Welcome back to This Week in Apps, the TechCrunch series that rounds up the latest operating system news, the apps they support, and the money that goes through it all.
The app industry is hotter than ever, with a record 204 billion downloads and $ 120 billion in consumer spending in 2019. People now spend three hours and 40 minutes a day using apps, which rivals television. Apps aren't just a way of spending idle time – they're big business. In 2019, mobile-first companies had an overall valuation of $ 544 billion, 6.5 times higher than non-mobile companies.
In this series we will help you stay up to date with the latest news from the world of apps, which are delivered weekly.
Apple declared the monopoly of the subcommittee on antitrust law of the US Department of Justice
Apple was one of the four major tech companies identified by the House of Representatives' Antitrust Subcommittee as monopolistic in the United States. The report suggests that Congress is making changes to disrupt their business. In the case of Apple, it was assumed that the company had market power in the app distribution business, i.e. in the app store. The report agrees that the App Store offers significant benefits to both consumers and developers, but Apple has also controlled the App Store in a way that creates barriers to competition and uses developer data to its advantage.
Apple replied that it "strongly" disagrees with the conclusions of the report … "regarding Apple":
Our company does not have a dominant market share in any category in which we do business. Since its inception 12 years ago with only 500 apps, we've set up the App Store as a safe and trusted place for users to discover and download apps, and as a supportive way for developers to create and sell apps worldwide. The App Store, which today hosts almost two million apps, has kept this promise and met the highest standards for data protection, security and quality. The App Store has enabled new markets, new services, and new products that were unimaginable a dozen years ago, and developers have been the main beneficiaries of this ecosystem. In the US alone, the App Store generated retail sales of $ 138 billion last year, with over 85% of that amount going exclusively to third-party developers. Apple's commission rates are firmly anchored in the mainstream of commission rates in other app stores and gaming marketplaces. Competition drives innovation, and innovation has always defined us at Apple. We work tirelessly to deliver the best products to our customers, with security and privacy at the center, and we will continue to do so.
Apple has received an increasing number of complaints from iOS app developers over the past year about its rules to include in-app purchases and remove all mentions from their app where consumers could pay for a subscription outside of the app store. The company had high profile debacles with the email app from Basecamp, Hey, Spotify, Epic Games (where it's a lawsuit), and cloud gaming services like xCloud and Stadia.
More complaints surfaced this week from developers related to how Apple can abuse its power.
In one case, the ProtonMail CEO shared what it was like to work with Apple, where he compared the company's business practices to "mafia blackmail". The company said Apple got it to add in-app purchases even though its app had been a largely free app like WordPress for years. When ProtonMail emailed its customers, Apple threatened to remove the app and block all updates.
In another case, Apple told the private messaging app Telegram what is allowed on its channels. In particular, channels through which Belarusian protesters identified members of the country's oppressive regime should be closed.
Microsoft is digging its way into Apple by adopting the “App Fairness” principles
Last month, a number of top app manufacturers came together to launch the “Coalition for App Fairness,” an advocacy group that opposes abuse of market power by technology giants Apple and, to a lesser extent, Google. This week Microsoft joined Apple's critics and announced that it would adopt “App Fairness” principles in its own Microsoft Store for Windows 10 10. The company made no specific reference to Apple, but said it had "concerns about app stores on other digital platforms." ”
In a blog post, Microsoft wrote:
Windows 10 is an open platform. Unlike some other popular digital platforms, developers are free to choose how to distribute their apps. The Microsoft Store is one possibility. We believe it offers significant benefits to consumers and developers by ensuring that the apps available meet strict privacy, security and security standards while being easier to find and providing additional tools and services to keep developers focused on developing can concentrate.
The company indicated that it allows third-party app stores such as those of Epic and Steam on Windows. In addition, users can choose their own payment method and note that developers are free to distribute their apps over the internet on their own terms without restrictions. Microsoft stressed that it would not use its market power to "improve the competitive conditions to our advantage".
While Microsoft is admirable to take a stand, the company is probably more concerned with making sure US regulators don't keep their eyes on their own businesses when investigating tech giants for anti-competitive behavior. In particular, it wants to avoid a review of its Xbox store that does not apply the same principles.
It's also worth noting that Apple's own desktop platform, macOS, doesn't prevent developers from offering their apps for installation over the web. Therefore, the Microsoft Store is not the most appropriate comparison to what is happening in the iOS App Store.
Consumers spent a record $ 28 billion on apps in the third quarter
Mobile usage remains high amid the COVID-19 pandemic that has resulted in social distancing measures and lockdown policies, pushing consumers to connect online for work, school and socializing. This, in turn, helped increase the record spending on apps during the quarter and increased the time spent on apps tremendously. Consumers worldwide downloaded 33 billion new apps and spent a record $ 28 billion on apps in the third quarter, up 20% year over year, according to a new report from App Annie. In addition, they spent more than 180 billion hours using apps each month in July, August, and September 2020, up 25% year over year.
For comparison, Sensor Tower's Q3 report estimated that app sales rose to over $ 29 billion in the third quarter, while new app downloads rose to 36.5 billion.
Lawsuits in the wireless industry
TikTok versus the US government. The U.S. government on Thursday appealed the judge's decision that prevented the Trump administration from banning TikTok. The White House has said that TikTok poses a threat to national security. The app has just been banned in Pakistan.
Google is facing antitrust proceedings in India where it is accused of abusing its Android operating system's position in the smart TV market.
Philip Shoemaker says in Apple vs. Epic off. Shoemaker, who headed the App Store Review from March 2009 to April 2016, said the App Store was used to protect Apple's interests. Apple was not honest to treat all developers equally. He also said the App Store rules are arbitrary and Apple is having "trouble using the App Store as a weapon against competitors." He also argued that Apple Arcade was violating the same guidelines that keep Stadia and Game Pass off the App Store.
The judge denied Epic's request to force Apple to let Fortnite back on the App Store. This means that Fortnite will not return to the App Store until the trial begins. A court filed this week said the two companies will face trial on May 3, 2021.
Platforms & Services
Apple has extended the deadline for app updates using the UIWebView API Apple designed WKWebView 2014 in such a way that web content can be integrated into an app "quickly, securely and consistently for iOS and MacOS". Since then, it has been recommended that developers use WKWebView instead of UIWebView and WebView – both were formally out of date. Maybe Apple didn't want any more app disapproval stories right now?
Apple is launching new subscription server notifications for testing. The new notifications can provide real-time updates of subscriber status so developers can create custom user experiences. First, developers can get a notification through one subscriber who will automatically renew and another notifying them when the App Store asks users to agree to a new subscription price.
The Apple Developer App now supports registration in the UK and Ireland.
Google is hiring for the Android security team. A job advertisement indicates that Google Play is hiring an Android security team looking for vulnerabilities in Android apps, including COVID-19 apps, election apps, and those dealing with sensitive data.
Google Assistant can control Android apps. The Google voice command "Hey Google" can now not only be started by searching in apps and performing general tasks. Users can also set their own voice commands as shortcuts.
Android starts sound notifications. The operating system can help people who are hard of hearing by alerting them to beeps, running water, baby noises, fire alarms, dog barking, and knocking on the door, among other things. The iPhone offers a similar function.
TikTok announces Instagram as the second most popular social app for U.S. teenagers. According to a new report by Piper Sandler, 34% of teenagers choose Snapchat as their favorite social app, followed by 29% choosing TikTok and 25% choosing Instagram.
Google is the newest format for "stories". The company has added Stories to its main search app for iOS and Android, which features AMP-based visual content from various publishers.
Instagram supports the trend of customizing the home screen with the introduction of custom icons. For the 10th anniversary of the app, the company added a time-traveling Stories card, anti-bullying features, and a large number of custom icons that users can easily switch to, including the classic brown instant camera icon. However, the app declined to talk about its user numbers or earnings.
Microsoft is working with Amazon on the App Store rules for game services. Microsoft gaming boss Phil Spencer told employees that the company is aiming for a web browser-based solution for its Xbox Game Pass streaming service in 2021. Amazon previously announced that it would bring its cloud gaming service Luna to the iPhone by offering it as a web app.
Over 240 Android apps have been caught showing ads out of context in violation of a Google Play Store policy. These ads are served outside of the app container, e.g. B. Popups or full screen ads. Google banned this type of ad in February 2020 when it was discovered that more than 600 apps were spam users. (ZDNet)
Baidu launches a rival from Douyin and Kuaishou named Kankanwhich for the time being is mostly just a video search engine. The app is very similar to Baidu's main search app, but it is focused on video and live streaming. (SCMP)
Google Fi is coming to more phonesincluding new 5G phones from Samsung and Google. (Galaxy Note20 5G, Galaxy Note20 Ultra 5G, Galaxy S20 5G, Galaxy S20 + 5G, Galaxy S20 Ultra 5G, Galaxy A71 5G, Pixel 5 and Pixel 4a 5G) (Google)
Instagram threads become Instagram Direct. With the former friends-only messaging app, you can now use it as a direct messenger for all of your IG contacts. The company plans to roll out some of IG's other new messaging capabilities soon. This means that it is tied to the new IG infrastructure that currently enables cross-platform messaging between IG and Facebook Messenger. However, according to IG, threads will not support cross-platform messaging. We will see! (TechCrunch)
The mobile role-playing game Genshin Impact becomes the second best game in the world in the first week. Chinese publisher miHoYo generated $ 60 million in the App Store and Google Play. (Sensor tower)
Spotify launches the collaborative music app Soundtrap Capture. The company acquired Sountrap in 2017. The new app is supposed to save tracks instead of Voice Memo, which can then be shared with others. The app has been in beta since spring. (TechCrunch)
Triller pays for TikTok talent. The US-based rival sells cash, cars, fine dining and creative villas to lure creators to its app when the US future of TikTok is still uncertain. The app offers a similar experience, but without support for duets or an equally extensive library. A related report claims that Triller has increased its user base in the past. (The New York Times)
Financing and M&A
Picker collects 1.3 million euros starting round. The app allows you to discover and buy products recommended by people you follow. Supporters of the round are Berlin's Btov and other angels.
Zynga acquires the game manufacturer Rollic. Zynga completed the acquisition of Istanbul-based hyper-casual game maker Rollic. The titles include Go Knots 3D and Tangle Master 3D. Zynga does not fully own Rollic but has bought 80% of the company for $ 180 million with additional payments to acquire the remaining portion over the next three years.
GoPuff raises $ 380 million. The Philadelphia-based startup offers an app that lets you buy over-the-counter medications, baby food, and alcohol – basically convenience items – and have them delivered to your doorstep in 30 minutes or less. The new round was led by Accel and D1 Capital Partners.
The Dispo camera app brings in $ 4 million. The Seven Seven Six fund, Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian's new venture fund, made its first investment in the LA-based social media platform Dispo. The app, formerly known as David & # 39; s Disposable, was created by popular YouTuber David Dobrik and girlfriend Natalie Mariduena. The app's gimmick is that you wait until the next day to see your photos, which will be shared without editing.
Your.MD health app raises 25 million euros. The London-based company's Healthily app uses A.I. to help users review symptoms before seeing a doctor. Funding was led by global health and hygiene company Reckitt Benckiser (RB).
Renowned Apple software developer and designer Ken Kocienda, whose work included the original iPhone and developing auto-correct for touchscreens, launched his first iOS app, a play on words called Up Spell. The game prompts users to spell all words in two minutes and uses a dictionary of words that Kocienda created to allow the inclusion of proper names and words in apostrophes like S’Mores.
Symbols in bold
Hello! 👋 Today I start 𝗕𝗼𝗹𝗱: a nice set of friendly and balanced icons for iOS 14.
Most iOS stock symbols are now 7 years old. These symbols are being reinterpreted in today's design language of iOS
Have fun with 🤗 pic.twitter.com/I44a0XR3Di
– Doney den Ouden (@doney) October 8, 2020
Designer Doney den Ouden took advantage of the trend to redesign the iOS 14 home screen and released his own new icons for iOS devices, a light one called "Bold", a dark version called "Bold Dark" and a completely white background icon called "Bold" light. "Designers have regularly redesigned the iOS user interface, but the ability to now create shortcuts to launch apps using custom icons has inspired designers to turn these side projects into a sideline.
Google Art & Culture
While not a new app, the Art Recognition and Education app this week introduced a new “Art Filter” that uses 3D-modeled AR filters based on iconic paintings, objects and accessories from around the world. With the filter, you can become Van Gogh's or Frida Kahlo's self-portraits or the famous girl with the pearl earring. You can also go down in history with a traditional samurai helmet or a remarkable ancient Egyptian necklace, Google says. The app can be downloaded for free on Android or iOS.
The prepper app Harbor, which is backed with $ 5 million in support, has launched their emergency preparedness app, which outlines the tasks you need to do to fully prepare for an emergency. The app determines the most likely emergencies based on your location.