Glance, a subsidiary of Bengaluru-based digital advertising company InMobi, raised $200 million dollars from the Reliance Group this week. In today’s Finshots, we explain why this lock screen company is hot property.
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Alright, on with the story now.
What’s prime real estate on an Android mobile phone?
Take a guess — It’s not that hard.
It’s the actual title of the story.
Yes — Lock screens. Think about it — You unlock your phone a million times each day. And lock screens are right there — on your face. Usually, they aren’t very interesting. Maybe you’ll have a wallpaper or a picture of a pet. But one company wants to change this. It wants to spice up your lock screen and it wants to do it in a subtle way.
Glance is a lock screen app. But it isn’t like any other lock screen app. It won’t show you boring themes and wallpapers, instead, it offers fresh content. A news article, a quick game or even a short video (after it acquired short-video app Roposo). You can swipe to find anything that catches your eye and once you click on it, an embedded browser fires up to show you the story/video in full.
So effectively, what should have been a quick interaction with your lock screen now turns into a minute lock engagement where you’re consuming content on screen zero — without even unlocking your phone.
In fact, according to Glance, each day, users spend 25 minutes on average on its content screens. That’s time you may have spent on other apps like Instagram. And you can see how this already seems like a million-dollar opportunity.
But it isn’t. It’s a multi-billion opportunity. And to understand why, you’ll have to look at the company’s acquisition strategy.
Now if you search for Glance on Playstore, you won’t find the app. In fact, it’s not an app at all. It’s a feature. A feature embedded on most android phones. See, when Glance launched in 2016, it chose to acquire customers the traditional way. Build an app, promote it on Playstore and get them to install the program. But by 2019, it had abandoned the idea. Perhaps after recognising that competing for installs in a crowded market can be particularly cumbersome. There was also the fact that Google outlined rules for lock screen apps serving ads right around this time. So maybe this little update expedited the move.
But if they abandoned their original game plan, what did they pivot to?
Well, Glance bid goodbye to Google and instead went to manufacturers directly. For instance, the likes of Samsung and Xiaomi. It asked them to bundle Glance as a pre-installed feature on their devices — especially in the $250 segment — which makes up roughly 80% of sales in India. In return, Glance likely promised to compensate the manufacturers quite nicely. Through it all, the inimitable lock screen became a staple of most Android phones and the company managed to acquire ~200 million Daily Active Users.
This is the kind of number that a Facebook would post. It’s mindboggling. And now you probably see why this is a multi-billion opportunity. It’s a gargantuan ad engine that has the potential to keep growing.
And that should also explain why Reliance invested $200 million.
But no. It isn’t just the ads. Reliance wants to get its new phones into the hands of every Indian and Glance will likely feature on those phones quite heavily. Also, according to reports, it seems as if Reliance intends to push its retail products directly on Glance to the ~200 million Daily active users we quoted earlier.
It’s a match made in heaven.
Except for one glaring issue.
Glance has managed to corner such a large market share, in part because it comes pre-loaded on your phones. Most users we spoke to, didn't even know they had it enabled. It's a bloatware if you will - inconspicuous and resilient. Resilient because you can’t just disable it on the lock screen. Instead, you’ll have to click on settings, check for wallpapers and fiddle with the options to opt-out of Glance.
In some ways, it’s perhaps what makes the program such a powerful tool for monetisation — a billion-dollar company so to speak.
Until next time…
Correction: The article has been updated to reflect how Glance is enabled on Android phones, and the count on daily active users. The error is regretted.