Welcome back to This Week in Apps, the 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 consumer spending in 2019. People now spend three hours and 40 minutes a day using apps, which rivals television. 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.
This week, Apple and Google announced their editorially curated lists of the best apps of the year, and Apple also revealed the most downloaded ones. Apple has also made a notable hiring for an App Store role and opened the anticipated App Store Small Business program to developers.
Best apps of the year
Both Apple and Google released their year-end “Best Apps of 2020” lists, and there were some similarities between the two and some differences. Both companies' lists reflected a difficult and stressful 2020, when everyone was stuck at home during a pandemic that changed the way we work, attended school, connected with friends and family, and entertained ourselves.
Apple and Google have therefore selected at least one stress-reliever app from their year-end winners. In Apple's case, it was Endel, an iOS app that was named Apple Watch App of the Year. However, Google has named the Loóna sleep app the best app of the year.
Disney + has created both Apple and Google lists, the former being Apple TV App of the Year and the latter being user picks for App of the Year. The new streaming service was a godsend for families with younger children who often struggled to keep the kids entertained in 2020. New releases like Onward and Mulan in 2020 gave families something to look forward to, while Marvel and Star Wars content, including the new series "The Mandalorian," was also a hit with streamers.
Another pandemic-triggered choice was Zoom, which was named iPad App of the Year. Although Zoom existed prior to the coronavirus outbreak, it is now part of our daily lexicon as an interchangeable term for "online video meetings" – as in "Let's Make a Zoom Call To This". The iPad app made those endless virtual meetings at least a little painless.
And home training companion wakeout! becomes Apple's iPhone App of the Year as most people quit the gym due to coronavirus risks. The app's short one-minute pauses helped users keep moving, even if they were stuck at home on the couch for days or working on their laptop in bed.
The Gacha-based action role-playing game Genshin Impact was named "Best Game" of the year on both Apple and Google lists. One cynical assumption is that the app stores wanted to alert users to a huge money maker – the game reportedly made $ 245 million in the first month and nearly $ 400 million in two months on mobile – but it also points out consumer desire for console-like experiences on mobile devices.
However, the game has been heavily criticized for its gacha monetization techniques, which while common in China, Japan, and South Korea, are essentially game mechanics. And addicting. As noted in a report by Wired, part of this is due to cultural differences. US users grew up playing cartridge games, not arcade games that kept you investing more money to keep playing. Western users are not that comfortable with this business model they consider predatory.
Apple's other top apps of the year included the perennial favorite Fantastical as Apple's Mac App of the Year. Legends of Runeterra as iPad Game of the Year; Disco Elysium Mac Game of the Year; Dandara Trials of Fear Apple TV Game of the Year; and Sneaky Sasquatch as Apple Arcade Game of the Year.
Also on Google's list was SpongeBob: Krusty Cook-Off as users' choice for best game. In a special section of the Play Store, various top titles in different gaming subgenres have been highlighted.
Most downloaded apps for 2020
Apple also gave an insight into the “best” apps of the year as determined by app downloads. The pandemic played a role here too, making Zoom the most downloaded iPhone app of 2020.
It's also noteworthy that TikTok was the largest social media app by downloads, ahead of any Facebook-owned apps on the list including Facebook, Instagram, and Messenger. Square's Cash app reached number 10 as the pandemic saw increased demand for contactless payments and direct donations to those in need.
The most downloaded apps and games of 2020 were as follows:
Top free iPhone apps
ZOOM cloud meetings
Top paid iPhone apps
Dark sky weather
AutoSleep Track Sleep
The miracle weeks
Top free iPhone games
Call of Duty: Mobile
Ink Inc. – tattoo drawing
Magic Tiles 3: playing the piano
Brain test: tricky puzzles
Top Paid iPhone Games
Grand Theft Auto San Andreas
The game of life
Top free iPad apps
ZOOM cloud meetings
Amazon Prime Video
Top paid iPad apps
Teach your monster
Toca hair salon 3
9: Toca Life: Hospital
Toca kitchen 2
Top free iPad games
Magic Tiles 3: playing the piano
Ink Inc. – tattoo drawing
Call of Duty: Mobile
Dancing Street: Color Ball Run!
Tile Hop – EDM Rush
Mario Kart Tour
Save the girl
Top Paid iPad Games
Bloons TD 6
The game of life
Five nights at Freddy's
Human: fall flat
Top arcade games
PAC-MAN Party Royale
SpongeBob: Patty Pursuit
Crossy Road Castle
What the hell?
Josh Elman joins Apple to focus on the App Store discovery
VC Josh Elman announced this week that he will be with Apple in a role helping customers "discover the best apps for them". In other words, app detection.
Elman's backgrounds include RealNetworks, LinkedIn, Zazzle, Facebook, and Twitter. He later switched to VC. Elman worked as a principal at the venture company Greylock in 2011 and was general partner until 2013. There he invested in SmartThings as well as in social networks like Musical.ly (now the massive No. 2 app of the year, TikTok), Nextdoor, Houseparty and Discord. He later moved to the fast-growing fintech startup Robinhood and now he's joining Apple.
Apple opens the registry in the App Store Small Business Program. The program reduces App Store commissions to 15% for qualified developers with sales less than $ 1 million.
Google announced The winter update of Android These include an expanded emoji kitchen in Gboard, automatic commentary for Google Play Book without comment, a "Go Tab" in Google Maps for frequent destinations, Android Auto, which will soon be available in more countries, support for app sharing with improvements in proximity and voice access.
Google launches the first version of Android Studio Arctic Fox (2020.3.1) on the Canarian Channel, together with the Android Gradle Plugin (AGP) version 7.0.0-alpha01. The release is also notable for moving to an annualized system that is more aligned with IntelliJ IDEA, the IDE on which Android Studio is based. In the future, the number scheme will work as follows:
Twitter now supports hardware security keys for iPhones and Android.
Google Authenticator app for iOS adds a dark theme and support for bulk transfers from 2FA accounts, which is helpful when switching between devices.
Google launches Android Enterprise Essentials, an MDM for SMBs To do this, their employees must use a lock screen and encryption to protect company data and can wipe devices remotely. It also prevents users from installing apps outside the Google Play Store through the Google Play Protect service.
ITelephones can now automatically recognize and label buttons and UI functions for blind users who use screen recognition in iOS 14.
The winter update of Androidwill also introduce a new version of Voice Access that will use ML to Understand interface names and buttons on devices.
Apps in the news
Google now lets everyone contribute tÖ Street View from Google Maps Use the Street View app and supported Android phone ARCore.
telegram is the first third party app to be used Apple announces news with Siri function for AirPods.
Google adds the messaging feature every iMessage user dreams of: the ability to Send schedule of news in google News app.
Reddit reveals DAUs for the first time: 52 million.
Google assistant can now reply to messages from WhatsApp, Google Voice and more.
Google Maps receives a Facebook-like news feed with business updates, local reviews, and more.
TikTok tests three minute long videos. (We don't need longer versions of the viral hits like M through B, however).
Triller claims 321 million downloads and 65 million MAUs. (Former employees have accused TikTok rival of increasing their numbers, which Triller denies.)
Evernote is introducing a redesign on Android. The updates include a new note editor, faster search, and improved navigation.
Google's app for learning the Grasshopper code is now available in Spanish.
Whatsapp Now users can make custom settings Wallpaper, adds doodle wallpapers in more colors and adds new stickers.
E-commerce app Desire accused of selling counterfeit products.
7-Eleven is expanding its app with its own mobile wallet To provide a contactless way for customers, including cash customers, to use their phone to pay in their stores.
Match's own dating app hinge Updates the design and adds an Outstanding feature to show users outstanding prompts and photo prompts from their best potential matches, and can respond with a new paid feature, Roses.
Quibi is really gone now.
App download rates have decreased by 4% since 2015, but active engagement has increased.
Usage of the messaging app increased by 13% (four years CAGR) and users spend 67% more time on messaging apps than on social media apps.
Messaging apps this offer privacy Functions see on average, 30% more active users as alternatives.
Q3 smartphone sales down 5.7% in the third quarter to 366 million.
Mobile shopping rose 25% to $ 3.6 billion on Black Friday.
US shopping app downloads on Black Friday hit a record 2.8 million per sensor tower or 2.7 million per app Annie. App Annie also said that Shopping Shopping app downloads exceeded 2.3 million on Thanksgiving and 2.1 million on Cyber Monday.
Walmart was the No. 1 US shopping app on Black Friday download followed by Amazon. On Cyber Monday this was also reversed via the Annie app.
In-app sales were 150% higher on Black Friday than the average of the last 30 days, says AppsFlyer.
App Store and Google Play Consumer spending was over $ 100 billion from January 1 to November 29, Says Sensor Tower.
Salesforce to buy Slack for $ 27.7 billion.
VSCO acquires the technology and the team from the AI-powered video editing app Trash to continue to enter the video market. The terms of the contract were not available, but Trash was supported with $ 3.3 million.
The Teen Banking App Step brings in $ 50 million. The app is The first startup investment from TikTok star Charli D’Amelio. Other investors were Lead Coatue; Return of investors from Stripe, Crosslink Capital, Collaborative Fund and Will Smiths Dreamers VC; and celebrity investors D & # 39; Amelio, Justin Timberlake and The Chainsmokers, Eli Manning, Kelvin Beachum, Larry Fitzgerald and Andre Iguodala.
Ivanti Acquired security companies, including Enterprise Mobile Security Firm MobileIron and corporate VPN provider Pulse Secure. Ivanti bought MobileIron for $ 872 million in stock.
Challenger from Great Britain Banking app Monzo adds £ 60 million in financing.
AR gaming startup Krikey raises undisclosed funds, including from Jio platforms. The company has raised $ 22 million to date.
Wellory raises $ 4.5 million for its anti-diet Nutrition app.
Airbnb going public with stocks between $ 44 and $ 50.
ESL App for kids Novakid raises $ 4.25 million.
The Salut virtual fitness app brings in $ 1.25 million.
Video app Super-duper, a TikTok for beauty products, increased $ 6.5 million.
Mental health app intellect Increases unknown lap under the guidance of Insignia VP.
We tried the Apple Watch Family setup with a tween. They weren't impressed with the apps or the controls, but they liked the Memoji. No Roblox group chat on the small screen? Boo.
If you find it too frustrating to use Apple's shortcuts to create your own custom icons, you can turn to Iconboard instead. With this relaunched app, you can design a style for your icons and apply it to all of your icons at once. You can even create invisible icons that you can use to place elements on your screen.
While I've enjoyed punk posts of custom designs, when I'm too lazy … um, I mean busy … to send my own handwritten notes and cards, Cardlet is ready to give my go-to app a run for the money give. Like punk post, Cardlet sends a real paper card on your behalf, but with a modern twist: the app offers a hidden AR experience that brings the card to life when viewed with the camera.
Some people don't trust to-do lists, reminders, or calendar notifications to always get the job done. If there's something we really need to remember, we stick it right on our home screen. (Okay, this may only appeal to a small niche of absent-minded users like me.) But if you've also designed your own temporary wallpaper in the past so you don't forget an overly critical appointment, the Android app Heynote, (hat tip to Android Police! ) could help. Instead of a widget or a reminder, this app allows you to put custom text as a custom wallpaper right on your home screen. Doctor Appt. at 11 o'clock? You can't forget if it's there every time you look at your phone.