v1: How to beat Apple

It’s 2012 or so and the calendar on iPhone is looking pathetic. Too many innovations in the land of meetings.

So a bunch of startups make a better calendar. E.g., Sunrise. Holy crap it is beautiful. So easy to swipe through multiple dates, see who you are meeting, seamless moves between month-week-day.

Better reminders, integration of third-party calendars. Really, it’s awesome.

There are a million clones but there often are. 4-5 companies vying for the same idea. Great. The world is stewing on the next big thing — smart, social calendars, mobile-first. The grand historical pattern of invention, tinkering, refinement in a marketplace of ideas. 22 people invented the light bulb around the same time (famously).

This is the part in the story where it becomes about Apple. Because Apple has one of the most widely used calendar apps in the world in 2012 –> the iPhone’s native app. It syncs with various stuff and 200-300 million people use it as their main calendar. Seriously, it’s likely much bigger than Gmail’s calendar (since most consumer users don’t use calendar) and perhaps around the size of Outlook (since office workers do use calendar).

So the startups make a dope calendar. And 12 months later in the mid-2013 refresh of iOS so does app.

Fledgling startups are normally floored by this type of thing. There is literally no reason to use the third-party “other” calendar if the native, super fast, default calendar is 85% or 90% as good. One cute button or something is just not enough of a reason.

Examples of roadkill in this dynamic:

1. Email apps. The market share of any email app that is not Mail on iOS is very small. Mailbox is very famous but they are an exception and they are also not so widely used. The idea of Dropbox buying them is that they can try to make it big. Here are some that are really good but nobody uses: Accompli, Boxer, Sparrow, Dispatch, Seed, EvoMail, others listed here.

2. Browsers. There was a time that startups were trying to make browsers for iOS or Android. Now it’s just Safari and Chrome on Android right? Nobody is downloading Opera since forever. Also see 1990s browser wars for proof of the general thesis here (which is that bundling of core apps works to crush upstarts).

3. I won’t bother detailing other things you could be “replacing” on your phones native suite. But here are some: VPN for data compression, Alerts tray, Maps, password manager, app store, task list, reminders.

But here are three massive companies/products that DO replace a native function of your smartphone

– Instagram – your camera

– Whatsapp – short messaging

– Evernote – notes.

Here’s the key key key to these –> they address the big platforms that Apple mostly ignores.

And I think this is what Sunrise has done brilliantly in the 12 months since Apple “cloned” them.

– Android version

– Chrome store version

– Web app

Screenshot 2014-08-14 10.46.35

– Facebook is deeply in there too. Which makes sense since meetings are with PEOPLE.




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