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Snapchat’s Android app is terrible, but it’s only just fixing it



evan spiegel
Snap CEO Evan

AP Photo/Jae C.

  • Snap’s stock price cratered after its daily users
    declined for the third consecutive quarter.
  • CEO Evan Spiegel blamed the drop on the company’s
    Android app, which users say is laggy and has poor camera
  • Snap is rebuilding its Android app from the ground up
    in the hope of attracting more users in emerging economies,
    where Android is much more popular than the iPhone.
  • The company has known for years that its Android app is
    flawed, but chose to prioritise its iPhone app and

Snap’s stock price closed 12% down after the company revealed the
Snapchat app had lost users for a third consecutive quarter.

The company was down to 186 million daily active users in the
three months to September 30. That’s up from the same period last
year, but a fall from 188 million daily users in the three months
to June.

Chief executive Evan Spiegel said there was one culprit for the
user decline: Snapchat’s terrible Android app. Here’s what he
told analysts during the firm’s third-quarter earnings call,
according to a SeekingAlpha transcript:

“There are billions of people worldwide who do not yet use
Snapchat. Continuing to improve our user experience and creating
awareness about our value proposition are key drivers in growing
our community. This quarter, our daily active users grew 5% over
the prior year and were down 1% sequentially. The decline
was primarily among Android users.

Snap is fixing the problem, he added:

“We have been developing a completely new version of our Android
application to be lightweight, modular and performance. The
Android community represents a global growth opportunity for us
and we’re making good progress, testing the application in select
markets. We look forward to rolling it out when it’s ready.”

And he sees Android as a specific route into young users in
“developing markets.”

Snap has known its Android app is terrible for about three years

It isn’t at all clear that rolling out a new Android app this
late in the day will fix the cratering user base, though Snap is
certainly pegging its hopes on it. The firm has known for almost
three years that its Android users are being shortchanged on the
quality of its app.

A Reddit thread posted in January 2016 with the title
Snapchat on Android, how is this
such a bad experience?” has hundreds of comments from angry users
complaining about frequent app crashes and poor camera

Another angry user
complained on Reddit as recently as two months ago
: “I use
Snapchat more than any other app, which is unfortunate since it
runs worse than literal dog shit. The app lags, crashes and
freezes at least 10 times per day for me. The camera quality is
grainy and low resolution…”

The people complaining have a point. Here’s how a picture taken
on Snapchat for Android last year compared with one from the
iPhone app:

Snapchat Android vs iPhoneEmmanuel Ocbazghi/Business

You can see the image on the left is blurrier and grainier than
the photo on the right.

It isn’t all Snap’s fault. Developers conventionally favour the
iPhone because, by and large, most users are on one operating
system. It’s much easier to develop an app for a consistent
experience. In terms of Android, there are lots of different
phone brands, all running different versions of the software.
Some people may be on the most up-to-date software, others may be
running on a version of the OS released years ago.

And yet, could Snap have done more and earlier?

Android accounts for 85% of the mobile market, while the iPhone
only accounts for 15%. That 15% represents advanced economies
like the US and the UK.

Snap has focused its initial efforts on advanced economies
because those users have more advertising value. Neglecting
Android, a proxy for emerging economies, looks a little like
ill-advised snobbery at this stage.

can read more about the company’s third-quarter earnings

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