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Instagram restricts teens’ accounts, Elon Musk criticizes App Store fees, Google Play’s new policies – TechCrunch


Welcome again to This Week in Apps, the weekly TechCrunch series that recaps the most recent in cell OS information, cell purposes and the general app financial system.

The app business continues to develop, with a record 218 billion downloads and $143 billion in world client spend in 2020. Consumers final 12 months additionally spent 3.5 trillion minutes utilizing apps on Android units alone. And within the U.S., app utilization surged forward of the time spent watching dwell TV. Currently, the common American watches 3.7 hours of dwell TV per day, however now spends 4 hours per day on their cell units.

Apps aren’t only a technique to go idle hours — they’re additionally a giant enterprise. In 2019, mobile-first corporations had a combined $544 billion valuation, 6.5x larger than these with no cell focus. In 2020, buyers poured $73 billion in capital into cell corporations — a determine that’s up 27% 12 months over 12 months.

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Google Play updates its policies

Did you hear the one about Google Play banning sugar daddy courting apps? Google this week up to date its terms to clarify that apps the place customers supply intercourse acts in trade for cash, or “sugar dating,” as the new terms state, are now not allowed as of September 1, 2021.

More attention-grabbing, maybe, to the bigger group of professional Android builders is that this week’s unveiling of the UI for the upcoming Google Play safety section and the accompanying app labels. The labels will perform because the Android counterpart to the app “nutrition labels” the Apple App Store just lately launched. Google is giving builders loads of time to get used to the concept of elevated transparency and disclosure, by providing an in depth timeline of when it expects builders to have their privateness label submissions prepared. By April 2022, all builders might want to declare particular data and have a privateness coverage.

Developers must speak in confidence to customers whether or not their app makes use of safety practices like information encryption, whether or not it follows Google Play’s Families coverage for apps aimed toward children, whether or not customers have a selection in information sharing, whether or not the app’s security part had been verified by a 3rd get together, and if the app allowed customers to request information deletion on the time of uninstalling, amongst different issues.

Apps that don’t disclose received’t be capable to record or replace till the issues are fastened.

The security part wasn’t the one Google Play coverage information to be introduced this week.

Google additionally reminded developers that it was making a technical change to how promoting IDs work. Now, when customers choose out of interest-based promoting or adverts personalization, their advertising ID is eliminated and changed with a string of zeros. The change, nevertheless, is a phased rollout, affecting apps operating on Android 12 units beginning late 2021 and increasing to all apps operating on units that assist Google Play in early 2022.

Google additionally mentioned it would take a look at a new function that notifies builders and advert/analytics service suppliers of consumer opt-out preferences and is prohibiting linking persistent device identifiers to non-public and delicate consumer information or resettable gadget identifiers. Kids apps may even not be capable to transmit an advert ID.

Another policy update includes a plan to shut dormant accounts. Google says if the account is inactive or deserted after a 12 months, will probably be closed. This will embody accounts the place the developer has by no means uploaded an app or accessed Google Play Console in a 12 months.

Tools to construct accessible experiences may even be locked down, as Google is including new necessities on how AccessibilityService API and IsAccessibilityTool can be utilized.

Apple tries to repair the Safari mess

In response to suggestions and complaints, Apple is clearly attempting to repair a number of the points that arose from this transformation. It re-added a Share button to the tab bar and put extra controls underneath that menu. There’s additionally as soon as once more a reload button within the tab bar subsequent to the area identify, although it’s a bit smaller, and a Reader Mode button will seem within the tab bar when Reader is offered

On iPad, Safari additionally reverted again to the standard separate row of tabs, as an alternative of the new compact expertise.

Elon Musk sides with Epic Games

Elon Musk sided with Fortnite maker Epic Games within the Apple App Store antitrust lawsuit, because the Tesla CEO tweeted on Friday that Apple’s App Store charges had been “a de facto global tax on the Internet.” The lawsuit alleges Apple is abusing its platform energy with the way it commissions apps and in-app purchases on its App Store platform — charges that add as much as massive numbers for a sport like Fortnite, which arguably doesn’t want an App Store for discovery, advertising and marketing, funds and distribution. But there’s no different technique to promote to iOS customers right now. On Android, apps can a minimum of be sideloaded. It’s not presently clear why Musk has determined to take a stand on the difficulty, as none of his corporations’ apps are dramatically impacted by Apple’s charges at current.

Other Platform News (Apple & Google)

Apple announced plans to end support for a number of SiriEquipment intents and instructions, together with those who might influence main apps — like ride-sharing app Uber. In complete, there are over 20 SiriEquipment intent domains that will likely be deprecated and now not supported in new and current OS releases, Apple says.

Apple tweaked the controversial iOS 15 Safari modifications within the latest betas (iOS 15 and iPadOS 15, beta 4). The new Safari design had moved the tab bar (URL bar) to the underside of the display screen — a reasonably radical change for one of many iPhone’s most used apps. It was meant to make the controls simpler to achieve however critics mentioned that the change made different usually used options — just like the reload button or Reader Mode — tougher to search out and use, impacting the general usability of the browser itself.

Google this week launched model 1.0 of Jetpack Compose, Android’s new, native UI toolkit aimed toward serving to builders construct higher apps sooner. The instrument had been in beta since March. The new manufacturing launch is constructed to combine with the Jetpack libraries builders already use, and affords an implementation of Material Design parts and theming. New features include Compose Preview and Deploy Preview, which require Android Studio Arctic Fox, which can also be out now in a secure launch.

Google additionally announced the supply of the AutomotiveHardwareManager API through the Android for Cars App Library as a part of Jetpack.

E-commerce

Twitter launched a U.S. e-commerce pilot test that can assist decide the present urge for food for online procuring on its platform. The take a look at permits manufacturers and companies to function a “Shop Module” with varied merchandise on the market on the prime of their Professional Profile, a business-friendly model of a profile web page with assist for issues like an tackle, hours, telephone quantity and extra. Users can click on on the Shop Module to go to a retail web site and transact. Early testers embody Game Stop and Arden Cove. The function itself is considerably naked bones for now, because it’s actually simply a picture that launches an in-app browser. That’s not sufficient to essentially compete with one thing like Instagram Shop or Shopify’s Shop and the built-in, native checkout expertise these sorts of app affords.

Fintech

Fintech large Robinhood raised $2.1 billion in its IPO this week. The IPO valued the buying and selling app at $31.8 billion, making it bigger that conventional rivals like Charles Schwab, although the providing priced on the backside of its vary. The inventory dropped 8% throughout its first day’s buying and selling, nevertheless. Robinhood now has 21.3 million MAUs.

PayPal throughout its second-quarter earnings name announced its new “super app” is now code-complete and able to roll out. The app will function early direct deposit, examine cashing, excessive yield financial savings, budgeting instruments, improved invoice pay, crypto assist, subscription administration, purchase now, pay later performance, cell commerce, and person-to-person messaging options. The latter hadn’t but been introduced and would enable customers to speak outdoors of the funds course of.

Code present in Apple’s Wallet app signifies that iOS 15 will require users to confirm their identities by taking a selfie after they add their driver’s license or different state identification card to the iPhone.

Social

Instagram announced a collection of great modifications to the way it handles the accounts of youthful teenagers. The firm says it would now default customers to personal accounts at sign-up in the event that they’re underneath the age of 16  — or underneath 18 in sure locales, together with within the EU. It may even push current customers underneath 16 to modify their account to personal in the event that they haven’t already carried out so. In addition, Instagram is rolling out new know-how aimed toward lowering undesirable contact from adults — like those that have already been blocked or reported by different teenagers — and it’ll change how advertisers can attain its teenage viewers. The modifications give the corporate a technique to argue to regulators that it’s able to self-policing because it makes an attempt to roll out a model of Instagram to youthful customers underneath the age of 13.

Twitter rolls out an update to its dwell audio platform, Twitter Spaces, that can make it simpler to share the audio room with others. Users will be capable to compose a tweet proper from the Space that hyperlinks to the room and contains any accompanying hashtags. iOS customers additionally acquired new visitor administration controls for hosts.

Snapchat resolved an outage that was stopping folks from logging in on Thursday. Unlike different app blips, which repair themselves usually with out customers’ consciousness, Snap advised customers to manually replace their app if the problems continued.

Snapchat additionally this week added a “My Places” feature to Snap Map, which permits customers to log their favourite spots, share them with buddies and discover suggestions. The function helps over 30 million companies and permits Snap to distinguish its map from a utility like Google Maps or Apple Maps, as a result of it’s about private suggestions from folks you already know and belief: your pals.

Instagram added support for 60-second movies to its TikTok clone, Reels. Previously, solely Reels of as much as 30 seconds had been supported. Sixty seconds is consistent with different platforms like YouTube Shorts and Snapchat’s Spotlight. But TikTok is now inching into YouTube territory, because it just lately expanded to assist three-minute movies.

TikTok expanded its LIVE platform with an enormous lineup of new options together with the power to go dwell with others, host Q&As, use moderators and improved key phrase filters, and extra. For viewers, TikTok is including new discovery and viewing instruments, together with picture-in-picture mode and methods to leap to LIVE streams from the For You and Following feeds. Some markets, together with the U.S. already had entry to LIVE Events, however the function is now increasing. Meanwhile, the co-host function presently helps going dwell with one different creator, however TikTok says it’s now testing a number of hosts.

Discord launched a new feature, Threads, which can make it simpler to learn by means of longer conversations on busy servers. Now, any server with “Community” options enabled will be capable to remodel their messages into threaded conversations throughout cell and desktop. The threads will likely be designated by their very own topic identify and might be created by choosing a new hashtag image that seems within the menu when hovering over messages or by urgent the + signal within the chat bar.

Pinterest shares dropped by greater than 12% after the corporate reported its second-quarter earnings on Thursday. Despite beating on estimates with income of $613.2 million and earnings per share of 25 cents, buyers had been dissatisfied by the miss on consumer progress. The firm reported month-to-month energetic consumer progress of simply 9% to achieve 454 million, when analysts had been anticipating 482 million. Pinterest blamed COVID impacts for the slowdown. The information follows Pinterest’s launch of new tools for creators to monetize their content, with Ideas Pins — the just lately launched video-first format that lets creators showcase their work. Now, creators could make their pins “shoppable” and take commissions on these purchases.

Messaging

WhatsApp is testing support for larger picture add high quality on iOS units. The function was found on WhatsApp’s TestFlight model for iOS however shouldn’t be but public and affords three choices: auto, very best quality or information saver.

Streaming & Entertainment

Spotify’s Clubhouse clone, Greenroom, is off to a gradual begin. The app has only been downloaded 140,000+ occasions on iOS and 100,000+ on Android, together with installs from its earlier life as Locker Room, an app that Spotify acquired to maneuver into dwell audio. Meanwhile, Spotify has 365 million month-to-month energetic customers on its flagship streaming app.

Spotify additionally reported its Q2 earnings this week, the place it posted a $23.6 million loss and failed to achieve its forecast for complete MAUs, regardless of rising MAUs 22% YOY to 365 million. It now has 165 million paying subscribers, which is up 20% YOY.

In a change to its app, Spotify added an attention-grabbing “What’s New” feed that provides personalised updates about new releases and new podcast episodes. The function is offered by means of a notification bell icon and makes use of a blue dot to point when there’s one thing new to see. Dots like this are a psychological hacks popularized by social apps like Facebook and Instagram to addict customers, which might influence consumer engagement time on Spotify’s app.

Apple’s GarageBand app for iOS and iPadOS now lets you remix tracks from prime artists and producers like Dua Lipa and Lady Gaga. There are additionally new Producer Packs with beats, loops and devices created for GarageBand by prime producers, together with Boys Noize, Mark Lettieri, Oak Felder, Soulection, Take A Daytrip, Tom Misch and TRAKGIRL.

Google TV’s cell app was updated with new companies and personalised suggestions, following final fall’s launch of the Google TV consumer expertise for Chromecast units. The app now sports activities 16:9 widescreen film and present posters, and added new suppliers Discovery+, Viki, Cartoon Network, PBS Kids, Boomerang, plus on-demand content material from dwell TV companies, together with YouTube TV, Philo and fuboTV.

Gaming

Epic Games announced that Fortnite will host one other in-game occasion it’s calling the “Rift Tour,” which kicks off Friday, August 6 and runs by means of Sunday, August 8. What it hasn’t but mentioned is what the Rift Tour is, past a “musical journey into magical new realities” that can function a “record-breaking superstar.”

Health & Fitness

Facebook’s Oculus division is exploring an integration of Oculus Workouts with Apple’s Health app, in response to the app’s code. An integration would enable customers to retailer their exercise information in Health.

Productivity

Usage of cell video conferencing apps like Zoom grew by 150% within the first half of 2021, in response to a report from Sensor Tower. Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Google Meet noticed a surge in utilization, collectively climbing to just about 21x larger than in H1 2019, the agency discovered.

Google Voice’s app was updated with a few refinements, together with a technique to see the rationale for a missed name or dropped name, and a simple technique to redial. iOS customers can now present their Google Voice quantity as their caller ID after they get a calling by means of a forwarding quantity. Another change will enable customers to delete a number of SMS messages without delay.

Edtech

Language studying app Duolingo raised $521 million in its U.S. IPO, priced above the marketed vary. The firm priced 5.1 million shared at $102, after first advertising and marketing them at $95 to $100.

Utilities

Amazon this week rolled out an replace to its Alexa iOS app that enables customers to add an Alexa widget to their iOS homescreen. The widget permits you to faucet on a button to talk to the digital assistant and problem instructions. Watch out Siri! (Ha, simply kidding.)

Google Maps additionally up to date its iOS app this week to add support for a homescreen widget. There are two totally different widgets sizes to select from — one that provides data like climate and visitors, whereas one other is extra of a shortcut to close by locations like fuel stations, eating places, work and residential.

Google is engaged on a”Switch to Android” app for iOS customers that can copy over information and apps from an iPhone to carry them to a new Android gadget. Apple already affords an analogous app, known as “Move to iOS” for Android customers.

Transportation

Parking app utilization has popped to pre-pandemic ranges, Apptopia reported. Apps on this area assist customers discover availability in tons and garages close by and facilitate funds. Browsing time in apps was up 57% YOY in July, and total parking app utilization is now 6.2% above Jan. 2020 pre-pandemic ranges.

Moovit integrated Lime’s electrical scooters, bikes and mopeds into its transit-planning app that’s dwell in 117 cities throughout 20 international locations and continents, together with the United States, South America, Australia and Europe.

Government & Policy

Tencent’s WeChat suspended new consumer registrations in China to adjust to “relevant laws and regulations.” The transfer comes amid a broad crackdown on tech corporations by Chinese regulators, associated to information assortment and different dangerous practices.

Recently, China ordered Tencent and 13 other developers to repair issues associated to pop-ups inside their apps, as a part of the tech crackdown. The regulator additionally mentioned it will tighten controls on deceptive and specific content material used for advertising and marketing, and issued fines for offensive content material to Tencent, Kuaishou and Alibaba.

Security & Privacy

Apple released patches for iOS, iPadOS and macOS to handle a zero-day vulnerability that had been exploited within the wild. Apple mentioned the exploit might exploit the vulnerability often called CVE-2021-30807 to execute arbitrary code with kernel privileges on a weak and unpatched gadget.

Google Play Protect failed an Android safety take a look at, in response to a report from Bleeping Computer. The cell menace safety answer ranked final out of 15 Android safety apps examined over a span of six months, between January to June 2021.

💰 Product insights and analytics startup Pendo raised $150 million at a $2.6 billion valuation, forward of its anticipated IPO. The spherical was led by B Capital, the agency from Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin, and included new investor Silver Lake Waterman, alongside current backers. Pendo’s platform helps corporations collect information on how clients use their apps, together with shoppers like Okta, Toast and others.

🤝 Twitter “acqui-hired” the workforce from subscription information app, Brief, who will now be part of Twitter’s Experience.org group, which works on Twitter Spaces and Explore. Brief had provided a non-biased information app that allowed you to get either side of a narrative and all the mandatory info. Deal phrases weren’t disclosed.

💰 Delivery app Gopuff confirmed its $1 billion fundraise at a $15 billion valuation, aimed toward increasing its instantaneous supply service. TechCrunch beforehand reported the information when the Series H was nonetheless being closed.

💰 Indian journey app Ixigo raised $53 million (Rs 395 crore), prepping the enterprise for a valuation of $750 million-$800 million for its upcoming IPO. The spherical was led by Singapore sovereign wealth fund GIC.

💰 Mobile-first digital pockets Valora native to the Celo community raised $20 million in Series A funding led by Andreessen Horowitz (a16z), a Celo backer, to develop into a world gateway to crypto.

💰 Crypto pockets firm Eco, backed by a16z, raised $60 million in new funding led by Activant Capital and L Catterton. Eco affords a digital pockets with rewards and no charges, and has common deposits of round $6,000.

💰 Search API startup Algolia, which lets builders combine real-time search in apps or web sites, raised $150 million in Series D funding, valuing the enterprise at $2.25 billion, post-money. The spherical was led by Lone Pine Capital. Algolia now has over 10,000 clients, together with Slack, Stripe, Medium, Zendesk and Lacoste.

💰 Brain Technologies raised $50+ million for Natural, a pure language search engine and tremendous app for iOS, which desires customers to cease switching between apps to order meals, groceries or buy groceries. Backers embody Laurene Powell Jobs’ Emerson Collective, Goodwater Capital, Scott Cook and WTT Investment.

💰 Messaging app Element, constructed on the decentralized Matrix protocol, raised $30 million in a Series B spherical of funding. Investors embody open-source R&D lab Protocol Labs and Metaplanet. a fund from Skype co-founder Jaan Tallinn, in addition to previous buyers Automattic and Notion.

💰 Indonesia-based grocery app HappyFresh raised $65 million in Series D funding in a spherical led by Naver Financial Corporation and Gafina B.V. The app affords an Instacart-like grocery supply service for components of Asia, which right now operates in Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand.

💰 Indian D2C magnificence model MyGlamm, which sells merchandise by means of an app and web site, raised $71.3 million in Series C financing, from Amazon, Ascent Capital and Wipro.

Nanogram

Nanogram

Image Credits: Nanogram

Developer Kosta Eleftheriou might have taken on Apple in authorized battles and on Twitter, as he factors out the quite a few app scams on the App Store, however that hasn’t stopped him from constructing new apps.

This week, Eleftheriou launched Nanogram, a Telegram consumer app that works on the Apple Watch with no need an iPhone connection. Eleftheriou mentioned he was impressed to construct Nanogram as a result of he needed a Telegram app for his LTE Apple Watch and didn’t just like the official model that didn’t present “basic and reliable messaging functionality.” So he constructed his personal app from scratch utilizing the Telegram SDK, which lets you ship, obtain and examine all of your messages and notifications proper out of your wrist — even should you don’t have your telephone close by. The app additionally helps Eleftheriou’s FlickType Swipe Keyboard for sooner replies whereas on the go.

Eleftheriou notes the app doesn’t acquire any private information and requires an Apple Watch Series 3 or later, operating watchOS 7 or later.

Lightricks’ Videoleap for Android

Screen Shot 2021 07 30 at 4.52.59 PM

Image Credits: Lightricks

After seeing a 70% yearly improve for its iOS model, Lightricks introduced its Videoleap app to the Google Play Store. The app has grown standard with online creators for providing skilled high quality enhancing instruments on cell, together with these that allow you to apply creative results, combine movies with photos, add textual content and layer transformations and extra. The firm says Videoleap customers are actually creating 35 million items of content material per 30 days, and 47% of customers are exporting their creations to TikTok in pursuit of monetizing their content material additional. The app, like others from Lightricks (which additionally makes FaceTune and others), monetizes by means of in-app subscriptions.

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