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Instagram’s 10th birthday release introduces a Stories Map, custom icons and more

Instagram today is celebrating its 10th birthday with the launch of several new features, including a private “Stories Map,” offering a retrospective of the Stories you’ve shared over the last three years, a pair of well-being updates, and the previously announced IGTV Shopping update. There’s even a selection of custom app icons for those who have recently been inspired to redesign their home screen, as is the new trend.

The icons had been spotted earlier in development within Instagram’s code, and it was expected they would be a part of a larger “birthday release.” That turned out to be true.

With the update, Instagram users across both iOS and Android can opt between a range of icons in shades of orange, yellow, green, purple, black, white and more. There’s also a rainbow-colored Pride icon and several versions of classic icons, if you want a more nostalgic feel.

The new Stories Map feature, meanwhile, introduces a private map and calendar of the Instagram Stories you’ve shared over the past three years, so you can look back at favorite moments. Though this may surprise some users who thought Instagram Stories’ ephemeral nature meant they were deleted from Facebook servers over time, it’s not the first time Instagram has pulled up your old Stories to build out a new feature.

Instagram’s “Story Highlights,” for example, first introduced in 2017, allowed users to create a permanent home for some of their formerly ephemeral content.

Image Credits: Instagram

Two other new features also rolling out with the latest release are timed alongside the kickoff of National Bullying Prevention Month. The first, which will begin as a test, will automatically hide comments similar to others that have already been reported. These will still be visible under the label “View Hidden Comments” if you want to see what’s been removed from the main comment feed.

Image Credits: Instagram

This feature is somewhat similar to Twitter’s “Hide Replies” feature that launched globally last year. Like Twitter, the feature will place the inappropriate or abusive remarks behind an extra click, which supposedly helps to disincentivize this sort of content, as it could be hidden from view. Except in Twitter’s case, the original poster had to manually hide the replies. The Instagram feature, however, is attempting to automate this functionality.

Instagram says it’s also expanding its nudge warnings feature to include an additional warning when people repeatedly try to post offensive remarks. Already, Instagram provides an AI-powered feature that notifies people when their comment may be considered offensive by giving them a chance to reflect and make changes before posting. Now this feature will target repeat offenders, suggesting that they take a moment to step back and reflect on their words and the potential consequences.

Image Credits: Instagram

The company also released new data about trends across its platform as well as an editorial look back at Instagram’s major milestones.

Here, it revealed trends across music — like how KPOP is the No. 1 most-discussed genre — along with other trends, like top songs, AR effects, top Story Fonts and more. Instagram said more than a million posts mentioning “meme” are shared on its platform daily, 50% of users see a video on Instagram daily, there are over 900 million emoji reactions sent daily and the average person sends 3x more DMs than comments.

The updated app is available across iOS and Android.

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Top 20 iOS homescreen customization apps reach 5.7M installs after iOS 14 release

The iOS 14 homescreen customization trend is driving a new set of apps to the top of the App Store charts, and delivering record downloads for sources of inspiration, like Pinterest. According to new data from app store market intelligence firm Sensor Tower, installs of the top 20 homescreen customization apps reached 5.7 million total downloads worldwide in the first four days following the release of iOS 14 on September 16.

Remarkably, the three most-downloaded apps — Widgetsmith, Color Widgets, and Photo Widget — account for 95% of these 5.7 million downloads. That indicates that the rest of the app customization market today is much smaller. But this could still change over time if more apps embrace the trend and expand to include innovative and unique features.

Sensor Tower’s study on the homescreen customization market only focused on those apps that were used to create homescreen widgets or existed primarily to service them, like calendars, clocks, memos, and others.

To determine if the app offered homescreen customization tools, Sensor Tower analyzed the app metadata of all the apps that ranked at any point on the App Store after September 16, then manually reviewed those apps to confirm their functionality was homescreen customization related.

The report’s focus was also more on widget apps, rather than apps than helped users make custom icons or existing apps that added widget functionality, as Sensor Tower decided it wouldn’t be able to determine how many had done so based on their metadata. It’s also difficult to determine, in some cases, if an app with a larger purpose beyond widgets is moving up the charts simply because it has now added widgets.

The top 20 list, in order, includes the following:

Widgetsmith, Color Widgets, Photo Widget, Photobox Widget, MemoWidget, Home Photo Widget, Motivation Widget, Ermine, Date Today, Hey Weather, TimeDeck, Widgeridoo, Glimpse 2, Widget Wizard, Widget Web, Locket, ItemMemo, OMDZ, Clock Widget for Home Screen, and Photo Widgets.

Image Credits: Sensor Tower

Combined, the group has generated a collective $400,000 in consumer spending in four days — from September 17 through September 20. Widgetsmith dominated the group, accounting for $370,000 of that total, followed by an app called Date Today with close to $20,000, per Sensor Tower estimates. (We should note Widgetsmith’s figure comes in a bit lower than some of the other estimates that were floating around.)

Though Sensor Tower’s study had a narrower focus, there are signals that plenty of apps have benefitted from the customization craze beyond the widget makers themselves.

Design inspiration resource Pinterest, as noted above, saw record daily downloads. TuneTrack, now the No. 18 free (non-game) app on the U.S. App Store appears to be gathering steam in the absence of an official Spotify widget. Its app offers both Apple Music and Spotify widgets for showing off favorite music on your homescreen.

Sensor Tower says TuneTrack saw 552,000 installs between Sept. 17 and 20, for example — a figure up 1,840% from the prior week (9/10-9/13). The Motivation widget saw 431,000 installs, up 798%.

Meanwhile, design tool Procreate Pocket is now the No. 2 paid (non-game) app in the U.S., and PicsArt is No. 31 free app. An app that simplifies icon changing, Icon Changer+, is No. 40 on the Top Free Apps charts in the U.S., followed by an app called Shortcuts, which is not the same Shortcuts app from Apple. (And surprisingly being allowed to use the same name!)

Image Credits: Sensor Tower

Because there’s not a specific category for homescreen customization tools, some of the new apps can be found in the Productivity category, while others categorized themselves as Utility apps or something else entirely. This makes it more difficult for a consumer who wants to compare the rankings of all top apps offering homescreen customization functionality in one place.

Given that iOS 14 has effectively created an entire new category of apps, it’s possible that Apple would consider adding a customization category to the App Store in the future, if the trend continues long-term.

For now, however, Apple is addressing the discoverability issues with new App Store editorial content. A featured story on the App Store’s “Today” page, for example, is titled “How to Set Up Widgets,” and recommends a number of apps that have added widgets — like Todoist, Carrot Weather, Timepage, Apollo, Spark Mail, and others, in addition to Widgetsmith.

There are new widgets still arriving, as well, as developers roll out their iOS 14 updates. Fantastical, for example, just launched 12 homescreen widgets today.

What’s unfortunate is that Apple didn’t give its developer community enough time to prepare for launch day. The company announced iOS 14’s release with less than 24 hours’ notice and without the final version of Xcode available to developers. As a result, when users began to customize their homescreens, they may not have found all the widgets they would have wanted.

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