This Week In Apps: Conservative Apps Rise, Instagram Redesigned, TikTok Goes Spooky

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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.

The Trump administration is backing away from the TikTok ban

(Photo by AaronP / Bauer-Griffin / GC Images)

The Trump administration seemed to have forgotten it banned the TikTok app in the US, as the president this week instead focused on sowing doubts about the integrity of the US election – which the Department of Homeland Security is currently calling the "safest in American history". "Speaking of which.

The Trump administration's inaction demonstrated what many suspected all along: that the TikTok ban was largely performative.

Earlier this week, TikTok went public with the fact that it had not heard of its ban in weeks, despite having a November 12 deadline to dispose of its U.S. assets. The company filed a motion for the DC Circuit in the U.S. Court of Appeals on Tuesday, demanding a review of the measures by CFIUS (Trump's Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S.).

TikTok had previously asked for an extension, but never heard of it, it said.

Or, as the winning headline put it, courtesy of The Verge, "TikTok says the Trump administration forgot to ban it and wants to know what's going on."

In a statement, TikTok said:

“For a year now, TikTok has been working in good faith with CFIUS to address its national security concerns, even if we disagree with its assessment. In the nearly two months since the President tentatively agreed to our proposal to address these concerns, we have offered detailed solutions to conclude this agreement, but have received no significant feedback on our comprehensive privacy and security framework.

In the face of constant new inquiries and a lack of clarity as to whether our proposed solutions will be accepted, we have requested the 30-day extension which is expressly allowed in the August 14 order. Today, with the November 12th CFIUS deadline imminent and with no extension, we have no choice but to file a motion to court to defend our rights and those of our 1,500+ employees in the United States. We continue to seek to work with the administration to resolve the issues they have raised. However, our legal challenge today is to ensure that these discussions can take place. "

After receiving the reminder Thursday, the Commerce Department said it would not enforce the order requiring TikTok to close, citing an injunction against the closure last month due to the lawsuit brought by TikTok stars who claimed that the app's closure would affect its ability to generate an income. However, it also appealed the same judgment, which added further confusion.

The question now is how the incoming Biden administration will proceed in relation to the Trump TikTok ban. Although Biden has criticized Trump's policies on China, the concern about TikTok was one that was supported by both parties. Biden even said during a campaign freeze in September it was worrying that a Chinese operation would gain access to over 100 million young people in the US.

Election results put conservative apps on the charts

After a nerve-wracking week of election results that turned into political chaos as Trump built his base to believe unsubstantiated fraud allegations, some right-wing Trump supporters turned to alternative social media and news apps.

In the top charts of the App Store, which are determined among other things by a combination of downloads and speed, a number of new alternative apps were soon presented, which were topped by the free speech network Parler and were in first place. (It has since declined thanks to Walmart's Black Friday sales, which drove the retailer's app to # 1.)

Credit: Screenshot from the App Store

According to one estimate, Parler had 980,000 downloads from November 3-8. Other apps also benefited from the election drama, including the social network MeWe (now # 10 on the list of the best free apps for the iPhone in the US and the right-wing news network) Newsmax TV (# 7).

Unlike Facebook and Twitter, which are increasingly using fact-checking services to flag false allegations behind an additional click or, in extreme cases, to hide them, alternative apps do not. But they are by no means neutral platforms. For example, Team Trump's verified account was among those that automatically welcomed new Parler users. Right-wing politicians like Senator Ted Cruz and Representative Devin Nunes, as well as other conservative figures, have also settled with Parler.

As a result, the community is one-sided. Users post to reaffirm their beliefs among those who are largely the same as they are. And since Parler does not use fact-checking to combat misinformation and conspiracy theories, it has already been targeted by its own conspiracy theory. A Photoshopping image from a Fox News ticker caused confusion at Parler this week, as the modified image claimed George Soros owned the social network. The conspiracy had caught enough resonance that Parler founder John Matze had to post that it wasn't true. But Parler's true origins and ownership are still being debated.

It is unclear to what extent the conservative apps represent a new wave of social media with long-term persistence, as any relative newcomer to this area will ultimately still have to compete with very large networks like the 2 billion users of Facebook. Although Twitter is smaller than Facebook, Twitter's 330 million monthly active users are still much larger than Parler's monthly active user base of about 4 million (active users make up about half of registered users, that's now 8 million) .

Larger platforms have resources that contain more than just the basics of running the servers. And to date, this has resulted in the deaths of numerous other potential Facebook rivals. The few apps that are reaching a growing number these days are the ones that reach the majority of younger mainstream users like TikTok and Snapchat.

Regardless of your political leanings, we can all agree that this week has been busy:

Instagram redesign

Credit: Instagram

Instagram this week put its TikTok competitor Reels at the center of a revamped version of its app by giving it the center position on its new navigation bar. The update also replaced the Activity tab (heart icon) with the Shop tab after a test changed that aspect of the app's home screen earlier this summer. And it has revised the camera interface and abolished the IGTV button.

In the redesigned app, both the Compose button and the Activity tab have been moved to the top right of the Home screen, while the middle middle button now belongs to Roles.

Credit: Instagram

The redesign is an aggressive attempt by Instagram to direct users to the short-form video feed Reels, which so far has only had a lukewarm response from reviewers who have labeled it stale, with no effects, and with yet another post on Instagram bloating.

The changes were also a big step in making the Instagram app an online shopping destination at a critical time for the e-commerce market. The coronavirus pandemic accelerated the transition to e-commerce by at least five years, according to some analysts. That means any plans Instagram had to become a major player in online commerce were also only accelerated.

Both steps signal a company that is concerned about the potential impact of TikTok on the long-term future of its business. TikTok is projected to reach more than 1.2 billion monthly active users in 2021. As the recent partnership with Shopify in social commerce shows, TikTok could soon be a new home for social commerce too.

Platforms

Apple stated at its Mac event that its new Apple Silicon Macs could run iOS apps. The news was first announced at WWDC but is now officially rolling out with Big Sur and the new Macs. Apple showed apps between us and HBO Max during a demo, but it's unclear if others are allowed to unsubscribe.
Apple's TestFlight The beta test app now supports automatic updates. Last but not least!
iOS 14.3 and iPadOS 14.3 Beta 1 releases have arrived.
Android added support for PyTorch for AI processing on the device.
Epic Games scores a point in the App Store litigation via in-app purchase fees. A judge dismissed Apple's allegations that Epic's actions were wrong, reducing the potential risk of its lawsuit and limiting Apple's counterclaims to breach of contract. (Punitive damages have not yet been discussed.)
Apple suggests third-party apps during setupwith iOS 14.3 according to the details in the app code. This appears to apply to compliance with local laws in select countries where antitrust issues are an issue.
The program recommended by Android Enterprise adds Samsung and others. Launched in 2018, the program helps corporate customers evaluate and approve devices that meet Google's requirements for hardware, software and updates. This change puts Samsung Galaxy devices and others on the fold.
It's time to vote for the "Best of 2020" from Google Play. You have until November 23rd to vote to select the winners of the Google user selection.

security

Zoom chose FTC after making misleading safety claims. The company claimed its video calls were protected by "end-to-end" encryption that made it impossible for anyone, including Zoom, to listen. This was not true, as Zoom retained the cryptographic keys that it could use to access the content of the customer conversations.

Apps in the news

Credit: Facebook

Facebook is copying Snapchat again. Messenger and Instagram have a new "Disappearance Mode" feature that lets you make messages disappear from a conversation. The upgrade to Instagram is just part of the big messaging update that brings the inbox together with Facebook.
Apple took action against iOS terminal apps. a-Shell and iSH, two terminal apps popular with developers, were blocked from the App Store because they… drum roll… execute scripts. Oh come on Apple. iSH appealed and was returned to the App Store. a-Shell has also appealed. Apple finally apologized.
No more free space for your Google Photos. Google It was announced this week that all of your photo uploads will now count towards the 15 GB of free space on your Google Account. Get ready to pay for Google One.
TikTok extends the functions for collecting donations. The company has already allowed users to collect donations from donation stickers. Now you can do this directly from your profile too.
The Disney + app has more than 100 million downloads worldwideAccording to Apptopia data, 62% are from the US.
TikTok is set to lead the 1.2B MAUs by 2021according to App Annie's forecast.
Bumble's new feature prevents bad actors from using Unmatch to avoid being reported for harassment and other issues. The change came after reports from victims of harassment and crime, including rape, who were unable to report their perpetrators for failing to reach their victims.
Zynga saw sales grow 46% in Q3 2020$ 503 million, a 53% increase in DAUs to $ 31 million, and a 23% increase in MAUs to $ 83 million.

Trends

Credit: Netflix / TechCrunch

Netflix is ​​trying a TikTok-like feature. Netflix is ​​experimenting with a full-screen vertical video feed of comedy clips. The company says the goal is to help users discover new shows and add them to their watchlist.
The US election increased mental wellbeing app installs by 30%. According to data from the sensor tower, the installations of the five most important meditation apps (Calm, Headspace, Pray.com, Breethe and Insight Timer) increased by 30% from week to week between November 3rd and 5th compared to October 27 until October 29th.
App Annie 2021 forecast: Remote business apps (e.g. Zoom) are expected to have an average annual growth rate (CAGR) of 57% and remote learning apps are expected to grow 62% in 2021. The total time spent on mobile banking and finance apps will exceed 31 billion hours annually in 2021, which corresponds to a four-year annual growth rate of 35%. Fitness and e-commerce will also grow by + 23% and + 40%, respectively.
Chinese e-commerce platforms are playing the singles day. the world's largest shopping festival to keep consumers in their apps longer. Friends can join each other's teams for even bigger deals. However, some people criticize.

JumpCloud brings in $ 75 million in Series E funding for its cloud directory and Apple MDM extension
Nigeria's Kuda raises $ 10 million to be the Mobile First Challenger Bank for Africa.
Food delivery app and website DoorDash submitted to go public. The company has raised $ 2.5 billion to date.
Truebill personal finance app brings in $ 17 million. The app and website help users track down subscriptions they no longer want to pay for, negotiate to cut bills, and more.

HBO's "His Dark Materials: My Daemon"

In collaboration with the creative studio Framestore, HBO has developed a new iOS and Apple Watch app that fans of the show “His Dark Materials” can use to interact with their own “demons” – the magical animal companions that serve to expand the souls of the characters , TechCrunch reports. The app uses AR to allow the demon to interact with the world around you.

NightWare for Apple Watch treats PTSD

Credit: NightWare

The FDA approved an Apple Watch app for the treatment of PTSD. The NightWare app is only available by prescription and uses Apple Watch sensors to track body movements and heart rate while you sleep and create a profile. When a PTSD nightmare is detected, the watch will vibrate to disrupt the user's sleep and get them out.

OmniFocus launches iOS 14 widgets

Credit: OmniFocus

The OmniFocus productivity app launched new iOS 14 widgets this week, including a forecast widget with a calendar view for today and the days ahead, and a perspective items widget with a list of upcoming items in a perspective of your choice. The widgets are available in small, medium and large sizes and their font size can be adjusted.