Posted on

This Week in Apps: Quibi dies, Snapchat soars, Halide upgrades for iPhone 12

Welcome back to This Week in Apps, the TechCrunch series that recaps the latest OS news, the applications they support and the money that flows through it all.

The app industry is as hot as ever, with a record 204 billion downloads and $120 billion in consumer spending in 2019. People are now spending three hours and 40 minutes per day using apps, rivaling TV. Apps aren’t just a way to pass idle hours — they’re a big business. In 2019, mobile-first companies had a combined $544 billion valuation, 6.5x higher than those without a mobile focus.

Quibi dies…and no one was surprised

There was so much wrong with Quibi’s premise that it’s sometimes hard to even know where to start. But at the core, its problem was that it fundamentally misunderstood how, when and why users would watch video on their phones.

The company’s thinking was that you could fund high-production value content ($100K/minute, yikes) then chop it up into smaller “bites,” add a technology layer, then call this a reinvention of cinema.

The reality is there was little demand for this sort of content, and it didn’t fit with how people want to be entertained on their phones.

When people want to appreciate high-quality filmmaking (or even TV production), they tend to want a bigger screen — they’ve spent money for their fancy high-def or 4K TV, after all. Pre-COVID, they might even pay to go a movie theater. On mobile, the production value of content is far less of a concern, if it even registers.

Quibi also misunderstood what users want to watch in terms of video on their phones when they have a few minutes to kill.

By positioning its app in this space, it had to compete with numerous and powerful sources for “short-form” content — existing apps like YouTube, TikTok, Facebook (e.g. News Feed content, Watch feeds), Instagram Stories, Snapchat and so on. This is content you don’t have to get invested in, since you’re just distracting yourself from a few minutes of boredom. It’s not a time or place to engage with a longer story — chopped or otherwise.

Quibi also cut the length of content to serve its artificial limitations — at the expense of story quality and enjoyment.

A reality show dumbed down to just its highlights is almost unwatchable, as it exposes the editors’ machinations and manipulations that are better hidden among longer stretches of fluff. And there was simply no reason to cut down movies — like Quibi’s “The Dangerous Game,” for example — into pieces. It didn’t elevate the storytelling; it distracted from it. And if you wanted a quick news update (e.g. Quibi’s “Daily Essentials”), you didn’t need a whole new app for that.

Quibi content may have been considered “high quality,” but it often wasn’t good. (I still can’t believe I sat through an episode of “Dishmantled,” where chefs had to recreate dishes of food that were thrown in their face. And Quibi had the nerve to shame YouTube’s low-quality and lack of talent?!)

Quibi also wanted to charge for its service, but its catalog wasn’t designed for families, with content that ranged from kids to adult programming. It didn’t offer parental controls. This immediately limited its competitiveness.

At launch, Quibi also limited itself to the phone, which meant it limited your ability to use the phone as a second screen while you watched a show. (There was no PiP support). TechCrunch has been writing about phones as the second screen for the better part of a decade, often with a focus on startups. But in Quibi’s case, it killed the second screen experience, seemingly forgetting that people text friends, order food, check Twitter and peek in on other apps while a TV show plays in the background. Did it really think that a reboot of “Punk’d” deserved our full attention?

Quibi naturally blamed COVID for its failure to thrive. It had imagined a world where users had ample time to kill while out and about: commuting on the subway, standing in long lines, that sort of thing.

But even this premise was flawed. It would have eventually caught up to Quibi, too; COVID just accelerated it. The issue is that Quibi imagined the U.S. as only a swath of urban metros where public transportation is abundant and standing in lines is the norm. In reality, more than half (52%) the U.S. is described as suburban, 27% is urban and 21% is rural. Non-urban commuters often drive themselves to work. Sure, they could stream Quibi during those commutes, but not really look at it. So why burn high-production value on them? And standing in long lines, believe it or not, is not actually that common in smaller cities and towns, either. If it only takes two minutes to grab a coffee or a burrito before you hop back in your car, do you really want to start a new show?

So where would that have left Quibi? Hoping for Gen Z’ers attention as they lounge around their bedrooms looking for something to do? And yet it wanted to appeal to these kids using Hollywood A-Listers they don’t even know? As COVID pressed down, it left Quibi in competition with (often arguably better) content that streamed natively on the TV from apps like Netflix, HBO, Hulu, Prime Video, Disney+, and others where you could binge through seasons at once instead of waiting every week for a new “quick bite” to drop.

There’s more, so much more that could still be said, including the fact that a former eBay and HP CEO may not be the right person to lead a company that wanted to dazzle a younger demographic. Or how its video-flipping TurnStyle feature was clever, but added complexity to filmmaking, and was not enough of a technological leap to build a business around. Or how, no matter how much money it had raised, it was still not enough, compared with the massive budgets of competitors like Netflix and Amazon.

You can read a further post-mortem round-up here. And another here. Because we can’t get enough post-mortems, apparently.

In the meantime, TikTok still isn’t banned.

Snap hits record $50B valuation

Snapchat’s maker was forecast to bring around $555 million in revenues in Q3 but posted $679 million instead, a 52% YoY increase, in a surprise earnings beat. EPS were an adjusted $0.01, beating an expected loss of $0.04. The company also grew daily active users by 4% (11 million) to 249 million, an 18% YoY increase. Snap’s net loss of $200 million was a 12% improvement over last year, too.

As a result of the earnings, shares jumped nearly 30% the next day and its valuation cracked $50 billion for the first time, a record high.

During earnings, the company touted it now reaches 90% of the Gen Z population and 75% of millennials in the U.S., U.K. and France. User growth was attributed to new products, including Profiles, Minis, Lens creation tools and AR ads. In particular, Snap leveraged the Facebook ad boycott to reach out to brands that wanted to “realign their marketing efforts” with companies that “share their corporate values,” the company said.

Snap also just launched its TikTok competitor, Sounds on Snapchat, which lets users add licensed music to their Stories.

Platforms

  • Apple releases iOS and iPadOS 14.1. The first major update to iOS 14 delivers multiple bug fixes, including those impacting widgets, streaming video and Family Setup on Apple Watch, among others. It also added support for 10-bit HDR video playback and editing in Photos on iPhone 8 and later.
  • iOS 14 bug continues to reset default email and browser apps. After updating your preferred email or browser app, iOS 14 forgets what third-party app you’ve set as the default. Yes, it was doing this before. Are we still so sure it’s a bug?
  • DOJ antitrust lawsuit goes after the multibillion-dollar deal that positioned Google as the default search engine on browsers, phones and other Apple devices.
  • AirTags patent applications describe use cases like locating the nearest defibrillator, monitoring users’ posture and playing avatar-based games, giving a little more insight into how Apple envisions the future of its smartphone-findable tags.
  • Google embraces iOS 14 widgets. Google already offered one of the more useful widgets for iOS 14 with its Search widget, which has been downloaded by “millions.” This week, it introduced more, including a Google Photos widget that let you revisit your memories, and a YouTube Music widget.
  • RCS support in Android Messages expands. Following the U.S. debut, RCS has rolled out to a number of new countries, and can now be found in Italy, Portugal, Singapore, Argentina, Pakistan, Poland, Turkey, Denmark, Netherlands, Austria, Bangladesh, Belgium, Croatia, Czechia, Greece, Ireland, Israel, Kosovo, Lithuania, New Zealand, Serbia, Slovenia, Sri Lanka, Switzerland, Australia, Bulgaria, Indonesia, Japan, Kenya, Latvia, Lebanon, Uganda and Ukraine. The last nine were just this month.

Trends

Image Credits: Sensor Tower

  • Buy Now, Pay Later app usage in the U.S. up 186% year-over-year as of Sept. According to Sensor Tower, apps that let consumers make purchases on payment plans have been climbing steadily this year since the COVID-19 pandemic. The report looked at Klarna, Affirm, Afterpay and QuadPay, which together have generated 18 million lifetime installs across the App Store and Google Play. Installs were up 115% YoY in September, while monthly actives were up 186%.
  • U.S. contact-tracing apps are a disjointed wreck. The WSJ examined the state of COVID-19 contact-tracing apps in the U.S. and found that states focusing on their own efforts, due to the lack of a national plan, has left a disjointed patchwork of tools. Only 10 states, plus D.C., have used the framework built by Google and Apple; 11 are piloting or building apps. The EU, meanwhile, switched on cross-border interoperability for its first batch of tracing apps.
  • Gen Z spends 10% more time using top non-game apps than older users, at 4.1+ hours per month. The figure excludes pre-installed apps and was calculated on Android devices in select markets, including the U.S. Gen Z users also engaged with non-game apps more often than older users, at 120 sessions per month per app.
  • U.S. consumers spend $20.78/mo on average on their app subscriptions, according to new data from Adjust. The 25 to 34-year-old age group spends the most on subscription apps at $25.85/mo, while those 55 and over spend the least, at $13.97/mo. In addition, more than a quarter of millennials and Gen Z consumers said they have stopped paying for other services in order to buy subscriptions on mobile app services (e.g. option for fitness apps over going to the gym).
  • Dating apps are on the rise in the U.S., says Apptopia. New users for Hily, Match, BLK, Bumble and Grindr are on pace to grow month-over-month at 32%, 28%, 20%, 18% and 11%, respectively.

Services

  • Amazon’s Luna game streaming service opens in early access to its first customers. The service offers a library of 50 games and works on Mac, PC, Amazon Fire TV, and iOS devices, courtesy of a web app to work around the App Store rules. Initial reviews describe the service as sometimes struggling with performance over Wi-Fi, but offering a good web app experience. Luna features some big titles but xCloud still has the better lineup. Its real killer feature, however, may be the promised Twitch integration, arriving in the future.
  • SoundCloud launches a $19.99/month DJ plan, SoundCloud DJ, that offers unlimited offline access to its catalog. Users can also stream high-quality audio and mix tracks using select DJ apps, including Virtual DJ, Cross DJ and Denon DJ.
  • Put your five-star reviews on your home screen. IMore spotted a must-have motivational tool for developers: a way to put your app’s five-star reviews as a widget on your home screen; $1.99 for this happiness boost.

Security/Privacy

Deadpool

  • Apple quietly discontinues its Apple TV Remote app. The app was removed from the App Store on Wednesday. Users are now expected to use the Remote feature built into the Control Center since iOS 12 instead.
  • Google will end support for its location-sharing Trusted Contacts app in December, and removes it from the Play Store. Users are directed to use similar features in Google Maps instead for finding friends and family.

Policies and Politics

  • Coalition for App Fairness more than doubles a month after its debut. The Coalition for App Fairness (CAF), a newly formed advocacy group pushing for increased regulation over app stores, has more than doubled in size with this week’s announcement of 20 new partners. The organization, led by top app publishers and critics, including Epic Games, Deezer, Basecamp, Tile, Spotify and others, debuted in late September to fight back against Apple and Google’s control over app stores, and particularly the stores’ rules around in-app purchases and commissions.

App News

  • Facebook to increase investments in WhatsApp for business. The company said it will expand Shopping on WhatsApp and will charge businesses for some of the services it offers on the chat app, in order to grow revenues. This includes offering to manage businesses’ WhatsApp messages via Facebook’s own hosting services. Facebook offered this info as more of a look into its roadmap, but without specifics on new services or pricing.
  • Facebook is cloning Nextdoor. The feature is in testing in Canada and sees Facebook automatically generating neighborhood groups to connect local users with people, activities and items for sale.
  • Court approves Kik’s settlement with SEC. The ruling ends a multi-year court battle by allowing Kik to pay a one-time $5 million fine for its violation of securities law for failing to register its 2017 distribution of its Kin tokens in its ICO.
  • Roblox passes $2B in mobile player spending ahead of its planned IPO. The company’s revenues, accelerated by the pandemic, crossed the $1.5 billion mark in May 2020, then picked up another $500 million in five months, says Sensor Tower.
  • Cameo enters B2B sales. The custom celebrity video app repositions its business of personalized greetings for B2B sales through an integration and rev share agreement with corporate gifting platform Sendoso.
  • Adobe adds a chain of custody tool in the beta release of Photoshop and Behance that will fight misinformation and keep content attributed properly.
  • Stitcher’s podcasts come to Pandora as acquisition completes. The Stitcher app also got a revamp following the deal’s finalization. The move brought several bigger podcast titles in house, thanks to Earwolf, including “Freakonomics Radio,” “My Favorite Murder,” “SuperSoul Conversations from the Oprah Winfrey Network,” “Office Ladies,” “Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend,” “Literally! with Rob Lowe,” “LeVar Burton Reads” and “WTF with Marc Maron.”
  • NYT has an iOS 14 widget now. The new widget will put NYT headlines on your home screen. Note that while the widget can be installed by anyone, if you want to click through to read, you’ll still need to be a subscriber.
  • PicsArt brings its app-based design tools to the web. The creative platform is chasing business users with the launch of its AI tools on picsart.com. The debut suite includes a template editor, background and object remover, video slideshow maker, text editor, and others.
  • Chinese tutoring app Yuanfudao has raised $2.2 billion from investors, surpassing Byju’s as the most valuable edtech company in the world, as it’s now worth $15.5 billion.
  • Retool raises $50M in funding, led by Sequoia, for its low-code tools for building internal apps that work on either desktop or mobile. The new round values the business at nearly $1 billion. Other backers include GitHub CEO Nat Friedman, Stripe founders Patrick and John Collison, Brex Inc. founders Henrique Dubugras and Pedro Franceschi and Y Combinator co-founder Paul Graham.
  • Syte raises $40M to bring visual shoppers to e-commerce retailers. Visual search is already popular in apps like Google, Pinterest and eBay, but Syte wants under retailers to have the option. The round was led by return investor Viola Ventures.
  • 98point6 raises $118M for its AI-powered telemedicine platform that works on web and mobile (iOS and Android).

Halide Mark II

Image Credits: Lux

The developers of popular pro iPhone camera apps Halide and Spectre this week launched their latest creation, the Halide Mark II camera app. The new interface has been designed for one-handed operation and includes a range of new features.

These include a new gesture-based automatic and manual switcher; tactile touch for enabling and disabling features like exposure warnings, focus peaking, and loupe as you adjust exposure or focus; an overhauled manual mode; new dynamic labeling of controls and actions to explain features to new users; support for the edge-to-edge interface of the iPhone 12 models; a redesigned reviewer with a full metadata read-out; in-app memberships for photo lessons; and over 40 more changes.

A new “Coverage” feature can take a photo with Smart HDR 2/3 and Deep Fusion for maximum quality and computational processing as well as a RAW file — with only a slight delay between captures.

Image Credits: Lux

Halide Mark II also uses machine learning to process an iPhone RAW file in the app (ProRAW) with 17 steps, including detail enhancement, contrast and color adjustment and more. This feature, called Instant RAW, intelligently develops the file to get the best possible results.

And the app includes top pro tools, like a new waveform and color exposure warnings (zebras) that use XDR (Extended Dynamic Range) 14-bit RAW sampling, for accurate exposure previews and readings.

The app is $36 (currently $30 during a promo period) if you want to only pay once. Otherwise it’s $11.99 per year on subscription (currently $9.99 per year if you lock in the price now during the promo period). Subscribers to the membership plan also get perks, like custom icons. Existing Halide 1 users, unbelievably, are upgraded for free but are asked to support the app with a membership.

ClipDrop — AR Copy Paste

A new app called ClipDrop launches on iOS, Android, macOS and Windows as a new sort of “copy and paste” experience. The app uses state-of-the-art vision AI to copy images from your desktop with a screenshot to any other app (e.g. Docs, Photoshop, Canva, etc.) and it allows you to extract anything — objects, people, drawings or text.

The mobile app lets you snap photos of real-world items and then digitally transfer them to other apps or websites. In the below demo, the company shows how you could “clip” an image of an article of clothing using the camera, then import the photo into a document.

The company also just released a plugin for Photoshop that lets you drop the image into its app as a new layer with an editable mask.

The app is $39.99 per year (until November 2020, when it ups to $79.99 per year.)

[embedded content]

Adobe Illustrator on iPad + Adobe Fresco on iPhone

Image Credits: Adobe

As part of Adobe’s virtual MAX 2020 conference this week, the company launched the first public version of its Illustrator vector graphics app on the iPad and brought its Fresco drawing and painting app to the iPhone. In time, the company plans to bring more effects, brushes and AI features to Illustrator. Fresco 2.0, meanwhile, includes new smudge brushes and support for personalized brushes, among other things.

Party Squasher

[embedded content]

Designed for landlords, Airbnb owners or other vacation rental property owners, Party Squasher offers a hardware device and paired mobile app that counts the number of people at your house by counting the mobile phones in or around a house. The phones can be counted even if they’re not connected to the home’s Wi-Fi.

Because the device doesn’t include cameras or microphones, it’s ideal for ensuring that renters aren’t hosting large (and these days, potentially illegal) parties without violating privacy.

In the event that a large gathering is present, you’re sent a text or email so you can take action.

The device is $249 and the app charges a $199 per year subscription.

The No. 1 game in the App Store is now Among Us!.

Can you guess why?

Read More

Posted on

What Impact Do IoT-Based Mobile Apps Have In Enhancing User Experience

Illustration: © IoT For All

Powered by superb mobile capabilities, IoT technology has created a landmark in user experience, and business performance. While continuing its performance obtrusively, IoT helps us communicate with the objects surrounding us. The increasing use of IoT in recent years has influenced developers and programmers to create mobile apps with an enhanced user experience by leveraging IoT technology.

Most IoT development agencies implant the technology in lots of things, including sensor-enabled bridges, vehicles and wearables. The market analysts have predicted that the rapid growth of the IoT market will cover 64 billion-plus IoT connected devices by the year 2025.

Many consumers aren’t aware that their smartphones have a connection to an IoT system. However, as mobile is one of the best channels for notifications and communications, it is a valuable gadget to access IoT. Besides, smartphone apps have turned out to be the best tools to manage IoT gadgets properly.

Interestingly, it’s easier to track the IoT app development process by relying on an IoT system. As deeper connectivity is achievable with IoT, we may use our devices to observe, understand and analyze anything without intervention. We will continue enjoying this versatility as long as smartphone apps will have a connection to innovative IoT systems. Now, the question is: are we going to get something more from the use of IoT mobile applications? Here are 8 interesting points on how an IoT-enabled app has an effect on the user experience.

1. Hybrid and Centralized Mobile Apps with IoT Technology

Who doesn’t desire innovation in this tech-savvy age? We’re constantly being presented with solutions that streamline our everyday interactions. In my experience, mobile app developers prefer using the advanced technicalities and better codes for UI/UX design of hybrid apps.

IoT has opened up endless potentials in the app market. It presents us with a centralized platform that makes devices easily manageable. At this point, it’s worth mentioning the factor of cost-effectiveness that ensures convenience to both developers and end-users.

For instance, location-based Beacon technology (related to IoT) has become a target of app developers. When a mobile phone with a beacon app enters a predefined area, the beacon sends an alert in the form of a notification. This is how it’s possible to manage centralized appliances from a device at a particular location.

2. Cost-Effectiveness of IoT Mobile Apps is an Added Advantage to Users

IoT has gained attention as a potentially affordable option. This allows app developers to provide comprehensive services at a minimal price. The factors of efficiency from IoT alone can interest businesses to adopt IoT technology. Still, money always gained a higher priority. IoT increases savings and serves customers to ensure the most impactful user experience.

3. Better Security to Minimize Threats

The use of IoT has resulted in an increasing number of access points. This opens potential security threats to a mobile device’s apps. Cybercriminals may find it easier to dig for important data. Because of security concerns, app programmers and developers have started providing more information on how to secure IoT-backed mobile applications.

The best developers ensure that their IoT apps won’t hamper data privacy in any way. Simultaneously, businesses using IoT-enabled gadgets have begun adding more security layers to avoid violation of data privacy.

4. Data Environment: An Added Level of Efficiency Due to IoT

Connected devices create an IoT ecosystem, that turns out a high amount of data. Because of private and sensitive data, safe storage and encryption have become a top priority.

We live in an age of computing technologies where IoT devices have eliminated the need for accessing data storage for real-time metrics reporting and analysis. What advantages do users get from these faster solutions? Higher accuracy and better predictions.

5. Customer Behavior is Easily Understandable

Understanding your customer’s behavior is one of the necessities for growing a business. Businesses, overlooking the customer experience, are unlikely to retain a steady and repeat customer base.

IoT has become a handy technology for finding out relevant statistics and data about customers with the use of video surveillance, mobile internet, social media, GPS devices and more.

IoT-enabled mobile applications provide many advantages including: a seamless payment process, easier return processes and faster shipping notifications. By keeping track of user activity and transactions, businesses can ensure the best customer experience.

6. IoT to Push Your Business

No productivity means no profit. By installing IoT apps, productivity can increase to a higher level, helping employees with different tasks. As IoT assists in real-time data measurement, it’s easy to analyze a business’s output at any time. Organizations can now optimize their to-do lists and employee schedules.

From the customers’ perspective, IoT apps are helpful in many other ways. The display of real-time information about product shipments, health and other activities ensures a consistent experience for users. Consistency in mobile apps will ultimately trigger positive feelings from app users creating a potentially loyal customer.

7. Researchers and Analysts Can Save Effort

Data science, AI and IoT have become indispensable in the world of technology. We always crave for more data. Automation has made the data collection process faster. With user feedback, web browsing trends and app usage, we can track and determine insights about customer behavior. Additionally, you may use the data of your organization for optimized user experience and better-personalized communications.

8. Safer Workplace

Using an IoT-based app, businesses can monitor high-risk environments and create a secure workplace for employees. IoT devices help in providing data to make out potential threats within a short time.

Enterprise-Grade Applications

Enterprise-grade applications, embedded with IoT technology, have become the best tool to gain reduced downtime, higher productivity level and better solutions to problems. Business processes can be simplified by implementing IoT apps. The best IoT app development companies place their attention on hardware potentials, connectivity mode, programming protocols and licensing agreements.

Developers create cloud-based apps to maintain consistency in user experience across a diverse range of IoT devices providing users with smooth transitions between different elements.

Read More

Posted on

Facebook’s Creator Studio gains a mobile companion

Facebook’s Creator Studio has added a mobile companion. The insights dashboard for creators and publishers, which debuted globally in August 2018, is now available as a mobile app for both iOS and Android. Similar to the desktop hub, the Creator Studio app allows users to track how their content is performing across Facebook Pages, as well as publish, schedule and make adjustments to posts, respond to fan messages, and more.

Facebook Director of Entertainment for Northern Europe Anna Higgs took the stage along with creator Ladbaby, who has over 4 million Facebook followers, to share the news of the new app’s launch at last week’s VidCon London.

There are a few key areas where the app can be of use to creators and publishers, starting with its metrics and insights section. Here, users can analyze both Page and post-level insights, retention, and distribution metrics in order to adjust their strategies accordingly. For example, they’ll find content performance metrics like “1-minute views,” 3-second views,” and “avg. minutes viewed,” plus engagement metrics like comments and shares, and follower counts, earnings, and more.

The app also serves as a mobile companion for viewing both published and scheduled posts, allowing creators to make quick adjustments like editing the video titles or descriptions. And they can use the app for deleting or expiring posts, rescheduling posts, or publishing drafts.

From the inbox section, users can respond to incoming messages and comments while on the go.

Creators can toggle between their different accounts during the same session, instead of having to log out and back in as a different user. This could be helpful for those who have a large social media presence, as well as those whose business involves supporting multiple creator pages.

The Creator Studio app will also send out immediate notifications for key milestones and other important events.

This isn’t the first time Facebook has offered a dedicated app for its creator community. The company in 2017 debuted a Creator app, that had also offered a unified inbox and analytics, among other things. But that app was shut down early last year, and creators were pointed towards the Pages Manager app or desktop version of Creator Studio instead. Before that, Facebook had offered a Mentions app that was only available for verified public figures and Pages.

The new Creator Studio app isn’t a direct replacement for the shuttered Creator app, as it sports a similar, though not identical feature set and a new user interface. It also notably lacks Instagram integration and the ability to upload and post new content — the latter which is contributing to poor user reviews, following the app’s launch. Many complain there’s too much overlap with the Pages Monitor app, as well. But the missing features are something Facebook will likely address in the future, as it rolls out more functionality to the app.

It’s worth noting that Facebook’s desktop hub and app sport a name similar to YouTube’s service for creators — YouTube Studio, rebranded from YouTube Creator Studio in 2017. By including both “studio” and “creator” in the new app’s name, it will perform better in App Store search results — including those that appear when someone searches for the YouTube Studio app for creators. That reflects the competitive nature between the two companies, both hungry to woo video creator talent.

Facebook’s new app is a free download on iOS and Android.

Source: TechCrunch

Posted on

This Week in Apps: HQ Trivia’s dramatic death, Android 11, Apple mulls a more open iOS

Welcome back to This Week in Apps, the Extra Crunch series that recaps the latest OS news, the applications they support and the money that flows through it all.

The app industry is as hot as ever, with a record 204 billion downloads in 2019 and $120 billion in consumer spending in 2019, according to App Annie’s recently released “State of Mobile” annual report. People are now spending 3 hours and 40 minutes per day using apps, rivaling TV. Apps aren’t just a way to pass idle hours — they’re a big business. In 2019, mobile-first companies had a combined $544 billion valuation, 6.5x higher than those without a mobile focus.

In this Extra Crunch series, we help you keep up with the latest news from the world of apps, delivered on a weekly basis.

This week we look at the sad, strange death of HQ Trivia, spying app ToTok getting booted from Google Play (again!), Android 11, an enticing Apple rumor about opening up iOS further to third-party apps, Google Stadia updates, the App Store book Apple wants banned, apps abusing subscriptions and much more.

Headlines

HQ Trivia burns to the ground

hq trivia app 1

Once-hot HQ Trivia believed it had invented a new kind of online gaming — live trivia played through your phone. Investors threw $15 million into the company hoping that was true. But the novelty wore off, cheaters came in, prize money dwindled and copycats emerged. Then co-founder Colin Kroll passed away and things at HQ Trivia got worse, including a failed internal mutiny, firings and layoffs. This week, HQ Trivia announced its demise. It then hosted one last, insane night of gaming featuring drunken and cursing hosts who sprayed champagne, called out trolls and begged for new jobs. (Sure, because they exited this one so professionally.)

Source: TechCrunch

Posted on

Byte tops a million downloads amid spam issues and content concerns

New short-form video app Byte, heralded as Vine’s successor, is off to a strong start despite its issues. The app, built by Vine co-founder Dom Hofmann, brings back the six-second videos made popular by Vine which was shut down in late 2016 after Twitter’s acquisition of the popular video-sharing platform. According to new data from Sensor Tower, Byte’s launch has been well-received with over 1.3 million downloads during its first week alone. The U.S. delivered the bulk of these new installs, followed by Great Britain then Canada.

The U.S. contributed 912,000 downloads, or 70% of the installs, the report says. While Great Britain and Canada offered 7% and 6% of installs, respectively. The majority of Byte downloads were also on iOS, with 950,000 iOS downloads compared with 350,000 installs on Android.

App Annie’s numbers differed a bit, but also found that Byte topped 1 million total downloads on iOS and Android through Sunday, Feb. 2.

Sensor Tower’s new report compares Byte’s figures to Vine’s debut in January 2013, which only saw a total of 775,000 installs during its first week on iOS. However, that doesn’t mean Byte is soon to be a much more popular app than its predecessor.

For starters, the app market has grown over the years to include more users and more devices. In 2016, for example, only 2.5 billion users worldwide had smartphones. Now that number tops 3.5 billion. In addition, Vine launched as an unknown startup into a market that had yet to really embrace short-form. Byte, on the other hand, not only takes advantage of its association with Vine, it also arrives at a time when short-form video is now hugely popular thanks to Vine’s success and TikTok, the latter which became the No. 4 most-downloaded app of 2019.

Despite its solid launch numbers, Byte’s debut was not unmarred.

The app immediately saw massive comment spam as bots rushed to fill comment sections with follow requests (and follow for follows), including requests from pornbots. Byte’s early adopters also started snatching up coveted usernames — those belonging to real people, ranging from tech folks to celebs like Taylor Swift and other prominent figures like Trump, Bezos, Tiger Woods and others, Slate reported. The company quickly moved to acknowledge the problem and promised a cleanup was underway.

But that’s not Byte’s only issue. The app originally launched with a 12+ age rating, yet was immediately filled with adult humor alongside videos from obvious minors. Surfaced in Byte’s popular feed were videos with dick jokes and sexual humor, and problematic content including distasteful jokes about child abuse and coronavirus victims.

To give you a sense of Byte’s content, a perusal of the “Popular” feed on Friday surfaced a video featuring a teenaged-to-young adult boy joking “if you call me a slut in the comments one more time, I’m going to suck all your d***s.” Another teenaged-appearing boy joked about a prostate exam performed by his dad. A boy of a similar age asks if anyone had ever pooped into someone’s….and then the video cuts off.

It’s unclear if the boys in question are 18 or older, but seeing these — as well as so many other videos featuring dick jokes — followed by videos filmed by very young children was an uncomfortable experience.

The Popular feed also featured a video of a drone trying to fly a dildo into a sex doll. One video made light of child abuse, with a man viciously hitting the phone screen. The video is filmed from above, giving you the child’s perspective. The caption read: “when a child brings up a valid argument.”

Two other videos featured toddlers – one of a dad knocking the baby down, perhaps on purpose, as they played ball, only to later fall himself. Another depicted someone spraying a baby in the face with the kitchen sink nozzle, followed by the baby crying.

One video made fun of Chinese people dying from coronavirus. Another showed a teen smoking a joint, then hearing a siren and running.

Vine videos were strange and dumb in their own way, but the best weren’t typically crass or dirty. Think:  duck army, eyebrows on fleek, hate blockers, what are those, Squidward hits the dab, and so on.

Given the amount of adult humor, Byte’s lack of an age-gate and the app’s 12+ rating was concerning. (Byte updated to 17+ over the weekend. The above videos aren’t surfacing now. We know Apple was taking a look at its content).

Another potential concern was that a lot of Byte’s content was recycled from elsewhere — there were clips from YouTube, FunnyorDie, TV shows, and even TikTok — logo and all. Users also reposted Snapchat videos and memes from around the web.

With the changes to the age rating, it seems Byte may have been alerted to some of its more problematic content. Byte now puts a curated Spotlight feed at the top of its discovery page, where videos curation is improved.

The company on Friday also published the initial details on its Partner Program, touting the potential for revenue other platforms don’t provide.

TikTok, by comparison, hasn’t quite figured out how to monetize — its app has seen 1.65 billion downloads to date, but only grossed $176.9 million in 2019. However, TikTok’s elite are making names for themselves that allow them to grow their brand in other ways, including by directing users to other social channels like YouTube and Instagram, and even doing meet-and-greets with fans.

Whether a whole new world of Byte stars emerges remains to be seen.

Source: TechCrunch

Posted on

This Week in Apps: Apple antitrust issues come to Congress, subscription apps boom, Tencent takes on TikTok

Welcome back to ThisWeek in Apps, the Extra Crunch series that recaps the latest OS news, the applications they support and the money that flows through it all.

The app industry is as hot as ever with a record 204 billion downloads in 2019 and $120 billion in consumer spending in 2019, according to App Annie’s recently released “State of Mobile” annual report. People are now spending 3 hours and 40 minutes per day using apps, rivaling TV. Apps aren’t just a way to pass idle hours — they’re a big business. In 2019, mobile-first companies had a combined $544 billion valuation, 6.5x higher than those without a mobile focus.

In this Extra Crunch series, we help you keep up with the latest news from the world of apps, delivered on a weekly basis.

This week, there was a ton of app news. We’re digging into the latest with Apple’s antitrust issues, Tencent’s plan to leverage WeChat to fend off the TikTok threat, AppsFlyer’s massive new round, the booming subscription economy, Disney’s mobile game studio sale, Pokémon GO’s boost to tourism, Match Group’s latest investment and much more. And did you see the app that lets you use your phone from within a paper envelope? Or the new AR social network? It’s Weird App Week, apparently.

Source: TechCrunch