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.
Global app spending reached $65 billion in the first half of 2022, up only slightly from the $64.4 billion during the same period in 2021, as hypergrowth fueled by the pandemic has decreased. But overall, the app economy is continuing to grow, having produced a record number of downloads and consumer spending across both the iOS and Google Play stores combined in 2021, according to the latest year-end reports. Global spending across iOS and Google Play last year was $133 billion, and consumers downloaded 143.6 billion apps.
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 much more.
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Image Credits: TikTok
We expect to see this sort of copy-and-pasting from Meta — or even Snap and YouTube these days — as the major tech companies try to figure out how to compete with TikTok’s short-form video. But typically, it’s TikTok that’s being copied from, not the one doing the copying. That changed this week, however, when the company announced it was launching a fairly shameless BeReal clone in its app, which it calls “TikTok Now.”
Similar to the hot Gen Z app BeReal, TikTok Now will prompt its U.S. users to take a front and back camera photo or 10-second video at a random time every day, which is then shared with friends in a new section labeled “Now” in the app’s main navigation — quite a prominent position for an unoriginal feature.
TikTok just launched a BeReal clone called TikTok Now
The addition initially seems like an odd one for TikTok, given its primary focus is on video entertainment, not friendship-focused social networking, which is what BeReal’s all about. But we have seen some signs in recent months that TikTok’s ambitions are aimed at taking on both areas. The company has been pushing more features designed to connect its users with their real-life friends on its app, for example by asking for access to users’ address books, and even swapping out its Discover tab for a Friends tab. Plus, as you browse your For You feed, you’ll also see recommendations of people to follow. Some users report that people they know have been finding their TikTok accounts thanks to what appears to be based on address book-based phone number matching, as well. (And they’re not all happy about it.)
Meanwhile, TikTok hasn’t been entirely transparent about what it’s up to here, but this BeReal clone makes it a lot more obvious: it wants users’ friend graphs. It wants to be a social network, too.
This reason is simple. Younger, Gen Z users are adopting new online behaviors when it comes to social networking. They’re moving away from older social networks, like Facebook, and have even begun to find Instagram increasingly crowded and annoying with its Reels focus. Gen Z instead is using video networking on apps like Yubo, and checking in on close friends through apps like BeReal. If TikTok doesn’t move into these areas, too, then this in-demand demographic will continue to take part in these new networking experiences in other apps, potentially impacting the time they have to spend on TikTok — which hurts its own business. It would also prevent TikTok from developing features that cater to real-world friends in the future, which could make its app more comprehensive than the video timewaster it is today.
Image Credits: Mixpanel
According to data from Mixpanel (via iMore), there’s greater consumer demand for iOS 16 compared with the release of iOS 15 last year. After the first 24 hours, iOS 16 had been downloaded by 6.71% of users, versus 6.48% of users who downloaded iOS 15. However, both updates had trailed iOS 14, which reached 9.22% of users its first day. However, iOS 14 was a major consumer update, as it introduced Home Screen widgets for the first time. While iOS 16 brings another widget format — Lock Screen widgets — other features, like Live Activities, are still to come.
As of Friday, Mixpanel notes iOS 16 has 16.76% adoption, but 72.98% of users are still on iOS 15 at this time; 10.26% of users are on an even older OS.
Image Credits: Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images / Getty Images
The social app makers were hauled into Congress for another hearing this week. After having to answer for their lack of minor protections in their apps last year, this time around the companies were testifying before the Senate Homeland Security Committee about what risks they may pose to national security. For Meta, the hearing was a much-needed reprieve as many of the senators had their eyes on TikTok instead — especially after reports that TikTok U.S. user data was accessed by employees in China.
The companies were asked to disclose the number of full-time employees they have on their trust and safety teams, but all except Twitter refused to answer. Twitter, however, said it it has 2,200 people working on trust and safety across its platform, though it wasn’t clear if some did other work. Meta was asked how many of the 40,000 people it reportedly had on trust and safety were focused on non-U.S. users and non-English language issue, and the company didn’t answer.
Meta, TikTok, YouTube and Twitter dodge questions on social media and national security
Adobe’s stunning $20 billion acquisition of digital design company Figma this week was a big bet that takes out one of its biggest rivals, even if it meant paying twice as much as Figma’s most recent private valuation. What does this mean for the company going forward, and what other design startups could be next? TechCrunch+ has the answers.
This Week in Apps readers can take 15% off an annual pass to TechCrunch+ with the code “TWIA.”
Image Credits: Apple
Apple’s iOS 16 is now available to download
I’m unsure if a timeline for Apple’s new ad placements in the App Store had previously been announced, but it appears that they’ll be live for the “holiday season” pic.twitter.com/drcgIAYlTo
— Eric Seufert (@eric_seufert) September 13, 2022
Image Credits: Walmart
Image Credits: Meta
Image Credits: Yubo
Image Credits: Google
Image Credits: YouTube
Image Credits: Netflix
Image Credits: Opal
The Uber hack is quite severe and wide ranging. Wishing their blue teams the best of luck and love during this understandably difficult period. Some thoughts & observations based on what we've seen so far 👉 1/N
— Bill Demirkapi (@BillDemirkapi) September 16, 2022
🤝 In a massive deal, Adobe announced plans to acquire UI design and prototyping tool Figma for around $20 billion, half in cash and half in stock. Figma CEO Dylan Field will continue to lead the company following the deal close. The deal also includes 6 million additional restricted stock units granted to Figma’s CEO and employees that will vest over four years following the closing. Figma has around 4 million users and had grown to become a competitor to Adobe’s creative tools.
💰 Nigerian financial management app for merchants, Kippa, raised $8.4 million in seed funding from a number of investors, including Goodwater Capital, TEN13 VC, Rocketship VC, Saison Capital, Crestone VC, VentureSouq, Horizon Partners and Vibe Capital. The bookkeeping app helps small and medium businesses in sub-Saharan Africa and counts more than 500,000 merchants on its platform.
💰 Denmark-based podcast subscription service Podimo raised €58.6 million (~$58.4 million) led by 83North, Highland and Saban, bringing its total raise to date to €162 million. The app offers personalized recommendations, full-length videos, a skip intro feature and more to users in Denmark, Germany, Spain, Norway, the Netherlands, Finland and Latin America.
💰 A mobile bank for migrants, Majority, closed on $37.5 million in Series B funding, $30 million of which is in equity financing led by Valar Ventures and others. This is the third venture round for the startup in just over a year.
📉 General Atlantic is buying out SoftBank’s entire 15% stake in the Norwegian edtech game platform, Kahoot. SoftBank, which had invested $215 million into the company, is exiting at a loss as 15% of Kahoot’s current market cap (10.415 billion Norwegian Krone) is around $152 million (1,562,250,000 NOK).
Image Credits: Google
This week, everyone was rolling out their iOS 16-optimized apps. TechCrunch took a look at a number of these new releases, including those from major tech companies and indie developers.
The big winner of the Lock Screen widget race was Top Widgets, the generically named widget from a Chinese tech company that offers a variety of widget styles, including informational dashboards and even animations for the Lock Screen, appealing to a younger, Gen Z crowd. Following the release of iOS 16, Top Widgets gained 1.3 million downloads in just two days’ time.
‘Top Widgets’ soars to No. 1 on the App Store, displacing BeReal, as iOS 16 customization takes off
25+ iOS 16-ready apps featuring Lock Screen widgets you can try today
TechCrunch also highlighted a few widget makers individually, as they released, from smaller companies outside of Big Tech. These included:
Image Credits: ScreenKit
Image Credits: Snap
“App Store features don’t matter anymore” my ass. This graph shows new users over the last 30 days.
Notice anything different about iOS release day when I was lucky enough to be included in some App Store editorial lists?
Lots of users upgrade on day 1 and look there for apps. pic.twitter.com/ITDBv2gS3A
— Emmanuel Crouvisier (@emcro) September 13, 2022
Pappas, in answering @robportman’s question, says that she cannot commit that TikTok American user data won’t be accessed by China because of “confidentiality” of the agreement between the US gov and TikTok.
Portman: This is an arm of the US gov!
— Zamaan Qureshi (@zamaan_qureshi) September 14, 2022
I freaking love this idea — with iOS 16, this guy is saving clips of every outfit he wears in the Notes app 🤯
With background removal, you can cleanly categorize almost anything 👌 https://t.co/9fw5mtbFTG pic.twitter.com/5h20QlpuI9
— Matthew Cassinelli (@mattcassinelli) September 14, 2022