This week in apps: Apple's massive occasion, Lidar hits iPhone, Android will get a brand new IDE


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 introduces four new iPhones (and more)

Apple This week the iPhone event took place, where the new iPhone 12 … and the iPhone 12 mini, the iPhone 12 Pro and the iPhone 12 Pro Max were presented. This closed all market gaps. With the release of the four new iPhones, app developers can build a range of devices, from small to very large. With the 12 Pro Max, for example, the iPhone's largest screen to date with the highest resolution of almost 3.5 M pixels is introduced.

Of course, it also includes serious improvements to the camera, from the redesign of the three-lens system to the inclusion of a new, deeper telephoto camera, which is now 65mm instead of 52mm as on previous models. There is also an improved wide-angle lens, a larger sensor, additional image stabilization at the sensor level and a revised night mode. Photographers will also appreciate the new Apple ProRAW format. (More on this here).

The iPhone 12 mini is designed to cater to the customer base who prefer a smaller phone like the iPhone SE without sacrificing functionality.

All devices have some key features including 5G connectivity, the new MagSafe connector for wireless charging and clip-on magnetic accessories, OLED displays and the A14 chip. They also look more classic, with straight edges that allow for additional antennas and provide next-generation wireless connectivity.

However, one of the bigger differences between the Pro models and the regular iPhone 12 is the LiDAR scanner, which is also included in the latest iPad Pro. The scanner measures how long it takes for the light to reach an object and reflect back. The new depth sensing technology is having a big impact on AR as augmented reality objects can interact with objects in the real world. AR apps also become more user-friendly as they don't have to scan the room first to place the AR object in the real world. It can be placed immediately.

Apple uses the sensor for the iPhone 12 Pro camera to provide up to 6 times faster focus in poor lighting conditions. Developers can leverage lidar for use cases like AR-enabled games that work in the real world, social media (like Snapchat's new lidar lens), home design and enhancement apps with room scans and spatial layout planning (like JigSpace). , better AR shopping experiences, and more.

The company also announced an affordable version of its HomePod smart speaker, the HomePod Mini for $ 99. The Element works best for users who are completely trapped in the Apple universe, as it will stream a handful of music services, but not one of the most popular – Spotify. However, Apple also introduced a nifty feature for the HomePod device intercom that lets you send announcements through the speakers. While Apple and Google offered a similar feature for their smart speakers, Intercom works on other Apple devices too, including the iPhone, iPod, AirPods, and even CarPlay. (What, not a Mac?)

If Apple isn't too late to gain market share for smart speakers, more users could be using smart home devices that can be voice-controlled through the HomePod Mini.

During the event, Apple also subtly sniffed Epic's Fortnite by announcing that
League of Legends: Wild Rift will be coming to the iPhone 12 to take advantage of the new 5G features and the A14 Bionic chip.


Lidar is coming to the iPhone 12 Pro. Developers can now create AR experiences that interact with real objects, and AR apps can now instantly place AR objects in the real world without scanning the room. The update means a huge improvement in the usability of AR apps, but it's limited to the Pro model of the iPhone for now. Snapchat is already using it.
Apple developers can now pre-order their apps even earlier – up to 180 days before publication in the App Store.
Android Studio 4.1 will start. The new stable version of the IDE for building Android apps has better TensorFlow Lite support and a new database inspector. The team fixed a whopping 2,370 bugs and closed 275 public issues during this release cycle.
Google introduces the Android for Cars library. Now in open beta, the library provides developers with tools to design, develop, and test new navigation, parking, or charging apps for Android Auto. The Google Play Store will be activated for the release of beta apps in the "coming months".
Google no longer sells music. The company no longer sells tracks and albums on the Play Store and is focused entirely on YouTube Music. The latter was also just released on the Apple Watch this week.


Forecast for shopping apps. According to a prediction by App Annie, US consumers should spend 60 million hours in Android shopping apps during Prime Day week (which just ended).
Prime Day downloads are growing. Sensor Tower estimates that worldwide installs of the Amazon app increased 23% year over year to 684,000 as Prime Day approached. The installs on Wednesday rose 33% to 750,000. However, US installations were down 22%. 10 / 13-10 / 14. Apptopia found that the number of app sessions increased by 27% year-on-year.
Shopping, eating & drinking app starts increased by more than 50% compared to the previous year. According to Sensor Tower, shopping apps grew 52%, while food & drink apps grew 60% due to the effects of COVID-19.
Subscriptions. U.S. consumers spend $ 20.78 per month on app subscriptions. Adapt study says.
Impact of TikTok Sale on the Advertising Industry. 73% of marketers said a TikTok sale in the US would have an impact on their advertising plans for 2021. 41% also believed the deal could overtake Walmart in e-commerce.
Amazon extends AR experiments to its boxes. The retailer launched a new AR application that works with QR codes on the company's shipping cartons to create “interactive, shareable” AR experiences like a pumpkin coming to life.


Robinhood said a "limited number" of the user accounts had been hacked. The service itself was not hacked, but around 2,000 customers had accounts compromised by cyber criminals who first compromised users' personal emails outside of the trading app.

Other news

The new event platform from Zoom offers apps to video conference calls.
The Messenger update brings new functions, including cross-app communication with Instagram. The app has fun features like chat topics, custom reactions, and soon selfie stickers and vanish mode. The bigger news, however, is the (potentially anti-competitive) merging of Facebook's chat platforms.
Life360 takes advantage of the complaints of TikTok teenagers to start a dialogue and invent a new feature, "Bubbles", that allows teenagers (or others) to share a generalized location instead of an exact one. The feature gives teenagers a little more freedom to move around and make decisions without as much parental control. Meanwhile, parents can still be sure that their teen is safe as features such as emergency SOS and crash warnings remain functional.
Must read: The MacStories iOS and iPadOS 14 Review. Federico Viticci offers a 23-page glimpse into the latest version of Apple's mobile operating system.

Future raises $ 24 million in Series B. for its $ 150 a month workout coaching app amid a home fitness boom. The app combines users with real fitness coaching for personal training at home. The round was led by Trustbridge Partners with the participation of Caffeinated Capital and Kleiner Perkins, Series A investors.
River brings in $ 10.4 million for its app, which features news, events, and other happenings from across the web, from news from top publishers to sports to notable tweets. The app presents the information in a real-time stream that is vertically browsed. There is also a "For You" page, similar to TikTok.
Roblox filed in confidential with the SEC to go public. This cross-platform gaming platform boomed during the coronavirus lockdown. According to reports, the listing could double Robox's $ 4 billion valuation.
Robo Adviser Wealthsimple raises $ 87 million. Funding for the Robinhood comparisons investment app was led by Technology Crossover Ventures (TCV) of Menlo Park, which valued the deal at $ 1 billion.
The fitness platform playbook brings in $ 9.3 million. The company offers tools for personal trainers who want to create their own videos that consumers then browse in the Playbook mobile app. Supporters are, Michael Ovitz, Abstract, Algae Ventures, Porsche Ventures and FJ Labs.
Moment House live streaming app brings in $ 1.5 million. The startup aims to recreate live events in a digital format. LA area investors invested, including Scooter Braun, Troy Carter, Kygos Palm Tree Crew, and Jared Leto. Patreon CEO Jack Conte and Sequoia Capital partner Jess Lee also attended.
Twilio to acquire segment for $ 3.2 billion to help developers build data-driven apps.
The Kahoot e-learning platform raises $ 215 million at SoftBank. The Norwegian startup claims to have added 1.3 billion "participating players" in the past 12 months. The company's gamified e-learning platform is used in both schools and corporate environments.


Mycons is a new app that makes it easier for users, including non-designers, to create and purchase custom icons for their iOS home screen makeovers. In the "Icon Studio" of the app, users can create icons by swapping the background, selecting an icon and placing it on the icon accordingly. You can also create a number of symbols in a batch export. If you don't feel like designing your own, you can buy pre-made packages instead.

The app is a free download with a one-time in-app purchase to unlock the full functionality of the icon designer. The icon packs, which contain different variations and matching background images, cost between $ 7.99 and $ 9.99.

The new iOS 14 widget from Spotify

Credit: TechCrunch screenshot of the Spotify widget

It is here! The widget that some people have been waiting for since the new version of iOS launched.

The widget that is included in the latest version of the Spotify iOS app comes in two sizes. The smaller widget only shows your most recently listened to, while the medium-sized widget instead shows the five most recent items – four in a horizontal row and the most recent at the top. In that case, you can actually tap on the little thumbnail for which of the five you want to stream now to be taken straight to that page in the Spotify app. The widget also automatically updates its background color to match the thumbnail.