October 22, 2021

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Sneak peek at TikTok buying, new iOS and Android betas, children’ app Prodigy hit with FTC criticism – TechCrunch

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

The app trade is as sizzling as ever, with a report 218 billion downloads and $143 billion in international shopper spend in 2020.

Customers final yr additionally spent 3.5 trillion minutes utilizing apps on Android units alone. And within the U.S., app utilization surged forward of the time spent watching reside TV. Presently, the common American watches 3.7 hours of reside TV per day, however now spends 4 hours per day on their cellular units.

Apps aren’t only a option to go idle hours — they’re additionally a giant enterprise. In 2019, mobile-first corporations had a mixed $544 billion valuation, 6.5x greater than these with no cellular focus. In 2020, buyers poured $73 billion in capital into cellular corporations — a determine that’s up 27% year-over-year.

This week, we’ve received a primary have a look at certainly one of TikTok’s early e-commerce assessments, which includes a program for sellers involving product anchors on movies and the choice for affiliate gross sales. We’re additionally digging into the brand new iOS and Android betas, the FTC criticism towards math app Prodigy and extra.

TikTok assessments a brand new e-commerce expertise in Indonesia

The Monetary Instances just lately reported TikTok was getting ready to launch a spread of latest e-commerce experiences in 2021, together with the power for creators to share hyperlinks to merchandise, help for affiliate gross sales, and even livestreamed buying. Now, we’ve received a primary have a look at a few of the reside assessments round e-commerce that TikTok has in progress.

The corporate just lately launched a “Vendor College” web site aimed toward its Indonesian viewers, the place it particulars how manufacturers can promote their merchandise on video. Right here, TikTok explains manufacturers have two methods to promote, both by making their very own movies or by working with associates.

“If you happen to select to promote by your private web page, you’ll be able to then show merchandise by way of livestreaming or quick movies, with product anchors embedded in your content material. When prospects view your content material, they are often redirected to the corresponding product element web page by clicking on the product anchor,” the positioning explains.

The Vendor College additionally particulars different data, like how to enroll to be a TikTok vendor and what kind of merchandise are prohibited, together with different guidelines and pointers.

Picture Credit: TikTok

TikTok Sellers have to offer their contact data, together with location, cellphone, e mail, store and warehouse location, and different required documentation to be permitted. They’ll then arrange a Vendor profile, the place they’ll handle different customers related to their account. As soon as reside as a Vendor on the app, they’ll have a “TikTok Store” on the second tab on their profile, which customers can view after they go to the web page.

When their movies displaying their merchandise are seen, there are “product anchors” embedded within the content material. Clicking on these anchors will redirect the viewer to the product element web page the place they’ll transact. As well as, manufacturers can collaborate with TikTok influencers to advertise their merchandise by a brand new “TikTok Affiliate” program.

Picture Credit: TikTok

TikTok advised TechCrunch this system is a take a look at of its e-commerce options in Indonesia, and certainly one of a number of product assessments within the space of e-commerce.

Client advocacy teams file FTC criticism towards edtech app Prodigy

A coalition of 20 shopper advocacy teams, led by the Marketing campaign for a Industrial-Free Childhood, have filed an FTC criticism towards the favored edtech app Prodigy, which presents a math studying app for net and cellular. The app is designed very like modern-day freemium video games, with math “battles” designed to enhance math expertise, grades and take a look at scores.

The criticism alleges a wide range of abuses, together with the way it aggressively pushes children utilizing the free model supplied to varsities to nag mother and father for the paid $59 annual subscription, which features a richer gaming expertise.

The teams additionally take difficulty with the app’s in-app rewards and badges — a few of that are solely out there to paid customers, together with fancier loot containers — saying these options trigger division between those that pay and people who can’t. And it alleges that Prodigy’s claims about academic enhancements don’t maintain benefit.

In response, Prodigy says it takes the considerations severely, however over 95% of customers play the sport without cost and the enterprise mannequin involving the paid membership is how free entry is supplied.

“With out this mannequin, we might be required to place all of our academic content material behind a paywall, which contradicts our mission of offering full entry to enjoyable and interesting math studying,” an organization spokesperson mentioned. “The choice can be to generate income by way of promoting, which isn’t a mannequin we consider greatest advantages or protects our customers. We by no means present third-party adverts on our platform, nor can we promote or lease some other consumer data to 3rd events,” they famous.

The FTC has stepped up its enforcement over how apps focusing on youngsters can behave, with a give attention to knowledge assortment practices and COPPA violations, which has resulted in fines for apps like TikTok and YouTube. This criticism, nonetheless, will not be about youngsters’s privateness, however moderately how they’re being marketed to by way of edtech.

Platforms: Apple

Apple rolls out iOS 14.5, beta 2. The replace features a new Apple Music interface with the power to share lyrics on social and use new swipe gestures; new Shortcuts actions for taking screenshots, setting display screen orientation switching between mobile knowledge modes, and extra; expanded help for iPad privateness options (in relation to shutting off the microphone); and greater than 200 new emoji.

Probably the most notable new emoji embrace the guts on hearth, exhaling face, face in clouds, gender choices for folks with beards and an up to date syringe that removes the blood, making it extra helpful for conversations in regards to the COVID vaccine.

Picture Credit: Emojipedia (opens in a brand new window)

Apple welcomed the groups from 13 app corporations in its inaugural cohort for Apple’s Entrepreneur Camp for Black Founders and Builders. This system focuses on constructing technical expertise and designing an excellent consumer expertise by periods, hands-on labs, one-on-ones with Apple specialists and engineers, and extra. VC agency Harlem Capital may also supply mentorship.

Members embrace health app B3am, information app Black, music app Bar Examination, 3D pictures app Film3D, MIDI Controller app FormKey, healthcare app Well being Auto Export, gardening app Hologarden, distant studying answer Hubli (beta testing), sport Justice Royale, sneaker fanatic app Kickstroid, nail artwork app Nailstry, social app Peek: Films & TV Reveals and music app TuneBend.

Platforms: Google

Google launches the primary developer preview of Android 12. The replace consists of new privateness controls; pre-set password complexity ranges of excessive, medium and low; different improved consumer expertise instruments and app compatibility enhancements; the power to transcode media into higher-quality codecs just like the AV1 picture format; transitions and animations for notifications, plus the power to embellish notifications with customized content material; enrollment-specific IDs for employee-owned units; streamlined credential administration for unmanaged units; an improved screenshot editor; higher help for multi-channel audio; Mission Mainline enhancements; and extra.

Google’s Play Retailer provides help for Close by Sharing. The characteristic permits customers to share apps and updates with close by Android units.

Google suspended the Trump 2020 app from the Play Retailer for non-functionality. The app would both grasp upon first launch or instantly reported a server error. Google says the app was in violation of its insurance policies round non-functional apps, however the app can return if it’s fastened.


YouTube says it’s now beta testing a brand new e-commerce buying expertise within the app that enables creators to market merchandise to followers, who can then purchase immediately on YouTube. The characteristic, which goals to compete with TikTok’s rising buying ambitions, will develop later in 2021 past the preliminary group of creators.

Picture Credit: YouTube


Robinhood’s CEO Vlad Tenev testified earlier than Congress this week over the GameStop frenzy. Tenev denied serving to hedge funds and requested for the SEC to change buying and selling guidelines. AOC identified that Robinhood isn’t really free, it’s simply hiding the associated fee from retail buyers by subsidizing free trades with cost for order movement. (A proportion of its income Tenev ridiculously claimed he couldn’t recall, saying solely “it’s over 50%.”)

From the listening to, by way of CSPAN


TikTok dad or mum ByteDance is exploring a sale of its TikTok operations in India to Bangalore-headquartered Look, a cellular content material platform based by InMobi founder Naveen Tewari. Look operates a TikTok rival Roposo, which has seen huge development since TikTok was banned in India over nationwide safety considerations. The 2 corporations — ByteDance and Look dad or mum InMobi Pte — share an investor with SoftBank, which initiated the talks, per a Bloomberg report.

Instagram is fixing the iMessage bug. Some suspected the problem was associated to Apple and Fb’s ongoing public battles, however Instagram mentioned the issue the place Instagram hyperlinks in iMessage wouldn’t present a preview was only a bug. The corporate famous a repair will arrive quickly.

TikTok inks a multi-year take care of UFC which incorporates livestreams of pre- and post-fight content material, and different behind-the-scenes footage. The content material will stream on UFC TikTok accounts together with @UFC, @UFCRussia, @UFCBrasil and @UFCEurope.

Douyin, the Chinese language model of TikTok, now has 550 million customers for its in-app Search characteristic alone. The app final reported in September it had 600 million every day customers, indicating a fair bigger base of MAUs.

Proper-wing social community Parler introduced it’s again on-line for present customers and can re-open to new customers subsequent week. The corporate additionally has a brand new interim CEO, Mark Meckler, who beforehand co-founded the Tea Celebration Patriots.

Triller is mired in controversy over its MAUs. A Billboard report says the corporate misrepresented the variety of month-to-month lively customers it had — 25 million as an alternative of the 50 million it claimed. Triller CEO Mike Lu had mentioned the discrepancies didn’t matter as a result of there’s “no authorized definition” for an MAU. After the report got here out, Lu denied the corporate was inflating its numbers. We occur to recall that Triller instantly threatened to sue over a report that it had inflated its downloads final yr.


YouTube star David Dobrik’s photo-sharing app Dispo, backed by a $4 million seed, launched into non-public beta to a ton of buzz. The app rapidly maxed out TestFlight’s 10,000-person restrict, as an alternative of being the low-key beta debut the workforce had anticipated. Dispo’s gimmick is that customers have to attend 24 hours to see the pictures they snap.



Picture Credit: WhatsApp

WhatsApp will roll out an in-app banner in an try to higher clarify its new privateness coverage. When clicked, customers will probably be directed towards coverage data they’ll evaluation at their leisure forward of the Might 15 deadline to just accept the modifications.

Streaming & Leisure

Picture Credit: App Annie

Clubhouse has topped 8 million international downloads, 2.6 million of which have been within the U.S., in response to a brand new report from App Annie. The report additionally highlighted the broader influence Clubhouse is having on social audio, as native audio apps are gaining new installs, too.

World cellular customers streamed 935 billion hours of video in 2020, up 40% YoY, says App Annie. The pandemic impacts have been clear — customers went from 146 billion hours in Q1 2019 to 240 billion in This fall 2020, a 65% rise in two years.

Cameo, the app that connects prospects with celebs for paid customized messages, is claimed to be elevating $100 million, valuing its enterprise at $1 billion, reviews Bloomberg Quint. Not coincidentally, Fb simply started testing its Cameo clone, Tremendous.

YouTube reveals its 2021 plans. In a weblog publish from Chief Product Officer Neal Mohan, YouTube gave a have a look at coming updates throughout its suite of apps:

  • YouTube to revamp its YouTube VR app homepage to enhance navigation, accessibility and search performance.
  • YouTube says it’s going to develop its video chapters characteristic so as to add chapters routinely and replace the watch expertise to be extra intuitive, together with on the pill.
  • YouTube TV, now with 3 million-plus customers, will introduce a paid add-on that may help 4K streaming, DVR for off-line playback and limitless simultaneous in-home streams.
  • YouTube Youngsters will add a characteristic that enables mother and father to specify the channels and movies their children are allowed to observe.
  • YouTube will develop its Applause tipping characteristic to extra creators in 2021.
  • YouTube Music will enhance playlist creation and make these playlists extra discoverable.
  • And as famous above, YouTube is testing an e-commerce characteristic that lets customers take a look at on the app.
  • YouTube Shorts, an in-app TikTok rival of types, will come to the U.S. in March, following its assessments in India.


Microsoft xCloud, the sport streaming service that lets customers play Xbox video games on Android tablets and telephones, has begun testing an internet model. In a evaluation by The Verge, the expertise is described as much like the cellular model, with a easy launcher, suggestions, entry to cloud video games by Xbox Sport Go Final and the power to renew just lately performed video games.

Apple demanded delicate knowledge from Valve to help in its authorized battle with Epic Video games. The request included issues like complete yearly gross sales of apps and in-app merchandise; annual advert revenues from Steam; annual revenues from Steam; annual earnings gross or web from Steam; and extra. Apple additionally wished the names of all Steam apps, worth and IAP, and date vary out there. Valve, not surprisingly, didn’t comply with this. PCGamer has the complete report.

Epic Video games expands its authorized combat with Apple to the EU. The Fortnite proprietor filed a proper antitrust criticism with the European Fee, alleging Apple’s anti-competitive restrictions which have “eradicated competitors in app distribution and funds.” Epic Video games can also be combating Apple within the U.S., U.Okay. and Australia.

Stadia layoffs shocked workforce. Google Stadia, the sport streaming service out there by way of Chromecast Extremely, the Chrome browser, ChromeOS tablets and the Stadia cellular app for Android, just lately shut down its in-house sport improvement studio, Stadia Video games and Leisure. A report from Kotaku this week signifies how a lot of a shock this was to workforce, as simply days earlier than the mass layoffs, management was praising workers for his or her “nice progress.”

Well being & Health

Apple tells builders that solely apps submitted by acknowledged public well being authorities will have the ability to publish “well being go” apps to the App Retailer. These apps are designed to indicate somebody’s COVID-19 testing and vaccination standing. Apple says it’s going to settle for apps from authorities, medical and different credentialed establishments, healthcare suppliers, laboratories and take a look at equipment producers.

Apple promotes iOS well being apps to Apple Card holders. In honor of American Coronary heart Month, Apple emailed Apple Card customers financial savings on iOS well being apps together with Strava, Ten % Happier, Sleep Cycle and Lifesum.

U.S. well being & health apps noticed over 405 million installs in 2020, up 22% year-over-year, reviews Sensor Tower. The apps, which benefited from health club closures amid COVID, noticed $838 million in shopper spend, up 42% YoY. The typical age of customers additionally continued climb, demonstrating higher retention with older customers.

Picture Credit: Sensor Tower

A second report from the agency indicated U.S. pharmacy app installs have been up 47% because the COVID-19 vaccine started to roll out.


Microsoft launched a unified app for iPad that mixes Phrase, PowerPoint, Excel and OneNote into one single app. The app is a free obtain with in-app subscriptions, beginning at $6.99/month. A $69.99/yr subscription can also be out there. Microsoft beforehand launched unified apps for the iPhone and Android.

Authorities & Coverage

TikTok faces a brand new sequence of regulatory complaints in Europe, together with unfair phrases over its digital foreign money, whose alternate price could be modified by TikTok; unfair phrases in relation to copyright, associated to TikTok’s capacity to redistribute customers’ movies with out paying them (e.g. for adverts); baby security considerations over suggestive content material and “hidden advertising” of its branded Hashtag Challenges; and different accusations of deceptive knowledge processing and privateness practices.

North Dakota’s Senate votes down the App Retailer invoice that may have pressured Apple to permit customers to sideload apps on their cellular units. The invoice was funded by the advocacy group Coalition for App Equity, which incorporates Epic Video games, Spotify, Match Group, Tile and others with a beef towards Apple over its fee construction. Related payments are into account in Arizona and Georgia.


The Publish-IDFA Alliance, which consists of Liftoff, Fyber, Chartboost, InMobi, Vungle and Singular, launched a brand new “No IDFA? No Downside” useful resource that goals to assist publishers and advertisers navigate the iOS 14 transition.


File sharing app SHAREit, one of many world’s hottest apps, is discovered to have a number of safety flaws, researchers reported. The vulnerabilities could possibly be abused to leak delicate consumer knowledge and “execute arbitrary code” with app permissions.

✨ Robinhood rival Public.com raised $220 million simply months after its $65 million Sequence C, as beforehand reported by TechCrunch. Prior buyers returned, together with Greycroft, Accel, Tiger World, Impressed Capital, and others, valuing the enterprise at $1.2 billion.

✨ Robinhood rival Webull raised $150 million in a brand new spherical that values the enterprise at over $1 billion. The brokerage was based by Alibaba alum Wang Anquan and, like Public.com, has benefitted from the exodus of disgruntled Robinhood customers, who left over the GameStop debacle.

✨ Math studying app Photomath raised $23 million in Sequence B funding in a spherical led by Menlo Ventures. The app, now with 220 million downloads, helps you to level your cellphone at a math drawback and it explains the answer.

✨ Reside video buying startup Talkshoplive raised $3 million from Spero Ventures for its reside video buying platform that lets customers watch its movies on the internet and cellular net — or wherever else they’re embedded.

✨ Occasion networking app Grip raised a $13 million Sequence A, regardless of the pandemic. The app pivoted final yr to help digital, hybrid and reside occasions, as an alternative of simply in-person occasions.

✨ Cellular gaming startup Artie raised $10 million for its gaming platform that lets customers play cellular video games with out putting in an app, from the browser or wherever hyperlinks could be shared on-line. Traders included Zynga founder Mark Pincus, Kevin Durant and Wealthy Kleiman’s Thirty 5 Ventures, Scooter Braun’s Raised In Area, Shutterstock founder Jon Oringer, Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss, Googler Manuel Bronstein and YouTube co-founder Chad Hurley.

✨ Low-code app improvement service OutSystems raised $150 million in a spherical led by Abdiel Capital and Tiger World, valuing the enterprise at $9.5 billion.

✨ Cross-border neobanking app Zolve raised $15 million in a seed spherical led by Accel and Lightspeed. The app was based by the Raghunandan G, the founding father of ride-hailing agency TaxiForSure, which exited to Ola. It’s aimed toward folks transferring from India to the U.S. or vice versa.

✨ Courting app Jigsaw raised $3.7 million for its app that hides daters’ faces with puzzle items in an effort to push customers to have interaction and get to know one another earlier than the reveal. Whereas “face reveals” are fashionable on social media, a relationship app that does this lends itself to objectifying folks by not displaying the face, as customers give attention to the daters’ physique as an alternative.


Picture Credit: Outfit

TechCrunch this week coated DIY residence renovation startup Outfit, which leverages shoppers’ cellular units to assist them with their residence tasks. After submitting data, together with dimensions and pictures, Outfit’s app presents the client a step-by-step information for finishing the undertaking, together with documenting their area, getting objects and instruments delivered, a customized to-do listing and receiving help whereas the undertaking is underway.


Picture Credit: Hush

Hush, a just lately launched Safari advert blocker for Mac, iPhone and iPad, does extra than simply block adverts. The app additionally works to dam different invasive trackers and people annoying cookie warnings that now pop up in every single place on account of GDPR legal guidelines. (it truly doesn’t consent or deny the “settle for cookies?” requests — it simply blocks the scripts and parts on the web site. It doesn’t work together with the positioning or click on any buttons.

In contrast to some blockers, Hush doesn’t accumulate your knowledge. It doesn’t log your browser habits or passwords and even accumulate crash reviews. It’s additionally free, however you’ll be able to sponsor the developer on GitHub.

Zillow’s replace

The up to date model of Zillow’s 3D House app launched new know-how that mixes into one interface 3D House excursions, itemizing pictures and AI-generated ground plans. To create the ground plans and residential tour, the app makes use of laptop imaginative and prescient and machine studying on panoramic pictures the agent or photographer captured utilizing the app and a 360-degree digicam. The app additionally leverages AI to foretell issues like room dimensions and sq. footage. Each the house tour and ground plan can then be routinely uploaded to the lists and added to an internet site, MLS or shared on e mail/social media.

Because of the pandemic, Zillow 3D House excursions revealed on for-sale listings elevated 255% throughout 2020 as prospects used it as a safer option to tour properties, the corporate additionally famous.

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