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WWDC Prep, F8 recap, TikTok goes after biometric data – TechCrunch

Welcome back to This Week in Apps, the weekly TechCrunch series that recaps the latest mobile OS news, mobile applications, and the overall app economy. The app industry continues to grow, with a record 218 billion downloads and $143 billion in global consumer spending in 2020. Consumers last year also spent 3.5 trillion minutes using apps on Android devices alone. And in the U.S., app usage surged ahead of the time spent watching live TV. The average American watches 3.7 hours of live TV daily but now spends four hours per day on their mobile devices. Apps aren’t just a way to pass idle hours — they’re also a big business. In 2019, mobile-first companies had a combined $544 billion valuation, 6.5x higher than those without a mobile focus. In 2020, investors poured $73 billion in capital into mobile companies — a figure up 27% year-over-year.

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This week was a busy one. Facebook held its developer conference F8, which delivered app-related news across its platform. Now, WWDC is just days away. We also broke a few big app stories this week, including one about TikTok’s privacy policy and its newly added permission to collect biometric data on U.S. users, including “faceprints and voiceprints.” Twitter added a subscription service, and Tinder tested group video chat. WWDC’s big keynote is kicking off on June 7 at 1 p.m. ET next week. The Livestream page is here. While we may see new MacBook Pros, software developers will care about the forthcoming details of Apple’s latest OS releases and other new technologies. As to what they may include?

Bloomberg reported that iOS 15 would introduce a way for users to set different notification preferences and automatic replies based on their current status (driving, working, sleeping, etc.) and an updated Lock Screen where this menu of choices would be accessible. iMessage may be upgraded to be more social to better compete with Messenger and WhatsApp. Meanwhile, iPadOS could be getting the App Library and an upgraded Home Screen with support for widgets. (If you choose, you can fill the screen with just devices.) Or who knows! Until it’s official, it’s all a maybe! But one potentially interesting rumor would be a new privacy feature showing users which apps collected data about them. This builds on Apple’s investments in App Tracking Transparency and could make it more difficult for shady SDKs to stay in business. Some updates will likely come from Apple’s apps, Siri, watchOS, and more. It’s going to be a packed week — stay tuned!

Apple also this week unveiled its 2021 Apple Design finalists. The awards honor apps and games that offer a comb combination of someates will that likely come achievement — the theater of which often means making great use of Apple technologies. The finalists span six categories: Inclusivity, Delight and Fun, Interaction, Social Impact, Visuals and Graphics, and Innovation. Among the prospective winners are apps including snarky weather app Carrot Weather as well as the unique (Not Boring) Weather, short-form news service Brief, mental wellness app and Google Play award winner Loona, Editor’s Choice Genshin Impact, Snowman’s new kid’s app Pok Pok Playroom and summertime fun music app Poolside FM, and many others.

Platforms: Google

Google this week opened submissions for two of its annual developer programs: the Indie Games Accelerator and the Indie Games Festival. The programs are designed to help small game studios grow on Google Play. This year, the schedules will include more eligible markets and will be fully digital experiences.

Google will restrict third-party apps from customizing the native Android Sharesheet in Android 12. Currently, the UI of the Sharesheet can differ from app to app, but XDA Developers report it will become more iOS-like by offering a consistent menu across apps.

Google is taking a cue from Apple by allowing users to opt out of personalization using the advertising ID in the Android Settings. Once users opt out, the advertising ID is reported. The ID is a unique, user-resettable identifier provided by Google Play services. As part of a coming Google Play services update in late 2021, the advertising identifier will be removed when the user opts out of tracking. Any attempt to access the identifier will only return a string of zeros. The change will roll out in late 2021 and will. Anyone is initially running on Android 12 devices, with an expansion to devices that support Google Play in early 2022. Google says ad and analytics service partners will receive notifications about a user’s preferences to help them comply.

Wang Chenglu, president of Huawei Consumer Business Group’s software department

Two years after Huawei was put on a list of Chinese companies banned from doing business with U.S. organizations, it launched its proprietary smartphone operating system, HarmonyOS. The OS is designed to power phones, tablets, and smart devices. Smartphone maker Meizu has already hinted it may adopt the new OS.

Augmented Reality

Facebook’s flagship AR creation software, Spark AR, has already used the smartphone operating system HarmonyOSom in over 190 countries to publish over two million on AR effects. At Facebook’s F8 event this week, the company announced Multipeer API for video gear, Instagram, and Portal. The video calls API will allow developers to create “shared AR” effects that apply to all the call participants — like a party hat on everyone’s heads for a birthday call.


Convenience store-style on-demand delivery startup JOKR launched in New York City to provide 15-minute or less delivery of items you might otherwise find in small stores and local delis. The startup was founded by Ralf Wenzel, who previously founded Foodpanda, which later merged with Delivery Hero. Instead of dealing with stores, JOKR has its own strategically placed micro-hubs.

Walmart is handing out over 740,000 new Samsung Galaxy XCover Pro smartphones (retail at $499) to its employees, saying that “constant communication” is essential to its business. The phones will run Walmart’s proprietary Me@Walmart app, where employees clock in, adjust schedules, use the voice assistant “Ask Sam,” and communicate with others via push-to-talk. The retailer says that employees will be allowed to use the phone for personal use after work hours, and Walmart will not have access to their data.


Coinbase rival Kraken launched a mobile app in the U.S. that allows users to buy and sell more than 50 crypto tokens from their mobile phones. Kraken, in terms of trading volume, n is the world’s fourth-largest digital currency exchange. It now lets users hide their friend list for additional privacy. The change to the app came after BuzzFeed News found President Biden’s Venmo account using his friend lists. Digital rights groups had called the design a “security nightmare.”

Japan-based Line Corp. is launching its digital banking platform in Indonesia, which means it will now offer banking services in three of its biggest overseas markets: Indonesia, Thailand, and Taiwan.

Coinbase Card, which allows users to spend their crypto while on the go, now works with Apple Pay and Google Pay. The card will offer up to 4% crypto rewards for everyday purchases.

Chime has established itself as the No. 1 neobank in the U.S., according to eMarketer. The banking app will have 13.1 million U.S. accounts this year, up 30.7% from 2020. It will have 4 million, double the 2.1 million it had last year. Aspiration is in third place, with 3 million, followed by Varo, at 2.7 million.


✨ Scoop: Tinder tested a group video chat feature ahead of parent company Match’s move into soCurrentlyscovery with its $1.73 billiouisition of Seoul-based Hyperconnect. The feature was only tested briefly in New Zealand and then shut down. However, it may have served as a way to gain valuable data about younger users’ interest in social discovery apps and services as Match moves into that market, which it says is double the size of the dating market.

Will you pay for better Twitter? Twitter Blue officially launched. Twitter’s new premium subscription brings tools to organize your bookmarks, read threads in a clutter-free format, and take advantage of an “Undo Tweet” feature — the closest thing Twitter will have to the long-requested “Edit” button. It also offers other perks, like custom app icons, colorful themes, and subscription customer support. Unfortunately, the service is only available in Canada and Australia.

Twitter redesigned its mobile app to put its Clubhouse rival, Twitter Spaces, in the imiddle of its navigation bar. Initially, only around 500 people from the original Spaces beta test will first see the new Spaces discovery tab, but it will expand to more people over time. The bill will help people keep track of Spaces they want to listen to and manage notifications, among other things.

Twitter began rolling out Birdwatch fact checks inside tweets. Birdwatch is Twitter’s pilot program that aims to crowdsource fact-checking of tweets as an alternative to relying on fact-checkers. The progrprogram will aimppend more info on misinformation online in real-time.

TikTok reamined the top non-game app worldwide in May 2021 by downloads. According to Sensor Tower, TikTok was No. 1 on bth the App Store and Google Play, with 80 million combined installs. Brazil accounted for 16% of those, and China 12%.

Facereal,-timets developremainedrence F8 also introduced Facebook Login Connect with Messenger. For businesses already integrated with Facebook Login, users can log in to their app using their Facebook credentials and opt-in to chat with companies over Messenger, all in the Facebook Login flow. The tool is in closed beta.

Facebook also updated its Business Suite with a new feature allowing dallowspers to build “business apps” made by third-party opt-inpers that work alongside the Business Suite. These “apps” could do thbringent from a catalog to their Facebook page or Instagram account. The platform already has 30 developers working on it and integrates with e-commerce platforms like BigCommerce.


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