This Week in Apps: 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 collection that recaps the most recent in cell OS information, cell purposes and the general app economic system.

The app trade continues to develop, with a file 218 billion downloads and $143 billion in world client spend in 2020. Shoppers final yr 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. At present, 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 solution to cross idle hours — they’re additionally a giant enterprise. In 2019, mobile-first corporations had a mixed $544 billion valuation, 6.5x larger than these with no cell focus. In 2020, traders poured $73 billion in capital into cell corporations — a determine that’s up 27% yr over yr.

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Google Play updates its insurance policies

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

Extra attention-grabbing, maybe, to the bigger group of respectable Android builders is that this week’s unveiling of the UI for the upcoming Google Play security part and the accompanying app labels. The labels will operate because the Android counterpart to the app “vitamin labels” the Apple App Retailer not too long ago launched. Google is giving builders loads of time to get used to the thought 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.

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

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

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

Google additionally reminded builders 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 promoting ID is eliminated and changed with a string of zeros. The change, nonetheless, is a phased rollout, affecting apps operating on Android 12 units beginning late 2021 and increasing to all apps operating on units that help Google Play in early 2022.

Google additionally stated it’s going to take a look at a brand new function that notifies builders and advert/analytics service suppliers of person opt-out preferences and is prohibiting linking persistent gadget identifiers to private and delicate person knowledge or resettable gadget identifiers. Children apps will even not be capable of transmit an advert ID.

One other coverage replace contains a plan to shut dormant accounts. Google says if the account is inactive or deserted after a yr, it is going to be closed. It will embrace accounts the place the developer has by no means uploaded an app or accessed Google Play Console in a yr.

Instruments to construct accessible experiences will 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 among the points that arose from this variation. It re-added a Share button to the tab bar and put further 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 a substitute of the brand new compact expertise.

Elon Musk sides with Epic Video games

Elon Musk sided with Fortnite maker Epic Video games within the Apple App Retailer antitrust lawsuit, because the Tesla CEO tweeted on Friday that Apple’s App Retailer charges have been “a de facto world tax on the Web.” The lawsuit alleges Apple is abusing its platform energy with the way it commissions apps and in-app purchases on its App Retailer platform — charges that add as much as huge numbers for a recreation like Fortnite, which arguably doesn’t want an App Retailer for discovery, advertising, funds and distribution. However there’s no different solution to promote to iOS customers at the moment. On Android, apps can at the least be sideloaded. It’s not presently clear why Musk has determined to take a stand on the problem, as none of his corporations’ apps are dramatically impacted by Apple’s charges at current.

Different Platform Information (Apple & Google)

Apple introduced plans to finish help for a quantity of SiriKit intents and instructions, together with those who may affect main apps — like ride-sharing app Uber. In complete, there are over 20 SiriKit intent domains that will probably be deprecated and now not supported in new and current OS releases, Apple says.

Apple tweaked the controversial iOS 15 Safari adjustments within the newest betas (iOS 15 and iPadOS 15, beta 4). The brand 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 succeed in however critics stated that the change made different usually used options — just like the reload button or Reader Mode — more durable to search out and use, impacting the general usability of the browser itself.

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

Google additionally introduced the provision of the CarHardwareManager API through the Android for Automobiles App Library as a part of Jetpack.


Twitter launched a U.S. e-commerce pilot take a look at that can assist decide the present urge for food for on-line purchasing on its platform. The take a look at permits manufacturers and companies to function a “Store Module” with varied merchandise on the market on the high of their Skilled Profile, a business-friendly model of a profile web page with help for issues like an tackle, hours, telephone quantity and extra. Customers can click on on the Store Module to go to a retail web site and transact. Early testers embrace Sport Cease 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 actually compete with one thing like Instagram Store or Shopify’s Store and the built-in, native checkout expertise these sorts of app presents.


Fintech large Robinhood raised $2.1 billion in its IPO this week. The IPO valued the buying and selling app at $31.Eight billion, making it bigger that conventional rivals like Charles Schwab, despite the fact that the providing priced on the backside of its vary. The inventory dropped 8% throughout its first day’s buying and selling, nonetheless. Robinhood now has 21.Three million MAUs.

PayPal throughout its second-quarter earnings name introduced its new “tremendous app” is now code-complete and able to roll out. The app will function early direct deposit, test cashing, excessive yield financial savings, budgeting instruments, improved invoice pay, crypto help, 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 exterior of the funds course of.

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


Instagram introduced a collection of serious adjustments to the way it handles the accounts of youthful teenagers. The corporate says it’s going to now default customers to non-public 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 should additionally push current customers underneath 16 to modify their account to non-public in the event that they haven’t already accomplished so. As well as, Instagram is rolling out new expertise 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 adjustments give the corporate a solution 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 replace to its dwell audio platform, Twitter Areas, that can make it simpler to share the audio room with others. Customers will be capable of compose a tweet proper from the House 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 individuals from logging in on Thursday. In contrast to 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 Locations” function 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 individuals you already know and belief: your pals.

Instagram added help for 60-second movies to its TikTok clone, Reels. Beforehand, solely Reels of as much as 30 seconds have been supported. Sixty seconds is in step with different platforms like YouTube Shorts and Snapchat’s Highlight. However TikTok is now inching into YouTube territory, because it not too long ago expanded to help three-minute movies.

TikTok expanded its LIVE platform with an enormous lineup of recent options together with the flexibility 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 Occasions, however the function is now increasing. In the meantime, 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 brand new function, Threads, which can make it simpler to learn by means of longer conversations on busy servers. Now, any server with “Group” options enabled will be capable of rework their messages into threaded conversations throughout cell and desktop. The threads will probably be designated by their very own topic identify and may be created by choosing a brand 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. Regardless of beating on estimates with income of $613.2 million and earnings per share of 25 cents, traders have been disenchanted by the miss on person development. The corporate reported month-to-month lively person development of simply 9% to succeed in 454 million, when analysts have been anticipating 482 million. Pinterest blamed COVID impacts for the slowdown. The information follows Pinterest’s launch of recent instruments for creators to monetize their content material, with Concepts Pins — the not too long ago launched video-first format that lets creators exhibit their work. Now, creators could make their pins “shoppable” and take commissions on these purchases.


WhatsApp is testing help for larger picture add high quality on iOS units. The function was found on WhatsApp’s TestFlight model for iOS however is just not but public and presents three choices: auto, very best quality or knowledge saver.

Streaming & Entertainment

Spotify’s Clubhouse clone, Greenroom, is off to a sluggish begin. The app has solely 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. In the meantime, Spotify has 365 million month-to-month lively 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 succeed in 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 gives customized 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 Fb and Instagram to addict customers, which may affect person engagement time on Spotify’s app.

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

Google TV’s cell app was up to date with new providers and customized suggestions, following final fall’s launch of the Google TV person expertise for Chromecast units. The app now sports activities 16:9 widescreen film and present posters, and added new suppliers Discovery+, Viki, Cartoon Community, PBS Children, Boomerang, plus on-demand content material from dwell TV providers, together with YouTube TV, Philo and fuboTV.


Epic Video games introduced 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 stated is what the Rift Tour is, past a “musical journey into magical new realities” that can function a “record-breaking famous person.”

Well being & Health

Fb’s Oculus division is exploring an integration of Oculus Exercises with Apple’s Well being app, in keeping with the app’s code. An integration would enable customers to retailer their exercise knowledge in Well being.


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

Google Voice’s app was up to date with a couple of refinements, together with a solution to see the rationale for a missed name or dropped name, and a straightforward solution 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. One other change will enable customers to delete a number of SMS messages directly.


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


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 allows you to faucet on a button to talk to the digital assistant and challenge instructions. Be careful Siri! (Ha, simply kidding.)

Google Maps additionally up to date its iOS app this week to add help for a homescreen widget. There are two totally different widgets sizes to select from — one that offers data like climate and site 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”Swap to Android” app for iOS customers that can copy over knowledge and apps from an iPhone to deliver them to a brand new Android gadget. Apple already presents an identical app, referred to as “Transfer to iOS” for Android customers.


Parking app utilization has popped to pre-pandemic ranges, Apptopia reported. Apps on this area assist customers discover availability in heaps and garages close by and facilitate funds. Searching 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 built-in 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 USA, South America, Australia and Europe.

Authorities & Coverage

Tencent’s WeChat suspended new person registrations in China to adjust to “related legal guidelines and rules.” The transfer comes amid a broad crackdown on tech corporations by Chinese language regulators, associated to knowledge assortment and different dangerous practices.

Not too long ago, China ordered Tencent and 13 different builders to repair issues associated to pop-ups inside their apps, as a part of the tech crackdown. The regulator additionally stated it could tighten controls on deceptive and specific content material used for advertising, and issued fines for offensive content material to Tencent, Kuaishou and Alibaba.

Safety & Privateness

Apple launched patches for iOS, iPadOS and macOS to handle a zero-day vulnerability that had been exploited within the wild. Apple stated the exploit may exploit the vulnerability generally known as CVE-2021-30807 to execute arbitrary code with kernel privileges on a weak and unpatched gadget.

Google Play Shield failed an Android safety take a look at, in keeping with a report from Bleeping Laptop. The cell risk 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 Fb co-founder Eduardo Saverin, and included new investor Silver Lake Waterman, alongside current backers. Pendo’s platform helps corporations collect knowledge on how clients use their apps, together with shoppers like Okta, Toast and others.

🤝 Twitter “acqui-hired” the staff from subscription information app, Transient, who will now be part of Twitter’s group, which works on Twitter Areas and Discover. Transient had supplied a non-biased information app that allowed you to get either side of a narrative and all the mandatory information. Deal phrases weren’t disclosed.

💰 Supply app Gopuff confirmed its $1 billion fundraise at a $15 billion valuation, aimed toward increasing its on the spot supply service. TechCrunch beforehand reported the information when the Collection 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.

💰 Cell-first digital pockets Valora native to the Celo community raised $20 million in Collection 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 presents 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 Collection 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.

💰 Mind Applied sciences raised $50+ million for Pure, 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 embrace Laurene Powell Jobs’ Emerson Collective, Goodwater Capital, Scott Cook dinner and WTT Funding.

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

💰 Indonesia-based grocery app HappyFresh raised $65 million in Collection D funding in a spherical led by Naver Monetary Company and Gafina B.V. The app presents an Instacart-like grocery supply service for components of Asia, which at the moment operates in Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand.

💰 Indian D2C magnificence model MyGlamm, which sells merchandise by means of an app and web site, raised $71.Three million in Collection C financing, from Amazon, Ascent Capital and Wipro.


Picture Credit: Nanogram

Developer Kosta Eleftheriou could have taken on Apple in authorized battles and on Twitter, as he factors out the quite a few app scams on the App Retailer, 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 without having an iPhone connection. Eleftheriou stated he was impressed to construct Nanogram as a result of he wished a Telegram app for his LTE Apple Watch and didn’t just like the official model that didn’t present “fundamental and dependable messaging performance.” So he constructed his personal app from scratch utilizing the Telegram SDK, which lets you ship, obtain and consider all of your messages and notifications proper out of your wrist — even in case 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 info and requires an Apple Watch Collection Three or later, operating watchOS 7 or later.

Lightricks’ Videoleap for Android

Picture Credit: Lightricks

After seeing a 70% yearly enhance for its iOS model, Lightricks introduced its Videoleap app to the Google Play Retailer. The app has grown widespread with on-line creators for providing skilled high quality enhancing instruments on cell, together with these that allow you to apply inventive results, combine movies with pictures, add textual content and layer transformations and extra. The corporate says Videoleap customers at the moment are 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 the use of in-app subscriptions.


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