Why Google Nearby and Samsung CloseBy are superior to the Physical Web
Last Updated:  April 24, 2019
Bluetooth beacons are a big deal!
Instead of searching for recipes online, recipes come to us as we stand in front of aisles buying vegetables and pulses for the dinner. Instead of showrooming for hours at the local tech store, our phone points out at specials while we just step into the store. Beacons and the technologies around it have come a long way since we first heard about it.
Background to Bluetooth beacons and the evolving technologies around it.
Before we dive into a comparison of the beacon technologies, let’s walk past the last few years and review how far we have come with beacons. This helps to understand why technologies were introduced, which of them caught the pace and later discarded or were improved upon.
iBeacons – When Apple first launched its own standard in 2013, we saw the merging of physical and digital, for the first time. Right after its launch, iBeacon got a peek at different use cases. Apple stepped up to the plate pretty quick to implement its own iBeacons across all its 250+ retail stores. InMarket started with select grocery store chains at the beginning of 2014.
Eddystone URL – In 2015, Google evolved their UriBeacon project into Eddystone URL. This was, perhaps Google’s response to Apple iBeacon – an open URL protocol specification that defines a Bluetooth low energy (BLE) message format for proximity beacon messages. It has since become hugely popular among businesses and has only continued to grow. Eddystone protocol restricted the popularity of iBeacons in no time.
Physical Web – Google added Physical Web feature into the iOS widget in 2015 as an exploration. The new Chrome for iOS integrated the Physical Web into the Chrome “Today widget”, enabling users to access an on-demand list of web content which was relevant to their surroundings. In 2016, Google extended the support to Android devices as well. Browsers and operating systems which supported “listening” for this URL then displayed a web page.
Google Nearby – In 2016, Eddystone was launched with support for Google Nearby. And this is where things got really interesting! Because Nearby scanned for notifications even without an app. This gave businesses a new way to engage with their users – by directing them to an app download page, or to an https web page of choice.
Samsung’s CloseBy – Earlier this year, Samsung has announced support for Physical Web URL detection in its Samsung Internet browser. Similar to Nearby, CloseBy in Samsung phones are continuously scanning for Eddystone URLs in its range and once found, it displays information on the Samsung devices through its own Internet browser.
The beacon landscape has only become interesting with every passing year. Let’s now dive into why Nearby and CloseBy have proved to be superior to Physical Web.
Why is Google Nearby superior to Physical Web?
Nearby was introduced in 2016 to notify users about helpful things near them, especially about right apps at the right time. For example – A link to download the United Airlines app for free in-flight entertainment while waiting at the gate, before boarding a flight. In addition to displaying relevant apps, Nearby also surfaced websites directly from Android.
Due to the excessive overlapping in capabilities of Physical Web via Chrome and Nearby, Chrome recently called off support for Physical Web on Android and iOS devices. Post this event, I spoke to a lot of leaders in proximity marketing and they all had a unidirectional thought – Nearby is much more powerful than Physical Web.
And, here’s why :
1. Nearby adds an app intent to the campaign.
Brands can use Nearby Notifications to trigger an app intent which will then launch the corresponding app that is already installed on the user’s device and perform a specific action. If the app isn’t installed on the user’ device, he/she will be redirected to a mobile web page of the brand’s choosing.
The Play Store offers over one million apps – many of which are created to be used in specific locations or situations. The right app at the right moment lets you get more done. For example, when you’re at a museum in Rome, an audio tour of the museum would enhance the experience as you make your way around the exhibits.
Physical Web is not capable of adding an app intent to the campaign.
2. Targeting rules in Nearby
A fashion store across the street will have a higher traffic during weekends, whereas a coffee shop next to a tech park will witness higher traffic on weekdays after office hours. As a marketer or business owner, you know when it is best to send notifications that convert. Nearby allows notifications to be sent at a specific time of the day, or days of a week.
This, not a privilege that Physical Web enjoys.
3. Sending notifications to users – Nearby vs Physical Web
Physical Web will only send notifications when the user enables scanning. Nearby, on the other hand, is designed to run and scan quietly in the background.
4. Google’s live telemetry data for beacons (Nearby)
Apps that use the Nearby API, send telemetry information to the Google beacon platform where you can monitor the health of your beacons. This report contains the battery level, count of frames that the beacon has transmitted, length of time the beacon has been active, beacon temperature and much more.
5. Send multiple Nearby notifications from a single beacon
I believe this is where Nearby gets totally interesting! You can send a different notification to someone who has an app installed and a different one to someone who doesn’t have it. Physical Web is not capable of executing such targeting.
Android 4.3 and above smartphones do not require apps or browsers to receive Nearby notifications. It is an in-built service on Android phones. This is the beauty of Nearby notifications!
But if you want to leverage the experience of an app coupled with the power of Nearby, Beaconstac has developed an app – “Nearbee”. This app scans for Nearby notifications and displays the notification on the iOS device. Here’s how it is superior to any other third party app –
Add an app intent to the campaign
It allows notifications to be sent at a specific time of the day, or days of a week
The app is designed to run and scan quietly in the background. This means users get the notification even when the device is locked
With the app, you can send telemetry information to the Google beacon platform where you can monitor the health of beacons
Send multiple notifications from a single beacon
Samsung Closeby caters to the challenges of PhysicalWeb head on
1. Samsung CloseBy opens door to a huge untapped audience
With a little over 1.1 billion active users globally, Samsung Internet definitely helps reach out to an untapped audience. Samsung Internet comes pre-installed as a default browser on most Samsung devices, thus allowing businesses to widen their reach without having to lure their users to download the Samsung Internet app.
2. Samsung CloseBy helps penetrate in untapped countries
Google is banned in 25 out of 100 countries they offer products in. To name few important ones – China, Crimea, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Sudan, Syria and almost all Arab countries. These are essentially the countries where Physical Web can practically do nothing. But with CloseBy, we are now exposed to a lot of new opportunities.
To wrap up
In the recent week, there have been a lot of conversations about losing out on a segment of users who were an intersection of iOS devices and having Chrome app on their phones. Honestly, it’s not a massive number – only 3.9% of the iOS users have Chrome installed on their phones, the rest prefer Safari for obvious reasons. Also, the introduction of Samsung CloseBy has added more prospects to the list than you might have lost due to Chrome’s decision to discontinue supporting Physical Web.
If you are looking to get started on a short pilot, head to our Beaconstac store page and invest in a set of beacons and our Premium subscription plan. You can have the campaigns up and running in less than 15 mins!
Monika Adarsh is the Director of Inbound Marketing at Beaconstac where her primary job is to help users find answers to anything related to QR Codes. She works closely with customers to understand QR Code usage trends and build a framework for successful QR Code campaigns. She enjoys documenting her learnings about the QR Code market as posts and playbooks. She also anchors a podcast to uncover ways of using QR Codes in DTC/CPG brands. In her free time, she loves gardening and decorating spaces.