#DealMonitor – Snap zahlte 124,5 Millionen für Fit Analytics – Cherry plant vierten Fonds – Unstoppable Finance sammelt 4,5 Millionen ein


Im aktuellen #DealMonitor für den 20. Oktober werfen wir wieder einen Blick auf die wichtigsten, spannendsten und interessantesten Investments und Exits des Tages in der DACH-Region. Alle Deals der Vortage gibt es im großen und übersichtlichen #DealMonitor-Archiv.

Achtung! Wir freuen uns über Tipps, Infos und Hinweise, was wir in unserem #DealMonitor alles so aufgreifen sollten. Schreibt uns eure Vorschläge entweder ganz klassisch per E-Mail oder nutzt unsere “Stille Post“, unseren Briefkasten für Insider-Infos.

Startup-Jobs: Auf der Suche nach einer neuen Herausforderung? In der unserer Jobbörse findet Ihr Stellenanzeigen von Startups und Unternehmen.

Foto (oben): azrael74

#10x-founders, #aktuell, #backed, #berlin, #bln-capital, #bookiply, #cadenza, #cherry-ventures, #crowdinvesting, #decentralized-finance, #defi, #discovery-ventures, #e-health, #earlybird-uni-x-fonds, #earlybird-venture-capital, #fabric-ventures, #fintech, #fit-analytics, #floy, #gfj-esg-akquisition-i, #hamburg, #heritage-type-co, #holidu, #inflection, #joyance-partners, #munchen, #rockaway-blockchain-fund, #shio-capital, #snap, #snapchat, #spac, #speedinvest, #tomorrow, #travel, #unstoppable-finance, #venture-capital, #xdeck

TikTok and Snap alums launch mayk.it, a social music creation app, with $4M in seed funding

After living through the global upheaval of the COVID-19 pandemic, many workers are re-evaluating their career path. Stefan Heinrich Henriquez, a former Head of Global Marketing at TikTok and Chief Marketing Officer at Cameo, is one of them.

“I have been thinking about music since my time at TikTok, and I was really thinking about building something on my own, but then it took me another year to finally have the guts to do it,” said Henriquez. “Then when the pandemic started, I think so many people were thinking about like, ‘What am I doing with my life?”

Along with his co-founder Akiva Bamberger, who was a software engineer on Snap’s Spectacles, Henriquez began work on mayk.it last summer. Today, the social music app launches on iOS and announces its $4 million seed round from investors including Greycroft, Chicago Ventures, Slow Ventures, firstminute, Steven Galanis, Randi Zuckerberg, YouTuber Mr. Beasts’ Night media, Spotify’s first CMO Sophia Bendz, Cyan Banister, artist T-Pain and music industry veteran Zach Katz, among others.

Mayk.it wants to help people easily produce, own, and share music that they can create using just their phone. Users can upload their own beat or select an existing beat from another user, then add vocals (voice effects and somewhat corny lyric generators are available if you’re shy), and then add a visual from Giphy. Once you make (or, “mayk”) something, you can post it on the app, where other users can see it via a discovery page, which categorizes music by feeling or theme, rather than genre.

Mayk.it also poses “ideas,” or prompts to spur creativity, like “What is your pet thinking about right now?” or “Make a song about your first crush.” There’s also a Tinder-like tab that lets you swipe left or right on songs — if you really like it, you can leave a comment (called an “encouragement” in an attempt to keep things supportive) or remix it.

Of course, for creators who might want to get a bit more serious about their creations, remixing and collaborating poses a question of ownership — if someone writes a beat and another user sings over it, who owns it? While you can’t monetize music on mayk.it, you have the right to export it and sell it elsewhere. Henriquez said that anyone involved in the creation of an audio clip or song on the app gets an equal cut, so the beat-maker would get 50% of any profit, and the singer would get 50%. Mayk.it doesn’t take a cut.

Right now, the mayk.it doesn’t have in-app purchases, but Henriquez said that down the road, it could be possible to profit from working with brands or establishing an in-app marketplace. For now, mayk.it is focused on using its seed funding to add new features, improve the product and build a tool that inspires creativity — Henriquez added that, as an LGBTQ+ founder, it’s important to him that users can find community on the app through its social features.

“When I worked at YouTube, you really needed to know Adobe Premiere and After Effects,” said Henriquez. “And what I learned since Musical.ly and TikTok is that you could be a video creator or an actor without having to go through all these things. I think Roblox is doing that now with games, and Canva is doing that with design tools.”

Mayk.it wants to be like a Roblox or Canva for music composition and sharing. You can’t currently create something on mayk.it that sounds like it came from an artist who’s mastered Ableton, but something from mayk.it could easily make the rounds on TikTok.

Though mayk.it is now in the App Store, there’s a waitlist to gain access — but you can also test your skills with a “vibe check,” which invites you to make a song and see if existing users will right-swipe you in. Not to brag, but we passed.

#apps, #music, #snap, #tiktok

TikTok is building its own AR development platform, TikTok Effect Studio

Both Facebook and Snap offer tools that allow developers to build out augmented reality (AR) experiences and features for their own respective family of apps. Now, TikTok is looking to do the same. The company recently launched a new creative toolset called TikTok Effect Studio, currently in private beta testing, which will allow its own developer community to build AR effects for TikTok’s short-form video app.

On a new website titled “Effect House,” TikTok asks interested developers to sign up for early access to Effect Studio.

On the form provided, developers fill out their name, email, TikTok account info, company, and level of experience with building for AR, as well as examples of their work. The website also asks if they’re using a Mac or PC (presumably to gauge which desktop platform to prioritize), and whether they would test Effect House for work or for personal use.

The project was first spotted by social media consultant Matt Navarra, via a tip from Sam Schmir.

TikTok confirmed to TechCrunch the website launched earlier in August, but the project itself is still in the early stages of testing in only a few select markets, one of which is the U.S.

The company couldn’t offer a timeframe as to when these tools would become more broadly available. Instead, TikTok characterized Effect Studio as an early “experiment,” adding that some of its experiments don’t always make it to launch. Plus, other experiments may undergo significant changes between their early beta phases and what later becomes a public product.

That said, the launch of an AR toolset would make TikTok more competitive with industry rivals, who today rely on creative communities to expand their apps’ features sets with new features and experiences. Snap, for example, launched a $3.5 million fund last year directed toward Snapchat AR Lens creation. Meanwhile, at Facebook’s F8 developer conference in June, the company announced it had grown its Spark AR platform to over 600,000 creators across 190 countries, making it the largest mobile AR platform worldwide.

Image Credits: screenshot of TikTok website

TikTok, too, has been increasing its investment in developer tools over the past couple of years. However, its focus as of late has been on toolkits aimed at third-party developers who want to integrate more closely with TikTok in their own apps. Today, TikTok’s developer website provides access to tools that allow app makers to add TikTok features to their apps like user authentication flows, sound sharing, and others that allow users to publish videos from a third-party editing app out to TikTok.

The new TikTok Effect Studio isn’t meant to be used with third-party apps, however.

Instead, it’s about building AR experiences (and possibly, other creative effects), that would be provided to TikTok users directly in the consumer-facing video app.

Though willing to confirm its broader goals for TikTok Effect Studio, the company declined to share specific details about the exact tools may be included, citing the project’s early days.

“We’re always thinking about new ways to bring value to our community and enrich the TikTok experience,” a TikTok spokesperson told TechCrunch. “Currently, we’re experimenting with ways to give creators additional tools to bring their creative ideas to life for the TikTok community,” they added.

#apps, #ar, #augmented-reality, #creative, #creators, #developers, #facebook, #mobile-applications, #snap, #snapchat, #social-media, #software, #spark-ar, #tiktok, #united-states, #video-hosting

This Week in Apps: OnlyFans bans sexual content, SharePlay delayed, TikTok questioned over biometric data collection

Welcome back to This Week in Apps, the weekly TechCrunch series that recaps the latest in mobile OS news, mobile applications and the overall app economy.

The app industry continues to grow, with a record 218 billion downloads and $143 billion in global consumer spend in 2020. Consumers last year also spent 3.5 trillion minutes using apps on Android devices alone. And in the U.S., app usage surged ahead of the time spent watching live TV. Currently, the average American watches 3.7 hours of live TV per day, but now spends four hours per day on their mobile devices.

Apps aren’t just a way to pass idle hours — they’re also a big business. In 2019, mobile-first companies had a combined $544 billion valuation, 6.5x higher than those without a mobile focus. In 2020, investors poured $73 billion in capital into mobile companies — a figure that’s up 27% year-over-year.

This Week in Apps offers a way to keep up with this fast-moving industry in one place with the latest from the world of apps, including news, updates, startup fundings, mergers and acquisitions, and suggestions about new apps and games to try, too.

Do you want This Week in Apps in your inbox every Saturday? Sign up here: techcrunch.com/newsletters

Top Stories

OnlyFans to ban sexually explicit content

OnlyFans logo displayed on a phone screen and a website

(Photo Illustration by Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Creator platform OnlyFans is getting out of the porn business. The company announced this week it will begin to prohibit any “sexually explicit” content starting on October 1, 2021 — a decision it claimed would ensure the long-term sustainability of the platform. The news angered a number of impacted creators who weren’t notified ahead of time and who’ve come to rely on OnlyFans as their main source of income.

However, word is that OnlyFans was struggling to find outside investors, despite its sizable user base, due to the adult content it hosts. Some VC firms are prohibited from investing in adult content businesses, while others may be concerned over other matters — like how NSFW content could have limited interest from advertisers and brand partners. They may have also worried about OnlyFans’ ability to successfully restrict minors from using the app, in light of what appears to be soon-to-come increased regulations for online businesses. Plus, porn companies face a number of other issues, too. They have to continually ensure they’re not hosting illegal content like child sex abuse material, revenge porn or content from sex trafficking victims — the latter which has led to lawsuits at other large porn companies.

The news followed a big marketing push for OnlyFans’ porn-free (SFW) app, OFTV, which circulated alongside reports that the company was looking to raise funds at a $1 billion+ valuation. OnlyFans may not have technically needed the funding to operate its current business — it handled more than $2 billion in sales in 2020 and keeps 20%. Rather, the company may have seen there’s more opportunity to cater to the “SFW” creator community, now that it has big names like Bella Thorne, Cardi B, Tyga, Tyler Posey, Blac Chyna, Bhad Bhabie and others on board.

U.S. lawmakers demand info on TikTok’s plans for biometric data collection

The TikTok logo is seen on an iPhone 11 Pro max

The TikTok logo is seen on an iPhone 11 Pro max. Image Credits: Nur Photo/Getty Images

U.S. lawmakers are challenging TikTok on its plans to collect biometric data from its users. TechCrunch first reported on TikTok’s updated privacy policy in June, where the company gave itself permission to collect biometric data in the U.S., including users’ “faceprints and voiceprints.” When reached for comment, TikTok could not confirm what product developments necessitated the addition of biometric data to its list of disclosures about the information it automatically collects from users, but said it would ask for consent in the case such data collection practices began.

Earlier this month, Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and John Thune (R-SD) sent a letter to TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew, which said they were “alarmed” by the change, and demanded to know what information TikTok will be collecting and what it plans to do with the data. This wouldn’t be the first time TikTok got in trouble for excessive data collection. Earlier this year, the company paid out $92 million to settle a class-action lawsuit that claimed TikTok had unlawfully collected users’ biometric data and shared it with third parties.

Weekly News

Platforms: Apple

Image Credits: Apple

  • ⭐ Apple told developers that some of the features it announced as coming in iOS 15 won’t be available at launch. This includes one of the highlights of the new OS, SharePlay, a feature that lets people share music, videos and their screen over FaceTime calls. Other features that will come in later releases include Wallet’s support for ID cards, the App Privacy report and others that have yet to make it to beta releases.
  • Apple walked back its controversial Safari changes with the iOS 15 beta 6 update. Apple’s original redesign had shown the address bar at the bottom of the screen, floating atop the page’s content. Now the tab bar will appear below the page’s content, offering access to its usual set of buttons as when it was at the top. Users can also turn off the bottom tab bar now and revert to the old, Single Tab option that puts the address bar back at the top as before.
  • In response to criticism over its new CSAM detection technology, Apple said the version of NeuralHash that was reverse-engineered by a developer, Asuhariet Ygvar, was a generic version, and not the complete version that will roll out later this year.
  • The Verge dug through over 800 documents from the Apple-Epic trial to find the best emails, which included dirt on a number of other companies like Netflix, Hulu, Sony, Google, Nintendo, Valve, Microsoft, Amazon and more. These offered details on things like Netflix’s secret arrangement to pay only 15% of revenue, how Microsoft also quietly offers a way for some companies to bypass its full cut, how Apple initially saw the Amazon Appstore as a threat and more.

Platforms: Google

  • A beta version of the Android Accessibility Suite app (12.0.0) which rolled out with the fourth Android beta release added something called “Camera Switches” to Switch Access, a toolset that lets you interact with your device without using the touchscreen. Camera Switches allows users to navigate their phone and use its features by making face gestures, like a smile, open mouth, raised eyebrows and more.
  • Google announced its Pixel 5a with 5G, the latest A-series Pixel phone, will arrive on August 27, offering IP67 water resistance, long-lasting Adaptive Battery, Pixel’s dual-camera system and more, for $449. The phone makes Google’s default Android experience available at a lower price point than the soon to arrive Pixel 6.
  • An unredacted complaint from the Apple-Epic trial revealed that Google had quietly paid developers hundreds of millions of dollars via a program known as “Project Hug,” (later “Apps and Games Velocity Program”) to keep their games on the Play Store. Epic alleges Google launched the program to keep developers from following its lead by moving their games outside the store.

Augmented Reality

  • Snap on Thursday announced it hired its first VP of Platform Partnerships to lead AR, Konstantinos Papamiltiadis (“KP”). The new exec will lead Snap’s efforts to onboard partners, including individual AR creators building via Lens Studio as well as large companies that incorporate Snapchat’s camera and AR technology (Camera Kit) into their apps. KP will join in September, and report to Ben Schwerin, SVP of Content and Partnerships.

Fintech

  • Crypto exchange Coinbase will enter the Japanese market through a new partnership with Japanese financial giant Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group (MUFG). The company said it plans to launch other localized versions of its existing global services in the future.

Social

Image Credits: Facebook

  • Facebook launched a “test” of Facebook Reels in the U.S. on iOS and Android. The new feature brings the Reels experience to Facebook, allowing users to create and share short-form video content directly within the News Feed or within Facebook Groups. Instagram Reels creators can also now opt in to have their Reels featured on users’ News Feed. The company is heavily investing its its battle with TikTok, even pledging that some portion of its $1 billion creator fund will go toward Facebook Reels.
  • Twitter’s redesign of its website and app was met with a lot of backlash from users and accessibility experts alike. The company choices add more visual contrast between various elements and may have helped those with low vision. But for others, the contrast is causing strain and headaches. Experts believe accessibility isn’t a one-size fits all situation, and Twitter should have introduced tools that allowed people to adjust their settings to their own needs.
  • The pro-Trump Twitter alternative Gettr’s lack of moderation has allowed users to share child exploitation images, according to research from the Stanford Internet Observatory’s Cyber Policy Center.
  • Pinterest rolled out a new set of more inclusive search filters that allow people to find styles for different types of hair textures — like coily, curly, wavy, straight, as well as shaved or bald and protective styles. 

Photos

  • Photoshop for iPad gained new image correction tools, including the Healing Brush and Magic Wand, and added support for connecting an iPad to external monitors via HDMI or USB-C. The company also launched a Photoshop Beta program on the desktop.

Messaging

  • WhatsApp is being adopted by the Taliban to spread its message across Afghanistan, despite being on Facebook’s list of banned organizations. The company says it’s proactively removing Taliban content — but that may be difficult to do since WhatsApp’s E2E encryption means it can’t read people’s texts. This week, Facebook shut down a Taliban helpline in Kabul, which allowed civilians to report violence and looting, but some critics said this wasn’t actually helping local Afghans, as the group was now in effect governing the region.
  • WhatsApp is also testing a new feature that will show a large preview when sharing links, which some suspect may launch around the time when the app adds the ability to have the same account running on multiple devices.

Streaming & Entertainment

  • Netflix announced it’s adding spatial audio support on iPhone and iPad on iOS 14, joining other streamers like HBO Max, Disney+ and Peacock that have already pledged to support the new technology. The feature will be available to toggle on and off in the Control Center, when it arrives.
  • Blockchain-powered streaming music service Audius partnered with TikTok to allow artists to upload their songs using TikTok’s new SoundKit in just one click.
  • YouTube’s mobile app added new functionality that allows users to browse a video’s chapters, and jump into the chapter they want directly from the search page.
  • Spotify’s Anchor app now allows users in global markets to record “Music + Talk” podcasts, where users can combine spoken word recordings with any track from Spotify’s library of 70 million songs for a radio DJ-like experience.
  • Podcasters are complaining that Apple’s revamped Podcasts platform is not working well, reports The Verge. Podcasts Connect has been buggy, and sports a confusing interface that has led to serious user errors (like entire shows being archived). And listeners have complained about syncing problems and podcasts they already heard flooding their libraries.

Dating

  • Tinder announced a new feature that will allow users to voluntarily verify their identity on the platform, which will allow the company to cross-reference sex offender registry data. Previously, Tinder would only check this database when a user signed up for a paid subscription with a credit card.

Gaming

Image Source: The Pokémon Company

  • Pokémon Unite will come to iOS and Android on September 22, The Pokémon Company announced during a livestream this week. The strategic battle game first launched on Nintendo Switch in late July.
  • Developer Konami announced a new game, Castlevania: Grimoire of Souls, which will come exclusively to Apple Arcade. The game is described as a “full-fledged side-scrolling action game,” featuring a roster of iconic characters from the classic game series. The company last year released another version of Castelvania on the App Store and Google Play.
  • Dragon Ball Z: Dokkan Battle has now surpassed $3 billion in player spending since its 2015 debut, reported Sensor Tower. The game from Bandai Namco took 20 months to reach the figure after hitting the $2 billion milestone in 2019. The new landmark sees the game joining other top-grossers, including Clash Royale, Lineage M and others.
  • Sensor Tower’s mobile gaming advertising report revealed data on top ad networks in the mobile gaming market, and their market share. It also found puzzle games were among the top advertisers on gaming-focused networks like Chartboost, Unity, IronSource and Vungle. On less game-focused networks, mid-core games were top titles, like Call of Duty: Mobile and Top War. 

Image Credits: Sensor Tower

Health & Fitness

  • Apple is reportedly scaling back HealthHabit, an internal app for Apple employees that allowed them to track fitness goals, talk to clinicians and coaches at AC Wellness (a doctors’ group Apple works with) and manage hypertension. According to Insider, 50 employees had been tasked to work on the project.
  • Samsung launched a new product for Galaxy smartphones in partnership with healthcare nonprofit The Commons Project, that allows U.S. users to save a verifiable copy of their vaccination card in the Samsung Pay digital wallet.

Image Credits: Samsung

Adtech

Government & Policy

  • China cited 43 apps, including Tencent’s WeChat and an e-reader from Alibaba, for illegally transferring user data. The regulator said the apps had transferred users location data and contact list and harassed them with pop-up windows. The apps have until August 25 to make changes before being punished.

Security & Privacy

  • A VICE report reveals a fascinating story about a jailbreaking community member who had served as a double agent by spying for Apple’s security team. Andrey Shumeyko, whose online handles included JVHResearch and YRH04E, would advertise leaked apps, manuals and stolen devices on Twitter and Discord. He would then tell Apple things like which Apple employees were leaking confidential info, which reporters would talk to leakers, who sold stolen iPhone prototypes and more. Shumeyko decided to share his story because he felt Apple took advantage of him and didn’t compensate him for the work.

Funding and M&A

? South Korea’s GS Retail Co. Ltd will buy Delivery Hero’s food delivery app Yogiyo in a deal valued at 800 billion won ($685 million USD). Yogiyo is the second-largest food delivery app in South Korea, with a 25% market share.

? Gaming platform Roblox acquired a Discord rival, Guilded, which allows users to have text and voice conversations, organize communities around events and calendars and more. Deal terms were not disclosed. Guilded raised $10.2 million in venture funding. Roblox’s stock fell by 7% after the company reported earnings this week, after failing to meet Wall Street expectations.

? Travel app Hopper raised $175 million in a Series G round of funding led by GPI Capital, valuing the business at over $3.5 billion. The company raised a similar amount just last year, but is now benefiting from renewed growth in travel following COVID-19 vaccinations and lifting restrictions.

? Indian quiz app maker Zupee raised $30 million in a Series B round of funding led by Silicon Valley-based WestCap Group and Tomales Bay Capital. The round values the company at $500 million, up 5x from last year.

? Danggeun Market, the publisher of South Korea’s hyperlocal community app Karrot, raised $162 million in a Series D round of funding led by DST Global. The round values the business at $2.7 billion and will be used to help the company launch its own payments platform, Karrot Pay.

? Bangalore-based fintech app Smallcase raised $40 million in Series C funding round led by Faering Capital and Premji Invest, with participation from existing investors, as well as Amazon. The Robinhood-like app has over 3 million users who are transacting about $2.5 billion per year.

? Social listening app Earbuds raised $3 million in Series A funding led by Ecliptic Capital. Founded by NFL star Jason Fox, the app lets anyone share their favorite playlists, livestream music like a DJ or comment on others’ music picks.

? U.S. neobank app One raised $40 million in Series B funding led by Progressive Investment Company (the insurance giant’s investment arm), bringing its total raise to date to $66 million. The app offers all-in-one banking services and budgeting tools aimed at middle-income households who manage their finances on a weekly basis.

Public Markets

?Indian travel booking app ixigo is looking to raise Rs 1,600 crore in its initial public offering, The Economic Times reported this week.

?Trading app Robinhood disappointed in its first quarterly earnings as a publicly traded company, when it posted a net loss of $502 million, or $2.16 per share, larger than Wall Street forecasts. This overshadowed its beat on revenue ($565 million versus $521.8 million expected) and its more than doubling of MAUs to 21.3 million in Q2.  Also of note, the company said dogecoin made up 62% of its crypto revenue in Q2.

Downloads

Polycam (update)

Image Credits: Polycam

3D scanning software maker Polycam launched a new 3D capture tool, Photo Mode, that allows iPhone and iPad users to capture professional-quality 3D models with just an iPhone. While the app’s scanner before had required the use of the lidar sensor built into newer devices like the iPhone 12 Pro and iPad Pro models, the new Photo Mode feature uses just an iPhone’s camera. The resulting 3D assets are ready to use in a variety of applications, including 3D art, gaming, AR/VR and e-commerce. Data export is available in over a dozen file formats, including .obj, .gtlf, .usdz and others. The app is a free download on the App Store, with in-app purchases available.

Jiobit (update)

Jiobit, the tracking dongle acquired by family safety and communication app Life360, this week partnered with emergency response service Noonlight to offer Jiobit Protect, a premium add-on that offers Jiobit users access to an SOS Mode and Alert Button that work with the Jiobit mobile app. SOS Mode can be triggered by a child’s caregiver when they detect — through notifications from the Jiobit app — that a loved one may be in danger. They can then reach Noonlight’s dispatcher who can facilitate a call to 911 and provide the exact location of the person wearing the Jiobit device, as well as share other details, like allergies or special needs, for example.

Tweets

When your app redesign goes wrong…

Image Credits: Twitter.com

Prominent App Store critic Kosta Eleftheriou shut down his FlickType iOS app this week after too many frustrations with App Review. He cited rejections that incorrectly argued that his app required more access than it did — something he had successfully appealed and overturned years ago. Attempted follow-ups with Apple were ignored, he said. 

Image Credits: Twitter.com

Anyone have app ideas?

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This Week in Apps: In-app events hit the App Store, TikTok tries Stories, Apple reveals new child safety plan

Welcome back to This Week in Apps, the weekly TechCrunch series that recaps the latest in mobile OS news, mobile applications and the overall app economy.

The app industry continues to grow, with a record 218 billion downloads and $143 billion in global consumer spend in 2020. Consumers last year also spent 3.5 trillion minutes using apps on Android devices alone. And in the U.S., app usage surged ahead of the time spent watching live TV. Currently, the average American watches 3.7 hours of live TV per day, but now spends four hours per day on their mobile devices.

Apps aren’t just a way to pass idle hours — they’re also a big business. In 2019, mobile-first companies had a combined $544 billion valuation, 6.5x higher than those without a mobile focus. In 2020, investors poured $73 billion in capital into mobile companies — a figure that’s up 27% year-over-year.

This Week in Apps offers a way to keep up with this fast-moving industry in one place, with the latest from the world of apps, including news, updates, startup fundings, mergers and acquisitions, and suggestions about new apps and games to try, too.

Do you want This Week in Apps in your inbox every Saturday? Sign up here: techcrunch.com/newsletters

Top Stories

Apple to scan for CSAM imagery

Apple announced a major initiative to scan devices for CSAM imagery. The company on Thursday announced a new set of features, arriving later this year, that will detect child sexual abuse material (CSAM) in its cloud and report it to law enforcement. Companies like Dropbox, Google and Microsoft already scan for CSAM in their cloud services, but Apple had allowed users to encrypt their data before it reached iCloud. Now, Apple’s new technology, NeuralHash, will run on users’ devices, tatformso detect when a users upload known CSAM imagery — without having to first decrypt the images. It even can detect the imagery if it’s been cropped or edited in an attempt to avoid detection.

Meanwhile, on iPhone and iPad, the company will roll out protections to Messages app users that will filter images and alert children and parents if sexually explicit photos are sent to or from a child’s account. Children will not be shown the images but will instead see a grayed-out image instead. If they try to view the image anyway through the link, they’ll be shown interruptive screens that explain why the material may be harmful and are warned that their parents will be notified.

Some privacy advocates pushed back at the idea of such a system, believing it could expand to end-to-end encrypted photos, lead to false positives, or set the stage for more on-device government surveillance in the future. But many cryptology experts believe the system Apple developed provides a good balance between privacy and utility, and have offered their endorsement of the technology. In addition, Apple said reports are manually reviewed before being sent to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC).

The changes may also benefit iOS developers who deal in user photos and uploads, as predators will no longer store CSAM imagery on iOS devices in the first place, given the new risk of detection.

In-App Events appear on the App Store

Image Credits: Apple

Though not yet publicly available to all users, those testing the new iOS 15 mobile operating system got their first glimpse of a new App Store discovery feature this week: “in-app events.” First announced at this year’s WWDC, the feature will allow developers and Apple editors alike to showcase directly on the App Store upcoming events taking place inside apps.

The events can appear on the App Store homepage, on the app’s product pages or can be discovered through personalized recommendations and search. In some cases, editors will curate events to feature on the App Store. But developers will also be provided tools to submit their own in-app events. TikTok’s “Summer Camp” for creators was one of the first in-app events to be featured, where it received a top spot on the iPadOS 15 App Store.

Weekly News

Platforms: Apple

Apple expands support for student IDs on iPhone and Apple Watch ahead of the fall semester. Tens of thousands more U.S. and Canadian colleges will now support mobile student IDs in the Apple Wallet app, including Auburn University, Northern Arizona University, University of Maine, New Mexico State University and others.

Apple was accused of promoting scam apps in the App Store’s featured section. The company’s failure to properly police its store is one thing, but to curate an editorial list that actually includes the scams is quite another. One of the games rounded up under “Slime Relaxations,” an already iffy category to say the least, was a subscription-based slime simulator that locked users into a $13 AUD per week subscription for its slime simulator. One of the apps on the curated list didn’t even function, implying that Apple’s editors hadn’t even tested the apps they recommend.

Tax changes hit the App Store. Apple announced tax and price changes for apps and IAPs in South Africa, the U.K. and all territories using the Euro currency, all of which will see decreases. Increases will occur in Georgia and Tajikistan, due to new tax changes. Proceeds on the App Store in Italy will be increased to reflect a change to the Digital Services Tax effective rate.

Game Center changes, too. Apple said that on August 4, a new certificate for server-based Game Center verification will be available via the publicKeyUrl.

Fintech

Robinhood stock jumped more than 24% to $46.80 on Tuesday after initially falling 8% on its first day of trading last week, after which it had continued to trade below its opening price of $38.

Square’s Cash app nearly doubled its gross profit to $546 million in Q2, but also reported a $45 million impairment loss on its bitcoin holdings.

Coinbase’s app now lets you buy your cryptocurrency using Apple Pay. The company previously made its Coinbase Card compatible with Apple Pay in June.

Social

An anonymous app called Sendit, which relies on Snap Kit to function, is climbing the charts of the U.S. App Store after Snap suspended similar apps, YOLO and LMK. Snap was sued by the parent of child who was bullied through those apps, which led to his suicide. Sendit also allows for anonymity, and reviews compare it to YOLO. But some reviews also complained about bullying. This isn’t the first time Snap has been involved in a lawsuit related to a young person’s death related to its app. The company was also sued for its irresponsible “speed filter” that critics said encouraged unsafe driving. Three young men died using the filter, which captured them doing 123 mph.

TikTok is testing Stories. As Twitter’s own Stories integrations, Fleets, shuts down, TikTok confirmed it’s testing its own Stories product. The TikTok Stories appear in a left-hand sidebar and allow users to post ephemeral images or video that disappear in 24 hours. Users can also comment on Stories, which are public to their mutual friends and the creator. Stories on TikTok may make more sense than they did on Twitter, as TikTok is already known as a creative platform and it gives the app a more familiar place to integrate its effects toolset and, eventually, advertisements.

Facebook has again re-arranged its privacy settings. The company continually moves around where its privacy features are located, ostensibly to make them easier to find. But users then have to re-learn where to go to find the tools they need, after they had finally memorized the location. This time, the settings have been grouped into six top-level categories, but “privacy” settings have been unbundled from one location to be scattered among the other categories.

A VICE report details ban-as-a-service operations that allow anyone to harass or censor online creators on Instagram. Assuming you can find it, one operation charged $60 per ban, the listing says.

TikTok merged personal accounts with creator accounts. The change means now all non-business accounts on TikTok will have access to the creator tools under Settings, including Analytics, Creator Portal, Promote and Q&A. TikTok shared the news directly with subscribers of its TikTok Creators newsletter in August, and all users will get a push notification alerting them to the change, the company told us.

Discord now lets users customize their profile on its apps. The company added new features to its iOS and Android apps that let you add a description, links and emojis and select a profile color. Paid subscribers can also choose an image or GIF as their banner.

Twitter Spaces added a co-hosting option that allows up to two co-hosts to be added to the live audio chat rooms. Now Spaces can have one main host, two co-hosts and up to 10 speakers. Co-hosts have all the moderation abilities as hosts, but can’t add or remove others as co-hosts.

Messaging

Tencent reopened new user sign-ups for its WeChat messaging app, after having suspended registrations last week for unspecified “technical upgrades.” The company, like many other Chinese tech giants, had to address new regulations from Beijing impacting the tech industry. New rules address how companies handle user data collection and storage, antitrust behavior and other checks on capitalist “excess.” The gaming industry is now worried it’s next to be impacted, with regulations that would restrict gaming for minors to fight addiction.

WhatsApp is adding a new feature that will allow users to send photos and videos that disappear after a single viewing. The Snapchat-inspired feature, however, doesn’t alert you if the other person takes a screenshot — as Snap’s app does. So it may not be ideal for sharing your most sensitive content.

Telegram’s update expands group video calls to support up to 1,000 viewers. It also announced video messages can be recorded in higher quality and can be expanded, regular videos can be watched at 0.5 or 2x speed, screen sharing with sound is available for all video calls, including 1-on-1 calls, and more.

Streaming & Entertainment

American Airlines added free access to TikTok aboard its Viasat-equipped aircraft. Passengers will be able to watch the app’s videos for up to 30 minutes for free and can even download the app if it’s not already installed. After the free time, they can opt to pay for Wi-Fi to keep watching. Considering how easy it is to fall into multi-hour TikTok viewing sessions without knowing it, the addition of the addictive app could make long plane rides feel shorter. Or at least less painful.

Chinese TikTok rival Kuaishou saw stocks fall by more than 15% in Hong Kong, the most since its February IPO. The company is another victim of an ongoing market selloff triggered by increasing investor uncertainty related to China’s recent crackdown on tech companies. Beijing’s campaign to rein in tech has also impacted Tencent, Alibaba, Jack Ma’s Ant Group, food delivery company Meituan and ride-hailing company Didi. Also related, Kuaishou shut down its controversial app Zynn, which had been paying users to watch its short-form videos, including those stolen from other apps.

Twitch overtook YouTube in consumer spending per user in April 2021, and now sees $6.20 per download as of June compared with YouTube’s $5.60, Sensor Tower found.

Image Credits: Sensor Tower

Spotify confirmed tests of a new ad-supported tier called Spotify Plus, which is only $0.99 per month and offers unlimited skips (like free users get on the desktop) and the ability to play the songs you want, instead of only being forced to use shuffle mode.

The company also noted in a forum posting that it’s no longer working on AirPlay2 support, due to “audio driver compatibility” issues.

Mark Cuban-backed audio app Fireside asked its users to invest in the company via an email sent to creators which didn’t share deal terms. The app has yet to launch.

YouTube kicks off its $100 million Shorts Fund aimed at taking on TikTok by providing creators with cash incentives for top videos. Creators will get bonuses of $100 to $10,000 based on their videos’ performance.

Dating

Match Group announced during its Q2 earnings it plans to add to several of the company’s brands over the next 12 to 24 months audio and video chat, including group live video, and other livestreaming technologies. The developments will be powered by innovations from Hyperconnect, the social networking company that this year became Match’s biggest acquisition to date when it bought the Korean app maker for a sizable $1.73 billion. Since then, Match was spotted testing group live video on Tinder, but says that particular product is not launching in the near-term. At least two brands will see Hyperconnect-powered integrations in 2021.

Photos

The Photo & Video category on U.S. app stores saw strong growth in the first half of the year, a Sensor Tower report found. Consumer spend among the top 100 apps grew 34% YoY to $457 million in Q2 2021, with the majority of the revenue (83%) taking place on iOS.

Image Credits: Sensor Tower

Gaming

Epic Games revealed the host of its in-app Rift Tour event is Ariana Grande, in the event that runs August 6-8.

Pokémon GO influencers threatened to boycott the game after Niantic removed the COVID safety measures that had allowed people to more easily play while social distancing. Niantic’s move seemed ill-timed, given the Delta variant is causing a new wave of COVID cases globally.

Health & Fitness

Apple kicked out an app called Unjected from the App Store. The new social app billed itself as a community for the unvaccinated, allowing like-minded users to connect for dating and friendships. Apple said the app violated its policies for COVID-19 content.

Google Pay expanded support for vaccine cards. In Australia, Google’s payments app now allows users to add their COVID-19 digital certification to their device for easy access. The option is available through Google’s newly updated Passes API which lets government agencies distribute digital versions of vaccine cards.

COVID Tech Connect, a U.S. nonprofit initially dedicated to collecting devices like phones and tablets for COVID ICU patients, has now launched its own app. The app, TeleHome, is a device-agnostic, HIPAA-compliant way for patients to place a video call for free at a time when the Delta variant is again filling ICU wards, this time with the unvaccinated — a condition that sometimes overlaps with being low-income. Some among the working poor have been hesitant to get the shot because they can’t miss a day of work, and are worried about side effects. Which is why the Biden administration offered a tax credit to SMBs who offered paid time off to staff to get vaccinated and recover.

Popular journaling app Day One, which was recently acquired by WordPress.com owner Automattic, rolled out a new “Concealed Journals” feature that lets users hide content from others’ viewing. By tapping the eye icon, the content can be easily concealed on a journal by journal basis, which can be useful for those who write to their journal in public, like coffee shops or public transportation.

Edtech

Recently IPO’d language learning app Duolingo is developing a math app for kids. The company says it’s still “very early” in the development process, but will announce more details at its annual conference, Duocon, later this month.

Educational publisher Pearson launched an app that offers U.S. students access to its 1,500 titles for a monthly subscription of $14.99. the Pearson+ mobile app (ack, another +), also offers the option of paying $9.99 per month for access to a single textbook for a minimum of four months.

News & Reading

Quora jumps into the subscription economy. Still not profitable from ads alone, Quora announced two new products that allow its expert creators to monetize their content on its service. With Quora+ ($5/mo or $50/yr), subscribers can pay for any content that a creator paywalls. Creators can choose to enable a adaptive paywall that will use an algorithm to determine when to show the paywall. Another product, Spaces, lets creators write paywalled publications on Quora, similar to Substack. But only a 5% cut goes to Quora, instead of 10% on Substack.

Utilities

Google Maps on iOS added a new live location-sharing feature for iMessage users, allowing them to more easily show your ETA with friends and even how much battery life you have left. The feature competes with iMessage’s built-in location-sharing feature, and offers location sharing of 1 hour up to 3 days. The app also gained a dark mode.

Security & Privacy

Controversial crime app Citizen launched a $20 per month “Protect” service that includes live agent support (who can refer calls to 911 if need be). The agents can gather your precise location, alert your designated emergency contacts, help you navigate to a safe location and monitor the situation until you feel safe. The system of live agent support is similar to in-car or in-home security and safety systems, like those from ADT or OnStar, but works with users out in the real world. The controversial part, however, is the company behind the product: Citizen has been making headlines for launching private security fleets outside law enforcement, and recently offered a reward in a manhunt for an innocent person based on unsubstantiated tips.

Funding and M&A

? Square announced its acquisition of the “buy now, pay later” giant AfterPay in a $29 billion deal that values the Australian firm at more than 30% higher than the stock’s last closing price of AUS$96.66. AfterPay has served over 16 million customers and nearly 100,000 merchants globally, to date, and comes at a time when the BNPL space is heating up. Apple has also gotten into the market recently with an Affirm partnership in Canada.

? Gaming giant Zynga acquired Chinese game developer StarLark, the team behind the mobile golf game Golf Rival, from Betta Games for $525 million in both cash and stock. Golf Rival is the second-largest mobile golf game behind Playdemic’s Golf Clash, and EA is in the process of buying that studio for $1.4 billion.

?  U.K.-based Humanity raised an additional $2.5 million for its app that claims to help slow down aging, bringing the total raise to date to $5 million. Backers include Calm’s co-founders, MyFitness Pal’s co-founder and others in the health space. The app works by benchmarking health advice against real-world data, to help users put better health practices into action.

? YELA, a Cameo-like app for the Middle East and South Asia, raised $2 million led by U.S. investors that include Tinder co-founder Justin Mateen and Sean Rad, general partner of RAD Fund. The app is focusing on signing celebrities in the regions it serves, where smartphone penetration is high and over 6% of the population is under 35.

? London-based health and wellness app maker Palta raised a $100 million Series B led by VNV Global. The company’s products include Flo.Health, Simple Fasting, Zing Fitness Coach and others, which reach a combined 2.4 million active, paid subscribers. The funds will be used to create more mobile subscription products.

? Emoji database and Wikipedia-like site Emojipedia was acquired by Zedge, the makers of a phone personalization app offering wallpapers, ringtones and more to 35 million MAUs. Deal terms weren’t disclosed. Emojipedia says the deal provides it with more stability and the opportunity for future growth. For Zedge, the deal provides?….um, a popular web resource it thinks it can better monetize, we suspect.

? Mental health app Revery raised $2 million led by Sequoia Capital India’s Surge program for its app that combines cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia with mobile gaming concepts. The company will focus on other mental health issues in the future.

? London-based Nigerian-operating fintech startup Kuda raised a $55 million Series B, valuing its mobile-first challenger bank at $500 million. The inside round was co-led by Valar Ventures and Target Global.

? Vietnamese payments provider VNLife raised $250 million in a round led by U.S.-based General Atlantic and Dragoneer Investment Group. PayPal Ventures and others also participated. The round values the business at over $1 billion.

Downloads

Mastodon for iPhone

Fans of decentralized social media efforts now have a new app. The nonprofit behind the open source decentralized social network Mastodon released an official iPhone app, aimed at making the network more accessible to newcomers. The app allows you to find and follow people and topics; post text, images, GIFs, polls, and videos; and get notified of new replies and reblogs, much like Twitter.

Xingtu

@_666eveITS SO COOL FRFR do u guys want a tutorial? #fypシ #醒图 #醒图app♬ original sound – Ian Asher

TikTok users are teaching each other how to switch over to the Chinese App Store in order to get ahold of the Xingtu app for iOS. (An Android version is also available.) The app offers advanced editing tools that let users edit their face and body, like FaceTune, apply makeup, add filters and more. While image-editing apps can be controversial for how they can impact body acceptance, Xingtu offers a variety of artistic filters which is what’s primarily driving the demand. It’s interesting to see the lengths people will go to just to get a few new filters for their photos — perhaps making a case for Instagram to finally update its Post filters instead of pretending no one cares about their static photos anymore.

Tweets

Facebook still dominating top charts, but not the No. 1 spot:  

Not cool, Apple: 

This user acquisition strategy: 

Maybe Stories don’t work everywhere: 

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Anonymous Snapchat app Sendit surges with 3.5M installs after Snap bans Yolo and LMK

In May of this year, Snap banned two Snapchat platform apps that allowed users to send anonymous messages, Yolo and LMK, following a lawsuit filed on behalf of a mother whose son died by suicide after being bullied through messages on the apps for many months. In the wake of Snap’s ban, another anonymous messaging app called Sendit has been rising in the app stores’ charts, as Snapchat’s younger users sought a replacement for the apps the company blocked.

Since the news of the ban was first reported over 80 days ago, Sendit’s app has seen more than 3.5 million installs across iOS and Android, according to app intelligence firm Apptopia.

This is a rapid pace of installs compared with how quickly it grew while Yolo and LMK were active on the market. In the same period before the news was announced, Sendit had only seen seen 180,000 installs across iOS and Android, Apptopia says.

Image Credits: Apptopia

Sendit also received few user reviews before May 11, 2021. But in the days that followed the ban, “yolo” has become the second-most-used keyword in Sendit’s user reviews, Apptopia told TechCrunch. Most of these reviews are positive, saying the app is like “Yolo but better,” for instance. In other words, Snap’s ban hasn’t stamped out demand for anonymous Snapchat Q&A apps, it only crowned a new app as the market leader.

Sendit today is currently ranking No. 3 among Lifestyle apps on Apple’s U.S. App Store and has climbed to No. 57 on the App Store’s list of top free apps. It jumped three ranks overnight from Monday to Tuesday, in fact.

Like Yolo and LMK, Sendit also features a popular teen activity on Snapchat, anonymous Q&As. The app also includes other Lens games, like “Never Have I Ever,” “This or That,” “Kiss, Marry, Block” and others.

To be clear, none of these are official Snapchat applications. Instead, they integrate with a toolkit for third-party developers called Snap Kit, which allows them to create new product experiences that work with Snapchat’s best features, like Stories, Bitmoji, the Snapchat Camera and more.

Snap says its Snap Kit developers have to agree to its Terms of Service, which requires apps to prioritize user safety and take action on any reports of abuse. Those guidelines are meant to encompass any reports of bullying, harassment, hate speech or threats taking place on the third-party services. In addition, apps that offer friend finding, user-generated content and anonymous features are supposed to inform Snap of their moderation practices and customer support response times.

Image Credits: Screenshot of public App Store review of sendit; username redacted

In practice, however — as the lawsuit highlighted — there appears to be an issue with how well those terms are enforced on Snap’s end. The company tells us that it’s continuing to review developers to ensure their compliance. It has yet to announce any policy changes as result of that investigation, but some child advocates would argue that anonymous apps should have no place in a teenager’s life at all.

Even before the Snap lawsuit, apps like Yolo and LMK had raised concerns among child advocates and parents alike. For example, nonprofit Common Sense Media, an independent source for media recommendations and advice for families, pointed out that “anonymity on social media can easily lead teens down a slippery slope of poor choices.” The organization said that while teens will be drawn to the excitement of responding anonymously — perhaps learning that someone might have a crush on them — “hiding behind anonymity can also bring out hatefulness and sexually explicit risk taking.”

Sendit’s App Store reviews (see photos) indicate that is, indeed, taking place. (Sendit didn’t respond to a request for more information about its app’s operations.)

Image Credits: Screenshot of public App Store review of sendit; username redacted

The tech industry is littered with anonymous social apps that failed due to issues with cyberbullying. After numerous teen suicides related to Ask.fm’s anonymous platform, its owner IAC sold off the toxic property to an asset management firm. Other high-profile anonymous app failures include Secret, which became a home to cyberbullying; Sarahah, which was banned by the app stores and later pivoted; Yik Yak, whose founders left for Square after the app became plagued by cyberbullying; and After School, which also got kicked out of the App Store. To date, only anonymous platforms like Glassdoor and Blind, which focus on workplace chatter and career advice, have seemed to thrive.

The question for Snap to decide now is not just how it will enforce its terms on anonymous apps, but whether it’s worth allowing anonymous apps to operate given their documented dangers — and their potential tragic, as well as legal, consequences.

If you or someone you know is struggling with depression or has had thoughts of harming themselves or taking their own life, The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255) provides 24/7, free, confidential support for people in distress, as well as best practices for professionals and resources to aid in prevention and crisis situations.

#anonymous, #app-store, #apps, #apptopia, #instant-messaging, #lmk, #mobile-applications, #snap, #snapchat, #snapkit, #social-media, #tc, #teens, #yolo

Google Maps on iOS adds live location sharing in iMessage, home screen widget, dark mode

Google Maps announced today three feature updates to its iOS app. With live location sharing in the iMessage app, a traffic widget for the home screen and dark mode, Google Maps is positioning itself as a stronger competitor against iOS’ native Apple Maps.

Live location sharing was already possible in Google Maps — by tapping on the blue dot that shows where you are, you can share with select friends your ETA to your destination, and even how much battery life your phone has. But the Google Maps iMessage widget makes it easier to share your location without navigating away from your conversation. By default, Google Maps will share your location for one hour, but it’s possible to extend to up to three days — if you want to stop sharing, tap the “stop” button on the thumbnail.

Image Credits: Google Maps

Google Maps’ existing iMessage widget allows users to send GPS coordinates of their location in iMessage — but if you’re trying to meet up with friends, this wouldn’t be as useful as sharing a live location. Apple Maps already has a similar feature built into iMessage, so Google is taking a leaf out of Apple’s book to try to beat them on their own app. For a long time, Google Maps was widely considered to be the superior navigation app, but in 2018, Apple completely rebuilt Maps from the ground up, making it more competitive. Plus, as iOS 15 rolls out, Apple Maps will add AR functionality, better public transit features, more detailed maps and other improvements.

Google Maps added Waze-like traffic and incident report features to its app in 2019, which made it more appealing for driving commuters — the app says that one of its “most powerful features is the ability to see live traffic conditions in an area.” Now, users with the latest Google Maps app will be able to add a traffic widget to their home screen, which can quickly share what traffic is like in their area. The widget also allows users to set frequent destinations, like home, work or the gas station, and navigate to those places with just a tap. Though the app already has dark mode on Android, this feature will also roll out to iOS users in the coming weeks.

As Google Maps and Apple Maps compete to become the best navigation app, an unlikely competitor comes in Snapchat, which has created a more social experience on its Snap Map. Last week, Snapchat added the My Places feature to the Snap Map, which helps users find new spots to visit based on the activity of other users in their area. The ephemeral messaging app also announced at the end of July that during Q2 of 2021, the platform grew both revenue and daily active users at the highest rates it has achieved in the last four years. Still, as of last year, Google Maps had over 1 billion worldwide users.

#android, #apple, #apps, #computing, #eta, #gas-station, #google, #google-maps, #gps, #imessage, #ios-15, #mobile-applications, #operating-systems, #snap, #snapchat, #software, #waze

Snapchat adds My Places feature to Snap Map, recommending spots to visit

As more people are venturing out into the world this summer (safely, we hope!), Snapchat wants to make it easier for people to find restaurants, stores, parks, and other interesting spots in their neighborhood. Today, Snapchat is starting to roll out the My Places feature on its Snap Map, which connects users with over 30 million businesses. Users can log their favorite spots, send them to friends, and find recommendations.

My Places has three main tabs: Visited, Favorites, and Popular. Visited lists places you’ve checked into on Snapchat, and Favorites saves, well, your favorites. But the Popular tab is particularly interesting, since it marks the first time that Snapchat is using an algorithm to provide personalized recommendations to help people engage with the world around them. The algorithm considers where you are, what you’ve tagged or favorited already, and where your friends and other Snapchatters have visited.

This further differentiates the social-forward Snap Map from more established resources like Google Maps and Apple Maps, which you can’t really use to find out what restaurants your friends like. Sure, Snapchat can’t give you directions to that trendy sushi bar, but it’s not meant to, just like how Google Maps isn’t meant to show you what bar all your friends went to without you last night.

Image Credits: Snapchat

Snapchat shared survey results indicating that its users are more likely on average to engage in “post-pandemic” activities (is that a good thing?), and added that 44% of Snapchatters turn to the Snap Map to find places around them that they’re interested in.

With over 250 million monthly active users on Snap Map, the company announced an update in May called Layers, which lets partner companies add data directly to their own map. So far, Snapchat has collaborated with Ticketmaster and The Infatuation, a restaurant recommendation website — these partnerships help users see where they can find live entertainment, or what great restaurants are hidden in plain sight. Snapchat plans to further integrate Layers into Snap Map and My Places later this year.

Last week, Snap announced that during Q2 this year, it grew both revenue and daily active users at the highest rates it has achieved in the last four years. Year over year, the app grew 23%.

#apps, #computing, #google, #google-maps, #instant-messaging, #mobile-applications, #snap, #snap-inc, #snapchat, #software, #technology

Snap had its best quarter in four years

If you’ve started using Snapchat more regularly this year, you’re not alone. At yesterday’s Q2 earnings call, Snap CEO Evan Spiegel announced that the platform grew both revenue and daily active users at the highest rates it has achieved in the last four years. Snapchat now has 293 million daily active users, growing 23% since last year.

Snap went public in 2017 with a $24 billion valuation, but not long before then, the ephemeral photo sharing app experienced a massive hiccup: Instagram cloned their then-unique Stories feature. After Instagram Stories launched, Snapchat’s growth slowed by 82%. Then, when Snapchat redesigned its app’s interface, Kylie Jenner tweeted that she didn’t use the app anymore, causing the company’s valuation to drop by $1.2 billion.

But Snapchat held on and made a comeback. Its revenue reached an all-time high of $911 million in Q4 of 2020, then went down to $770 million the following quarter. Now, Snapchat’s revenue in Q2 of 2021 surpasses its previous high to reach $982 million.

The app’s Q2 growth could be attributed to the return of advertisers who scaled back their spending during the height of the pandemic, as well as the retention of users that flocked to the app while in lockdown. Like many social media platforms, Snapchat grew its revenue and user base during the pandemic, but this isn’t just a matter of re-engaging users with an app that they grew out of. As TikTok exploded on the scene and the creator economy boomed, Snapchat kept up by creating Spotlight, a TikTok clone, and investing in the applications of augmented reality.

“We made significant progress with our augmented reality platform this quarter,” Spiegel said. “More than 200 million Snapchatters engage with AR every day on average, and over 200,000 creators use Lens Studio to build AR Lenses for our community.”

Last month, Snapchat went viral for its Cartoon 3D Style Lens, which makes you look like a character in a Pixar movie. Spiegel specifically mentioned this lens as a feature that “highlighted the power of Lenses to go viral both inside and outside of Snapchat.” But beyond fun face filters, Snapchat has been using AR to woo ecommerce partners. The app has developed AR experiences for Walt Disney World, Smile Direct Club, Zenni Optical, e.l.f. Cosmetics, Ralph Lauren, and more. This includes try-on capabilities for watches, jewelry, eyewear, handbags, makeup, and even clothing. At its Partner Summit in May, Snapchat revealed an update that lets users scan friends’ outfits to find shopping recommendations for similar styles.

“We have a lot more work ahead to build out our technology and increase AR adoption, but we are thrilled with the results that our partners are seeing as we invest in our long-term camera opportunity,” said Jeremi Gorman, Snap’s Chief Business Officer. “We are confident in our long-term opportunity, and are excited to double down on shopping and commerce via augmented reality.”

In March, Snap acquired Fit Analytics, a Berlin-based startup that helps shoppers find the right-sized apparel and footwear when shopping online. Combined with Snap’s investment in AR, could we eventually use AR to see which size of clothing to order? The application of that sort of technology would need to be handled sensitively, especially as the rates of eating disorders in teens are on the rise.

Beyond ecommerce, Snapchat has sought out strategic partnerships with entertainment companies like HBO Max and Universal Music Group and doubled down on its Spectacles, glasses that create AR experiences. Of course, Facebook is working on AR glasses too. But for both companies, Snap’s recent successes show the rising adoption and value of AR experiences.

#apps, #arkansas, #augmented-reality, #berlin, #ceo, #computing, #cosmetics, #e-commerce, #evan-spiegel, #facebook, #fit-analytics, #hbo-max, #instagram, #instant-messaging, #kylie-jenner, #lens-studio, #mobile-applications, #smile-direct-club, #snap, #snap-inc, #snapchat, #social-media-platforms, #software, #spectacles, #technology, #universal-music-group, #vertical-video, #walt-disney-world

Digital greeting card startup Givingli wraps $3 million seed round

While the digital revolution has transformed nearly every social interaction and communication type in the past couple decades, the humble birthday card has shown surprising resiliency.

Givingli, a small LA-based startup with an app aiming to challenge how Gen Z sends digital greeting cards, is picking up some seed funding from investors betting on their philosophy around modern gifting. The startup has raised a $3 million seed round led by Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian’s Seven Seven Six, while Snap’s Yellow Accelerator also participated in the raise.

The wife and husband co-founding team stumbled into the world of digital greetings and gifts after abandoning physical invitations for their wedding and exploring how the digital greetings space had and hadn’t evolved. They’ve taken a mobile-first approach to tackling greetings for special events and moments where users just want to let someone know they’re thinking of them.

Image via Givingli

“Initially, we thought it would mainly be birthdays and categories like weddings, graduation, etc., and I think we just threw in some ‘just because’ cards, but then that became the most popular category, by far,” CEO Nicole Emrani Green tells TechCrunch. “I think that it’s what kicked off our virality, because obviously with every Givingli sent you’re pulling someone else in and then the conversation continues.”

The app monetizes through a $3.99 monthly premium subscription which gives users access to a greater variety of digital greeting designs from the more than 40 artists that the startup has licensed work from. Alongside paying for premium subscriptions, users can also shop for digital gift cards to send along with their greetings. Givingli’s gift card storefront has more than 150 brands available including Amazon, Spotify, Nike and DoorDash.

A big sell for Givingli’s offering has been its customization. Although users are pushed to select from the hundreds of available greeting cards, they can also spice them up by adding photos or videos in addition to writing text. The aim is to create a moment that rivals messages that can be shared via email, text or on social media services.

“For a generation of digitally native users, it’s not surprising that the ability to like, swipe, upvote or shoot a quick text from our phones have become the predominant ways we connect with others,” said Ohanian in a press release announcing the seed round. “What first attracted me to Givingli is that Nicole and Ben acutely understood this evolution and built a platform that provides the creative tools needed to elevate those interactions and deepen connections. Whether it’s sending a digital birthday gift, or a note just because – it’s clear that Givingli has put snail mail on notice.”

One of the team’s big challenges has been highlighting the visibility of their native app which users download to send greetings. Last fall, the Givingli team debuted a partnership with Snap that brought their gifting service inside Snapchat via a bite-sized Snap Mini app integration. The rollout followed the startup’s participation in Snap’s Yellow Accelerator program.

Emrani Green says that partnership has helped bring more users to their platform, and that more than 5 million people have used Givingli to send greetings since the app launched in 2019.

 

#alexis-ohanian, #amazon, #birthdays, #ceo, #co-founder, #computing, #doordash, #gift-card, #greeting-cards, #louisiana, #nike, #postcards, #recent-funding, #reddit, #snap, #snap-inc, #snapchat, #spotify, #startups, #tc, #technology

Snap makes a deal with Universal Music Group, adding its catalog to Sounds

Snap today announced a multi-year deal with Universal Music Group, one of the largest music companies in the world. From Queen to Justin Bieber, users can clip songs from the expansive UMG catalog to use in their Snaps and on Spotlight, the app’s TikTok competitor. This announcement comes after Snapchat added its Sounds feature in October, which lets users enhance their Snaps with music that Snap has licensed. Snap says that since then, over 521 million videos have been created using Sounds, which have been viewed over 31 billion times.

Of course, Snapchat’s investment in music is a direct response to the growth of music on TikTok. Last year, Fleetwood Mac’s 1977 album “Rumours” re-entered the Billboard charts after “Dreams,” a song on the record, went viral on TikTok. Dance trends also often go viral on TikTok, which can correlate with a boost in sales for the artist whose song is featured. So, the more music that’s licensed by apps like TikTok and Snapchat, the more opportunity there is for another Nathan Apodaca moment, which means free publicity for the platform.

Already, gen Z artists like Olivia Rodrigo have leveraged these social platforms to promote their new music. On Snap, over 10 million videos were created using her song “Driver’s License,” Snap reports. Rodrigo was also the first artist to use AR Lenses on Snapchat to promote her record-breaking debut “Sour,” but to be fair, she also shared AR effects on Instagram.

Olivia Rodrigo sings about “deja vu” on her new album, and you might also be getting deja vu from Snap’s announcement. TikTok also struck a deal with UMG in February. And before that, in November, TikTok announced a new licensing agreement with Sony. Meanwhile, Snap’s portfolio of music partners include Warner Music Group, Sony Music Publishing, and more. These deals aren’t exclusive — you can make a video with “deja vu” on Snapchat, TikTok, and Instagram alike. When it comes to deals like these, it’s a constant battle of reactionary one-upmanship. If TikTok makes a deal with UMG, Snapchat needs to strike a deal with UMG as well to remain competitive, which is what we’re seeing today. As our friend Olivia would say, it’s brutal out here.

#apps, #bytedance, #fleetwood-mac, #justin-bieber, #mobile-applications, #snap, #snap-inc, #snapchat, #software, #tiktok, #universal-music-group, #warner-music-group

Twitter’s acquisition strategy: eat the public conversation

The last few months have been interesting for Twitter.

After years of no innovation at all, Twitter is making big product changes. It has acquired Breaker and Revue, and presumably has more M&A coming. It’s coming out with Spaces. The only thing it clearly isn’t working on is an edit button.

The core idea is that Twitter is doubling down on multichannel engagement for creators so that they never have to leave for anywhere else.

Strategically, though, what is a microblogging service doing buying a social podcasting company and a newsletter tool while also building a live broadcasting sub-app? Is there even a strategy at all?

I humbly propose this: There is a strategy. Twitter is trying to revitalize itself by adding more contexts for discourse to its repertoire. The result, if everything goes right, will be an influence superapp that hasn’t existed anywhere before. The alternative is nothing less than the destruction of Twitter into a link-forwarding service.

Let’s talk about how Twitter is trying to eat the public conversation.

Why now?

Twitter’s problem is pretty simple. It’s this.

Twitter revenue quarterly growth 2013-21

Twitter revenue quarterly growth 2013-21. Image Credits: Macrotrends

Another way of putting it is: Twitter is not generating as much money from ads as it used to. Ad revenue has failed to grow because Twitter is generally considered to have a poorly performing product for marketers. As a result, its stock price has been flat for years.

The irony, though, is that Twitter became more socially important during this period of financial stagnation to the point that the president of the United States nearly launched several wars on the platform!

The core reason is that since becoming a public company, Twitter has been considered by most to be one of the most boring tech companies productwise. Yes, people joke about the lack of an edit button, but the platform really has been slow to innovate in any real way.

Twitter was one of the most dynamic companies around, going from the fail whale company to being the company that invented the hashtag and acquiring some of the hottest companies, from Periscope to Vine.

But it all failed. Twitter rarely used acquisitions successfully. It stopped putting out new features and barely even managed simple improvements. Despite describing itself as “what’s happening now,” it missed every boat. Until this year.

What changed?

  1. Twitter started to face its first real competition in years due to the social media renaissance. Twitter’s strength has always come from being where the news happens. Podcasts, Clubhouse, newsletters and other new channels are true competitive threats.

    #clubhouse, #column, #ec-column, #ec-media, #ec-news-analysis, #eventbrite, #kayvon-beykpour, #periscope, #revue, #snap, #social, #social-media, #spotify, #substack, #twitter

This Week in Apps: Google I/O hits and misses, Snap goes shopping, Parler returns to App Store

Welcome back to This Week in Apps, the weekly TechCrunch series that recaps the latest in mobile OS news, mobile applications and the overall app economy.

The app industry continues to grow, with a record 218 billion downloads and $143 billion in global consumer spend in 2020. Consumers last year also spent 3.5 trillion minutes using apps on Android devices alone. And in the U.S., app usage surged ahead of the time spent watching live TV. Currently, the average American watches 3.7 hours of live TV per day, but now spends four hours per day on their mobile devices.

Apps aren’t just a way to pass idle hours — they’re also a big business. In 2019, mobile-first companies had a combined $544 billion valuation, 6.5x higher than those without a mobile focus. In 2020, investors poured $73 billion in capital into mobile companies — a figure that’s up 27% year-over-year

This week we’re reviewing Google’s I/O developer event, rounding up the latest from Snap’s partner summit and taking a look at how Parler got back on the App Store, among other things.

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Top Stories

Google I/O was kinda boring this year

Image Credits: Google

Sorry, sorry. But it’s true. Without any new hardware announcements, the software-only event just didn’t feel as big and buzzy as it has in the past — which is kind of a bummer, since I/O was canceled entirely last year due to COVID-19. There was no announcement of an affordable Pixel 5a or 6 smartphone, no rumored Pixel Watch, no news on Pixel chips, no new smart home devices, no update on Google Stadia, and not even the Pixel Buds A-Series, which Google accidentally tweeted about ahead of schedule. What gives? Instead, Google I/O was filled with a lot of product news that could have been announced as blog posts — like Google Workspace improvements or neat Google Maps and Photos features. I mean, sure, a life-size 3D video calling booth is cool, but it’s not exactly going to be in your living room next year.

That’s not to downplay Google’s technical advancements, but if you’re sitting through a long live-ish (??) event, you don’t only want to hear about more conversational AI or less racist cameras (much less from the company that just fired multiple AI ethics researchers). You want to get excited about Google’s next new…thing.

When all was said and done, what stood out was Android 12.

The updated version of Google’s mobile OS with its new personalization features targets a current iPhone weakness: customization.

While iOS finally added support for widgets with iOS 14 and an App Library to clean up home screen clutter, Apple seemed almost caught off guard by the personalization madness that ensued after widgets went live. It had to quickly fix how app shortcuts worked — a workaround people had been using to tediously customize their home screen icons to match their wallpaper and widgets.

Android 12 addresses this demand for its own users and takes things a step further. Now, when Android 12 users set a new wallpaper the system can automatically create a custom palette of colors as the Android theme, including both the dominant and complementary colors. This is applied across the OS, including in the Quick Settings under the Notification Shade, in buttons on the lock screen, widgets and more. Google calls this “Material You,” which is a bit silly but gets the point across. The phone can really start to feel like yours.

Material You also introduces refreshed widgets with interactive controls and easier personalization options, smoother transitions, more animations and a privacy dashboard, where you can check in on which apps are accessing your location, mic and camera, for instance. But what sells it is how all those parts come together to present a new version of Android that actually feels fresh.

ICYMI: An I/O Round-up

  • Stats: Android now powers 3 billion devices globally, up from 2.5 billion in May 2019. The figure includes 250 million active tablets as of last year.
  • Foldables: Google announced a series of Android 12 updates that add support for foldable screens. (Is a foldable Pixel coming?)
  • Design: “Material You” is Android’s new, adaptive design language which fully embraces the home screen personalization trend, allowing users to set themes that apply across the operating system. One of its more clever tricks is that it’s able to build the color palette for the theme based on the wallpaper you choose.

  • Wearables: Google and Samsung team up on a unified wearable platform to take on Apple’s watchOS. The goal will be to combine the best of both worlds, Android Wear OS and Samsung’s Tizen, allowing apps to start faster and battery life to last longer, while users will gain more apps and watch faces. Meanwhile, the best of Fitbit — like tracking health progress and on-wrist goal celebrations — will come to Android Wear. Other updates include a Tiles API, watch face designer from Samsung, new consumer experience focused on speed and customization and redesigned Maps, Assistant and Pay.
  • Auto: Google is working with BMW and others to allow Android smartphones to unlock and start vehicles, by leveraging support for Ultra Wideband technology (UWB). It’s also making it easier for developers to bring Android apps to the car as they can now create an app that supports both Android OS and Android Auto.
  • AR: Google says there are now 850 million ARCore-compatible devices on the market. It also added Raw Depth & Recording/Playback APIs to ARCore to help make more immersive experiences possible.
  • Flutter: Google’s cross-platform UI toolkit for building mobile and desktop apps now powers 200K Play Store apps, including those from WeChat, ByteDance, BMW, Grab and Didi. The new version, Flutter 2.2, adds reliability, performance improvements, a payment plugin for IAPs and a more streamlined process for bringing Flutter apps to Windows, macOS and Linux.
  • Android Studio: Google announced the next version of its Android Studio IDE, Arctic Fox, which focuses on bringing more of the tooling around building apps directly into the IDE. The marquee feature of the update is Jetpack Compose, the toolkit for building modern UIs for Android.
  • Google Play: Google shared details on sharing details (from 30% to 15%) and is adding new resources like an SDK website to help you find the right ones for you, and a dedicated Policy and Programs section in Play Console. Apps will later this year be able to monetize in new ways, including multi-quantity purchases, multi-line subscriptions and prepaid plans (access to content for a fixed amount of time).
  • Ads: Google’s App campaigns on Android will expand to the desktop versions of Google.com and the Google Display Network. That means if a user clicks an ad in the desktop browser, they’ll be directed to the Play Store website to install the app to their linked device. Also, the Google Analytics for Firebase SDK now allows event creation and modification without app updates. Plus, Google introduced a deep link validator and impact calculator to make it easier to get started with deep linking.

Snap’s Partner Summit: AR and e-commerce and more

Snap, an app with now with 500 million MAUs, this week hosted an event for its partners, where the company unleashed a host of news about what’s next for its platform, including developer tools, AR updates, shopping features and more.

Among the highlights was Snap’s computer vision-enabled Scan product, which will analyze content in the camera feed to pull up matching products, similar to efforts by Pinterest and Google. Meanwhile, AR updates and partnerships with brands like Farfetch and Prada will make possible virtual try-on of clothes using AR. (Honestly, sometimes it feels like Snap’s tech is being lost in an app that’s mainly used by teenagers and young adults for socializing. Are they really Prada shoppers?)

Image Credits: Snap

Another big news item was Snap’s plans to release a brand-new app, Story Studio, which will give creators access to more powerful editing tools, for precisely trimming shots, adding captions, stickers and other visual elements, accessing licensed music, and more. Creators can then publish to Snapchat Spotlight, which is now available on the web, as well as other platforms.

Meanwhile, Snap Map is getting an update with a product called Layers, that allows users to add data from Snap’s developer partners to their map to personalize their experience. For instance, a Ticketmaster Layer will show nearby concert venues.

Image Credits: Snap

The company also gave an update on its creator funding efforts, saying it had doled out more than $130 million to more than 5,400 creators making content for its TikTok rival, Spotlight, since November. It now says it will now longer pay out $1 million per day to encourage creator adoption.

Weekly News

E-commerce

Facebook debuted “Live Shopping Fridays” across the web and Facebook’s mobile apps to encourage consumers to make appointments to shop for beauty, skin care and fashion items from major brands like Abercrombie and Fitch, Bobbi Brown, Clinique, Sephora, Dermalogica and others.

Image Credits: Facebook

Fast fashion e-commerce app Shein took the crown from Amazon this week to become the most downloaded app on iOS and Android in the U.S. The company controls its own production chain, from prototype to manufacturing, allowing it to churn out products tailored to different regions and tastes at a daily rate, giving it the name the “TikTok for e-commerce.”

Africa’s largest carrier, Vodacom, has developed Africa’s first super-app with help from China’s Alibaba. The app will include a range of services, including e-commerce, banking and making mobile payments.

Adtech

Apple’s IDFA change has pushed Android ad spending up by 21%, per Liftoff. The growth comes when as many as 63.5% to 83.2% of iOS users are opting out of being tracked.

Apple released an update, iOS 14.5.1, which fixed the ATT bug that had grayed out the App Tracking Transparency toggle for some users in the Settings.

Fintech

Google Pay’s app was redesigned to make it easier for users to find businesses in the U.S., India and Singapore to start, with new discovery features, branded experiences for businesses, money organization tools and spending insights, Google Pay APIs for Web and Android, and a loyalty enrollment and sign-in API.

Social

distorted parler logo

Image Credits: TechCrunch

✨ Parler’s back. After getting booted from the app stores and from its web host for inciting violence ahead of the January 6 Capitol riots, Parler has returned to the App Store. Now, posts that are labeled hate, (yes, “hate,” — this app doesn’t take down hate speech), won’t be visible on iPhone. The “hate” posts, which may include things like racial slurs, will be visible on other platforms and on the web version.

Apple had insisted that Parler must follow Apple’s App Store guidelines in order to return to its app marketplace, which meant Parler had to moderate its content. Parler however, would rather the option to view hate speech be a toggle, not hidden entry, saying it would prefer to put tools in the hands of it users. The company also dismissively referred to the sanitized version of Parler for iOS as “Parler PG.” The app is now No. 10 in the News category on iPhone.

Pinterest introduced Idea Pins, a video-first evolution of its Story Pins feature, aimed at creators. The Pins allow creators to publish videos of up to 60 seconds per page, with a total of 20 pages per Pin. They can also feature stickers, music and detail pages with more info, like recipe ingredients or project instructions.

TikTok rolled out new tools that allow creators to bulk delete and report comments as well as bulk block users. The feature could help someone quickly clean up their comments section when being trolled and keep their account safe from abusers. But it also could help them to create a false persona of being well-liked, as all negative feedback is removed.

Instagram will host its first Creator Week as an invitation-only series of events June 8-10. The virtual event will include 5,000 creators from the U.S. and will discuss topics like how to grow your online following and make money.

Facebook’s experimental app from its NPE team, Tuned comes to iPhone. The app is designed for users in relationships to stay in touch, messaging and sharing photos, replaying moments and sharing memories, and participating in newly expanded Q&A challenges.

Image Credits: Facebook

Photos

Reface’s buzzy face-swapping app now lets users upload their own source material for face swapping and animations, which rely on GAN algorithms. That means you can face-swap yourself into a famous piece of art, for instance. The app, launched 14 months ago, now has more than 100 million installs.

Google Photos update adds new Memories and a Locked Folder and previews Cinematic moments which animate a series of photos.

cinematic google photo

Image Credits: Google

Utilities

Google Maps is adding a number of updates this year, including new routing updates designed for safety, Live View enhancements, an expansion of detailed street maps to 50 more cities, a new “area busyness” feature, which shows crowded blocks and neighborhoods, and a more personalized Maps experience, which adjusts to your location and time of day.

The Chrome app for Android is bringing back RSS. A new feature for users in the U.S. on Chrome Canary is a “follow” button that will allow you to get the latest content from websites and blogs directly in Chrome. The feature relies on the open RSS web standard, so maybe stop building “blogs” that don’t have an RSS feed, OK?

Messaging

WhatsApp rivals, including Telegram and Signal, saw nearly 1,200% growth ahead of WhatsApp’s privacy policy deadline, Sensor Tower reports.

India told WhatsApp to withdraw its new privacy policy terms, or else the government of India will consider various options available to it under laws in India.

WhatsApp is testing disappearing messages with its TestFlight users. No word on public availability.

Streaming & Entertainment

London, UK - July 31, 2018: The buttons of the music streaming app Spotify, surrounded by Podcasts, Apple Music, Facebook and other apps on the screen of an iPhone.

Image Credits: Getty Images

Spotify launched a virtual concert series with The Black Keys and other artists. The pre-recorded streams are $15 each for the 40-75 minute show. Some unknown portion of that revenue is shared with the artists.

Spotify is adding automatic transcripts to its own Original and Exclusive podcasts, with the goal of rolling out transcripts to all shows over time.

Apple announced it’s bringing lossless audio streaming to Apple Music in June, as a free upgrade. The upgrade will also include support for Dolby Atmos and lossless audio files. The Android version will support lossless but not Dolby Atmos at launch. On Apple devices, lossless does not work on AirPods, AirPods Pro or AirPods Max, even when in wired listening mode. Nor does it work on HomePod devices.

On the same day, Amazon announced its own lossless music streaming service, Amazon Music HD, would also be a free upgrade for Amazon Music Unlimited subscribers.

Deezer technically beat Spotify to offer offline listening on Apple Watch this week, but not by much. Spotify on Friday added support for downloads on the Apple Watch so you can enjoy phone-free listening. Meanwhile Spotify is adding offline listening to Android Wear, too.

Android 12 will add built-in remote control features for controlling the now 80 million monthly active Android TV devices in the world.

HBO Max to add ad-supported streaming at $9.99 per month — a much cheaper option than its $14.99/mo ad-free experience. The option will roll out in June.

Clubhouse goes live globally. Meanwhile, Twitter rival Spaces shows off what Ticketed Spaces look like, and says it’s taking 20% cut of sales.

Books

Mobile reading app Wattpad expanded its publishing arm with new adult fiction imprint, W by Wattpad Books, shortly after its acquisition by Naver was finalized.

Spotify expands into the audiobooks market by partnering with Storytel. The partnership is the first notable example of what’s possible with Spotify’s recently introduced Open Access Platform (OAP), which aims to give creators and publishers a way to extend their reach. With OAP, Storytel subscribers will be able to connect their account in Spotify, then stream their audiobooks through Spotify’s app.

Gaming

The Epic-Apple trial revealed that Apple generated at least $100 million in revenue and possibly much more from Fortnite’s time on the App Store from 2018 until it was pulled in 2020. Sensor Tower had estimated the figure was around $354 million.

Security & Privacy

Local crime-spotting app Citizen got into trouble for sparking a $30,000 manhunt for the wrong person. The app’s real-time feature, OnAir, broadcast to users that there was a reward for a man suspected of setting an LA area wildfire. But the person described — which was sent to the app’s 860K users — was not the person actually responsible, who was later arrested.

The Epic trial also revealed that there have been 130 types of Mac malware since last May, a level the company doesn’t find acceptable. The point was made as a defense for why the iOS App Store needs to exist — without it, the more than 1 billion iPhones in use would be an attractive target for attackers.

Funding and M&A

? Indonesia’s BukuKas raised $50 million in Series B funding for its app helping to digitize small businesses. The startup began as a bookkeeping app but expanded to include online payments and an e-commerce platform that now services 6.3 million businesses.

?Ethel’s Club founder Naj Austin raised $3.75 million in seed funding for Somewhere Good, a Clubhouse-ish mobile app that connects people across interests, allowing them to post content and have real-time audio conversations.

?Mobile-first car ownership “super app” Jerry raised $57+ million to date, including its new $28 million Series B led by Goodwater Capital. The Palo Alto-based startup launched its car insurance comparison service and now has nearly 1 million U.S. customers.

? Egyptian digital banking app Telda raised $5 million pre-seed funding to help grow its business focused on helping Egyptians save, send and spend money.

? Spot Meetings raised $5 million from Kleiner Perkins to modernize remote meetings for mobile. The app includes an assistant “Spot” that can transcribe meeting notes, and offers a scratch pad for copying / pasting snippets of important info, among other things.

? PhonePe is in talks to acquire the Samsung-backed Indus OS, an Indian startup that operates an eponymous third-party Android app store.

? U.K.-based Robinhood rival Stake raised $30 million from Tiger Global and London-based DST Global to expand into Europe. The app has grown 6x since its U.K. launch in early 2020 and now has over 330K customers.

? Snap acquired AR startup WaveOptics for over $500 million. The company, which represents Snap’s biggest acquisition to date, provides the waveguides and projectors used in Snap’s AR glasses, Spectacles.

? Jam City has filed to go public via a SPAC at $1.2 billion value. Th Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery publisher will use some of the money to acquire mobile game publisher Ludia for $175 million.

Downloads

Halide for iPad

Image Credits: Lux

The popular third-party camera app Halide made its way to the iPad this week, with an interface designed from scratch for the iPad with controls placed within reach near the edge of the big screen, special features for composition and iPad shooting (yes, really), custom icons to match either your Silver or Space Gray iPad Pro and support for either right or left handed users. The app is free with in-app purchases for iPad.

Silk + Sonder (Soft Launch)

Image Credits: Silk + Sonder

AAPI, female-founded Silk + Sonder was created by Meha Agrawal, a software engineer and PM for companies including Goldman Sachs, Stitch Fix, The Muse, and others to take an analog-first approach to mental wellness. Now, the company is launching its first mobile app after growing its me business to tens of thousands of subscribers and raising $4+ million in seed funding.

The new app offers curated self-care experiences, daily affirmations, a community club, a private memories feature and others meant to complement the company’s analog journal/planners that are shipped to member’s doorstep monthly. In calming shades of pinks and whites, the app guides users through their wellness journey and helps them stay accountable to their goals.

Since the app’s soft launch this month, it’s added thousands of users, more than 50% of whom engage regularly.

The new app is initially available only to active subscribers, but other users will be able to join a waitlist.

Herd (Beta)

Image Credits: Herd

Female-founded Herd has been building demand for its non-toxic Instagram alternative via TikTok. Now the app is live on iOS as a beta.

The goal of Herd is to give users a safer, social space focused on community, not influence, clout-chasing or data collection.

Users can customize their home feed by interest and use sliders to control what they want to see more of less of, while also posting their own photos, saving favorites, and staying private, if they choose. At present, Herd offers a basic photo-sharing experience. There are no Stories or photo filters or videos or much of anything that could lure users away from more advanced, feature-rich social apps. But what it does have is a mission that users feel connected with — and that pushed the app to No. 18 in the Social category on the App Store on launch day, May 18. It’s now still sitting in the top 50 a few days later.

But ultimately, all the marketing and social buzz can’t prop up an app forever. Herd needs to capitalize on the goodwill it’s built by leaning into quickly upgrading the UI/UX so the app itself feels as fresh as the ideas it espouses.

Reading Rec’s

Tweets

#android, #app-stores, #app-store, #apple, #apps, #developers, #facebook, #google, #ios, #smartphones, #snap, #social, #tc, #this-week-in-apps, #twitter