InMobi CEO Abhay Singhal on data, privacy, payment freedom on iOS, and the company’s new on-device telco solution
“Isn’t it an epic judgement?”
InMobi CEO Abhay Singhal couldn’t be happier at the court ruling handed down late last week in the Epic Games vs Apple lawsuit. Apple will be required to allow apps to offer alternate means of payment, which means competition in payments — and commission rates — for in-app purchases for the first time ever.
But first, InMobi Telco
But he’s also excited about the InMobi’s just-released telco product, which is years in the making and, absent about 500,000 additional court rulings further opening up the crown jewels of iOS, will be Android-only for the foreseeable future.
“There are over 800 telcos in the world and each one, if you talk to them today, has an ambition of becoming a large media company,” Singhal says.
Their path to doing so?
Owning the Android experience.
It’s a path with some similarities to what we’ve seen hit home runs in the Singular ROI Index. Players like ironSource Aura, AppNext, and Digital Turbine — which has been on an acquisition spree lately, picking up Appreciate, AdColony, and Fyber — have seen great success in on-device app discovery.
From the latest ROI Index:
OEM or on-device platforms such as Digital Turbine, ironSource Aura, and AppNext are performing extremely well. They perform on-device app discovery via a persistent experience on new devices and a set-up wizard upon activation. They can tie into the home and/or lock screens, and offer live updates on new apps to try.
Digital Turbine and ironSource Aura together account for eight spots in the 2021 ROI top charts, and offer extremely impressive ROI.
InMobi Telco is the newest contestant in the on-device sweepstakes, but it already has a history. Three telcos in North America and others globally, including some of the largest in the Middle East and Latin America are already using it. The solution includes Glance, which offers lock-screen content, Swish, a “home screen concierge” that dynamically updates to users’ preferences, plus of course app discovery via advertising. All of them offer ways for telcos to monetize … and marketers to grow.
“Glance is taking over the lock screen of your device and converting the lock screen into the biggest live platform in the world where live content is getting broadcast. Live TV, live shows, live commerce, live entertainment, live interviews …” says Singhal, adding that it’s customized to different audiences.
The other is reinventing the home screen.
“Your home screen is nothing but just collection of all the icons … and that feels so yesterday to us,” adds Singhal. “For the users of today, we can totally reimagine how those surfaces can look like, which are extremely futuristic.”
In other words: on-device app discovery platforms have new competition.
And mobile app marketers on Android have new options for app promotion.
Epic vs Apple: multiple payment systems in iOS apps
But of course we couldn’t conclude our conversation without talking about the biggest news of the day. Apple actually won the lawsuit or 90% of it. U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers ruled for Apple on nine out of ten of the claims that Epic brought in the suit. But one of the most critical ones, perhaps, was the one that Epic won: Apple has to offer competing payment processing options in-app on iOS.
“It’s one of those things which I think is truly, truly good for the ecosystem, truly good for the industry, truly good for the innovation of new platforms,” Singhal says. “Can you imagine that today you are in a Chrome browser or a Safari browser, and you’re buying goods from Amazon and you’re buying goods from Macy’s and Nordstrom, and you’re only allowed to use the payment services that are offered by Google? Like … how awkward it sounds. And you know, that Google at that point in time is also going to charge 30% that it just looks so awkward … I understand that it’s your ecosystem, it’s your world, but the browser is not different than the App Store in that way.”
Given that Apple is facing similar pressure in Korea — where Epic has already applied for reinstatement to the App Store — and Japan, and likely the EU, this is likely going to change globally, and soon.
IDFA, privacy, first-party data, and customer journeys
Finally, we chatted on data privacy, the massive rush for mergers and acquisitions, and loss of the IDFA.
Ultimately, says Singhal, marketing has remained marketing. The sky didn’t actually fall.
“Last time when we were talking about the IDFA-related change, we were all extremely nervous about what’s going to happen in the ecosystem,” he says. “It came and it went away and the world is still the same … it seems like nothing changed.”
App growth marketers who tossed IDFA-based growth stacks out the window and re-engineered their BI systems might feel just a bit differently and point at InMobi’s Android-leaning business as the genesis of that comment. But fundamentally, what Singhal is saying is that mobile growth is still a thing, advertising is still a thing, and despite the fact that some of the processes changed, apps and brands can still grow on mobile.
And that’s fundamentally true.
The changes, though, have impacted InMobi’s strategy. At least to encourage it to continue in the path Singhal wanted to go.
He hinted that there’s more to come from InMobi:
“We’re an enterprise first organization … our strategy has always been enterprise first,” Singhal says. “We’re definitely working with our telco partners, our handset manufacturer partners, and making them better in terms of their consumer experiences. So any story where InMobi, data, and identity and content comes together, that includes our enterprise partners front and center into that strategy.”
That includes InMobi being able to stitch the user journey together end-to-end, he says, in a privacy-compliant way. (My guess: that means first-party data, not shared across entities, built into InMobi’s telco strategy. And the rumor mill says that InMobi is in discussion to buy AT&T’s ad unit, Xandr, which was the result of AT&T’s “$1.6 billion acquisition of AppNexus, an ad exchange, and a smaller acquisition of Clypd, a TV ad tech company.”)
But for now we have to stay tuned:
“So I don’t have anything specific to share this point in time, other than to say that it is, it is a very, very interesting space. And my view is that a lot more is going to change in that over the next two to three years, then what we have seen in the last one to two weeks.”
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