Welcome back to This Week in Apps, the theinformationsuperhighway series * that rounds up the latest operating system news, the apps they support, and the money flowing through it all.
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. Apps aren't just a way of spending idle time – they're big business. In 2019, mobile-first companies had an overall valuation of $ 544 billion, 6.5 times higher than non-mobile companies.
In this series we will help you stay up to date with the latest news from the world of apps, which are delivered weekly.
* Previously, This Week in Apps was only available to Extra Crunch subscribers. We are now making these reports available to all theinformationsuperhighway readers.
We missed some epic news while this week was on vacation in Apps, but this week the backlash against the App Store continues.
Apple at war with developers
Fortnite maker Epic may be one of the few companies with pockets deep enough to fund a battle with Apple over its App Store policies. And Google while it's at it. However, it's not the only company that would benefit from a change in App Store policies.
Critics call Epic a hypocrite because it's not about console makers who make the same 30% of sales, just app stores. They say the move is anti-consumer because it will hurt the end-user if the top game is removed from Epic. (And it could potentially affect other games made with Epic's Unreal Engine as well if Apple suspends Epic's developer accounts.)
However, Epic is clearly looking at these issues in the App Store from a long-term perspective. Gaming is shifting to mobile, and that makes it a market to fight for: 2.7 billion players will spend $ 159.3 billion on gaming in 2020, and mobile will account for $ 77.2 billion , an increase of 13.3% over the previous year. Mobile gaming is growing faster than PCs and consoles. This is also the reason why Apple is preventing alternative gaming platforms like Facebook Gaming, Microsoft xCloud and Google Stadia from doing their business in the App Store.
At this point, whether or not Apple is eligible for a 30% cut becomes secondary to concerns that Apple is now mandating what kind of businesses can run on Apple mobile devices. The company could potentially be forced to give developers the ability to install apps directly onto iOS / iPad OS, with the App Store being an option and not a must. You know how on mac.
While the cartel drama continues, Epic announced this week that there will be a #FreeFortnite tournament on August 23, which will feature prizes like #FreeFortnite hats and non-Apple hardware like gaming laptops, Android phones and Tablets as well as other game consoles are awarded. News publishers also banded together to complain that they deserve the same treasury contract Apple gave Amazon (a 15% commission from day one, Congressional antitrust investigation found).
One has to wonder how Apple would have dealt with such a problem in the past few years. Perhaps it would just have cut its commission a little and moved on – knowing that the growth of mobile gaming would ultimately help offset its short-term losses. Or that an all-in-one subscription could drive revenue from services in other ways.
Other opinions: How Apple and Google's defenses against the antitrust lawsuits of Fortnite maker Epic Games are likely to differ in terms of their App Store policies (FOSS patents); Apple could win the battle with Epic Games, but it is losing the war (Pando). App Stores, Trust and Antitrust Law (Benedict Evans).
The TikTok ban could have a big impact on Apple
The Trump administration's decision to ban TikTok and WeChat for national security reasons could have other ramifications beyond losing the apps themselves. According to The Information, Chinese regulators are closing loopholes that allow the App Store and other services to operate without government licenses and local partners in China. Apple has already removed thousands of unlicensed mobile games from the app store in China. Given the pressure between the US and China, Apple could be asked to work with a local company to run the App Store as a joint venture – a Chinese law it had bypassed. This would give China editorial control over the China App Store, and it would likely find a large number of apps to be out of compliance. Apple also operates other services in China that could face an uphill battle with the US. For example, Apple Music is the only music service from a foreign company operating in China without a Chinese partner.
Outside of the App Store, there is an old App Store supported by TestFlight
A fascinating report from the log looked at the growing ecosystem of non-app store apps. A Square product designer was unable to publish their minimally functional "little apps" on the App Store, so they are now being sold through TestFlight instead. TestFlight is intended to serve as a beta test platform for apps, but it is becoming a kind of alternative app store platform. This allows users to try pre-release apps from developers large and small. Some remain in TestFlight indefinitely without having to serve a user base greater than the TestFlight limit of 10,000 users. But not all TestFlight apps are meant to live outside the App Store forever. The lively voice-based network app Clubhouse, for example, has used the power of its invite-only status to build clout and a central user base prior to a release.
Online communities are even popping up to connect users to unpublished apps. One, called Departures, also lists several well-known apps. People can also find links to TestFlight builds through social media.
This legacy app universe is not all about testing. It's about creating things that, for whatever reason, don't fit the App Store paradigm. It might be an app that serves a niche user need or an app that won't work for a large audience until the app's core community is first built. Or maybe it's more experimental in nature. It may evolve as users give feedback. Maybe the app was built for fun, not to last. The App Store constrains these different types of ideas by stating that every app must be ready for the millions of users its ecosystem could potentially deliver.
The existence of the legacy app community is another argument in favor of developers being able to distribute apps outside of the app store and through their own websites. After all, TestFlight has limits that a more open ecosystem would not have.
- Massive adobe gaffe The photos and preferences of the Lightroom app users that weren't synced to the cloud have been deleted. There is no way to get it back. What has never happened to a single point of failure? Redundant backups? Maybe they should have used iCloud Sync instead?
- Did you hear that about Michigan College, forcing students to use a contact tracking app that tracks real-time locations of students around the clock? If people fear and dislike contact tracing technologies that are designed with privacy in mind, it is because of such incidents. Nice job, Albion College.
- David Dobrik wants to turn his playful disposable camera app into a social network. I'd be joking, but maybe the world needs a new Instagram now, as Instagram has become Facebook's junk drawer instead of the photo-focused social network it once was. So why not try to build whatever Disposable 2.0 is?
- The hidden album toggle switch you always needed has arrived in iOS 14, Public Beta 5.
- Pure Sweat Basketball is the latest developer to take advantage of technology giants' antitrust investigations into its own legal battle. The company has filed a lawsuit against Google for its 30% App Store fees on google play and want others to join.
- Android 11 removes the option to choose your preferred third-party camera app in the camera selection. Google says this is to prevent geotagging and protect user privacy. Fans say this is a good move that won't affect most of the ways users use third-party camera apps. Critics say the reason a lot of Android phones buy is because they have more choice – and restricting apps to opening the default camera affects their experience.
- Coronavirus contact tracking technology from Apple and Google is coming to Pennsylvania. But will anyone use it?
- Samsung promises at least 3 Android updates low-end phones too.
- Take-Two Interactive is acquiring game developer Playdots from Two Dots for $ 192 million ($ 90 million is cash). Playdots were spun out of Betaworks in 2014. Games include Dots, Two Dots, and Dots & Co.
- Seated restaurant rewards booking app raised $ 30 million and acquired VenueBook to add events.
- Conversational commerce platform Yalochat raised $ 15 million for Series B. run by B Capital Group, which was co-founded by Eduardo Saverin from Facebook. The existing investor Sierra Ventures participated. With this technology, companies can manage sales and customer service through messaging apps like WhatsApp, Messenger, and iMessage.
- Apple acquired Israel's Camerai, formerly Tipit, specialist in AR and camera technology. The deal took place quietly between 2018 and 2019 but was only just discovered.
- Robinhood raised another $ 200 million at a valuation of $ 11.2 billion for its mobile investing app. The company has raised capital multiple times this year, including an initial round of $ 280 million at a valuation of $ 8.3 billion and a subsequent increase of $ 320 million that brings the valuation to 8.6 billion US dollar increased.
- The UK-based hammock raised 1 million pounds in start-up capital financing for his fintech app for landlords and property managers.
Google Kormo Jobs (India)
The latest app from Google is helping people in India find entry-level jobs. Kormo Jobs first launched the app in Bangladesh in 2018 and expanded it to Indonesia last year. The app highlights Google's different approach to emerging markets, where the company sees the opportunity to build services outside of an advertising business.
The AI-powered deep fake app Reface, formerly known as Doublicat, makes face swapping technology easily accessible. Whether that is good or not remains to be seen. In the meantime, from a purely technical point of view, the app is worth a look at how far we've come. You can read a TC profile about Reface here.