How Glance is ‘Unlocking’ a New Market with AI-Driven Smartphone Lock Screens

Bringing the world to the comfort of smartphone lock screens, Glance changed the entire content delivery game with a tap and a personalised adventure!


What significance would a smartphone lock screen have in our daily lives? Almost Nothing. In a usual scenario, the only purpose it serves is to let us know the time, maybe an occasional message notification. However, one start-up managed to ‘unlock’ an opportunity in the same in 2017. An entire world was offered in a lock screen, making opening phones an adventure in itself. 

Powered with Artificial Intelligence (AI), Bengaluru-based Glance offers personalised content with high-quality visuals in a smartphone lock screen. What is interesting to note here is that Glance is not an app, but is a part of our phones like any other in-built feature.

With a regular user base of 26 Million spending close to 22 minutes each, Glance seems to be becoming more and more popular with each passing day. Let’s find out how and why.

‘Unlocking’ the Potential

Speaking in terms of smartphone technology and relevant user offering, the market lacked something out-of-the-box which could integrate the services of the apps inside the phone and bring it all out on the otherwise empty lock screens of the phones.

After three years of comprehensive planning and discussions, founder Naveen Tewari, who is also one of the founders of Glance’s parent company InMobi, came up with the idea of integrating it all and presenting a one-stop solution in the form of Glance, which serves news, media content, games and everything else in the phone on the lock screen as per your choice. The idea behind Glance was to provide a one-stop platform for people to view visually rich content, both entertainment and information. All of it in the comfort of one’s lock screen!

Tewari is one of the few entrepreneurs, who with his passion and innovative ideas, has been able to attract investors time and again and sustain scalable business models. Be it his smartphone advertising platform InMobi or Glance, the seasonal entrepreneur has two Unicorns to his credit with a time frame of mere two years.

Since Glance is not an app, it cannot be found on any app store. It comes as an in-built feature of the smartphones, so there is no hassle of installing an app or an app taking up more space in a phone. It comes as a mobile feature with an option of customisation in settings, for a better experience.

It is important to mention here that not all phones have Glance as an inbuilt feature. The start-up has tied up with smartphone majors – Samsung, Xiaomi, Vivo and Gionee and their respective series – and has the technology preinstalled.

This is also where the data prowess of the parent company InMobi came into play. The founder was already equipped with all the relevant understanding regarding the smartphone industry and user market scenario and was able make smart decisions. Tying up with the above mentioned four smartphone players was one of them as they made up for 85 per cent of the new smartphones sold in India, as per InMobi’s findings. At present, InMobi is engaged with Glance on four fronts – product, content, OEM partnerships and team building.

With customisation facilities, there are a total of 19 categories of services which a customer can choose from. Because this platform is entirely AI driven, the content that is generated is totally new, fresh and newsworthy. The consumers do not have to unlock their phones to view content. The personalised quality content with visuals which is filtered through by the Glance team is presented on the lock screen directly.

Algorithms are used which are very similar to those used by Facebook, Instagram and other social media apps, which drive targeted content to the selected consumer.

Besides customised content, the start-up offers a host of Indian languages, along with English and Bahasa (an Indonesian language), to choose from which brings a higher user base and ensures a personalised experience for its consumers.

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Glance has a wide reach thanks to its multi-lingual functionality as it has many vernacular languages that make it easily accessible across India.

Click towards Monetisation 

Even though Glance is a mobile-advertising firm, it has restricted itself from displaying ads on the lock screen which has proved beneficial, considering its ever-growing user base. Fresh news snippets, videos, mini games and trivia with a selection of high quality visuals, each time one opens the lock screen, is the selling point of Glance. 

At present, Glance is a free-to-use inbuilt smartphone feature. However, moving forward, the parent company is looking for various ways through which the platform can raise revenue.

Having said that, the start-up in-houses short video-making platform Roposo, works on a remunerative advantage and revenue sharing model in the form of Roposo coins (1,000 Roposo coins equals to Rs 1). The home-grown video content platforms witnessed a dramatic surge in its download numbers following the  ban on Chinese app TikTok. Ex-users were quick to shift to alternate platforms, opening the golden door to revenue for Roposo. Recently, it became India’s leading short-video app crossing 100 Million downloads on the Google Play Store. 

Roposo’s revenue model depends on advertisements and lead generation. With a revenue of Rs 3.84 crore, it was a great idea for its integration with Glance which will now give it access to the professional network, its personal base of vernacular content creators and a total of more than 42 Million users in India.

Tewari says the new capital being generated would aid in growing Glance in a huge manner. One of them being  partnership with apps, including e-commerce, entertainment and news.

The partnerships with these apps and websites would generate revenue and the consumers will get to consume the content of their choice by being redirected to these apps and websites, which would be suggested by the AI. The company is yet to forge the said partnerships. 

Within 18 months of inception, Glance had managed to  cross a valuation of $45 Million at the back of its first round of investments led by billionaire Peter Thiel’s company, Mithril Capital Management. 

This was followed by its second round of investments which closed at $145 Million by Google and Mithril Capital in 2020. The start-up got its ticket to the billion dollar club, within two years of operation, after the successful completion of the funding round led by Google. 

The tech giant’s backing has increased the credibility and product offering of Glance. Google Vice President Caesar Sengupta had mentioned how still too many Indians have trouble finding content to read or services they can use confidently in their own language. This significantly limits the value of the internet for them. This makes perfect sense for Google to invest in Glance.

This latest round is aimed at global expansion, especially east, besides pumping the revenue streams through the platform.  Glance has grown from 70 Million DAUs (daily active users) in 2019 to more than 115 million daily active users in 2020. After having capped off the previous year with great investments, the company definitely seems to reach higher levels regularly.

Naveen Tewari - Founder of Glance

More Than Fleeting!

One of its kind and leading in this sphere, Glance has been very rightly coined as an innovation which solves the smartphone-first and smartphone-only consumption requirements. It serves quality content within mere seconds on the comfort of one’s smartphone lock screen across Indian languages and other world local languages.

With an AI-backed platform like Glance, it is safe to say that lock screens would be dominated by this Indian start-up for a very long time to come, given the fact that it is the world’s first and only ‘Screen Zero’ content platform at present.

One of the major strengths of Glance is its tech. With sophisticated AI driven software, many different variables and signals are combined and permutations and combinations happen simultaneously to deliver targeted content to the consumers. The trends in the world and the types of content getting popular are also suggested to consumers so that they are abreast of what’s happening worldwide as well.

There are specific social welfare guidelines and other generic rules that the Glance team is always referring to since it provides content on the lock screen directly. It is very much socially aware which only helps in building its authenticity. This would set it apart from its competitors. As and when more companies start coming up in this domain, they are most likely to use any type of content which can engage most people, while missing out on the social awareness part of it. Glance, even though it’s not monetised right now, focuses on customer satisfaction and hence focuses on not displaying content which might ‘embarrass’ their customers.

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One of the factors that gives Glance its signature edge is its tech-based innovation that delivers targeted content to its customer base.

A Future ‘Glance’

With tagline “Baar baar dekho” (keep looking again), Glance has managed to emphasise on their main selling point of fresh content with each tap on the smartphone lock screens. Consumer feedback with over 95 per cent positive remarks makes the start-up’s product a popular choice amongst people. Even though there is an option of turning off Glance in smartphone settings, 85-90% of the people do not. This adds on to the validity of this feature.

With the sophisticated AI-driven softwares, Glance is all set on solving the content consumption issues with quality content through smartphone lock screens in a never-seen-before manner!

While the start-up is yet to make a rupee, it has already started its expansion to Southeast Asia. Gradually, it intends to understand the new market and the trends so as to deepen its presence and then eventually expand into Latin America and the U.S.

With strong potential and tech-backing, the scalability is only set to increase. Content through lock screen is an idea which has come to fruition for the first time, and interestingly has captured the attention of the Indian audience.

Going forward, InMobi is trying to restructure the operations which would therefore allow more autonomy to its business verticals. This way, they can also devise their own strategies. So, the advertising is under InMobi, data business is under TruFactor and consumer content is under Glance. This is a fresh step towards handling business verticals and is proving to be beneficial.

While InMobi has many prominent competitors in the market which includes Google Ad Manager, Facebook Audience Network, Unity Ads, etc., it is products like Glance which makes it a special pick amongst consumers. With its services provided, it has changed the entire smartphone lock screen game. Consumer experience, content quality, and the amazing feature of personalisation are critical aspects of the platform. As expansion of business plays on the cards, sticking to their work ethics, staying true to their vision and delivering on these aspects will be some of their key challenges.

For more inspiring stories like this, check out our Inspire section.

Aparajitha Nair
Aparajitha Nair
Aparajitha is an intern with Dutch Uncles, her stints include PTI, TPCI and DRDO. She is currently pursuing a Master's Degree in Journalism from Delhi School of Journalism, University of Delhi.

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