Welcome back to This Week in Apps, the theinformationsuperhighway series * that summarizes the latest operating system news, the applications they support, and the money flowing through it all.
With 204 billion downloads and $ 120 billion in spending in 2019, the app industry is hotter than ever. People now spend three hours and 40 minutes a day on apps, which rivals television. Apps aren't just a way to spend idle time – they're big business. In 2019, mobile-first companies had an overall valuation of $ 544 billion, 6.5 times higher than companies with no mobile focus.
In this series, we help you keep up to date with the latest news from the world of apps that are delivered weekly.
* This week in Apps was previously only available to Extra Crunch subscribers. We are now making these reports available to all theinformationsuperhighway readers.
Let's dive in
Top story: Apple doubles on the right to save 30%
Ahead of Apple CEO Tim Cook's testimony before the congress, Apple turned to the press again on Thursday to defend itself against allegations of anti-competitive practices in its app store.
Last month, the company detailed the results of a commissioned study that shows that Apple hasn't cut sales in most App Store transactions – $ 519 billion in retail. This time, Apple is promoting the results of another study by the same group of analysts to show how similar the commission rate for Apple's app store is to that of other app stores and digital content marketplaces.
In the study, the 30% commission of the App Store is compared in detail with all other online and offline forms of storefronts. This includes other app stores, game stores, e-commerce marketplaces, digital platforms and even brick-and-mortar retail. Apple's conclusion is that it does nothing else than the others. So what's the big deal?
Of course, this misses the point. The antitrust issues related to Apple's App Store are not about whether Apple charges more than other digital marketplaces. It's about whether this commission structure hinders competition given Apple's size, wealth, and power.
As the indie developer Brent Simmons (from NetNewsWire) said this week, the cut limits developers' ability to hire and retain talent.
For an app in the app store, this may mean that you can cut prices or hire a designer or a few young developers. It could be the difference whether you leave an app or get into a virtuous circle where the app thrives.
Quality costs money, and profitability is just a simple arithmetic: anything that affects income – like Apple's cut – goes into this equation.
To put it concretely, the difference between 30% and something sensible like 10% would likely have meant that some of my friends would still have their jobs at Omni, and Omni would have more resources to make, test, and support apps.
Apple's opening of "Find My" to third parties is not as nice as it seems
Apple announced at WWDC 2020 that third-party developers like Tile could use Apple's Find My technology platform to find lost items and devices that weren't Apple-made. The move was intended to address Tile's ongoing complaints and statements against US antitrust investigators that Apple favored its first-party services at the expense of competitors' companies.
Tile was particularly concerned about Apple's plans to announce a direct competitor, AirTags, who could use Find My technology at a deeper level. The move might have wiped out Tile's business with a better product – at least from a consumer perspective.
The Washington Post reported this week that Apple's opening of Find My is not the olive branch, it seems. The release acquired the 50-page confidential agreement that all developers would have to sign, indicating that the way this integration works is severely limited. For example, Apple customers who use Find My to find a device cannot use competing services at the same time, the document says. This is an unusual limitation – and one that manufacturers of Bluetooth devices and smart home products don't have to agree to for their own products.
Amazon turns Alexa into a mobile app launcher
How often do you think Amazon is kneeling because of its smartphone bugs? Since the company was unable to compete directly on the cell phone, it finds a different perspective through Alexa. Amazon announced a number of new developer tools for its virtual Alexa Assistant this week, including one that the digital helper can use to launch iOS and Android apps using voice commands.
For example, you could say things like "Alexa, start recording a TikTok" or "Alexa, please Twitter to search for #BLM".
It is unclear how many developers would take on a single function, except for those that already offer one of the most popular Alexa skills. After all, Siri and Google Assistant can already start and control your apps.
While Amazon probably hopes that Alexa’s bond with the world of mobile apps could give him the impetus to build his own app ecosystem, consumers seem to have largely preferred Alexa for first-party activities such as playing music. Listen to messages, control the smart home, ask random questions, create lists, set reminders and much more.
However, the move could suggest that Amazon is considering building a mobile app ecosystem for its Alexa devices with a screen, such as upcoming versions of its Echo Show.
Apple releases beta 3 builds of iOS 14, iPadOS 14
Testers received their third set of iOS 14 developer betas this week as the software approaches the autumn launch date. Aside from the usual bug fixes and performance improvements, only minor changes were noticed this time. This includes a new music app icon, a widget, and the ability to share music with Snapchat. a new widget from the Clock app; a new popup on organizing the home screen explaining how to hide pages; a new popup when you use widgets for the first time; an updated design for Memoji masks; and more.
Facebook takes over Zoom with its latest Messenger Rooms update
Facebook announced a new feature this week that will hopefully help Zoom's dominance in web conferencing resulting from the pandemic better. The company has updated its group call platform in Messenger Rooms to support the ability to send live broadcast calls to platforms such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitch – a step that effectively combines Facebook's live streaming capabilities with group video chat . Facebook reversed the feature in a relatively short amount of time, since it's only been a few months since Zoom really started. This shows that Facebook understands the threat of online chat and socializing when leaving its platform.
The aim of the new addition is to simplify the transfer to social platforms and to encourage users to return. Even when they arrive to broadcast on websites from competitors like YouTube, the company believes that adding Facebook to the list of destinations will increase the output of live broadcasts on its own platform.
In addition, Facebook announced this week that you can now use Messenger to secure your chats with Touch ID or Face ID on iOS. Why aren't more apps offering this feature?
TikTok is launching a $ 200 million fund to support US creators looking for a "Plan B".
With the U.S. government considering banning the China-based app because of privacy concerns, the company announced plans to employ 10,000 people in the U.S. over the next three years and launched a $ 200 million fund to attract new developers to invest. The new fund is designed to help top US developers increase their earnings and possibly find the next big TikTok star in the process. The platform will accept applications from US-based developers next month and then distribute the capital next year.
In the meantime, TikTok parent company ByteDance continues to discuss a number of other options to keep their popular and profitable app alive in the U.S. According to The Information, a small group of the company's US investors would band together to buy a majority stake in TikTok.
The U.S. government – and particularly the Trump administration – remains skeptical of TikTok's relationship with China. This week, the U.S. House decided to ban federal employees from using the app on government-issued devices. The vote took place between 336 and 71, as part of a package of bipartisan amendments to the National Defense Authorization Act.
Robinhood ends plan to launch in the UK
Robinhood, a mobile investment app, said this week that it would not launch in the UK as planned. The company said it will now hold back its global expansion plans to focus its efforts on its home market, the United States, instead. The company had already received over 250,000 registrations on its waiting list in the UK, which are now due to be deleted in accordance with local data protection laws. The company announced plans to send 10 UK employees to the US, but others will be fired.
The app has recently been criticized in the US for attracting young, inexperienced traders who then buy and sell some of the most risky financial products on the market – at higher rates than other brokerage firms. With its hip and youthful design and social app-like features like confetti and emoji, Robinhood can make investing more of a game, The NYT recently reported in a feature. However, the reality is that these inexperienced users take more speculative risks, sometimes with devastating results. A robinhood user killed himself after his account balance dropped to a negative $ 730,000 – a number that was higher due in part to some of his incomplete trades.
Google has its own "Onavo".
Google already enables Android app developers to collect usage data from devices on which their app is installed. It is therefore not surprising that Google did this itself. The information revealed the Google program, which can be used to access usage data on any device on which the Google apps are preinstalled. Similar to Facebook's Onavo, the data was used not only to improve Android, but also as a competitive advantage.
According to the report, Google had used the data to show how Google's own services are compared to competitors. Facebook had also used Onavo for this – and even used this knowledge to inform its acquisition strategy. APIs are not the only way that large technology companies collect data about smartphone user habits. App intelligence companies such as App Annie and Sensor Tower provide customers with similar data that is accessed through a series of apps that downplay their true purpose, but actually serve as data collection devices.
Such data collection has been going on for years, but given ongoing antitrust investigations, it may be time for regulators to do something about it.
Funding and M&A
- Fintech startup Meemo came from the hidden and started his social finance app Seed capital of $ 10 million. Investors such as Saama Capital, Greycroft, Monashees and Sierra Ventures led the round with additional participation from Amit Singhal, Hans Tung and several former colleagues from Google and Snap.
- Swiss Keyboard launch Typewise raises $ 1 million Starting round to develop its "privacy-safe" next-word prediction engine that works entirely offline. The round consists of $ 700,000 from more than a dozen local business angels. and $ 340,000 through the Swiss government through a research grant-like mechanism.
- China's Missfresh collects $ 495 million for its e-grocery app with deep WeChat integrations. The round was led by the state-sponsored China International Capital Corporation. Other investors included ICBC International Securities, Tencent, the Abu Dhabi Capital Group, Tiger Global, and a fund managed by the Changshu County government and home to Missfresh's headquarters in eastern China
- Levitate Raises $ 6 Million for Its “Keep in Touch” Email Marketing Solution for small businesses working on the web and mobile. Investors include Tippet Venture Partners, Bull City Venture Partners from Durham, North Carolina, and angel investor Peter Gassner, co-founder and CEO of Veeva Systems and investor in Zoom
With this beautifully designed indie iOS app called Dilims, you can display different time zones on one screen and even name them with aliases or display them as a widget. The simple single-purpose utility is useful for anyone who needs to work with teams or customers across time zones and want to see more easily what time it is and where. It's also a bargain for $ 2.
Dark noise 2
If you want to play ambient sounds to concentrate, sleep, or just relax, check out Dark Noise 2. This ambient noise app for iOS has just received a major update that adds new sounds, new icons, and iCloud sync. In addition, you can now create your own mix of ambient sounds so you can relax, for example, from the rainy sounds on the beach or other places you want to mix. The app costs $ 5.99 in the app store.
Further reading (and listening)
- Apple Kills IDFA: How Does Fallout Really Affect Marketers?: Discuss with Shamanth Rao, an experienced growth marketer and CEO of RocketShip HQ, a full-service mobile user acquisition agency, about the impact of the IDFA changes in the latest installment of the Mobile Presence podcast.
- What has ever happened to digital contact tracking?: Lawfare is investigating how the contact tracking app landscape is evolving as the contact tracking apps have disappeared into the headlines. Although the Apple and Google APIs should encourage each country to build their own apps, the U.S. has chosen a patchwork approach instead due to its broken response to COVID-19. There are a handful of states with their own apps these days, and only a few plan to use Apple and Google technology. Many states have no plans for an app at all, and instead turn to human-led contract tracking efforts.
- Developed for iPad: What defines a good iPad app today? These things, LookUp Design says in a thoughtful post.
Tweets of the week
But as Gruber noted, Steve Jobs said, "We don't intend to make money with the App Store." So if Apple earns * a lot * with the App Store *, this is probably a mistake if you follow a misguided path.https: //t.co/NLg6oCDF1z
– Jeff Johnson (@lapcatsoftware), July 23, 2020