Can anyone catch Apple? Ones to watch
These companies won’t catch Apple any time soon, but they are all on the rise – in some cases at a remarkable pace
The fastest website ever to reach ten million monthly unique visitors, Pinterest is something of a curiosity – not least because you may not have heard of it. Its success comes primarily from focusing on one job and doing it extremely well; users “pin” images to personal pinboards where they’re shared with and commented on by others.
The social network is known for its demographic imbalance: at one point in the US, more than 80% of its users were female, although more recently the overall ratio has been steadily evening out. It secured $100 million of funding in May, valuing the company at $1.5 billion – and that was before its second birthday.
Huawei isn’t a new company – it’s 25 years old and the largest telecommunications equipment maker in China – but it’s relatively new to British consumers. We saw its new smartphones at CES in January and they were hugely impressive.
While Samsung and Apple fight over the premium market, and Nokia continues to decline, these Chinese companies are aggressively targeting the mainstream
Likewise, ZTE has been around for 27 years and is the world’s fourth-largest mobile phone manufacturer, but only recently have its handsets begun appearing over here. While Samsung and Apple fight over the premium market, and Nokia continues to decline, these Chinese companies are aggressively targeting the mainstream.
You might not have heard of them right now, but they have every chance of becoming household names – unless, of course, US politicians have their way, and the Chinese firms are blacklisted.
Mobile payments are a hot topic right now, but the solution may not lie in NFC as many expect. A Square Card Reader plugs into the headphone socket of an Android or iOS device, and can read Visa, MasterCard, Discover and American Express cards.
Users simply install the Square app, swipe the card, and sign on the screen. A separate Register app allows merchants to run a store on an iPad. Founded in 2009, only last month Square announced that it had more than two million users and processes $6 billion of payments a year – up from only $2 billion in October 2011. Last year it raised $100 million in financing, including a “strategic investment” from Visa.
Apple’s iTunes can claim to have legitimised the downloading of music, but Spotify dragged the industry fully into the digital age with its subscription streaming service. Launched in 2008, it’s now available on desktop operating systems, Android, iOS, Windows Phone, and several streaming devices and set-top boxes. It’s also live in 15 countries around the world, including the US.
Although the service has come under fire for the meagre royalties it pays to artists, in July Spotify had 15 million active users and four million paying subscribers – up from two million only last September. Its latest round of fundraising is expected to value the company at as much as $4 billion.
And finally… Amazon?
There’s one very good reason to include the retailing giant on this list: hardware. We all know how successful the Kindle has been in boosting the company’s ebook sales, now that line has been extended by the Kindle Fire tablets.
Clearly, the ebook, MP3 and app-spending data from the Kindle range has convinced Amazon of the potential profit to be made by keeping operations in-house, especially when devices arrive with payment details already loaded on them. Almost everyone shops there – it’s possible that Amazon might also be the next big global hardware player.
Head back to the main feature page for more on whether other tech firms can ever catch Apple