Venmo Is Set to Become a Major Growth Driver for PayPal
Sources tell The Wall Street Journal that PayPal's (PYPL) Venmo unit, which launched a debit card with Mastercard's (MA) help last June, plans to launch a branded credit card this year. Synchrony Financial will reportedly be the issuer; no word yet on which payment network will be used.
As is the case for the debit card, the fact that Venmo works as a social network of sorts -- consumers use it not just to pay other users and businesses, but to share their payment activity with others who can like or comment on it -- could help its credit card gain some traction. So could the fact that Venmo has a large base of consumers it can promote the card to; eMarketer estimates Venmo had 22.9 million U.S. mobile users at the end of 2018, and expects it to have 27.4 million by the end of 2019.
Notably, thanks to its popularity with younger U.S. consumers, Venmo's total payment volume (TPV) growth has been much faster than its estimated user growth in recent growth. PayPal reported Venmo's TPV rose 80% annually in Q4 to $19 billion; for comparison, PayPal's total TPV rose 23% to $164 billion.
Since Venmo doesn't charge users for peer-to-peer (P2P) payments, many of its transactions are unmonetized. But PayPal has clearly gotten serious about producing revenue from Venmo: In addition to launching a debit card (and reportedly prepping a credit card), the company has made it easy for online merchants supporting PayPal to also support Venmo payments, and has launched a service that lets users immediately cash out funds in their Venmo account (rather than wait 1-3 business days) for a 1% fee.PayPal CEO Dan Schulman disclosed on the Q4 earnings call that 29% of Venmo users had conducted a monetizable transaction, up from 24% three months earlier and 17% three months before that. Look for that number to keep rising in the coming quarters, and in doing so turn Venmo into an important revenue growth driver for PayPal, whose stock has come to price in a decent amount of future growth as it has rallied above $100.
Apple's AWS Spending Highlights the Strengths of Big 3 Cloud Giants
CNBC reports that Apple (AAPL) is spending more than $30 million per month on Amazon Web Services (AWS), after having spent about $350 million on Amazon.com's (AMZN) public cloud in 2018. Apple is also known to be using Alphabet's (GOOGL) Google Cloud Platform (GCP), and at least for a while was using Microsoft's Azure platform.
Apple is willing to use cloud infrastructures owned by rivals in spite of the fact that it spends massive sums on its own data center infrastructure. The company has invested heavily in building out its global data center footprint, and announced in early 2018 that it plans to spend $10 billion on its U.S. data centers over the next five years.
Stories about cloud adoption often focus on how businesses can save money by migrating to public clouds (in some cases, anyway), launch new workloads more quickly and spare management the trouble of having to worry about a company's own data centers. However, access to cutting-edge technologies -- in areas such as databases, AI/machine learning and IoT services, among others -- is also a major growth driver for Amazon, Microsoft and Google's public clouds. So is their geographic reach, which can make it easier for companies to expand overseas (Salesforce.com (CRM) , which has an international partnership with AWS, is a good example here).
From the looks of things, geographic reach and/or access to cutting-edge technologies have something to do with Apple's willingness to use AWS and GCP. After all, Apple is comfortable running a major data center infrastructure of its own, and given the size of that infrastructure, it's hard to imagine that paying third-party clouds to run workloads would be cheaper than running them internally.
Twitter (TWTR) , it should be noted, also uses a third-party cloud provider (GCP) in spite of having major data centers of its own. Between their global footprints, their superior economies of scale, their software and services ecosystems and the large R&D investments they're making to support an extensive array of services, it's a safe bet that the Big 3 public cloud providers will keep taking share from smaller rivals.
Samsung's Galaxy Fold Woes Aren't Shocking for an Experimental GadgetThe Wall Street Journal reports Samsung is delaying the launch of its Galaxy Fold phone -- originally set for Friday -- until "at least next month," after many reviewers reported device malfunctions related to the foldable phone's primary screen (i.e., the one that appears when the phone is folded open). Reuters reports Shanghai and Hong Kong media events for the Fold, which was priced at $1,980 and meant to ship in limited volumes, have been postponed.
Some reviewers reported their test units began constantly flickering, while others reported a bulge appearing on the middle crease of the Fold's primary display that eventually broke the display. Sources tell the WSJ the Fold's issues "stem from problems affecting the handset's hinge and extra pressure applied to the internal screen."
It's worth adding here that even when test units didn't break, reviews for the Galaxy Fold have been far from stellar. Though finding a lot of value in its extra screen real estate, The Verge gave the Fold 4 stars out of 10, while criticizing its display quality and deeming it awkward to use as a phone. Engadget was critical of both the Fold's hardware and software, and though it called the phone "an impressive technical achievement," it added that "almost no one should consider buying one."
It's an industry cliche to recommend that mainstream consumers avoid buying the first-gen versions of groundbreaking products, and instead wait until more polished (and possibly cheaper) second-gen versions arrive. Even if their pricing and production volumes hadn't already guaranteed the first foldable phones would be niche products, the issues that Galaxy Fold reviewers have encountered drive home why the devices, though having tremendous long-term potential, aren't yet ready for primetime -- and also why Apple won't be launching one this year, and perhaps also not next year.
Huawei, whose soon-to-launch Mate X smartphone is thinner than the Galaxy Fold and relies on a single screen that folds around, has to be pleased that the Fold is off to a rough start. Of course, there's no guarantee that reviewers also won't report seeing major problems with the Mate X, which costs a whopping $2,600, when they get their hands on it.
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