Android Marshmallow: Key Features

Google has recently released Android Marshmallow, which comes up with certain key features aimed at increasing overall user experience of a user. Google had announced 6 key features that are specifically aimed to enhance UX of an android user in the Google I/O on May 28, 2015. The key features announced in the I/O was as follow:

1. Android Pay
In the line of Apple pay and Samsung Pay, Android Pay aims to enter into the mobile payment ecosystem. Android Pay uses a device’s NFC connectivity to enable tap to pay services. User need to only unlock the phone, keep it near an NFC terminal and payment will get completed without opening any app. Android Pay will work with all major card and carriers and also work with all major commercial establishments.

 

Android Pay support t in Android Marshmallow

2. Privacy (App permissions)

In line of permission options in iOS apps, an app designed for Android M will ask for app permission as and when these permissions will be used by the app. Earlier app used to ask for all app permissions together during installation time. At the same time, users can navigate to setting section to check the list of permissions that app uses and revoke or provide for a permission.

Improved privacy feature in Android marshmallow

3. Improved Web Experience (Chrome Custom Tab)

Android M providers a new feature named “Chrome Custom Tab” which aims at providing way to harness chrome’s capabilities while keeping look and feel of native experience. Chrome Custom Tab will provide a way to open customized Chrome window on top of the active app, instead of launching the Chrome app separately. This will provide intuitive user experience while a user navigates between app and web.

Chrome Custom Tab support in Marshmallow

4. Simplified Security with Native Fingerprint Support
Android M will provide native fingerprint support on devices running on Android Marshmallow in a uniform way. The fingerprint securely unlocks the phone apart from authenticating a user while he signs in and checks out in Android Pay, Play Store and other apps such as e-commerce apps.

Native Fingerprint Support in Android Marshmallow

5. App links
Android M simplifies web redirection in that a user clicking on a web link in an external app will be automatically redirected to appropriate app corresponding to the web link. Earlier android used to ask a user if he wanted to open the web link in a web browser or the app supporting the web link. For example, earlier a user clicking a YouTube (Facebook or Twitter) link in some other app was asked if he wanted to open the youtube link in YouTube or in Chrome. Now android will automatically open up YouTube link instead of asking a user to choose between YouTube app and Chrome Browser.

Improved app link support in Android Marshmallow

6. Smarter Batteries

Android M uses Doze feature to increase battery performance wherein Doze automatically puts an android device into sleep state. Doze uses motion sensors to find the duration in which device is not active and based on this information, Doze reduces the background processes so as to reduce battery drains.

Further, App Standby feature in Android M reduces battery drain from seldom-used apps limiting impact of these apps on battery life leading increased charge in a device. Lastly USB type C support is Android M will help in quickly transfer power and data all through same cable. This will provide fast charging to a user giving hours of power in few minutes.

Apart from these features, Android M provides following features, which were not discussed in Google I/O:

1. Auto Backup and Restore for Apps

Autoback up and restore for apps was one of most interesting feature that was not discussed Google’s I/O keynote speech. This feature has been missing in Android for years and with Android 6.0, users will be able to automatically back up their apps and app settings (with a file size limit of 25 MB or less per app) to Google Drive. The uploaded backup data won’t count against the user’s Google Drive storage quota. These backups happen no more than once a day and run only when the device is idle and is connected to a working Wi-Fi connection to avoid unwanted data charges and battery drain on your device.

2. New app drawer

App drawer is one of the most immediately obvious visual changes in Android M. The new app drawer vertically scrolls instead of horizontally, and is held against a white background. Further, at top of the menu four most recently used apps are also put up to provide ease to a user.

New app drawer in Android Marshmallow

3. Now on Tap (Contextual Assistance)

This feature provides contextual assistance to a user without the user leaving the app he is presently in. Now on tap spreads the concept of Google Now to entire OS so that a user can use this feature on any screen regardless of what he is doing.  User needs to touch and hold home button and Now on Tap will provide relevant contents after carefully analyzing user’s context.

 
Thus, if a user getting an SMS from a friend for going to a XYZ restaurant for dinner then Google’s Now on Tap will automatically recognise context of the text in the SMS (XYZ restaurant) after long press on the home button and thus will show results to the users based on user’s context (in this case XYZ restaurant) and thus will show useful results related to XYZ restaurant as shown below:
Now on Tap in Android Marshmallow

4. RAM Manager

Android M introduces a new RAM manager in Android M with memory section now located at front and centre in setting menu. This is aimed at providing more accurate and comprehensible information regarding the maximum and average RAM usage of apps. Based on this information, user will be able to optimize their app usage and remove apps which needs to be removed in order to increase device performance and battery life.

New RAM Manager in Android Marshmallow

5. Expendable Storage
                                                                                               

Expendable Storage is Google’s new storage feature which takes an external storage source (such as an SD card or USB drive) and formats it like an internal storage space. This allows for using any external storage as encrypted extended storage for apps and games.


6. Direct Share Feature

Android M makes sharing intuitive and quick for users wherein developers will be able to specify sharing targets deeper inside their apps. Thus, a user will be able to directly share content to a specific friend or community in another social network. Thus, for an example an app will be able to directly share a content to an exact contact in a chatting app in a single step. Presently it used to take 2 steps to share content.

Direct Share Feature in Android Marshmallow
Apart from these main features, some of the other new features in Android M include support for improved cut/copy/paste implementation, bluetooth stylus support, improved bluetooth low energy scanning for nearby beacons and accessories, option to remove status bar icons, rotating home screen options etc.

Uberisation of Grocery Delivery: Instacart a 2 Billion Grocery Delivery app

 
Past few years have seen rise of On-Demand economy ( also called as Sharing Economy or Collaborative Economy or Gig economy) in all segments of life due to increased availability of sources of communication and very low transaction cost associated with On-demand economy. On-Demand economy tries to bring consumers and providers of goods and services to same platform and use highly scalable technologies and platforms to fulfil consumer’s demand by immediate provisioning of goods and services. These companies have achieved massive success by providing information at the finger tip of the consumer and providing instant gratification for the consumer’s need.
 
On Demand economy has found its presence in each and every part of human’s life ranging from Transportation (Uber, Lyft, Sidecar, Blablacar, Hailo), Housing (Airbnb, Homeaway, Wimdu), Clothing (Vinted, Tradesy, Twice), Parking, Home Goods and Food. I have discussed in my previous blog working of On Demand Economy in transportation with Uber as an example in my previous blog Uber in tough business of Car Aggregation. A graphic design of these on demand services along with finding in these companies can be seen in the chart below:

On Demand Services influencing people's life

 

Instacart is one of these On-Demand economy based service that has achieved massive success by disrupting the way people purchase groceries. Instacart is an On-Demand same day grocery delivery service that delivers groceries in as little time as 1 hour or 2 hour. Instacart utilises technology to meet consumer demand by immediate provisioning of goods and services.  Instacart connects consumers from personnel shoppers in consumer’s area who pick up and deliver groceries from users favorite stores saving consumers time. 
 
This article explores business model of Instacart and tries to find out the reasons for immense success that Instacart has achieved in a very short span of time. Instacart was funded by Y Combinator in 2012 and has also received 220 million Series C funding valuing company at $ 2 billion. Instacart is located in San Francisco, and well-funded by some of the greatest investors in the world, like Sequoia Capital, Khosla Ventures, Andreesen Horowitz, SV Angel, and Y Combinator. 
Timeline for Instacart

 

 
Problem being solved by Instacart
 
Instcart provides solution to people around the world to shop for their groceries. Instacart solves same day on-demand grocery delivery problem wherein it fulfils a customer’s order in one or two hours after he places an order. A user can order his groceries and have these delivered to his door step in one or two hours using his phone or web. 
 
Instacart has partnered with various local stores like Whole Foods, PetcoNow, Kroger, Costco, Breads Bakery, Mollie Stone, Gelson’s, Smart & Final, Super King, Fresh & Easy and Ralphs!, H Mart, Natural Grocer. A user can choose and mix items from variety of these local stores into one order. Currently Instacart delivers in SF Bay Area, San Jose, NYC, Brooklyn, Washington DC, Philly, Boston, Chicago, Austin, Seattle and Los Angeles. 
 
Instacart solves above Order Fulfilment problem (fulfilling orders from local stores) by solving complex optimization problem like vehicle routing algorithm. Further, Instacart uses machine learning to map individual stores, track how long a shopper will take to pick from an item from a store and drive and predict delivery time taking into account weather, traffic pattern, location and other factors like sporting events. This creates an experience for its customers that is nothing short of magical leading to increased user acquisition and user retention for Instacart.
 
Market and Competition
 
US grocery market size is $1 trillion consisting of $700 Billion grocery business and $300 Billion convenience spending market. Further, US grocery industry is very fragmented and it has many players operating in it with very few barriers to entry.  Margin in the industry is very low leading to fierce competition between the players and firms try to increase market share and revenue by offering lower and lower prices. Further, e-commerce has also emerged as an important shopping channel along with other channels like Hypermarkets (like Walmart,Kroger, Safeway, Supervalu), Supermarkets (Aldi, Stater Bros and Superior Grocers), Discount Stores and Convenience Stores etc. 
Instacart is working to bring this fragmented market together by providing consumer an opportunity to order their grocery from some of these stores. It faces competition from other online one day delivery players like Amazon, ebay, taskRabbit, Google Express. It is currently present in 17 cities and contracts around 4000 personnel shopper.
 
Revenue Model
 
Instacart follows sharing economy based model like the model followed by Uber. Earlier, Instacart used to earn revenue through delivery fees and product markup. Instacart charges $3.99 per delivery  for three hour delivery and $14.99 per delivery for one hour delivery. Instacart also earns some money by marking up the prices of grocery items (by one estimate 20%) wherein it charges customers more for individual groceries than their in-store price. Further, shoppers can also earn between $15 and $30 an hour depending on how quickly they deliver the food (using their own cars).
 
Recently, Instacart has made one shift in its revenue model, wherein it allows some grocery store partners to price their own goods on Instacart. In return, these grocery stores pay Instacart a fee to service their locations. It explains why for some grocers the products cost the same on Instacart as they do in store, but for others the price is more or some times less.
 
Operational Model
 
Instacart follows “managed crowdsourcing” model wherein a user orders something on Instacart through an app and Instacart crowdsources labor to serve user’s order in one hour or three hours after an order is made. Instacart is also working to expand its delivery schedules to for later today, for the next day etc. The crowdsourced labor consists of trained shoppers equipped with an Instacart shopper app. This app is extremely intelligent with information like location of shoppers in the store, exact knowledge of the location of items in different shops and other information like department, isle and shelf location of these items. Based on these information, shoppers are routed in the store as well as outside. Further, these app provides minutest update on any order to the consumers. This leads to very large efficiency in overall fulfilment of orders.
 
Instacart is a very lean organisation and this brings efficiency in its operational model. Instacart does not hold any inventory and it does not own any warehouse or fleet of trucks for its operation. This shields Instacart from the risk of variable grocery prices as the it does not keep inventory with itself. It partners with grocery stores and charge grocery stores a fee instead of charging consumers by charging markups on product price. This makes grocery stores more amenable to improving Instacart’s efficiency like offering Instacart company’s its own personal checkout line. 
 
Instacart is also looking to outsourcing its deliveries to third parties providers like postmates, Lyft, Sidecar but at the same time it is not planning to completely outsource its delivery process but keep the last mile portion of delivery business with itself.  In this mechanism, Instacart will maintain control of the end-to-end consumer experience through apps developed for shoppers and delivery people. All delivery directions will still be provided through the app, whether delivery will happen through in-house delivery person or someone contracted through a third-party.


How Alibaba works and rise of Alibaba as the largest eCommerce company in China

With Alibaba IPO in 2014, Alibaba became the largest ecommerce company in China and one of the most valued company in the world. Alibaba raised $21.8 Billion making Alibaba IPO one of the biggest US listed IPO in history (Second only to VISA IPO in 2008). With massive internet adoption in China, ecommerce in China is led by Alibaba dominating all three B2B, B2C and C2C online space in China. This blog discusses business how Alibaba works, structure of Alibaba,its numerous market places and how Alibaba makes money.

Business Structure

Alibaba Group Holding Ltd was established in 1999 by Jack ma, and operates Taobao Marketplace, China’s largest online shopping destination in terms of GMV and provides platform for C2C retail to small businesses and entrepreneurs, Tmall, China’s largest third-party B2C platform in terms of GMV and launched by TaoBao for brands and retailers and Juhuasuan, a group shopping website launched by TaoBao which is also
China’s most popular group buying marketplace by its MAUs.

These 3 market place comprises Alibaba group’s Retail Market Place and generated a combined GMV of RMB1, 542 billion (US$248 billion in the twelve months ended December 31, 2013) from 231 million active buyers and 8 million active sellers in the twelve months ended December 31, 2013 and accounted for 82.7% of Alibaba’s revenue in 9 months ending December 2013.

Apart from these 3 market places, the group also operates, Alibaba.com, China’s largest global online wholesale marketplace in 2013 by revenue, 1688.com, wholesale marketplace for the group, and AliExpress, group’s global consumer marketplace and a cloud computing service provider. The group provides payment and escrow services for buyers and sellers through Alipay. The group has a platform approach to shipping and delivery and works with third service provider through China Smarts Logistics (48% affiliate) as central information service provider.

Apart from these 3 market places, the group also operates, Alibaba.com, China’s largest global online wholesale marketplace in 2013 by revenue, 1688.com, wholesale marketplace for the group, and AliExpress, group’s global consumer marketplace and a cloud computing service provider. Aliexpress is focussed on B2C and C2C retail and consists mostly of small Chinese businesses offering products to international online buyers. Alibaba provides payment and escrow services for buyers and sellers through Alipay. The group delivers merchandise using third service providers through China Smarts Logistics (48% affiliate) as central information service provider. Alimama is group’s proprietary online marketing platform, which provides online marketing services to the group.

The UCWeb acquisition by Alibaba Group will leverage UCWeb’s expertise in mobile web browser to offerings beyond e-commerce such as mobile search, location based service, app store, mobile gaming, mobile reader operations etc. Alibaba ecosystem

Buyers and sellers are at the heart of Alibaba ecosystem. Buyers and sellers discover, select and transact with each other on Alibaba platform. The Alibaba ecosystem can be summarized as following:

Network Effect in Alibaba’s Market Place

The interactions between buyers and sellers create network effects such that more merchants attract more consumers, and more consumers attract more merchants. In addition, marketplaces are interconnected making buyers and sellers on one marketplace also participate in activities on Alibaba’s other marketplaces, thereby creating a second-order network effect that further strengthens Alibaba’s ecosystem.
The below chart depicts network effect dynamic in Alibaba’s ecosystem:

 

The buyers, retail sellers and whole sellers are placed in Alibaba’s ecosystem as follow:

Buyers

  • Chinese consumers buy on Taobao Marketplace, Tmall and Juhuasuan
  • While browsing or searching on Taobao Marketplace, consumers see product listings from both Taobao Marketplace and Tmall
  • Global consumers buy on AliExpress
  • Global wholesalers buy on Alibaba.com

Retail Sellers

  • Small sellers in China sell on Taobao Marketplace and AliExpress
  • Chinese brands sell on Taobao Marketplace, Tmall, Juhuasuan and AliExpress and global brands sell on Tmall Global
  • Sellers source products on 1688.com

Wholesale sellers

  • Chinese wholesalers and manufacturers supply retail merchants in China on 1688.com and global wholesale buyers on Alibaba.com
  • Chinese wholesalers and manufacturers supply directly to global consumers on AliExpress
  • Global wholesalers and manufacturers supply global wholesale buyers on Alibaba.com

Revenue Stream

Alibaba group’s revenue is primarily generated from merchants through online marketing services (via Alimama, our proprietary online marketing platform), commissions on transactions and fees for online services. Group also generates revenues through fees from memberships, value-added services and cloud computing services. In the nine months ended December 31, 2013, the group generated revenue of RMB40.5 billion (US$6.5 billion) and net income of RMB17.7 billion (US$2.9 billion).