Google-backed Glance pilots Android lockscreen platform in US

Glance, which operates a popular lockscreen platform targeting Android smartphones, is setting its sights on the U.S. market. The Indian startup recently commenced a pilot program in partnership with Motorola and Verizon in the U.S., with plans for a full launch in the country later this year, sources familiar with the matter told TechCrunch.

The Bengaluru-headquartered startup, backed by investors including Google and Jio Platforms, has already made significant inroads in India, Southeast Asia, and Japan, where it expanded last year. According to a person familiar with the matter, Glance’s lockscreen platform today reaches more than 450 million smartphones and is active on about 300 million of them, delivering those customers a customized feed of news, local events, sports updates, media content, and interactive games directly to their lockscreens without requiring them to install additional apps.

Glance doesn’t collect personal data of users, instead relying on usage patterns to inform its recommendation engine. A source says that Glance is also working with Qualcomm to build a unique AI-powered lockscreen experience, and that if that partnership materializes, it will allow Glance to significantly reduce the data it consumes for its personalized feed and also move much of the processing to on-device.

In the U.S., Glance doesn’t plan to display ads on the lockscreen, according to one  source. Glance ships pre-installed on devices, but can be easily removed.

Android smartphone manufacturers have faced increasing pressure to boost revenue in recent years amid fierce competition and slim profit margins on hardware. Initially, many of these companies sought out new revenue streams to supplement their core business. However, as Glance’s lockscreen platform gained traction, a growing number of smartphone makers have acknowledged its potential as a powerful tool for differentiation, industry executives say.

Indeed, lockscreens and other non-app screens are becoming crucial real estate for smartphone vendors and brands. “‘Surfaces’ exist even today, driven by 3 types of players — OEM-driven, OS-driven, and surface-first innovation driven,” BCG wrote in a recent industry report. “Players like Glance are the most interesting of the lot w.r.t. innovation in AI deployed, to serve relevant content for a user every single time.”

In the U.S., the eponymous startup plans to tie-up with more telecom operators, as well as brands including CNN and the NBA, sources said, requesting anonymity as the details are private. The recently launched Moto G Power smartphone in the U.S. shipped with Glance’s platform. A Glance spokesperson declined to comment.

Glance has been eyeing to launch in the U.S. for at least two years, TechCrunch earlier reported. It’s not clear why it didn’t launch in the U.S. sooner.

The Indian startup’s lockscreen technology has already proven successful in driving user engagement and app installations for brand partners. A nine-week partnership with Indian streaming service JioCinema last year resulted in 9 million incremental app installs from over 100 million unique impressions, BCG wrote. The campaign also targeted dormant users, leading to a 12.5% increase in app opens and converting the install base into daily active users, the report added.

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