Some Context on Cover
Today we’re excited to “take the cover” off our latest investment – Cover. Cover is a context-aware Android app that automatically recognizes the places you spend time (home, work, car), learns which apps you use in those places, and puts them on your lockscreen for easy access. While this sounds simple, we think it’s extremely powerful because the company is harnessing the power of two important trends:
First, we believe that context will be an increasingly important element of the mobile experience. One of our early investments, Uber, for example, was one of the early apps to take advantage of a very simple contextual-layer (location). Today we see an increasing number of opportunities to leverage context – so that, ultimately, you have a phone that seamlessly changes based on a user’s surroundings. Google Now is an early example of an app that leverages context (through software) to enhance value. And we’re already seeing companies begin to build context detection into hardware (like the MotoX and the M7 coprocessor of the Apple A7 chip).
We expect contextual awareness to proliferate all all layers of the stack -- and Cover is one of the first stand-alone startups that is 100% focused on context. Their product today learns when and where you use different apps, using your location as well as the day of week/hour of day (for example, you might use stocks/weather in the morning, and watch Netflix at night. You might use Foursquare/Yelp more on the weekends, etc). Your home and work are recognized through a combination of geo-fencing, wifi networks, and cell towers. Car detection is built using low-power sensors (no GPS) so it doesn’t drain your battery. (Watch their video here to see Cover in action).
And contextual computing gets even more exciting when you add the “wisdom of the crowd” into the mix. If everyone who walks into a movie theater puts their phone on vibrate, wouldn’t it be neat if your phone could automagically do the same – even if you’ve never been to the that specific theater before?
The second trend that Cover is harnessing is the power of Android. We believe now is the right time to bet on Android. A few reasons why:
- Android phones have really improved in the last two years. The first Android phone I used was the Google Nexus One – and it was really lacking. However, I’ve been using the Samsung S4 recently – and have really been impressed with it. It’s really fast, and the ability to customize the phone has actually made it easier to use. I see why David Pogue called it a “rival to the iPhone.” And I’ve heard even better things about the HTC One.
- The market for Android has become immense. Android captured 80% of the smartphone market last quarter (while iOS hit a new low of 14%). And while there still is a big monetization gap between Android and iPhone, I believe that gap will close over time due to the staggering volume of billions of Android phones and nicer Android phones coming out – resulting in more high-end users switching to Android. The hardware has now caught up – and as innovation moves to software over the next few years, Android developers stand to benefit.
- The Android developer toolset has really improved in the last year. Apple has had Xcode (Apple’s integrated development environment for iOS) for years. Yet Android announced an officially-supported IDE (Android Studio) just five months ago. Google has been rapidly developing Android Studio, with over 20 new releases since May. As more developer tools are built to make it easier to develop on Android, I believe you will see an increase in the number (and quality) of Android apps.
- Even Android’s infamous “fragmentation” is getting less severe. The vast majority of Android phones are now running Gingerbread or above, and Jellybean is approaching 50% of the market. That means that developers are benefitting from a more mature platform without the complexities that characterized early versions of Android (and though Gingerbread itself is complex, it is now reasonably well-understood and documented).
We are super-excited to work with the Cover team. The founders have run massively successful projects at Facebook, Google and Yahoo – and they are building an incredible team of Android engineers. Unlike most companies (who have just one or two Android engineers) the Cover team understands Android down to the metal.
We’re thrilled to welcome them to the First Round Capital community. If you use an Android phone, be sure to join the waitlist for Cover here – it’s worth it.