including “face swapping.”

Dubsmash asserted that they expect asynchronous video to “replace text” over time. The company claims over 100 million users. Phhhoto, which is described by some as a GIF-type of selfie, states that they are helping to address “an insatiable appetite” of youth for collective sharing and networking.

Image Sharing Statistics on Social Media
Source: KPCB presentation – Code Conference, slide 90

Anchor is adding to the array of personalized communications tools, with audio broadcasting. The broadcasts are highly structured – a two-minute presentation, with responses of one minute each. They believe they are offering a further means for “empowering people’s expression.”

Sochat is interesting for several reasons. Its CEO formerly had a significant role in building up WeChat, a monster chat site with over 600 million active monthly users. Sochat aims to provide increasing ease of use of chat as the basic communication medium. Its CEO stated that they intend to “kill the phone number and provide the new de facto way of getting in touch.”

Engagement and Monetization

The participants were asked about their strategies for increasing engagement by users and monetization – these are currently free apps/services.

Sochat stated that it is relying on emphasizing use of voice for messaging. Anchor said that it would rely largely on continued improvement of the quality of the broadcasts and discussions going through its system.

Dubsmash and Phhhoto both discussed the implications for advertising and commercialization. Dubsmash raised the issue of how brands “insert themselves into conversations.” They suggested this could, in part, be done through celebrity content, or perhaps BOTs. Phhhoto noted a widespread adversity to intrusive ads and suggested that brands might have to find a way to put themselves into photos. They used the term “ads becoming a read/write function” not just read only.

Our Take

It is entirely possible some of these innovations might prove ephemeral and fade out, creative though they might be. Our interest in them, however, is somewhat deeper.

We find them, and other similar approaches to new apps and services, to be strong confirmation of our views as to the importance and the ongoing role of the Mobile Cloud.

In our study of the Mobile Cloud in 2012, we forecast that the key elements driving mass growth were going to be: personalization, immediacy, sharing and reach (global.)

We wrote the following description of our Vision of the Mobile Cloud, which we continue to strongly endorse:

All communications must now trend towards these factors:

1. Me – what I am doing
2. Broadcasting – I am a market of one and I am important
3. Sharing – I can only realize my importance by sharing
4. Immediacy – I must be able to share right now (although anyone who wants to get in on the sharing on a delayed basis is also welcome)
5. Global – I must be able to reach the widest possible audience. “Friends are not enough”

This is a vision that combines the capabilities of Mobile, Search, Social Networking in the most advanced ways and requires continual access to unlimited “elastic” processing power.

This is the VISION of the MOBILE CLOUD.

“The Mobile Cloud: Making It Work”, 2012