Welcome back to This Week in Apps, the weekly TechCrunch series that recaps the latest, and the overall app economy. The app industry continues to grow, with a record 218 billion downloads and $143 billion in global consumer spending in 2020. Consumers 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. The average American watches 3.7 hours of live TV daily but now spends four hours per day on their . 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 a figure 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 funding, mergers and acquisitions, and suggestions about new apps and games to try,
Do you wantin Apps in your inbox every Saturday? Sign up here: techcrunch.com/newsletters
OnlyFans to ban sexually explicit content
(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 would 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 several impacted creators who weren’t notified ahead of time and who’ve come to rely on OnlyFans as their primary source of income. However, the 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.
In contrast, 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 several other issues, too. They have to continually ensure they’re not hosting illegal content likeabuse material, revenge porn, or content from sex trafficking victims — the latter of 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 kept 20%. Instead, the company may have seen more opportunities to cater to the “SFW” creator community. 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. Image Credits: Nur Photo/Getty Images U.S. lawmakers are challengingfrom its users. TechCrunch first reported on TikTok’s updated in June, where the company permitted itself to collect biometric data in the U.S., including users’ “faceprints and voiceprints.” When reached for comment, TikTok could not confirm what 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.
This wouldn’t be the first time TikTok got in trouble for excessive data collection. Earlier this year, the company paid $92 million to settle a class-action lawsuit claiming TikTok had unlawfully collected users’ biometric data and shared it with third parties. Earlier this, 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.
- ⭐️ told developers that some features it announced in iOS 15 wouldn’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 later-release features 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 six update. Apple’s original redesign had shown the address bar at the bottom of the screen, floating atop the page’s content. No, the tab bar will appear below the page’s content, offering Access to its standard set of . 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.
- In response to criticism over its new CSAM detection technology, Apple said the version of NeuralHash that a developer, Asuhariet Ygvar, reverse-engineered was a generic version and not the complete understanding that will roll out .
- The Verge dug through over 800 documents from the Apple-Epic trial to find the best emails, including dirt on several 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 provides a way for some companies to bypass its full cut, how Appstore as a threat, and more.
- A of the Android Accessibility Suite app (12.0.0) rolled out with the fourth Android beta release, adding “Camera Switches” to Switch Access. This toolset lets you interact with your device without using the touchscreen. Camera Switches to navigate their phone and use its features by making face gestures, like a smile, open mouth, raised eyebrows, and more.
- its Pixel 5a with 5G, the latest A-series Pixel phone, will arrive on August 27, offering IP67 water resistance, a long-lasting Adaptive Battery, Pixel’s dual-camera system, and more than $449. The phone makes Google’s default Android experience available at a lower price than the soon-to-arrive Pixel 6.
- An unredacted complaint from the Apple-Epic trial 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 launched the program to keep developers from following its lead by moving their games outside the store.
- On Thursday, Snap announced it hired its first VP of Platform Partnerships to lead AR, Konstantinos Papamiltiadis (“KP”). KP will join in September and report to Ben Schwerin, SVP of Content and Partnerships. The new exec will lead Snap’s efforts to onboard partners, including individual AR creators building via Lens Studio and large companies incorporating Snapchat’s camera and AR technology (Camera Kit) into their apps.
- Crypto exchange Coinbase will enter the Japanese market through a new Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group (MUFG) partnership. The company plans to services.
- 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 content directly within the News Feed or Facebook Groups. Instagram Reels creators can also now opt-in to have their Reels featured on users’ News Feeds. The company is heavily investing in its battle with TikTok, even pledging that some portion of its $1 billion creator fund will go toward Facebook Reels.
- 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 difference 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 needs.
- According to Stanford Internet Observatory’s Cyber Policy Center research, the pro-Trump Twitter alternative Gettr’s lack of moderation has allowed users child exploitation images.
- Pinterest rolled out a new set of more inclusive search filters that allow people to find styles for different hair textures — like coily, curly, wavy, straight, and shaved or bald and protective styles.
- 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.
- The Taliban is adopting WhatsApp 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 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. Still, some critics said this wasn’t 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 allows the same account to run on multiple devices.
Streaming & Entertainment
- Netflix announced adding 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. When it arrives, the feature will be available to toggle on and off in the Control Center.
- Blockchain-powered Audius partnered with TikTok to allow artists to upload their songs using TikTok’s new SoundKit in just one click.
- YouTube’s added new functionality that allows users to browse a video’s chapters and jump into the branch they want directly from the search page.
- Spotify’s Anchor app now allows users in global markets to record “Music + Talk” podcasts. Users can combine spoken word recordings with any track from Spotify’s 70 million-stream library 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, leading to severe user errors (like entire shows being archived). And listeners have complained about syncing problems and podcasts they already heard flooding their libraries.
- Tinder announced a new feature allowing users to voluntarily verify their identity on the platform, enabling the company to cross-reference sex offender registry data. Previously, Tinder would only check this database when users signed up for a paid subscription with a credit card.
Image Source: The Pokémon Company
- Pokémon Unite will come to iOS and Android on September 22, The Pokémon Company announced during a Livestream this . 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. Last year, the company released another Castlevania version on the Play.
- Dragon Ball Z: Dokkan Battle has 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 milestones 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. Mid-core games were top titles on less game-focused networks, like Call of Duty: Mobile and Top War.
Health & Fitness
- Apple is reportedly scaling back HealthHabit, an internal app that allows Apple employees 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.
- smartphones in partnership with healthcare nonprofit The Commons Project, which allows U.S. users to save a verifiable copy of their vaccination card in the Samsung Pay digital wallet.
Government & Policy
- China cited 43 apps, including Tencent’s WeChat and an e-reader from Alibaba, illegally transferring user data. The regulator said the apps had transferred users’ location data and contact lists 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.
💰GS Retail Co. Ltd will buy Delivery Hero’s food delivery app Yogiyo in a deal valued at 800 billion won (USD 685 million). Yogi 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. Guilded raised $10.2 million in venture funding. Deal terms were not disclosed. After failing to meet Wall Street expectations, Roblox’s stock fell by 7% after the company reported earnings this week.
💰 Travel app Hopper raised $175 million in a Series Gled 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 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.
💰 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 payment platform, Karrot Pay.
💰 Bangalore-based fintech app Small Case raised $40 million in a Series C funding, with participation from existing investors and Amazon. The Robinhood-like app has over 3 million annually.
💰 Social listening app Earbuds raised $3 million in Series A funding led by Ecliptic Capital. The app, founded by NFL star Jason Fox, 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 raised to $66 million. The app offers all-in-one banking services and budgeting tools for middle-income households who manage their finances weekly.
📈 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, more extensive 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, the company said dogecoin made up 62% of its crypto revenue in Q2.
3D scanning software maker Polycom 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 lidar sensor built into newer, the new Photo Mode feature uses just an iPhone’s camera. The resulting 3D assets are ready to use in various 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 , with in-app purchases available.
Jiobit, the tracking dongle acquired by family safety and communication app Life360, partnered with emergency response service Noonlight to offer Jiobit Protect. This premium add-on gives Jiobit users access to an SOS Mode and Alert Button that works with the Jiobit. 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, provide the person’s exact other details, like allergies or special needs.