Welcome again to This Week in Apps, the weekly TechCrunch sequence that recaps the newest in cellular OS information, cellular functions and the general app economic system.

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

Apps aren’t only a option to cross idle hours — they’re additionally a giant enterprise. In 2019, mobile-first firms had a mixed $544 billion valuation, 6.5x increased than these and not using a cellular focus. In 2020, buyers poured $73 billion in capital into cellular firms — a determine that’s up 27% year-over-year

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Android App Bundles are actually going to be required

This week Google introduced it is going to require new apps to be printed utilizing the Android App Bundle as of August 2021. The firm first launched the Android App Bundle commonplace, which replaces the APK, in May 2018 as a part of its trendy growth push. Since then, nearly all of the highest 1,000 apps and video games have converted to AABs together with these from firms like Adobe, Duolingo. Gameloft, Netflix, reBus, Rainy, and Twitter. Today, there are over 1 million apps utilizing AAB in manufacturing.

AABs clear up some issues with the growing older APK commonplace, significantly round bigger apps and video games. With AABs, builders don’t should create an APK that comprises all the things for each kind of Android machine. They provide a option to rapidly and extra effectively obtain the belongings wanted for a specific machine, and so they achieve this in a manner that focuses on getting the consumer or participant to the app or recreation’s content material as quick as doable.

But not everybody agrees the change is for the higher. Those who make the most of APK Hosting websites like APKMirror or APKPure to obtain and share apps fear that the shift to AAB is a option to pressure customers to make use of the Play Store as a substitute of options. Meanwhile, Epic Games founder and CEO Tim Sweeney — who’s taking up tech giants over their alleged app retailer monopolies with each lawsuits and lobbying — identified that the transfer away from the extra open APK commonplace is about locking customers into Google Play.

Consumer Spending on apps hits report $64.9B within the first half of the 12 months

Consumer spending in cellular apps hit a report $64.9 billion through the first half of 2021, in response to preliminary information from app retailer intelligence agency Sensor Tower. This determine represents a 24.8% enhance in spending seen throughout each the App Store and Google Play, in contrast with the year-ago interval. But whereas business consultants consider the accelerated shift to cellular fueled by the pandemic is a pattern that can proceed, it’s price noting that — regardless of the brand new report — the expansion fee for client spending has barely slowed, and the obtain development slowed extra dramatically.

From the primary half of 2019 to the primary half of 2020, client spending on cellular apps grew 28.4% from $40.5 billion to $52 billion, for comparability — slower than the 24.8% seen within the present interval.

Platforms: Apple

✨ Apple launched the general public betas of iOS 15, iPadOS 15 and watchOS 8. Although builders already had entry to early builds, this week was the primary time the general public may get their palms on Apple’s newest software program earlier than its official launch this fall. One of the largest adjustments in iOS 15 is the addition of “Focus” modes that give customers extra management over when and who can trouble them with calls, texts and notifications throughout totally different contexts — like work, driving, sleeping, and extra. Users may even acquire entry to SharePlay interactivity on FaceTime, iMessage enhancements, the power to FaceTime with Android mates by way of net hyperlinks, spatial audio, Live Text (which unlocks information out of your pictures), app privateness studies, and upgrades to most of Apple’s core apps, and extra.

Platforms: Google

✨Google is implementing stronger safety measures on Google Play developer accounts in an try and crack down on spam and different malicious apps. Previously, the corporate required solely an e-mail and telephone quantity to create a Google Play developer account. Now it is going to require an account kind (private or group), a contact title and bodily deal with, and it’ll require builders to confirm their e-mail and telephone quantity. Google says the adjustments will permit it to raised talk with builders and can assist to “make sure that every account is created by a real person with real contact details.” It’s additionally now mandating that customers of Google Play Console check in utilizing Google’s 2-Step Verification.

Samsung and Google previewed their wearable platform forward of the following Galaxy Watch launch. The two firms agreed to associate on wearables with a purpose to higher compete towards Apple Watch. At Mobile World Congress, Samsung confirmed off the primary machine to function the One UI Watch consumer expertise and the brand new unified platform inbuilt partnership with Google.

E-commerce

Instagram provides a brand new function that can permit companies within the U.S. to designate themselves as being Black-owned companies utilizing badges that seem on their profiles and on their product procuring pages. It may additionally be highlighted in locations just like the Shop tab, to assist extra potential prospects uncover the enterprise.

Walmart partnered with cellular couponing app Ibotta on a multi-year deal that can provide cash-back rewards to Walmart prospects that can be utilized on to prospects’ Walmart accounts, the place they can be utilized for future purchases. The presents can be made accessible on Walmart.com and contained in the Walmart cellular app.

Following Apple and Google’s lead, Shopify dropped App Store commissions. However, it’s dropping its minimize to 0% for the primary million, after which will solely take a 15% fee on “marginal” income above that $1 million. The change may enhance strain on different app shops to make additional changes to their fashions sooner or later.

Augmented Reality

Rakuten Viber has partnered with Snap to deliver augmented actuality Lenses from Snapchat to its personal Viber calling and messaging app. The over 30 Lenses can be constructed utilizing Snap’s artistic instruments, together with Bitmoji, Camera Kit, and Creative Kit and can provide AR-enabled messaging and pictures to Viber’s customers. The deal is one other instance of how Snap is rising its licensing enterprise for its AR and inventive instruments alongside the event of its personal social app.

Google’s Arts & Culture app created a brand new function referred to as Art Filter that enables everybody to study important items of artwork from world wide and put themselves inside well-known work utilizing AR. Google talked this week about its work with MediaPipe to make the most of their face mesh and 3D face rework tech to create customized results for every of the artifacts chosen.

Fintech

Venmo launched a brand new function that enables customers so as to add a “good and services” tag to funds despatched to non-public accounts to distinguish them from private transactions. The system is supposed to guard consumers and sellers, Venmo says. Buyers on these transactions can be eligible for Venmo’s Purchase Protection Program, however sellers are unable with the brand new charges related to the change as Venmo will now deduct 1.9% of the transaction plus 10 cents from the cash despatched to the vendor.

Intuit-owned finance and budgeting app Mint added the power to trace cryptocurrency investments throughout quite a lot of supported exchanges, together with Binance, BlockFi, Coinbase/Coinbase Pro, Gemini, Kraken, PayPal, and Robinhood. As a end result, the app shot to No. 12 total on the U.S. App Store on Wednesday and have become the No. 1 app within the Finance class, although it has since dropped in rating.

Social

TikTok is increasing its max video size to three minutes, up from 60 seconds, after testing this function publicly for a lot of months with a choose group of creators. The function will permit for extra long-form video content material, probably making TikTok much more of a menace to YouTube.

Pinterest bans weight reduction advertisements on its platform, changing into the primary main social platform to take this kind of motion. The firm says social media performs a task in selling dangerous magnificence requirements, and advertisements that glorify weight reduction contribute to an increase in disordered consuming behaviors relatively than wholesome habits.

Instagram is creating its personal model of Twitter’s Super Follow with “Exclusive Stories.” Instagram confirmed that the screenshots of an “Exclusive Stories” function not too long ago circulated throughout social media are from an inside prototype that’s now in growth, however not but being publicly examined. The function would permit creators to supply Stories that solely members (seemingly paying subscribers) would have the ability to see. These would seem on their profile in several colours and would show a message that their Story was just for members when others tried to view them. They may be saved as Highlights, and may’t be screenshot, in response to the leaks.

TikTok’s newest transparency report revealed the corporate eliminated 11,149,514 accounts in Q1 2021 for violating neighborhood pointers or phrases of service, which is fewer than 1% of complete accounts. Of these removals, 7,263,952 have been accounts belonging to kids beneath 13.

Trump and Parler reportedly mentioned a deal that will transfer the majority of Trump’s social media presence to the right-wing Twitter different, in response to New York Magazine. The deal would have seen Trump taking 40% of Parler’s revenues had it gone by way of. Parler was okay with the rev share, however wouldn’t ban Trump’s critics from the app, which scuttled the deal, the report stated.

Instagram is testing a function that will permit anybody to have the ability to share a hyperlink straight of their Stories by way of a linking sticker, which might work the identical manner the swipe-up hyperlinks at the moment do. The firm stated the take a look at is trying to perceive how many individuals would use hyperlinks, if accessible.

Twitter provided customers an opportunity to obtain one among seven free NFTs this week, which have been minted on Rarible in editions of 20, making for 140 NFTs (get it?) in complete. The NFTs have been provided to those that replied to a submit from the corporate’s foremost Twitter account, and will sign Twitter’s plans to put money into making NFTs extra part of its platform sooner or later.

Messaging

AT&T joined T-Mobile in switching its prospects to make use of the Android Messages app as their default cellular messages app for each SMS and RCS companies, making Verizon the one U.S. service that has not made a partnership cope with Google. RCS has lots of benefits over SMS, together with no character limits, the power to ship bigger information, typing indicators, higher group chat, Wi-Fi assist and end-to-end encryption for one-on-one group chats. This makes it a extra compelling different to Apple’s iMessage, however it requires service adoption.

Audio chat involves the office as Slack this week launched a brand new audio instrument referred to as Slack Huddles that enables customers to have real-time conversations with colleagues in Slack’s app as a substitute of typing. The firm additionally provided extra particulars about an upcoming function that enables customers to go away video messages and it confirmed off an upgraded worker listing. The video messages instrument is being piloted whereas the listing is at the moment accessible to a restricted variety of Business + and Enterprise Grid prospects.

The U.Ok. issued steering to messaging apps working within the nation to not use end-to-end encryption on kids’s accounts, asking firms to contemplate the dangers that e2e poses to youthful customers, because it makes it tougher to determine unlawful and dangerous content material that takes place on non-public channels. A authorities spokesperson confused that there’s a option to implement robust encryption in a manner that’s in step with public security. Privacy activists disagree with this stance.

Telegram rolled out group video calls to its cellular and desktop apps after initially promising the function was coming again in April 2020. The firm says group video calls are restricted to as much as 30 folks however it plans to extend that restrict sooner or later.

WhatsApp is testing a redesigned voice message function that can present quick waveforms when the consumer is recording the message. After recording, the consumer can cease and hearken to their message earlier than sending it, too.

Dating

Dating app Bumble is planning to open its first cafe in New York later this month. The launch was initially deliberate for 2019, however was delayed as a result of pandemic. The new venue, Bumble Brew, is being enabled by a partnership between the courting app maker and Italian restaurant Pasquale Jones. Decked out in Bumble’s yellow, the brand new cafe will open subsequent to the restaurant, to supply a spot for daters to fulfill for both espresso, cocktails or a meal.

Streaming & Entertainment

Netflix customers on Android gadgets will now have the ability to begin streaming titles which have solely partially downloaded, which may assist in the state of affairs the place you’ve forgotten to obtain your favourite reveals earlier than boarding a airplane. Before, till the obtain accomplished, you couldn’t watch any portion of the video in any respect.

Chinese TikTok rival Kuaishou and Tencent acquired the short-form rights to the upcoming Tokyo and 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics from state broadcaster CCTV. This makes the app the primary short-form and livestreaming platform globally to turn out to be an official broadcaster of the Olympics.

Amazon Music Unlimited is giving subscribers as much as six months of Disney+ without spending a dime (or three for present subscribers). Disney’s isn’t the primary to bundle a streaming cope with music. Hulu and Spotify had as soon as executed the identical.

Spotify launched its Spotify Audience Network advert market to advertisers and Megaphone publishers in Australia, Canada and the U.Ok., following its U.S. launch in February. The market lets advertisers purchase audio advertisements on and off the Spotify platform.

Gaming

Microsoft’s Xbox division introduced the enlargement of its Designed for Xbox cellular gaming equipment to iOS alongside the launch of the Xbox Cloud Gaming beta changing into accessible to Xbox Game Pass Ultimate members on Windows 10 PCs and Apple telephones and tablets by way of the net browser at xbox.com/play.

As a part of the equipment program enlargement, the Backbone cellular controller joined the Designed for Xbox household with the Backbone One for Xbox, which helps all iPhones working iOS 13 or later. It additionally added OtterBox Power Swap Controller Batteries, a battery pack suitable with Xbox consoles, Android and iPhone gadgets.

Health & Fitness

Google introduced this week an replace to its Passes API which can permit builders to construct performance into their web sites and apps to export COVID-19 take a look at and vaccination data to a digital format that may be saved both within the Google Pay app or straight on the customers homescreen as a shortcut. The API will solely be open to builders at healthcare organizations, authorities companies, and different organizations licensed by public well being authorities, initially within the U.S.

Travel

App Annie spots indicators of a pandemic restoration in its Q2 2021 report, noting particularly a rebound in journey apps. The agency discovered that month-to-month hours spent in Travel and Navigations apps are on an upward pattern in markets just like the U.S. and the U.Ok., the place the rollout of vaccinations has been robust. South Korea is seeing a good higher restoration, as time spent in journey apps has surpassed pre-pandemic ranges. Travel apps in Brazil, France and India, nonetheless, haven’t but reached pre-pandemic ranges.

Drones

Alphabet’s Wing launched a free app within the U.S. referred to as OpenSky geared toward each business and leisure drone pilots. The app reveals pilots the place it’s okay to fly utilizing color-coded maps with greens, yellows and reds. It additionally permits pilots to submit requests to fly in managed airspaces and obtain close to real-time authorizations. This function works in a whole lot of airspaces. The app had beforehand been accessible in Australia solely.

Education

Facebook is launching an academic app referred to as Sabee in Nigeria, which is the primary of the corporate’s new efforts to extra straight goal the nation, and finally, the African continent, with new cellular merchandise. The app is being printed by the corporate’s NPE Team, an inside R&D incubator, which had targeted on new social experiences till now.

Security & Privacy

Twitter users now have the option to make use of safety keys as their solely type of two-factor authentication (2FA), which the corporate notes is the best option to hold your Twitter account safe. Twitter has provided the choice to make use of safety keys as one among its 2FA choices since 2018. However, this preliminary assist solely labored for Twitter.com, not the cellular app, and required customers to have one other type of 2FA enabled, too.

💰 Tapcart, a “Shopify for mobile apps,” raises $50 million Series B led by Left Lane Capital. The firm presents a drag-and-drop builder that enables anybody to create a cellular app for his or her present Shopify retailer and talk with prospects by way of push. Shopify was among the many collaborating buyers.

💰 BreezoMeter, an iPhone app that measures air high quality, raises a $30 million Series C led by Fortissimo Capital, bringing its complete increase thus far to $45 million. The firm makes use of AI and machine studying to assemble and perceive information from a number of sources, together with greater than 47,000 sensors worldwide.

💰Istanbul-based Dream Games raised $155 million Series at a $1 billion valuation in a spherical co-led by Index Ventures and Makers Fund. The cellular puzzle recreation developer is finest identified for Royal Match, which has 6M MAUs and $20M/month in income.

💰Apple and Snap associate Jigspace, “the Canva for 3D,” raised $4.7 million Series A in a spherical led by Rampersand. The free JigSpace app lets anybody mix presets and templates of 3D-modeled objects to create their very own “Jigs” (fashions). The app has over 4 million customers on the App Store.

💰South Korea edtech app maker Mathpresso raised $50 million in Series C funding from GGV Capital, Yellowdog, Goodwater Capital, and KDB. The service is utilized by over 9.8M customers

📈 Robinhood information for its IPO. Earlier within the week, Robinhood agreed to pay $70 million in fines and restitution as a part of its settlement with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority over offering prospects with “false or misleading information. The SEC, however, is still investigating the trading halt related to GameStop and other meme stocks. Robinhood has 18M accounts and $80B in assets. It will trade under “HOOD” on the Nasdaq.

💰 Women’s social networking app Peanut launches a microfund referred to as StartHER to start investing in early, pre-seed stage startups led by girls or different traditionally excluded teams.

🤝 Social media app LYKA, targeted on Southeast Asia, inked a cope with music-streaming expertise firm Tuned Global to combine an immersive music-streaming service straight inside its app. The partnership will permit LYKA to offer on-demand streaming of music, video, and podcasts to the app’s customers.

📈 Chinese m-commerce app Dingdong made a small acquire throughout this week’s IPO, with shares that closed at $23.52, up 2 cents from its provide value, on its first day of buying and selling. The app permits prospects to purchase contemporary produce, meat, seafood and different every day requirements.

💰 Vietnamese funding app Infina raised $2 million in seed funding for its Robinhood-like app launched in January 2021, which now has some 500,000 buying and selling accounts.

🤝 Gaming chat app Discord acquired AR startup Ubiquity6, which had raised $37.5 million in funding from high buyers together with Benchmark, First Round, Kleiner Perkins and Google’s Gradient Ventures. The startup had not too long ago deserted a few of its tasks, indicating it might have been struggling to search out traction. Deal phrases weren’t disclosed.

📈 Edtech unicorn Duolingo filed to go public following 129% income development in 2020. The 400-person firm had $161.7 million in income in 2020 and had not too long ago turned worthwhile.

💰 Family app Life360 introduced a $2.1 million funding spherical from celebs and influencers who will now assist to advise the corporate on new options and assist with product advertising and marketing. The spherical was led by Bryant Stibel, the agency co-founded by the late Kobe Bryant and enterprise associate Jeff Stibel. Other buyers included Vanessa Bryant, Joanna and Chip Gaines, Tony Hawk, Chris and Jada Paul, TikTok influencer Billy Perry, and Nicole and Michael Phelps. Life360 at the moment trades on the ASX.

💰Age of Learning, the creator of childhood training app ABCmouse, raised $300 million in a brand new spherical of funding led by TPG. The new funding greater than doubled the corporate’s valuation to $3 billion. The firm says it is going to use the funds to speed up worldwide enlargement and the event of its subsequent era of apps.

💰Exercise and company wellness app Gympass raised $220 million in Series E funding. The Brazil-based app noticed a report 4 million month-to-month check-ins throughout its community of greater than 50,000 international companions in May.

💰Digital greeting card app Givingli raised $3 million in seed funding in a spherical led by Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian’s Seven Seven Six. The app goals to modernize the digital greeting card enterprise for Gen Z customers and monetizes by way of a $3.99 monthly premium subscription and reward card gross sales. Snap additionally invested within the spherical after earlier partnering with the startup on a Snap Mini app.

💰Buzzer, a dwell sports activities app, raised $20 million in Series A funding from quite a lot of sports activities and leisure backers, together with Michael Jordan, Naomi Osaka, Patrick Mahomes and others.

Brickit

Image Credits: Brickit

The new Brickit cellular app is a Lego fan’s dream and a formidable use of laptop imaginative and prescient expertise. The app is ready to rapidly analyze a pile of Legos to determine which bricks you may have in your assortment. It then serves up some tasks the place you may have all, or not less than most of, the bricks you must construct. The course of could be very quick, too — the app is sensible of a whole lot of bricks in your pile inside simply seconds. Brickit doesn’t come from Lego straight, nonetheless, which limits a few of its capabilities by way of integrating with Lego’s bigger library of directions. But, in time, it is going to seemingly generate some information on the Lego collections customers have at residence which may make it an attention-grabbing acquisition goal for Lego, along with the tech itself.

Three Weeks with iOS and iPadOS 15: Foundational Updates by Federico Viticci for iMore. An awesome in-depth evaluate and evaluation of what’s new with Apple’s newest software program replace.

 

 



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