This week in apps: Apple scolds Adtech, Fb strikes with antitrust lawsuits, Twitter buys Squad


Welcome back to This Week in Apps, the weekly TechCrunch series that brings together the latest news on mobile operating systems, mobile applications, and the entire app economy.

The app industry is hotter than ever, with a record 204 billion downloads and $ 120 billion in global consumer spending in 2019. Excluding Chinese third-party app stores, iOS and Android users downloaded 130 billion apps in 2020 iOS and Android alone recorded $ 112 billion. In 2019, people were spending three hours and 40 minutes a day using apps, which rivaled television. Due to COVID-19, the time spent on apps on Android increased 25% year-over-year.

Not only are apps a way of spending idle time, they're big business too. In 2019, mobile-first companies had an overall valuation of $ 544 billion, 6.5 times higher than non-mobile companies.

Apple is defending its efforts to protect consumer privacy

Credit: Apple

Apple SVP Craig Federighi targeted the adtech industry in a speech to European lawmakers this week in which he downplayed the industry backlash against the upcoming changes in app tracking as "fancy" and even "wrong" . He said that online tracking is the number one privacy challenge and that Apple's upcoming App Tracking Transparency (ATT) is the first line of defense.

"The mass centralization of data puts data protection at risk – regardless of who collects it and what their intentions are," said Federighi, reiterating that Apple strives to have as little data as possible about its customers.

This has been the company's line so far, and it is not necessarily the whole truth. Apple has so far described its decision to give consumers the option to opt out of tracking as a decision that is solely focused on consumer privacy. This makes Apple the savior of consumers and the only one fighting for our privacy. However, the changes are also an example of how Apple may be using its platform power in an anticompetitive manner to secure a seat at the table in a billion dollar market that is now dominated by its rival Google and Facebook.

In this case, Apple fits into the world of mobile advertising by forcing a switch from IDFA to its own SKAdNetwork, which restricts access to the individual data advertisers. This is good for consumers who don't want to be targeted and tracked just because they are using an app. However, publishers have argued that they can't charge that much for ads that have users turned off tracking. This could have a snowball effect hurting ad-supported companies beyond tech giants like Facebook.

In the meantime, Apple can collect a lot of consumer data that is used to personalize ads. Its own App Store and Apple News apps personalize ads, as long as consumers don't turn off their iPhone's settings (and not with a scary pop-up warning like they have to view third-party apps). Apple says that what it does in terms of personalization isn't considered "tracking" as it doesn't share the data with anyone or follow customers on websites and apps.

With Apple's entry into its own service business, however, the amount of data with which its own advertisements can be personalized increases. Today, Apple's ad targeting system includes users in segments based on music, books, TV shows, and apps they download, as well as in-app purchases and subscriptions. It also tracks users as they search App Search with keywords and taps to read App Store stories, and their location is tracked if given permission to Apple News or the App Store.

In similar news, Facebook's WhatsApp criticized Apple's upcoming privacy label requirements this week, saying the labels are anti-competitive as they do not apply to first-party apps like iMessage that come pre-installed on iPhones. WhatsApp also argued that they don't allow companies to share enough details about the measures they are taking to protect consumer data.

Apple responded that its website had labels for its own apps for apps not sold through the App Store.

Facebook antitrust lawsuits

Credit: TechCrunch

Forty-eight attorneys general in 46 states, the Guam Territory, and the District of Columbia have filed an antitrust lawsuit alleging that Facebook has used monopoly business practices to suppress its competition. States are calling on the court to prevent Facebook from making additional acquisitions in excess of $ 10 million without notifying plaintiffs, and are calling for additional relief, including "the sale or restructuring of illegally acquired businesses or current Facebook assets or business areas ".

The FTC also voted to initiate its own antitrust proceedings against Facebook at the federal level.

Although the lawsuits are much bigger than an app story alone, if the plaintiffs prevail, they could impact the app ecosystem as they demand that the acquisitions of Instagram and WhatsApp and possibly others be retrospectively judged as illegal and illegal sold. This would allow increased competition in the social app market, where Facebook uses its power to maintain its dominant position. For example, Facebook just integrated its messaging platform with Instagram's, so users can now send messages to friends on two of the largest social platforms through just one app – either Messenger or Instagram. WhatsApp could also be integrated in the future.

Twitter buys Squad

Credit: Twitter

Twitter announced the takeover of the screen sharing app on Friday. The startup's co-founders, CEO Esther Crawford and CTO Ethan Sutin, as well as the rest of the squad team, will join the design, engineering and product divisions of Twitter. The Squad app, which relied heavily on Snap's Snap Kit developer tools, will shut down.

According to the code, Twitter may also shut down Periscope, which raises some questions about what plans Twitter has in terms of streamlining its services. The company has recently experimented with its own version of Stories, also known as Fleets, and an audio-based networking product for group conversations.

Platforms: Apple

Reminder: Apple's Holiday App Store will shut down. The App Store will not be accepting new apps and app updates for its annual vacation break from December 23-27 (Pacific Time).
Reminder: Requirements for app privacy issues starts on December 8th.
The iOS 14.3 release candidate is arrivingBy supporting the new ProRAW photo format for iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max, a new tab for Apple TV + that makes it easier to find Apple originals, prepares the platform for Fitness + and bypasses launching the Shortcuts app if, among other things, with custom app icons.
Setting up the Apple Watch family arrives in Canada on December 14th.
Apple Fitness + starts on December 14th.

Platforms: Google

Credit: Google

Google is working on an ambitious project to improve GPS accuracy in apps. In dense urban areas, it is often difficult to get an accurate GPS reading. This leads to issues like mistakes on the wrong side of the road and even mistakes in blocking wrong cities, which has a huge impact on ridesharing and navigation apps. The new solution from Google uses 3D mapping-based corrections, which consist of 3D building models, GPS raw measurements and machine learning. With the decline in pixel functionality in December, these corrections will be added to Pixel 5 and Pixel 4a (5G). According to Google, the occurrences on the wrong side of the street are reduced by around 75%. In other Android phones (Android 8+), version 1 is implemented in the FLP (Fused Location Provider API), which reduces these occurrences by around 50%. Version 2 will be available for the entire Android ecosystem (Android 8 or higher) in early 2021.
Google Play Pass arrives in 7 new countries, including major Latin American markets. The subscription-based apps and games service came to Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Peru, Russia and Saudi Arabia. This brings the total number of markets where the service is live to 42.
Google's Pixel Feature Drop Adds Adaptive Sound, Hold for Me (where the Google Assistant is waiting for you), Extreme Battery Saver Mode, screen sharing on Duo calls, and more.


Credit: Microsoft

Microsoft confirms that its Xbox Cloud gaming service will launch on iOS in 2021. However, the company will bypass the App Store rules by delivering the service to the iPhone and iPad in a web browser. This saves Apple any revenue that the gaming service can generate. Amazon Luna and Google Stadia are also planning to use the web browser on iOS to bypass the App Store.
Google's cloud gaming service Stadia launches live streaming on YouTube. Players can share their gameplay on YouTube.
Apple is demanding that Epic Games' Fortnite lawsuit be dismissed in Australia because Epic promised to settle disputes and litigation in the US District Court for the Northern District of California.

Government and politics

The US National Weather Service I've just had a record year of weather-related disasters like the busiest hurricane season in the Atlantic and the California wildfires. Now the agency says that the internet bandwidth is running out and must throttle the amount of data its customers and users can access it. The move would affect weather consumers who Get your weather from apps on your smartphonesMany of the forecasts and warnings they receive are based on the weather service's outputs and data.
California's CA Notify contact tracking app for COVID-19 now reaches the full state. The app uses the exposure notification API from Apple and Google.
Cydia is filing an anti-competitive lawsuit against Apple. Cydia, a third-party app store maker that houses jailbroken apps that often add functionality beyond what Apple allows, is suing Apple for anti-competitive means of destroying its rival app store. There are good examples of how disapproving third-party app stores on iOS may have been anti-competitive, but Cydia's lawsuit may not be. In its early days, the store distributed pirated apps, not just those that were outside of Apple's rules.

Expanded reality

Credit: Instagram

Instagram has partnered with museums in the United States and France, including Smithsonian, Palace of Versailles, and Le Grand Palais, Bring AR versions of their exhibits for the AR effect setup of his camera.
Snap is a partner of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art on a multi-year augmented reality project, "LACMA x Snapchat: Monumental Perspectives." The initiative will bring together local artists chosen by the museum to create site-specific Monuments and murals that can be viewed in AR in the Snapchat app.

E-commerce & grocery delivery

Credit: Instagram

Instagram starts shopping in Reels, its TikTok rival. The feature is now one of many ways users can video-shop, including Video in Feed, Stories, Live, and IGTV. The Facebook Pay Power Checkout for many sellers enables Instagram to generate revenue through transaction fees.
WhatsApp adds shopping carts to make shopping easier. Facebook's WhatsApp has added a new shopping feature that allows consumers to buy multiple items from one company and makes it easier for sellers to track orders.
DoorDash Shares Down 92% reaching up to $ 195.50 on their trading debut thereafter Raised $ 3.37 billion during IPO.
Ecommerce app price for going public between $ 22 and $ 24 per share with a valuation of up to $ 14 billion.


Robinhood loses thousands of day traders to Webull in China, reports Bloomberg. Founded by Alibaba alum Wang Anquan, Webull has increased the number of broker clients ten fold in 2020 to reach more than 2 million by offering free stock deals. Robinhood has 13 million by comparison. Webull is expected to throw off a round of US private investors and expand into roboadvisor services.


Credit: Phillip Faraone / Getty Images for WIRED25

Holiday home app Airbnb started trading public markets this week. After increasing its reach, the company opened Thursday at $ 146 per share, more than double its IPO price of $ 68 and valued at over $ 100 billion. The stock closed at nearly $ 145.
China's Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) announced it would ban 105 mobile apps for violating Chinese regulations. The majority of the apps were created by Chinese developers, but from the US-based travel booking and reviews website Tripadvisor was also on the prohibited list, which caused its stocks to fall. Tripadvisor works with the Nasdaq-listed Chinese travel company (formerly called Ctrip).

Social & Photos

Credit: Twitter

Snap and Twitter worked together to allow users to post their tweets through a on Snapchat native integration instead of screenshots. If Twitter users who are signed in to Snapchat now share a tweet using the Snapchat icon on the Twitter share sheet, they can share, respond, or comment on the post and then forward it to a Snapchat friend or a post on their story send. The function is in progress live on iOS with Android.
Triller says it can reach 250 million users through partnerships with Samsung and others. The app, which featured a pay-per-view boxing match between Mike Tyson and Roy Jones Jr. earlier this year, plans more events in 2021, including a concert with the K-pop group Blackpink.
A second federal judge ruled against the Trump administration's TikTok banand said the government "likely violated the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA) to impose restrictions under arbitrary and capricious agency action."
For the first time, Instagram has a partnership with the text site Genius on "Lyric Reels,"Kind of a variation on Spotify's" Behind the Lyrics "feature. With the addition, artists will break down the lyrics and meanings of their songs. Participants include Megan Thee Stallion, 24kGoldn and Tate McRae.
Tinder makes it easier to report bad actors who use "Unmatch" to hide from victims. Rival Bumble had done exactly the same. However, the implementation of Tinder only makes it clearer how to access the help documentation, while Bumble has included a button to report users who have not already reached you.
The photos from Google can now sync your "Like" pictures with the photos from Apple Service on iOS.

Streaming & entertainment

Netflix StreamFest, According to Sensor Tower, a free weekend trial in India increased the number of installations by 200% over the week and reached around 3.6 million installations worldwide.
Stitcher, recently acquired by SiriusXM, redesigned his app For the first time in years. The new version offers a dedicated My Podcasts tab, better search filters, sorting of results, user-curated groups of shows and much more.
HBO Max is the fastest growing SVOD in the US. According to Apptopia, the app hit a lifetime high for daily downloads of 225,000 three days after its debut. Since launching in May, DAUs have grown 242%.
Spotify had to reset an unknown number of user passwords After a software vulnerability, private account information was disclosed to his business partners, including "email address, your preferred display name, password, gender and date of birth".


Nike Run Club app adds Home screen Widgets for iOS 14+. The widgets can show your run level and post-run progress, making it easier to start your next run.


Google Drive users on iOS and Android will be able to see and re-run desktop and mobile searches; View and select smart choices as you type, including suggested people, previous searches, keywords, and recently accessed files.

Credit: Quiet

Calm meditation app brings in $ 75 million more at a valuation of $ 2 billion in a round led by former investor Lightspeed Venture Partners.
Twitter buys Video App Squad. (see above)
AI financial assistant Cleo raises $ 44 million Series B, led by EQT Ventures. The Gen Z app and chatbot connect to bank accounts for proactive advice and timely action.
The Mexican Challenger banking app, albo, brings in $ 45 million expand into credit and insurance products.
The Swedish MTG acquires the mobile racing game studio Hutch Gamesbased in London for up to $ 375 million. The studio produces titles such as Rebel Racing, F1 Manager and Top Drives.

The Freespira in Seattle brings in $ 10 million for his panic attack PTSD therapeutic device that works with a connected app and proprietary software.
Banking app for teenagers GoHenry raises $ 40 million Expansion of business in the USA and Great Britain.
The Fetch Rewards loyalty app brings in $ 80 million Series C under the direction of Iconiq Growth. The app offers rewards for users who scan their receipts after shopping.
Pear Therapeutics raises $ 80 million in a round led by SoftBank's Vision Fund 2. The company makes prescription apps for the treatment of substance use disorders, schizophrenia and multiple sclerosis. The FDA has already approved its treatments for substance abuse, opioid use, and insomnia.
Reface brings in $ 5.5 million on seed funding under the leadership of a16z for its virus exchange video app.

Google Health Studies

Credit: Google

Google is taking over Apple's research app with an alternative for Android users. The new Google Health Studies app works with leading research institutions who connect to study participants via the app. The first study is timely as it focuses on respiratory diseases such as flu and COVID-19. The study uses composite learning and analysis – a data protection technology that stores an individual's data on the device.

Google Look to Speak

Google launched Look to Speak, an accessibility-focused app that lets users use their eyes to select pre-written sentences that their phone should say out loud. To use the app, users need to look left, right, or up to select what to say from the phrase list and navigate the app. Look to Speak can also be personalized by allowing users to edit the words and phrases they want to say and adjust the look settings to suit their needs.

Retro widget

Credit: Retro widget 2

Playing from a home screen widget? The fun Retro Widget 2 ($ 1.99) has been updated to bring the classic Snake II game from old Nokia phones to the iPhone's home screen. The app contains five mazes and nine levels and lets you play Snake II with the 1, 3, 7 and 9 keys.


Barter is an app designed only for app developers. Barter, maker of the HomePass and HomeCam apps, offers app developers the option of displaying their app sales in a widget on iOS 14+ devices. The app does not contain any analysis or tracking beyond what Apple builds in to protect developer data. In the future, Pearce will expand the app, for example, to be able to display downloaded units, products and more. The current version was an MVP to see if Apple would allow the app to pass app review. As it passed it will be updated soon.