Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.


Also announced today in the midst of Apple’s press release blitz is a new app called Clips. It won’t be released until April and requires iOS 10.3, which isn’t out yet, but it’s clear what the app is and what it will do: it’s a copy of the sharing features in Instagram and Snapchat, using other networks — especially Messages — as its social sharing outlet.

Stephen Nellis of Reuters explains how Clips could be a serious Snap and Facebook competitor:

Apple has a huge number of users for Messages, the flagship app for short notes that is built into the iPhone’s iOS 10 software. Apple does not say how many people use the app, but it does say that there more than 1 billion iOS devices on the market and that 79 percent of them run iOS 10.

Apple also says that Messages is the most commonly used app on iOS devices, giving the company potentially up to 800 million users for its latest messaging platform. Snap, by contrast, has 161 million daily active users. While Apple’s Clips competitor will technically be a separate app from Messages, it will be tied closely to it for the ability share Clips videos with other Apple users.

This is written horribly. Nellis implies that Messages is on 79% of iOS devices by stating that Messages is built into iOS 10, and that iOS 10 is on 79% of iOS devices. Therefore, he surmises, Clips has a potential market of 800 million users.

Using that same math, the Snapchat app has a far greater market potential because it only requires iOS 9 or newer, representing 95% of all iOS devices. Yet its growth has come to a crawl.

I’m not convinced, though, that Clips is a serious competitor. I think it’s a perfectly fine app; the Live Titles feature — which makes onscreen captions based on what’s being said — is especially cool. But Clips is separate from Messages, so there are more steps between starting to capture a moment and showing it off.

Also, if this is supposed to run up against Stories, it seems misguided. The whole point of the Stories feature in other apps is that it creates a passive way to view or post a current video-based status that will expire at some point. Sending individual video messages to a bunch of your friends generates more friction. If they’re trying to take on Instagram and Snap in broader terms, that’s an extremely tall order, and Apple has a rough history with building ecosystem-constrained social networks.

Even if Clips is quietly successful as a standalone product where only the results are shown on other social networks, what’s to stop Facebook from duplicating its features. Heck, by announcing it weeks before it’s set to launch, why wouldn’t Facebook or Snap add a Live Titles-esque feature to their apps as well?

Update: Maybe this is Apple’s play for a mobile equivalent to the wildly-successful Photo Booth app on the Mac, but I’d say that ship has long sailed.