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Top anonymous social app NGL forced to stop tricking its users

A popular anonymous social app that was misleading its users with fake messages has been forced to change. The top-ranked app NGL, which became the No. 1 app on the U.S. App Store in June, quietly rolled out an update yesterday that sees it now informing users when they receive messages that aren’t from their friends — as users had been previously led to believe. Before, NGL sent these fake messages as a means of creating engagement, then charged for “hints” about the message’s sender.
The app has also now lowered its subscription pricing, which promises to reveal details about who is behind the anonymous messages.
NGL is one of a handful of anonymous social apps that had recently shifted their attention to Instagram after Snapchat cracked down on apps of this nature using its developer tools, as part of Snap’s broader efforts to reduce harm to minors.
To use NGL, users would tap a button in the app to copy a unique URL they could share with friends and followers across the web.
Image Credits: NGL App Store listing
While Snap could prevent direct integrations with its own developer tools, NGL users could still copy and paste the special link into their Snapchat Stories or wherever they chose — like Twitter or any other app. However, a “Share” button in the app made it easy to post directly to Instagram Stories. Then, when others saw the link on their friend’s Story or post, they could click it to anonymously ask that person a question. These questions would appear as messages in NGL’s in-app “Inbox” for users to read and respond to.
However, NGL had a trick up its sleeves. If users didn’t get any engagement on their shared link, the app itself would generate messages automatically. Users had no real way of knowing that these messages were actually fake questions the app was sending them. But many suspected that was the case as the questions sounded like things their friends wouldn’t ask. (We confirmed the messages were fake by generating an NGL link but not sharing it. We then received messages).
NGL’s app reviews have been filled with complaints that its questions seemed to be coming from bots. What’s worse, the app developer was charging users for “hints” to learn more about who was asking the question. This means users were paying, in some cases, for hints about bots!  This could be considered fraud. (We’d advise impacted users to request refunds from Apple.)
The NGL app got its ideas from rival Sendit, a similar social app that also offers a variety of Snapchat games. In fact, Sendit’s maker is now suing NGL for stealing its ideas — the NGL developer previously worked on Sendit before realizing the potential in simply cloning the idea and raking in the money himself. As it turns out, there is some business to be had here. By July, NGL had topped 15 million downloads and had pulled in  $2.4 million in revenue by selling its subscriptions.

Anonymous social app NGL tops 15M installs, $2.4M in revenue as users complain about being scammed

TechCrunch had called out NGL for its misleading tactics and, apparently, someone was listening. (Actually, we do understand there was a discussion between the developer and Apple about this). NGL has not commented.
Yesterday, NGL issued an update that now sees it labeling its fake messages with a tag that reads “sent with from the NGL team.” This is meant to indicate the message is not from a friend but from the app itself. (Arguably, the wording could be clearer. Some users — particularly among its target market of young adults —  could interpret this tag to mean the message is simply being delivered by the app.)
These messages also don’t show a subscription prompt. In addition, the subscription cost was lowered a bit, from $9.99/week to $6.99/week and now includes other features beyond “hints.” For instance, it touts users will get “early access” to exclusive games besides the anonymous Q&A. One of the paid games is already included — an anonymous confessions game.
The app’s rival Sendit’s Q&A feature had worked in much of the same way and it, too, just updated its subscription. Now, instead of just charging for hints, Sendit “Diamond members” can reveal the name and Bitmoji of the sender (in some cases), access exclusive games, unlock a custom icon and remove ads from the experience, the app claims. However, its pricing still remains $9.99 per week.
Though the viral buzz around these apps has since died down a bit, they still remain highly ranked. NGL is the No. 9 app on the U.S. App Store’s Lifestyle charts and Sendit is No. 12 among Social Networking apps.
Top anonymous social app NGL forced to stop tricking its users

This Week in Apps: Instagram backlash, TikTok gaming, Snapchat+ makes millions

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 slowed down. 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.
Do you want This Week in Apps in your inbox every Saturday? Sign up here: techcrunch.com/newsletters
Top Stories
Users demand the TikTok-ification of Instagram must stop 
How do you modernize an app like Instagram, whose roots are in iconic iPhone photography, to support users’ growing engagement with short-form video? If you’re one of the many increasingly frustrated Instagram users, you simply wish it would not attempt this pivot at all. You’re sick of the app’s constant changes, its clutter, its ads, its force-fed recommendations, and you’re not a fan of its TikTok ambitions. You just want to see your friends’ posts.
This issue finally came to a head this week when celeb sisters and Instagram top creators Kylie Jenner and Kim Kardashian shared a petition that demanded Instagram to “stop trying to be tiktok.” The day after, Instagram head Adam Mosseri posted a video addressing the concerns and said the app would temporarily roll back some of its recent changes, including the test of a full-screen TikTok-like experience and the increase in “recommended” posts.
The company has brought this user backlash on itself, of course, with its continual “tests” of new UIs and its desperate admissions about how TikTok is eating its lunch, forcing it to adapt or die. Plus, Instagram claims video is what people want even when they’re saying otherwise. It insists its own data supports that video has been growing faster as mobile networks got faster and data became cheaper.
While that may be true, Instagram has been throwing out the baby with the bathwater as it attempts to prioritize elements of TikTok in its own app. People want different experiences from their social platforms — and Instagram is trying to do it all, without acknowledging that the real threat from TikTok is not the video content itself, necessarily, but rather TikTok’s addictive algorithm that increases users’ time spent in the app. TikTok has figured out how to recommend posts that users welcome, while Instagram’s attempt to do the same has fallen flat. Combined with TikTok’s ability to attract a younger demographic in terms of both creators and viewers alike, the app has become a massive force in social media.
Instagram will need to find a way to balance the demands of a user base that wants to still celebrate social connection (including through static media), with creator demands for increased discovery and the rise of video. This is not an easy task, but perhaps step one should be to allow users to engage with Instagram as they like. Just as how users can opt to scroll the main Feed instead of viewing Stories and vice versa, Instagram’s TikTok-ishness should rather be an optional entry point, not the entirety of the Instagram experience.
Snapchat+ outpaces Twitter Blue after just a month
Image Credits: Snapchat
Snapchat’s recent move into premium subscriptions has gained a bit of traction in its first weeks on the market.
The new Snapchat+ paid subscription launched on June 29, 2022 offering users access to various premium features, while also importantly giving the company a means of diversifying its revenue streams beyond advertising. This is critical for the social app given that the ad market is currently impacted by broader macroeconomic forces that have slowed demand. In addition, Snapchat continues to feel the effects of Apple’s 2021 privacy changes that allowed users to opt-out of tracking and is facing increased competition from rival TikTok.
For $3.99 per month, the Snapchat+ subscription allows devoted app users to see who has rewatched their Stories, change their app icon, pin another user as a “#1 Best Friend,” try out pre-release features and more. Earlier this month, the company also made web access a part of the Snapchat+ subscription.
Since the subscription’s arrival, Snapchat’s mobile app has generated approximately $7.3 million in worldwide consumer spending across iOS and Android according to Sensor Tower. This represents the first 30 days of Snapchat+’s availability, June 29, 2022–July 26, 2022. The figure is also around 116 times higher than the $63,000 the app pulled in via in-app purchases in the 30 days prior from May 30, 2022–June 28, 2022, indicating the bulk of the new revenue was driven by Snapchat+.
Notably, the number is already larger than Twitter’s in-app revenue, which totals nearly $4 million since Twitter Blue’s June 2021 launch — over a year’s time. Snapchat+ could be succeeding because it has more power users than Twitter, Sensor Tower data shows, as 34% of its active installs open the app every single day compared with just 19% for Twitter.
Image Credits: Sensor Tower
TikTok gets into mobile games
Here’s a scoop: TikTok is getting into gaming.
The company confirmed the launch of a pilot test of “mini-games” that can be played inside the social video app and discovered through creators’ videos. The gaming pilot quietly launched just weeks ago with a variety of new partners, including game developers Vodoo, Nitro Games, FRVR, Aim Lab and Lotem.
The launch follows reports earlier this year that the social video app maker was looking to expand into HTML5 gaming after first testing the waters with gaming giant Zynga last November. The two companies had then teamed up to launch a TikTok exclusive title, Disco Loco 3D, which was similar to Zynga’s successful game (by way of acquisition) High Heels.
TikTok’s mobile games today don’t monetize through ads or in-app purchases of any kind, but if they find traction with users, things could change as TikTok further developed its games platform. In that case, the app would not only recall the social gaming era of early Facebook (which incidentally drove Zynga’s success), it would also allow TikTok to route around the app stores’ commissions.
Image Credits: TikTok
Weekly News
Platforms: Apple
Apple released the fourth beta of iOS 16. The update offers a variety of new features, like the ability to edit and delete iMessages — a feature that now includes an edit history log in response to user concerns that the editing feature could be used maliciously. Other new features include the ability for developers to test Live Activities, improved integrations with Continuity Camera, a new interface when updating the Home Screen’s design, more options for the “unsend” time in Mail, and a few new wallpapers, among other smaller tweaks.
Apple announced Live Activities and Activity Kit won’t launch with the initial release of iOS 16 but will rather become available later in the year.
Apple is also hosting summer programs that allow developers to attend live presentations and Q&A sessions with App Store experts.
Apple reported Q3 earnings with revenue of $83B, up 2% YoY and above estimates of $82.8B. iPhone revenue was up 3% to $40.7B but Mac was down 10% to $7.4B. Apple’s services revenue grew 12% YoY to $19.6B and 860M paid subscribers, up from 825M in Q2.
Platforms: Google
Google announced new Play Store policies around intrusive ads, VPNs, alarms, health misinformation, impersonation and more. The policies will roll out at different intervals and will, among other things, restrict apps’ usage of full-screen ads that aren’t closeable after 15 seconds and full-screen interstitials that appear before the app’s loading screen. Apps that use icons that trick users into thinking they’re affiliated with another brand will also be restricted along with VPNs that track user data or reroute traffic to make money through ads.
At the Think with Google Gaming Day in China, Google shared ways to help developers earn more revenue and attract high-value players with a variety of new features and ad tools.
Google updated its Google Maps app with location-sharing notifications, immersive views and better bike navigation in several markets.
Augmented Reality

Snapchat launched its own spooky AR game called “Ghost Phone,” which sees players working to discover the secrets of an abandoned phone and hunting ghosts using AR. The game was built using the Lens Studio and web-first game engine PlayCanvas. It also uses Snap’s World Mesh technology and surface recognition to place game objects around the user. The company launched a Bitmoji dance game last month.
A U.S. Senator sent a letter to both Apple and Google asking for details as to how they’re preventing cryptocurrency apps from engaging in fraud on their respective app stores.
Messaging app Viber debuted a new digital wallet called Payments, offering bill pay, money transfers and support for buying goods.
The new Google Wallet rolled out to all users with Android 5.2+. The wallet app is available as a separate app in the U.S. and Singapore and as a Google Pay update for other markets.
Snap missed in Q2 with revenue of $1.11 billion — a figure up 13% from the same period a year earlier but below its previous guidance of 20% to 25%. The company cited macroeconomic conditions for lower advertiser demand and continues to be impacted by Apple’s privacy changes. DAUs grew 18% YoY to 347 million. The company said it will reduce hiring, repurchase up to $500M in stock, and it locked in CEO and CTO roles until at least Jan. 1, 2027. Its stock tanked after earnings.
Snap announced a new creator fund that will award independent musicians posting their music on Snapchat up to $100,000 per month. The company will distribute payments for up to 20 songs per month at $5,000/song starting in August for musicians distributing to Snapchat via DistroKid.
Meta reported its first-ever decline in quarterly revenue year over year in its Q2 earnings. The company’s revenue was $28.82 billion, a 1% decrease from $29.07 billion in the second quarter of 2021. It also swapped its CFO.
Meta is killing Tuned, its social app for couples which will cease operations on Sept. 19, 2022. The app was a project from Meta’s New Product Experimentation Team (NPE) — one of many now shuttered attempts designed to test if Meta could create new social experiences in-house.
BeReal got ripped off. Because Instagram didn’t have enough drama this week, it also quietly rolled out a copycat of BeReal inside its app — which misses the point about why the new social network grew popular in the first place: It’s about your friends.
Instagram said it will begin to survey its U.S. users about race to assess if it is “fair and equitable.” The optional survey will be hosted by research group YouGov.
Twitter Blue is getting more expensive. Twitter announced it’s increasing the price of its premium subscription from $2.99 to $4.99 per month effective immediately for new subscribers and starting in October for existing subscribers. The hike is also rolling out to other Twitter Blue markets, including Australia, Canada and New Zealand at 6.99 AUD (previously 4.49 AUD), 6.49 CAD (previously 3.49 CAD) and 6.49 NZD (previously 4.49 NZD).
Twitter also began testing a status feature that lets you add a mood (hot take, vacation mode, unpopular opinion, etc.) alongside your posts and a way to post multiple forms of media in a single tweet.
The anticipated Twitter-Elon trial has set a date. The parties will battle it out in court starting October 17.
The Google Photos app gained an AI-based new movie editor and video editing features, but only for Chromebook users for the time being.
Amazon is killing its cloud storage service Amazon Drive and shifting users to Amazon Photos instead. Customers have until Dec. 31, 2023 to save their stored files.
WhatsApp rolled out chat migration from Android to iOS and iOS to Android for all users. The feature requires Android 5 or higher, iOS 15.5 or above, and the Move to iOS app.
WhatsApp also appears to be working on a chatbot that will alert you to what’s new when the app is updated.
Streaming & Entertainment
Image Credits: YouTube
YouTube’s mobile app added a new feature that allows creators to select any segment up to 60 seconds from an existing long-form video and turn it into a YouTube Shorts video that links back to the original.
Baidu’s video streaming service iQiyi signed a content deal with TikTok’s Chinese sister app Douyin, which allows Douyin users to use iQiyi content to make short videos. The deal ends a dispute over alleged copyright infringement.
Comcast’s streaming app Peacock’s paid subscribers stayed flat at 13 million, as losses widen to $467 million in the company’s first quarter.
YouTube’s ad revenue grew just 4.8% YoY to $7.34 billion in Q2, below expectations of a 7% YoY increase to $7.49 billion. This YouTube’s slowest ad growth in over two years.
Twitter for iOS updated the Spaces bar for live audio streams to make it easier to see who’s hosting, what topics are being discussed and more.
Spotify rolled out a new Friends Mix playlist that gives users a way to discover new tracks based on the “Blends” they’ve created with their friends.
TikTok filed a trademark application for a service called TikTok Music that could allow users to buy, share and download music. Parent company ByteDance already runs a music service, Resso, but not in the U.S. — although ByteDance has considered expanding it in the past.
Roblox rolled out an update that makes its materials appear more lifelike and overhauled aspects of its developer toolkit to support this change. The move is a part of the company’s mission to improve its visual fidelity, but game developers will be able to choose if they want to keep creating using the more blocky, traditional style.
Backbone, the maker of a popular gaming controller for iPhone, expanded with the launch of the Backbone One PlayStation Edition. The new device allows compatible mobile games to use proper PlayStation glyphs (Triangle, Circle, etc.) instead of ABXY. It will cost the same as the original Backbone One at $100.
K-pop stars Blackpink collaborated with PUBG Mobile, which just hosted its first in-game concert. The band released a new video featuring virtual avatars inside the game, which was earlier teased during the concert.
Government & Policy
The popular mobile game Battlegrounds Mobile India (BGMI) was pulled by Apple and Google from their respective app stores in India to comply with a government order. Krafton had said it cut ties with publishing partner Tencent, so it’s unclear why the game was pulled. The game had over 16.5M MAUs.
Google will be allowed to relaunch Street View in India in 10 cities initially, 10 years after the government shut down the service for security reasons.
China’s government asked TikTok for a stealth social account to target Western audiences with propaganda, Bloomberg reported, but TikTok execs pushed back and denied the request.
Security & Privacy
Messaging app JusTalk, popular in Asia, has been leaking users’ unencrypted private messages. The app, which has 20 million global users, had claimed to offer end-to-end encryption across its flagship apps and its child-friendly JusTalk Kids.
Funding and M&A
Livestream shopping app for collectibles Whatnot raised $260 million in Series D funding at a $3.7 billion valuation, up from $1.5 billion in September 2021. The livestream shopping market has only grown to $11 billion in the U.S. versus the $600 billion industry in China.
School communications app ClassDojo raised $125 million in Series D funding in September 2022, valuing the business at $1.25 billion. The company plans to launch a kids virtual space in August 2022.
Paris-based Contentsquare raised $400 million in Series F funding and $200 million in debt for its web and app analytics business. The round doubled the startup’s May 2021 valuation to $5.6 billion.
Conversational commerce startup Charles raised $20 million in Series A funding led by Salesforce Ventures to bring its service to WhatsApp in Europe. The company so far has seen the most traction in its domestic German market, but has received inbound interest from Italy, Spain, France, the Netherlands, and the U.K.
Blockchain infrastructure company Chain acquired Measurable Data Token for $100 million. The deal sees it acquiring a cash-back mobile app, RewardMe, and the financial data protocol MeFi.
Banking and networking platform Guava, targeting Black entrepreneurs, raised $2.4 million in a pre-seed round led by Heron Rock. The company aims to narrow the racial wealth gap by providing financial services to Black small businesses and creators.
Text-to-speech app Peech raised $550,000 in funding led by Flyer One Ventures. The app offers natural-sounding text-to-speech in 50 languages, allowing users to listen to Word docs, web articles or PDFs for $3/week.
South African startup Qwili raised $1.2 million in seed funding to scale its app and low-cost NFC-enabled smartphone. Qwili software can be downloaded to any phone in addition to being pre-installed on Qwili’s phones, which are used as point-of-sale devices for merchants selling data, pay-TV subscriptions, groceries or clothing to customers.
Brooklyn-based fantasy sports app Underdog raised $35 million in Series B funding, valuing the business at $485 million. The company plans to launch licensed sports betting in Ohio and Colorado in 2023.
Spotify’s latest SEC filing revealed it paid €291 million ($295 million) for its four recent acquisitions, Findaway, Podsights, Chartable, and Sonantic. Findaway, specifically, cost the company €117 million (around $123 million).
U.K. investing app Shares raised $40 million led by Peter Thiel-backed Valar Ventures, bringing its total raised to $90 million. The app has over 150,000 users.
U.S.-based digital bank Umba, which focuses on emerging markets, acquired a majority share of Kenyan microfinance bank Daraja for an undisclosed amount.
Lock Screen widget TestFlights
A new type of app to download? We’re in!
If you’re running the iOS 16 public beta and looking to dig into Lock Screen widgets, there are a number of interesting apps now being tested that offer a look into how iOS developers are thinking about use cases for this prominent iPhone real estate. (If you ask nicely, the developers might add you to the TestFlight!)
A few apps we’ve found useful include:
Lock Screen Contacts: This allows you to put a favorite contact directly on your Lock Screen, without having to give the app access to your iPhone Contacts thanks to Apple’s more secure Contacts API. Users can toggle and choose to remove the text, image and background. The app will sell for $3.99 at launch.  The same developer is also working on a Lock Screen Icon widget that will allow you to place any of some 4,000 icons on your Lock Screen to personalize your device.

The past month I’ve been making an iOS 16 Lock Screen widget app to quickly call contacts – much like speed dial.
I’m really pleased with how it’s turning out. pic.twitter.com/hVFJVeKgdY
— Rihab Mehboob (@elohohel) July 7, 2022

Day Ticker: This simple icon widget lets you quickly view how many more days until an important event — like a birthday, vacation, anniversary or anything else. Days until the kid goes to camp? Just two, my widget told me. We’d better start packing!
Can’t wait to use these!
Parcel’s Package Tracker: This widget keeps track of your expected deliveries and lets you see their status right on your Lock Screen.

Work in progress! pic.twitter.com/UntypJ1Pgu
— Parcel (@parcel_app) June 13, 2022

Home Widget: This widget will bring your HomeKit devices to your Lock Screen.
LockLauncher: Create custom Lock Screen widgets that can actually take actions — like open websites or apps, for example.
Tally: The current beta of this quick counter app includes a Lock Screen widget and other goodies.
Countdowns: Another widget for tracking the time until upcoming events.

Happy to announce that @HomeWidget beta version now supports iOS 16 Lock Screen Widgets!
If you’re on iOS16 beta and want to test this new feature, contact us.#iOS16 #ios16lockscreen #ioslockscreen #homekit #iOSWidgets #LockScreen #WWDC22 #iOS16beta pic.twitter.com/84mFMTiW4e
— Home Widget for HomeKit (@HomeWidget) July 21, 2022

This Week in Apps: Instagram backlash, TikTok gaming, Snapchat+ makes millions

US App Store revenue from non-game apps just topped games for the first time

A major shift in the U.S. app economy has just taken place. In the second quarter of this year, U.S. consumer spending in non-game mobile apps surpassed spending in mobile games for the first time in May 2022 and the trend continued in June. This drove the total revenue generated by non-game apps higher for the quarter, reaching about $3.4 billion on the U.S. App Store, compared with $3.3 billion spent on mobile games.
After the shift in May, 50.3% of the spending was coming from non-game apps by June 2022, according to new findings in a report from app intelligence firm Sensor Tower. By comparison, games had accounted for more than two-thirds of total spending on the U.S. App Store just five years ago.
The trend was limited to the U.S. App Store and was not seen on Google Play, however. In Q2, games accounted for $2.3 billion in consumer spending on Google Play in the U.S., while non-game apps accounted for about $1 billion.
Image Credits: Sensor Tower
This shift in the U.S. app market is the most significant finding in the new report and demonstrates how successfully Apple has managed to create a subscription economy that allows a broader range of apps to generate sizable revenues.
The new data also supports this, as it shows it’s not only the biggest players that are benefiting from subscription revenue growth. In Q2 2022, 400 apps generated more than $1 million in consumer spending on the U.S. App Store, which is eight times the total from the same quarter in 2016. In addition, 61 U.S. App Store non-game apps generated at least $10 million in U.S. consumer spending in Q2 2022 — that’s more than the number of non-game apps that had generated $1 million+ in revenue in Q2 2016.
A handful of non-game apps also topped $50 million in U.S. consumer spending in the quarter, including YouTube, HBO Max, TikTok, Tinder, Disney+, Hulu and Bumble.
Image Credits: Sensor Tower
Subscriptions are the major revenue growth driver here, as non-game apps grew at nearly twice the rate  — at a 40% compound annual growth rate — since June 2014 compared with less than 20% for games, the report found.
The trend is a significant reversal of what mobile app spending looked like just a few years ago.
In 2019 and early 2020, for instance, mobile game spending growth was consistently higher than non-game spending. Game spending then surged again at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. But by late 2020, non-game growth had caught up and the gap widened in 2021.
Image Credits: Sensor Tower
While non-games are enjoying their new dominance, it’s not all great news for the app economy in this most recent quarter. The report also found that U.S. app spending overall declined for the first time in Q2, following the wind down from the spike generated by the pandemic.
At the start of the pandemic (around April 2020), year-over-year growth in consumer spending had jumped from around 20%-30% in 2019 to 35%-55% over the next 12 months. But in May 2022, U.S. spending declined for the first time as consumers began to shift their dollars back to other non-mobile activities like restaurant dining and travel.
Despite this decline from the pandemic highs, consumer spending in Q2 2022 was still up 71% over Q2 2019.
In other key findings from the quarter, summer travel drove travel apps to record high downloads in the U.S. and U.K., and airline app downloads in these markets were up 30%+ compared with Q2 2019, before the pandemic.
Meanwhile, the top-five ticketing apps saw 10 million downloads, up 70%+ from Q2 2019 as consumers returned to concerts, sports games and other events.
Image Credits: Sensor Tower
Worldwide app downloads slowed also slowed in the quarter, as installs totaled 35 billion in Q2, down 2.5% year over year. App Store downloads fell 1.3% to 7.8 billion and Google Play installs dropped 3% to 27.2 billion.
The most downloaded non-game app worldwide was TikTok, which has held the top position eight times out of the past 10 quarters. It was followed by Instagram, Facebook, WhatsApp and Snapchat. TikTok (including Douyin in China on iOS) had 187 million downloads in the quarter.
The top mobile game globally was Subway Surfers, with over 80 million downloads — its highest total since 2014, and following the game’s maker Sybo’s acquisition by gaming giant Miniclip in June 2022. The number two title was Garena Free Fire with 70 million installs for the third quarter in a row.
China was still the larger contributor to iOS gaming revenue, despite a pause on game approvals in May 2022. In Q2, 65% of consumer spending on China’s App Store was on mobile games, while 35% was on non-game apps in Q2 2022 — percentages that remained unchanged from a year ago in June 2021. Japan’s App Store still generates the third-most gaming revenue on iOS and it maintained this position, though games’ share shrank a bit to 68% of the total spend, down from 70% in June 2021.
US App Store revenue from non-game apps just topped games for the first time

This Week in Apps: Google battles KakaoTalk, Twitter deal in jeopardy, FTC asked to investigate TikTok

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 number of downloads and consumer spending across both the iOS and Google Play stores combined in 2021, according to the latest year-end reports. App Annie says global spending across iOS and Google Play is up to $135 billion in 2021, and that figure will likely be higher when its annual report, including third-party app stores in China, is released next year. Consumers also downloaded 10 billion more apps this year than in 2020, reaching nearly 140 billion in new installs, it found.
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 was 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 much more.
Do you want This Week in Apps in your inbox every Saturday? Sign up here: techcrunch.com/newsletters
Top Stories
Elon says he’s killing the Twitter deal
The bird app buyout could be off, if Elon Musk has his way.
On Friday, Musk’s legal team informed Twitter the Tesla and SpaceX exec would be terminating the merger agreement because, as their letter alleges, Twitter made false and misleading claims about the health of its business. This, of course, refers to the drama Musk had been stirring up over the percentage of bots on the service, which Twitter says is estimated to be less than 5%. Upon Musk’s earlier pressing for more information on this figure, Twitter provided Musk’s team with API access to make their own determinations. The letter, however, states that this API access was capped and limited, preventing the team from being able to accurately analyze Twitter’s data with regard to bots. (Which makes Musk’s claims that the bot count is higher than Twitter said it was a bit hard to prove!) Musk’s lawyers also allege Twitter included known fake and bot accounts in its mDAUs and didn’t have a standard process for calculating its mDAUs or the percentage of bots. Even if the arguments were valid — and that’s not able to be determined at this time — they don’t allow Musk to simply walk away.
Musk has already legally agreed to this deal, which means the battle will now move to court where Twitter says it plans to enforce the agreement at the price and terms agreed upon. And even if both parties agree to terminate, Musk will have to pay out a billion dollars as a termination fee.
The real reason Musk is trying to terminate is not likely “bots.” It’s because he knows he overpaid. What looked like a decent deal earlier (@ $54.20 per share) quickly became an overpriced deal in a macroeconomic environment that’s led to tech stocks tanking. Since announcing the deal, Twitter’s stock hadn’t again hit the negotiated price, and in fact, was recently down as much as 28% below Musk’s offer price. By forcing the deal to go to the courts, Musk could be hoping for a shot at negotiating a better price. But that’s far from being a certain outcome.

The Twitter Board is committed to closing the transaction on the price and terms agreed upon with Mr. Musk and plans to pursue legal action to enforce the merger agreement. We are confident we will prevail in the Delaware Court of Chancery.
— Bret Taylor (@btaylor) July 8, 2022

Google blocked KakaoTalk for not following its rules
Image Credits: Jon Russell (opens in a new window) / Flickr (opens in a new window)
Google this week demonstrated it plans to enforce its new Play Store terms over in-app purchases, even if the developer is a $1.5 billion tech giant and leading app in its region. The Korean company behind the KakaoTalk mobile messenger popular in South Korea was prevented from issuing updates to its app over its failure to comply with Google Play’s terms, according to local media reports. This would be the first time Google has enforced its new Play Store rules over how apps can point users to their own websites for alternative methods of payments.
South Korea’s in-app payment law, better known as the “anti-Google law,” permits Android app developers to add third-party payment options in their app, but only if they offer them alongside Google’s own billing system. It doesn’t permit developers to add links to their app that allow users to bypass Google’s billing system entirely, however. That’s what KakaoTalk is continuing to do.
According to Google’s rules, failure to comply with its rules could see apps removed from the Play Store altogether. Google hasn’t gone that far just yet — instead, it’s only blocked the company from issuing updates. But this is still a serious punitive action and one designed to prompt the app to take action.
Companies aren’t happy with how Google complied with the country’s new law, as Google is only offering a discount on commissions paid for those using third-party payments, instead of allowing them to avoid commissions as they had hoped. On April 1, Google said all apps must either use Google’s own payments system and pay the usual 15-30% in commissions, or the apps could offer a third-party system for a discount of 4% on those fees.
The Korea Communications Commission (KCC) met with Google and Kakao on Thursday about the matter. Afterward, Kakao relented and chose to remove the web link to the third-party payments system as required by Google’s rules to come into compliance. Analysts speculated Kakao’s earlier refusal to remove the link was to simply bring the issue to regulators’ attention — that is, it aimed to demonstrate how Google had complied with the letter of the law, but not with the spirit. The KCC had been investigating how the law was being implemented but since most apps were already in compliance, Google hadn’t yet taken any punitive actions.
The Kakao Talk messaging app today is used by some 53 milllion+ people monthly, making it one of the biggest social apps in the country.
FTC asked to investigate TikTok
Image Credits: TikTok
Senate Intelligence Committee members have asked the FTC to investigate whether TikTok misled lawmakers about ByteDance employees’ ability to access U.S. users’ data. Democrat Senator Mark Warner and Republican Marco Rubio, the chair and ranking member of the committee, respectively, wrote a letter to FTC Chair Lina Khan requesting a further investigation into whether TikTok may have lied in its testimonies to Congress over how it handles user data.
This demand follows a BuzzFeed News report that revealed that ByteDance employees in China were regularly accessing U.S. data into early 2022, despite TikTok’s prior assurances to the contrary. Last weekend, timed alongside the BuzzFeed scoop, TikTok wrote to Republican Senators to assure them it’s working on a program called “Project Texas” aimed at improving data security for U.S.-based users.
“In light of this new report,” the letter stated, “we ask that your agency immediately initiate a Section 5 investigation on the basis of apparent deception by TikTok, and coordinate this work with any national security or counter-intelligence investigation that may be initiated by the U.S. Department of Justice.”
Pressure on TikTok has been increasing as of late. Six senators sent a letter to the Treasury Department on June 24, asking for details about the negotiation between TikTok and CFIUS, which would have prompted Trump’s EO to ban the TikTok app in the U.S. An FCC Commissioner, Brendan Carr, also wrote to Apple and Google on June 28, requesting the companies remove TikTok from their app stores for “its pattern of surreptitious data practices.”
Weekly News
Platforms: Apple
Image Credits: Apple
Apple introduced an iPhone Lockdown Mode in iOS 16. The new OS, as well as updates for iPad and Mac, will include a feature that lets users who are most at risk from attacks take more extreme measures to lock down their devices and reduce attack surfaces. In Lockdown Mode, most message attachments are blocked and previews are disabled; some web technologies are disabled; FaceTime calls from people you haven’t connected with before are blocked; Shared Albums are removed from the Photos app; configuration profiles can’t be installed; wired connections to other devices or accessories are blocked; and more. Apple said it will add more protections to this mode over time.
Apple rolled out the third developer betas for iOS 16, iPadOS 16, tvOS 16, watchOS 9 and macOS 13 Ventura. The news suggests the iOS 16 public beta is just around the corner, given it usually arrives alongside the third developer betas. The third beta also includes support for iCloud‌ Shared Photo Library, which lets families combine their photos and videos in one place.
Apple also released iOS 15.6 and iPadOS 15.6 beta 5 to developers, alongside other platforms.
Platforms: Google
The Google Play Store appears to be getting an updated logo with rounded corners on the triangle and colors that are more aligned with Google’s four colors (blue, green, yellow and red), instead of lighter variations.
E-commerce & Food Delivery
Code spotted in the iOS 16 beta 3 suggests Apple is working on a new system to integrate virtual cards with Safari, reports 9to5Mac. The feature would allow users to pay with virtual card numbers when online shopping in mobile Safari.
Amazon partnered with Grubhub and took a stake in its owner, Just East Takeaway. The deal will see Amazon offering free membership to Grubhub+ for one year to Prime members in the U.S. The retailer had previously offered a similar deal to Amazon Prime Student members and had a partnership with Deliveroo in the U.K. that offered a free year of Deliveroo+ to Prime members.
Walmart folded its InHome grocery delivery service into its subscription plan, Walmart+. The service lets users monitor in-home grocery deliveries via an app where they can livestream the delivery as it’s in progress, watching as Walmart staff places their items inside their fridge and freezer.
Pinterest introduced an API for Shopping and Product Tagging for Pins, among other merchant-focused updates. The API offers access to new catalog management and product metadata features, while Product Tagging allows merchants to make their “lifestyle” Pins shoppable, similar to shoppable photos on Instagram. In addition, video assets can now be used in product catalogs, and a new Shop Tab on business profiles lets merchants easily display their shoppable products.
Image Credits: Pinterest
Pinterest also launched its ads business in Argentina, Colombia and Chile, joining other expansions to Brazil and Mexico last year, and Japan’s launch earlier this year. The ads allow retailers to connect with users searching for items that match those in their own catalogs, even if the searchers haven’t settled on a particular brand.
Ex-employees at shopping app Wish detailed to The NYT about the app’s low product standards, unreliable shipping, counterfeiting, inappropriate ads and deceptive experiments which drove users away. The app saw MAUs drop from 101 million in Q1 2021 to 27 million in Q1 2022.
Amazon readies itself for Prime Day with help from online influencers. The company is livestreaming creators who are promoting Prime Day deals via its Amazon Live platform. The streams are available on Amazon’s website and in its mobile app.
Instacart rolled out a new rewards program for shoppers which offers priority access to batches for those with higher ratings. Other perks include discounted childcare, cash back on gas and car maintenance discounts. The company recently introduced other shopper features to protect their tips and remove ratings from customers who always dole out less than five stars.
TikTok dropped its plans to expand livestream shopping in the U.S. and elsewhere after the feature failed to gain traction outside of the U.K., FT said.
Augmented Reality
Image Credits: The Met/8th Wall
The Met launched a new AR experience that allows visitors or anyone to view the Sphinx in augmented reality. The Sphinx appears in your own space atop a grave stele and is annotated with interesting facts users can tap on to learn more. There’s also a selfie feature that lets users try on the Sphinx’s colors. The AR features are powered by 8th Wall and work in the Safari web browser app, instead of requiring a dedicated mobile app.
Image Credits: Reddit
Reddit launched a new NFT-based avatar marketplace that allows users to purchase blockchain-based profile pictures at a fixed rate. Users don’t need to have a crypto wallet to make the purchases, only a credit or debit card. The purchases are then held in Reddit’s own wallet called Vault, inside its existing mobile app. Vault is also used to earn blockchain-based community points and spend them on special features like badges and animated emoji. There are 90 NFT designs available at launch, and a total of “tens of thousands” of NFTs will be available during early access at prices ranging from $9.99-$99.99. The company partnered with Polygon, an Ethereum-compatible blockchain, to mint the avatars on-chain.

Reddit is launching a new NFT avatar marketplace

Crypto exchange Binance.US hired a former Acorns and PayPal exec Jasmine Lee as its CFO, replacing interim CFO Eric Segal. The company offers one of the top crypto apps in the U.S. and operates as a separate entity from the global Binance exchange.
The Chinese photo-editing app Meitu reported a $45.6 million crypto impairment in H1 2022. The company’s stock dropped more than 10% after it projected crypto impairments tripling from 2021 levels.
Glace, owned by adtech firm InMobi Group, will partner with U.S. carriers to launch a media service for Android lock screens. Glance serves media, news and casual entertainment to lock screens and already has a presence on around 400 million devices in Asian markets.
Snap’s unexpected new hire comes from the Secret Service. According to The Washington Post, Secret Service Director James Murray is retiring from his post and joining Snap as its chief security officer at the end of the month, where he’ll directly report to CEO Evan Spiegel.
TikTok is facing multiple lawsuits from parents who allege their children died attempting the “blackout challenge” they saw on the app. The challenge encouraged users to strangulate themselves until passing out. TikTok claims users learned about the challenge on other platforms and says it was never a TikTok trend.
TikTok is testing a new ability that would allow livestreamers to restrict their stream to viewers who are 18+. The company said it’s testing this feature with select users by offering an option to toggle a “mature themes” button that would restrict their TikTok LIVE’s to adults only.
Meta is moving forward with its digital collectibles plan that will allow creators to generate revenue from NFTs, despite the crypto crash, reports FT.
Twitter begins testing “CoTweets,” a feature that allows two users to co-author tweets — a feature that makes it possible for influencers and brands to post tweets together for brand partnership deals, among other use cases.
Elon Musk may be still trying to get out of the Twitter deal, The Washington Post claims (see above). The Telsa and SpaceX exec is reportedly concerned about the number of bots on the service, but he’s likely more worried now about how much he’s overpaid for the social media company. Nevertheless, the ink is dry on the deal and will cost Musk $1 billion if he backs out. Twitter, meanwhile, told reporters it removes 1 million+ spam accounts per day and those accounts are well less than 5% of total users. It also confirmed layoffs of 30% of its talent acquisition team.
An Israel-based startup called Notch is offering creators “Instagram account insurance,” which will pay out a stipend if their accounts get hacked causing them to lose access. The startup will also help them regain control of their page, it says.
Tinder rolled out several in-app initiatives in the U.S. that allow users to take a stand against the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. Users can now include “Pro-Choice” as an interest on their profiles, and the app features an in-app promotion that supports the abortion rights campaign from Bansoff.org. The company is also donating in-app promotional space to Kansas Constitutional Freedom (KCF), a bipartisan coalition of reproductive rights advocates and allied organizations dedicated to protecting access to safe and legal abortions. The court’s decision could have an impact on the use of dating apps for casual dating in the U.S., which could impact Tinder’s business.
Messaging app Signal introduced a new thread view on Android, which allows users to see replies to messages bundled in a single place, similar to Slack.

Planning your pizza order for movie night but forgot how many people want pepperoni versus veggie? If you’re using Android, you can now tap the speech bubble icon next to a message to pull up all replies to that message and never lose the thread (or under-order on toppings)! pic.twitter.com/fx3ESyNm6b
— Signal (@signalapp) July 7, 2022

Streaming & Entertainment
Netflix rolled out support for spatial audio to all devices and subscribers to offer theater-like sound for its movies and shows. The support is currently available on original titles like the fourth season of “Stranger Things,” “The Adam Project,” “Red Notice,” “The Witcher,” “Locke & Key” and others. Users can find supported titles by typing in “Spatial Audio” in the search bar.
Code found in Meta’s iPhone app for VR headsets suggests the company’s “Project Cambria” VR headset is going to be called the Meta Quest Pro, which will cost over $1,000, per Bloomberg. Mark Zuckerberg had previously teased the high-end headset in a demo video.
In an update to The Oregon Trail game on Apple Arcade, creator Gameloft added a new “Walk the Trail” feature that connects the game with Apple Health. As users walk throughout the day, their steps are counted in a virtual Oregon trail inside the app that crosses 64 locations like Fort Kearney, Fort Laramie, Fort Hall and others. A stats screen highlights the steps, locations visited and more and a trivia screen offers details about the milestones you pay.
Apple is rolling out its improved Maps to France, Monaco and New Zealand, following tests. The regions will gain updated, more detailed maps, better navigation and other features.
Government & Policy
Twitter sued the Indian government to challenge some of its takedown orders. The government has asked Twitter to remove hundreds of accounts and tweets that had denounced government policies and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Twitter had only partially complied with the requests and is instead fighting back against many of the challenges.
In the wake of the overturning of Roe v. Wade, the U.S. House Oversight Committee issued letters on Friday to data brokers SafeGraph, Babel Street, Digital Envoy, Placer.ai and Gravy Analytics, as well as period tracking app makers Flo Health, Glow, GP International, Clue developer BioWink and Digitalchemy Ventures. The committee is asking the companies about their data collection and retention practices, noting that the collection of sensitive data could “pose serious threats to those seeking reproductive care as well as to providers of such care, not only by facilitating intrusive government surveillance, but also by putting people at risk of harassment, intimidation, and even violence.”

Congress probes period tracking apps and data brokers over abortion privacy concerns

Security & Privacy
Related to its introduction of Lockdown Mode in iOS 16, Apple also established a new category within the Apple Security Bounty program to reward researchers who find Lockdown Mode bypasses and help improve its protections. Bounties are doubled for qualifying findings in Lockdown Mode, up to a maximum of $2,000,000 — the highest maximum bounty payout in the industry. The company said it’s also making a $10 million grant, in addition to any damages awarded from its lawsuit filed against NSO Group, to support organizations that “investigate, expose, and prevent highly targeted cyberattacks, including those created by private companies developing state-sponsored mercenary spyware.”

Apple says Lockdown Mode in iOS 16 will help block government spyware attacks

Funding and M&A
Mobile marketing firm Moburst acquired digital studio Layer, which offers web, mobile and app development services. Layer, launched in 2015, has worked with clients like Nissan, Renault and others. Deal terms weren’t disclosed. The two companies had previously worked together on multiple projects and will now allow Moburst to expand its services and offer a full-stack solution.
Digital banking app YAP, based in the United Arab Emirates, raised $41 million as part of a Series A round expected to close at year-end. The company aims to expand its services into Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Pakistan and Ghana.

Has anyone else noticed this in iOS 16 Beta 3? pic.twitter.com/ywiC0MsfJr
— Jack Roberts (@jacklroberts) July 6, 2022

Autocorrect comes for everyone sooner or later… pic.twitter.com/T3RsYJoGo7
— Steve Riggins (@steveriggins) July 8, 2022

I worked on iOS 7, and I can tell you for sure that none of the push toward flatness was about making things better for people. Banishing skeuomorphism was all about how the software looked, not how it worked. https://t.co/51XvDYTVHV
— Ken Kocienda (@kocienda) July 7, 2022

This Week in Apps: Google battles KakaoTalk, Twitter deal in jeopardy, FTC asked to investigate TikTok

This Week in Apps, Apple WWDC review: Blurred lines, new APIs and a brand-new Lock Screen

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 number of downloads and consumer spending across both the iOS and Google Play stores combined in 2021, according to the latest year-end reports. App Annie says global spending across iOS and Google Play is up to $135 billion in 2021, and that figure will likely be higher when its annual report, including third-party app stores in China, is released next year. Consumers also downloaded 10 billion more apps this year than in 2020, reaching nearly 140 billion in new installs, it found.
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 was 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 much more.
Do you want This Week in Apps in your inbox every Saturday? Sign up here: techcrunch.com/newsletters
WWDC Wrap-up
This week, Apple wrapped up its first in-person WWDC since the pandemic began, and while there were no big surprises — like the first look at Apple’s AR smartglasses, for example — the company did announce a solid lineup of new products, services and software. It introduced new MacBook Airs and Pros, its M2 CPU, updated operating systems, Xcode Cloud and tons more developer tools.
Blurred lines
Image Credits: Apple
One theme that jumped out was how Apple is continuing to blur the lines between its different platforms. In macOS Ventura, it’s turning the System Preferences app into a new System Settings app, which looks just like the Settings app you’d find on the iPhone. Meanwhile, Apple’s new iOS 16 Lock Screen is gaining widgets that are inspired by Apple Watch’s complications — and in fact, developers can use the latest version of WidgetKit to build for both the Lock Screen and Watch using the same code.
M1 iPads running iPadOS 16 can take advantage of external displays and the clever multitasking feature, Stage Manager — one of the more exciting software developments to emerge from the event. Stage Manager offers resizable, floating and overlapping windows, plus a way to organize other apps’ windows off to the left side of the screen. It represents one of the biggest pushes yet to make the iPad more of a replacement for a computer, and less of a big-screened iPhone — hence the increased demand for processing power. But now the question users must ask is whether they need a computer at all, or would an iPad and an extra screen do?
Image Credits: Apple
And though Apple didn’t show off any big new projects in terms of hardware, there were suggestions that it’s working toward an AR future when it announced the new ability to integrate ARKit with its Nearby Interaction framework, allowing developers to build more directionally aware AR-powered apps that seem to lay the groundwork for its rumored AR smartglasses.
Plus, for everyone who still dreams of an Apple Car reveal, Apple instead gifted us an updated version of CarPlay that sees Apple working with automakers to integrate a new version of CarPlay that extends to the vehicle’s entire instrument cluster, instead of just the infotainment system. Hopefully, this is not what the rumors meant by an Apple Car! Of course, it will be years before this is actually available to consumers in their vehicles.
Image Credits: Apple
iOS 16 gets messy updated
As for iOS 16, Apple’s Lock Screen update and personalization features are the stars of the latest release. On the one hand, it’s great to have easier access to glanceable information that doesn’t require you to first unlock your iPhone. The new “Live Activities” will be useful too, as they can telegraph real-time information — like an approaching Uber or the latest sports scores — directly to your Lock Screen. This could minimize the need to launch apps for quick updates.
Access to this new screen real estate could inspire a new category of apps, too — the way that the launch of Home Screen widgets drove new apps like Widgetsmith and Brass to the top charts.
But on the other hand, I have this nagging feeling that the iPhone’s user interface is starting to get a little too messy and overcomplicated, while other parts of the experience are undercooked.
Image Credits: Apple
For starters, you can now customize your iOS 16 Lock Screen with a long press that pops you into a new editor interface where you can pick from Apple’s own photos and live wallpapers or your own images, then select your Lock Screen’s widgets, fonts and colors.
Given this new feature is all about redesigning your iPhone’s main interface, it’s disappointing to see Apple failed to deliver a variety of options for beautiful, built-in wallpapers. By comparison, the latest Android release includes some dozen-plus themed wallpaper collections, each with numerous images, as well as a large collection of animated wallpapers. Apple’s default options are embarrassing by comparison. Live weather and space wallpapers? Emojis? A single Pride rainbow option? Those same bouncing bubbles we’ve had for years? Even the options that are new don’t feel very inspired.
Considering Apple is asking us to think about our iPhone’s interface design with this feature, it missed the chance to blow us away with new imagery as the centerpiece for our custom designs which then coordinate with all the new widgets, fonts and colors as fully fleshed-out themes. (And don’t even get me started on how Apple’s app icons don’t match our new themes!)
Image Credits: Apple
Then there are the notifications that now scroll up from the bottom — but only on the Lock Screen. If your phone is unlocked, you still pull down from the top. Frankly, I’ve never liked that there are two different screens to see based on which side of the iPhone notch you pull down from at the top of the screen. It’s personal preference, of course — but I think Android does this better with its own control center that sits above the notifications, all in one view that’s pulled down from the top.
It’s not that we can’t learn to adapt to all these changes and new gestures; it’s just that it feels like it’s time to simplify these things.
For instance, now that we have Home Screen and Lock Screen widgets, it’s probably time to ask if the right-swipe gesture to unlock the “Today View” is something that still needs to exist? It feels like unnecessary clutter at this point. (Sorry Today View fans.)
It’s also much more confusing than it should be to set a different background for your Lock Screen than for the Home Screen, since doing so isn’t a function of the new Lock Screen editor. Instead, you have to return to Settings to adjust the Home Screen’s wallpaper.
In other words, Apple seems to have approached the Lock Screen makeover as if it’s some standalone entity to customize instead of part of a larger iPhone theme and design system. That needs to change. And yes, I am going to point out that by the time the new iOS 16 Lock Screen launches, Android’s theming system and design language Material You will be a year old. You know, the one that lets you personalize the entire Android interface including the lock screen, notifications, settings, widgets, interface elements and even apps. We are not going to talk about how long Android has had widgets.
But yay, new Lock Screen I guess!
Image Credits: Apple
New APIs and developer tools
As for the new developer tools, there were some interesting updates emerging from this year’s WWDC.
Notable new APIs included RoomPlan — to tap into lidar for scanning indoor spaces; WeatherKit — a Dark Sky replacement that offers 500,000 calls/mo free with your Apple developer membership, then pricing that starts at $49.99/mo; LiveText to grab text from photos and paused video frames (video!!!); Focus filters — to show users relevant information based on the Focus mode they’re in; PassKeys to replace passwords with Face ID or Touch ID; ARKit 6, now with 4K video; Metal 3, WidgetKit; App Intents and others.
Image Credits: Apple
What’s great about these tools is that they offer the ability to not just build better apps, but build different types of apps, in some cases. That’s needed, because the App Store doesn’t feel as fresh and exciting as it did in earlier years when we were excited about the concept of running apps on a phone. APIs unlock developer innovation and we’re looking forward to seeing what these new APIs inspire.
Another interesting addition was Developer Mode, which could be laying the groundwork for sideloading if Apple is forced to allow this against its will — though today that’s not the case. Keep an eye on this one.
Image Credits: Apple
There was a lot more from WWDC, including useful updates to Apple’s own apps like being able to unsend messages, schedule emails, pay for purchases later with Apple Pay, track weather natively on iPad, keep up with your medication in the Apple Health app, use the Fitness app without an Apple Watch, better control your smart home and other updates — including little iOS 16 features Apple didn’t even tell us about.
And it teased a forthcoming app, Freeform, that’s an open, collaborative notetaking app that works with Apple Pencil.

Here’s everything Apple just announced at the WWDC 2022 keynote

One more thing…
But before we go, can we talk about this downright magical new iOS 16 Photo cutout feature? With this new feature, a part of Visual Lookup, you can now isolate the subject of the photo from the background, then copy and paste it into another app or a text. If you’ve ever tried to do this using photo-editing tools, you’re going to be surprised not only how easy this is, but also how well it turns out.

Lol iOS 16 can cut out people from photos pic.twitter.com/rBmmZPgcxa
— Poke (@Pokediger1) June 6, 2022

On the Lock Screen, this capability can separate the photo subject from the background of the wallpaper too, which makes for a layered look where the date and time and other elements can be behind the subject but in front of the photo’s background. Apple really undersold this one during the keynote.
You’ve got to try it yourself. This is the best new thing.
Image Credits: Apple
Weekly News
Platforms: Google
Just ahead of Apple’s WWDC keynote, Google announced its latest Pixel feature drop. The release included Conversation Mode in Sound Amplifier to help the hard of hearing; air quality alerts; support for Nest Doorbell video feeds on the lock screen; a flashlight reminder (when it’s left on); a music and video editing app called Pocket Operator (created in partnership with Teenage Engineering and available for download on the Play Store); and other features.

Google released Android 13, beta 3 for Pixel devices, and announced Android 13 had reached platform stability. That means the developer APIs and app updates are now final. Android 13 brings a bevy of new features, including more personalization options with themed icons, permission-based changes to push notifications, more granular file system controls, a new photo/video picker, better support for tablets and foldables and much more.
Google also announced the launch of its initial developer previews for Privacy Sandbox on Android and said it will have more developer previews coming soon, as well as a beta later this year.
Image Credits: Amazon
Amazon tapped into augmented reality in an attempt to appeal to sneakerheads shopping its site. The retailer announced a new feature called “Virtual Try-On for Shoes” that allows customers to visualize how a pair of new shoes will look on themselves from multiple angles using their mobile phone’s camera and AR technology. Participating brands include New Balance, Adidas, Reebok, Puma, Saucony, Lacoste, Asics and Superga.
TikTok e-commerce efforts in the U.K., TikTok Shop, are reportedly in turmoil after losing half the staff (20 people) since its October 2021 launch because of a toxic workplace culture, The FT reported.
In hopes of prompting creator adoption of its short-form Shorts service, YouTube announced its first-ever “Shoppable Shorts Challenge” alongside its second annual YouTube Beauty Festival. The challenge will have creators making videos about Glossier’s Cloud Paint product.
PayPal announced it will begin allowing users to transfer cryptocurrency from their PayPal accounts to other wallets and exchanges. The feature will allow users to move crypto to external crypto addresses, including exchanges and hardware wallets, and send crypto to other PayPal users “in seconds.”
Investments app Public introduced Public Premium, a new $10/mo membership tier that offers research, data and insights to help inform investment decisions. This includes access to deeper company metrics, research from expert analysts and more . The service is free to members with an account balance of $20,000+.
Image Credits: TikTok
TikTok rolled out new screen time “take a break” reminders designed to put users in better control of their TikTok usage. In addition its daily screen time limits tool, the new feature will allow users to have the app remind them to take a break from the app during a single session. By default, the tool suggests reminder options of alerts at 10, 20 or 30 minutes, in addition to allowing users to set their own times. The reminders can be snoozed or turned off at any time. The app also added a new screen time dashboard as well as reminders for minors (13-17) to enable TikTok’s screen time tools if they’ve used the app for more than 100 minutes per day.
Pinterest launched applications for its Creator Fund in the U.K. Accepted creators get to join a five-week program of events, gain access to educational talks and equipment, and get a cash grant of £20,000.
Twitter said it would give would-be acquirer Elon Musk access to its full firehose after his complaints that it wasn’t sharing data to prove that less than 5% of its service was made up of bots. The news came as a new study reported that Twitter could be around 10% bots and the Texas AG’s office began its own investigation into Twitter bots.
Instagram expanded its in-app “sensitive content” controls to allow users turn off sensitive content in recommendations throughout the app, including search, Reels, hashtag pages, “accounts you might follow” and in-feed suggested posts, instead of just the Explore tab, as before. The app defines sensitive content as permitted but possibly upsetting content such as posts including violence (like people fighting; graphic violence is banned); posts that promote regulated products (tobacco, vaping, pharmaceuticals, adult products/services); posts that promote or depict cosmetic procedures; posts that attempt to sell products or services based on health-related claims (like supplements); and more.
Instagram also added a TikTok-like feature that allows users to pin up to three posts to their profile in the app.
TikTok launched TikTok Avatars, a new feature similar to Snap’s Bitmoji and Apple’s Memoji that lets users customize their appearance, add voice effects and more.
Image Credits: TikTok
Link-in-bio service Linktree, popular among social media apps users and creators, launched Link Apps. The new feature lets creators embed services from Cameo, OpenSea, PayPal, SoundCloud and others via a new marketplace.
Facebook is killing off its consumer-facing Portal video-calling device to instead focus on business users. The smart screen device had allowed access to apps like Messenger and WhatsApp and integrated with users’ Facebook accounts. The company is also scaling back plans for AR glasses.
Photo editing app maker Picsart launched a new AI-powered image-enhancement tool that improves the overall quality of an image and resolution for printing or sharing online. The tool uses advanced AI models to remove or blur pixelated effects, add pixels and sharpen and restore scenes and objects, including faces. It’s being made available via the app’s API and on iOS, where it’s called “HD Portrait.”
WhatsApp was warned by European regulators it has just one more month to address the remaining concerns around its terms of service and privacy policy updates to clearly inform consumers about the changes. The company is being asked to clarify if it generates revenue from commercial policies related to user data, as well.
Telegram is launching a subscription service later this month that will offer premium extra, like the ability to view “extra large” documents, media and stickers sent by Premium users, or add premium reactions if they’ve already been pinned to a message.
Streaming & Entertainment
AT&T removed the HBO Max bundle from its new, premium tier unlimited wireless plan, Unlimited Premium, which replaced Unlimited Elite. The bundle deal had helped drive new subscriptions to the streaming app in prior years.
Amazon simplified the pricing for its Amazon Kids+ entertainment bundle by making it $4.99/mo for Prime members and $7.99/mo for others. The changes will allow the service to be used for up to four child profiles, which increases the cost for those who had previously only paid for a single child, but decreases the cost for others. The service offers a kid-friendly selection of books, videos, apps and games, among other things.
At Spotify’s Investor Day, the company reported on the financial health of its business with a big focus on podcasts, noting this area brought in nearly €200 million in 2021 revenue, up 300% from the prior year. The company said its overall gross margin was 28.5%, dragged down by its continued investments in podcasts, but it’s on track to a GM of 30-35%, and that podcasts have 40-50% GM potential, and audiobooks could soon follow suit.
Image Credits: Netflix
Netflix announced a number of new gaming titles during its annual Geeked Week event, some of which are tied to popular Netflix shows, including “The Queen’s Gambit,” “Shadow and Bone,” and “Too Hot To Handle.” The streaming service currently has 22 games available and plans to have 50 titles by the end of this year.
Tencent is rolling out a new international version of one of the world’s largest mobile games, Honor of Kings, by year-end. The game had racked up $10 billion in worldwide revenue by 2021. The overseas version will be published by Level Infinite for TiMiStudio.
Game studio HiDef announced it’s teaming up with Snap to develop an off-platform Bitmoji-based dance and music social game that will also leverage Snap’s AR tech. The game will launch in 2023.
Apple’s new iOS 16 will allow iPhones to support pairing with Nintendo Switch Joy-Cons and Pro Controllers to give users more control while playing mobile games.
No Man’s Sky is coming to iPad — well, the Apple silicon-powered ones, that is.
Health & Fitness
Meta rolled out the ability for users to track their Meta Quest fitness stats from VR to their phone. The feature involves the Move app — Meta Quest’s built-in fitness tracker that lets you set goals for how many calories you’ve burned and how many minutes you’ve spent working out in VR. This will now sync to the Oculus Mobile app and Apple’s Health app.
Travel & Transportation
Delivery company Uber said its food delivery business Uber Eats is launching a new product that will provide shipping of select specialty food items across the continental U.S.; 15 merchants from NY, LA and Miami are involved to start.
Singaporean taxi operator ComfortDelGro partnered with Alipay+ to allow tourists in Malaysia and South Korea to use their mobile wallet apps (Touch ‘n Go eWallet and Kakao Pay) to pay for cab fare in Singapore.
Travel app Hopper launched “Leave for Any Reason,” a $30 product that lets customers leave their hotel for any reason and rebook with another hotel of the same star category, with rebooking costs covered by Hopper.
Traveling to the beach? Don’t forget to download the new shark-spotting app. The Atlantic White Shark Conservancy and New England Aquarium teamed up to encourage consumers to report shark sightings off Cape Cod in Massachusetts through an app called Sharktivity.
Government & Policy
Wired reports on how Ukrainian civilians are using apps to help the army, which blurs the lines between civilians and soldiers and raises questions related to international humanitarian laws.
Russian tech giant Yandex removed national borders between Ukraine and Russia from its maps app. Users still see the country names displayed — but lines depicting exact borders between countries like Ukraine and Russia are no longer visible.
Nasdaq-listed language learning app Duolingo is back in China’s Apple App Store and Android stores nearly a year after its disappearance due to China’s regulatory crackdowns. The company had been told at the time of its removal to strengthen its “content compliance mechanism.”
The U.K.’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) published its final report on its year-long mobile ecosystem market study. The report found there are substantial concerns about Apple and Google’s market power which require regulatory intervention. Among the concerns are in-app payments and commissions, Apple’s ban on cloud gaming providers and non-WebKit-based browsers on iOS, switching costs between ecosystems, and more.

UK’s antitrust watchdog finally eyes action on Apple, Google mobile duopoly

Funding and M&A
Hourly, an app that helps businesses track hours and payroll for hourly wage workers, raised $27 million in Series A funding led by Glilot Capital Partners. Hourly has around 1,000 customers in California, in areas like construction, home services, accounting and retail.
India fintech CRED raised $140 million in a fourth round of funding led by GIC, Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund, valuing the startup at $6.4 billion, up from $2.2 billion in April 2021. Among other things, CRED allows users to manage credit cards, check their credit score and earn rewards.
Fintech app Fruitful announced a total of $33 million in equity funding raised across a seed and Series A round over the past 18 months. Emigrant Bank led the company’s $8 million seed round and 8VC led its $25 million Series A. The app will launch this fall to offer consumers financial guidance from experts via a $98/mo subscription service.
Mexico City-based neobank app Klar raised $70 million in Series B funding led by General Atlantic, valuing the startup at $500 million. The company added 1.4 million customers over the past 12 months and more than $100 million worth of loans.
Indonesia cryptocurrency-focused app Pintu raised a $113 million Series B from Intudo Ventures, Lightspeed, Northstar Group and Pantera Capital. The app offers 66 tokens and has more than 4 million installs.
Note-taking app maker Notion announced it’s acquiring the calendar app Cron. Notion already synced with Google Calendar, but this deal suggests the company wants to expand further into the productivity space. Cron had raised $3.5 million in seed funding. Deal terms weren’t disclosed.
Mobile app marketing solution Airship acquired Gummicube, an App Store Optimization service. The deal will see Gummicube’s ASO technology linked to Airship’s App Experience Platform. Terms were not disclosed.
Brickit (update)
Image Credits: Brickit
Brickit, the clever mobile app that uses AI to identify which LEGO bricks you own and then suggest projects, rolled out a new version of its app that includes several new features that help people do more with their LEGO collections.
The updated app now includes a Finder feature that will identify the precise location of bricks within a pile of bricks. Its AI and ML capabilities have also been improved, the company says. Brickit’s AI has gotten better at identification, with a success rate as high as 92%, it claims. The app will also use machine learning to help it get better over time. If it gets something wrong, it asks the users to help correct the problem, then uses that information to improve its LEGO brick knowledge. A final new feature may be the best as it makes Brickit not just a tool, but a community. Brickit now lets users submit their own creations to the app which Brickit then transforms into instructions and share with other Brickit users worldwide.
Hey, it’s a new HIG!

Brand new Apple Human Interface Guidelines!
That’s right, we’ve completely redesigned the HIG to be more cross-platform, easier to search, and completely reorganized from high level design principles down to low-level component guidance.https://t.co/Hd4qISMbqi pic.twitter.com/g1qpIt1BmL
— Linda Dong ’til dub dub (@lindadong) June 7, 2022

Good News, weather app devs

Found the pricing for WeatherKit. Looks to be roughly half of what the old Dark Sky API pricing was. ~20,000 requests/$1. Solid.https://t.co/39AvRbJlIV pic.twitter.com/ER8Dd59Bxx
— David Smith (@_DavidSmith) June 6, 2022

Graceful response to being sherlocked

Proud to have pioneered use of incredible phone cameras for conferencing, streaming & presenting. We started with “this can’t be done”; now here we are with support from all major platforms. It’s wild to be at #WWDC22 to see @Apple taking the next step validating it.
— Aidan Fitzpatrick (@afit) June 6, 2022

It didn’t have to be this way, Apple…

After poking around SKAdNetwork 4.0, I’m ready to call it on ATT and SKAdNetwork. Collectively they are a trillion dollar blunder by Apple executives. And likely have/will cost Apple itself billions (and therefore tens of billions in market cap). Hear me out… 1/X
— David Barnard (@drbarnard) June 10, 2022

Want to see something cool?

Some early work converting Streaks complications to use SwiftUI so they can be used on iOS 16 Lock Screen.
Much of this was already done for iOS widgets, but there’s some specific functionality only available on Apple Watch I want to match on iPhone. pic.twitter.com/FcfDWaymKc
— Quentin Zervaas (@qzervaas) June 9, 2022

Wait, what now?

This new Developer Mode in iOS 16 really has all the trappings of a first-party sideloading feature. #WWDC22https://t.co/KepR76Eieq
— josh avant (@joshavant) June 7, 2022

We’re obsessed too, this thing is wild!

Since I’m obsessed with this #iOS16 cutout feature, I wrote about it…https://t.co/pRT0mQZv5l #wwdc
— Ray Wong (@raywongy) June 7, 2022

This Week in Apps, Apple WWDC review: Blurred lines, new APIs and a brand-new Lock Screen