AI apps, Bing hits the High Charts, Google and Mozilla check non-WebKit browsers • TechCrunch

Welcome again to This Week in Apps, the weekly TechCrunch sequence that recaps the most recent in cellular OS information, cellular functions and the general app economic system.

The app economic system in 2023 hit a couple of snags, as client spending final yr dropped for the primary time by 2% to $167 billion, in keeping with’s “State of Cell” report. Nevertheless, downloads are persevering with to develop, up 11% year-over-year in 2022 to achieve 255 billion. Customers are additionally spending extra time in cellular apps than ever earlier than. On Android gadgets alone, hours spent in 2022 grew 9%, reaching 4.1 trillion.

This Week in Apps provides a strategy to sustain with this fast-moving trade in a single place with the most recent from the world of apps, together with information, updates, startup fundings, mergers and acquisitions, and way more.

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AI’s affect on apps

Picture Credit: Bloomberg (opens in a brand new window) / Getty Photographs

Extra AI apps are on the way in which. It was a giant week for AI information as each Microsoft and Google took the stage at competing occasions to intro their AI developments to the general public. Microsoft fared slightly higher with its information that OpenAI’s ChatGPT-like tech was coming to Bing, pushing its companion cellular app up into the App Retailer’s high ranks. In the meantime, Google flubbed a bit with its rival AI, Bard, which, in a printed demonstration of the expertise, shared an incorrect reply to a query in regards to the James Webb Area Telescope (it was NOT the primary to take an image of an exoplanet, NASA says).

Whereas each AI fashions will regularly and confidently get issues mistaken at instances, Google’s failure to fact-check the solutions it was displaying off appeared to point the corporate was dashing out the tech in response to Microsoft’s transfer into its territory…which it was.

Google ought to have been far forward on this AI race, having invested in and developed AI expertise for years with assist from a number of the high specialists within the area. But it surely’s been caught off guard — and never solely by OpenAI.

Earlier than this present AI race, Amazon’s Alexa turned the family title for AI-powered voice assistants. Google, then again, obtained burned when it confirmed off a few of its extra spectacular client functions of AI. It confronted backlash over its consideration of AI ethics when it confirmed off Duplex’s capability to name eating places to e book reservations whereas pretending to sound human. Google additionally typically builds neat AI instruments — like an AI that may generate music from textual content descriptions — however received’t launch them.

The corporate has gave the impression to be gradual to maneuver on AI — probably hesitant to upset its search and promoting money cow that depends on advertisements offered atop a listing of hyperlinks. Microsoft doesn’t care about that, although, noting that each 1% of search advert share acquire it makes is a $2 billion income opp.

That’s why what we’ve gotten from Google round AI has been a kind of regular stream of smaller AI-powered characteristic drops over time, not some huge and costly overhaul of search that would have killed its margins.

As a substitute, we get issues like multisearch, which expands internet search to incorporate textual content and pictures mixed. Google this week introduced it was going world and the close by choice, multisearch close to me, was additionally rolling out extra broadly.

The corporate additionally rolled out different AI-powered enhancements to issues like translation and Google Maps. For instance, Google at this week’s occasion spoke about its new “immersive view” maps providing extra true-to-life scenes, that are created by leveraging an AI method referred to as neural radiance fields (NeRF). However these maps are solely out there in a handful of cities. And as cool as they’re, they really feel extra like an iteration on Road View moderately than a serious AI leap.

In the meantime, Google used its occasion to indicate off a variety of different options that weren’t AI search demos or ChatGPT rivals. It launched Maps’ AR-powered Dwell View, which Google stated is hitting a couple of extra cities. (This requires customers to carry up their telephones and scan the realm — probably not a refined gesture in case you’re making an attempt to cover the truth that you’re a vacationer and even presumably misplaced!) And it talked about new EV Maps.

Microsoft, then again, used its press occasion to completely concentrate on AI as the subsequent evolution of search. It demoed its ChatGPT-like AI in Bing which can be built-in with its Edge internet browser. And it talked intimately about the next-gen OpenAI giant language mannequin it’s utilizing, calling it “extra highly effective than ChatGPT,” which actually excited customers.

The corporate additionally cleverly launched a waitlist for the AI-powered Bing that required individuals to set Microsoft defaults on their PC and obtain the Bing app. Consequently, the Bing app is now ranked within the high 10 on the U.S. App Retailer and is the No. 2 Productiveness app behind Gmail. To place this in perspective, the Bing app forward of the AI information had been ranked No. 160 on the U.S. App Retailer’s Productiveness apps chart — in different phrases, virtually invisible.

Google, in the meantime, misplaced $100 billion in market worth as Alphabet’s inventory fell after the advert with the AI’s mistake aired forward of the corporate’s occasion.

Whereas the large race in AI apps continues to be between Google and Microsoft (by way of OpenAI), AI will quickly discover its manner into various cellular apps by integrations. Already, we’ve seen the pretend ChatGPT apps arrive and belatedly get the boot from the app shops. Right now, a seek for the time period “ChatGPT” nonetheless returns quite a few apps that indicate they’re related to OpenAI or just presume customers received’t care, so long as they provide a ChatGPT-like expertise. And we’ve seen the AI picture mills go viral. Quora this week additionally launched an AI playground referred to as Poe, which includes a handful of AI chatbots from OpenAI and Anthropic. (See “Downloads” part under.)

Customers are clearly hungry to see AI put to make use of in apps. The developments additionally enliven what’s develop into a stale App Retailer through the years, as Apple blocked different new tech, like NFTs, blockchain transactions and Web3 applied sciences from being absolutely useful on its App Retailer, forcing startups to construct their very own.

An finish to Apple’s ban on non-WebKit browsers?

Picture Credit: Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto by way of Getty Photographs

Some browser makers consider they’ll be capable to launch their very own, non-WebKit-powered browser apps sooner or later, due to anticipated rules that will power Apple to open up its App Retailer to extra competitors.

This week, a number of tales emerged that high browser makers like Mozilla and Google have been engaged on the event of non-WebKit browser apps for iOS. Google Chromium builders, as an illustration, have begun constructing an iOS browser that makes use of Google’s Blink engine — an app that immediately wouldn’t be allowed on the App Retailer, as Apple’s pointers particularly state that browser apps “should use the suitable WebKit framework and WebKit Javascript.”

Google, nonetheless, downplayed the information, claiming it was solely a prototype meant to assist it find out about iOS efficiency.

In a press release, a spokesperson advised us, “That is an experimental prototype that we’re growing as a part of an open-source venture with the purpose to know sure facets of efficiency on iOS. It is not going to be out there to customers and we’ll proceed to abide by Apple’s insurance policies.”

Google isn’t the one one dabbling on this space. When reached for remark, Mozilla was way more clear about its plans when it was noticed engaged on a Gecko-based model of Firefox for iOS, clearly indicating that its work is in anticipation of a extra aggressive panorama.

“We abide by Apple’s iOS app retailer insurance policies, and are merely doing a little exploratory work to know the technical challenges for Gecko-based browsers on iOS if these insurance policies had been to vary,” a Mozilla spokesperson advised us. “We hope the day will come when individuals can freely determine to make use of the browser of their selection, together with the chance to pick out the engine that underpins it.”

After all, even when Apple had been to speak in confidence to non-WebKit browsers, it might theoretically impose different limits on competing apps to dictate how they’re allowed to make use of system sources. That may be one more reason for the businesses to experiment now so that they’ll be prepared to fulfill any such requirement if and when the App Retailer opens up.

Children’ TikTok utilization once more tops YouTube

TikTok logo displayed on a smartphone

Picture Credit: Jonathan Raa/NurPhoto / Getty Photographs

TikTok as soon as once more discovered itself because the social app youngsters and teenagers are spending essentially the most time utilizing all through the day, even outpacing YouTube. In line with an ongoing annual assessment of children’ and teenagers’ app utilization and conduct globally, the youthful demographic — minors ranging in ages from 4 by 18 — started to observe extra TikTok than YouTube on a mean each day foundation beginning in June 2020, and TikTok’s numbers have continued to develop ever since.

In June 2020, TikTok overtook YouTube for the primary time, with youngsters watching a mean of 82 minutes per day on TikTok versus a mean of 75 minutes per day on YouTube, in keeping with new knowledge from parental management software program maker Qustodio.

This previous yr, the gulf between the 2 widened, it stated, as youngsters in 2022 noticed their common each day use of TikTok climb to a whopping 107 minutes, or 60% longer than the time they spent watching video content material on YouTube (67 minutes).

Picture Credit: Qustodio

TikTok was additionally used extra, by way of common each day minutes, than different social apps like Snapchat, Instagram, Fb, Pinterest and Twitter.

The examine was printed upfront of a TikTok-focused Congressional listening to. In March, TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew will testify earlier than the Home Vitality and Commerce Committee in regards to the app’s knowledge safety, ties to China, privateness considerations and impacts on kids.

Social media considerations additionally obtained a shoutout throughout President Biden’s State of the Union tackle this week when he pressed Congress to go laws to guard customers from Huge Tech. “We should lastly maintain social media corporations accountable…It’s time to go bipartisan laws to cease Huge Tech from accumulating private knowledge on youngsters and youngsters on-line, ban focused promoting to kids, and impose stricter limits on the non-public knowledge these corporations gather on all of us.”


  • A redesigned Dwelling app is resulting from arrive within the forthcoming iOS 16.4 replace. The characteristic had initially appeared in iOS 16.2 however was pulled out earlier than launch.
  • Apple’s tvOS and HomePod software program was up to date to 16.3.1.
  • Some customers have been complaining about iCloud backup points after updating to iOS 16.3.


  • Google launched the primary Developer Preview of Android 14, which helps a variety of gadgets, together with tablets and foldable type elements. Among the many modifications are plenty of background optimizations, help for bigger fonts (customers can scale them as much as 200%), per-app language preferences, varied privateness and safety updates, customization options, the power to dam the set up of apps (with a targetSdkVersion decrease than 23) to guard in opposition to malware, passkeys help and extra.
  • Android TV 13 was additionally lastly launched. Android 13 has been out there for telephones and tablets for almost a yr and a half.
  • Google introduced the alpha launch of Credential Supervisor, a brand new Jetpack API that enables app builders to simplify customers’ authentication journey whereas additionally including help for passkeys.
  • It additionally rolled out the most recent model of the Google Cell Advertisements SDK (10.0.0).


Picture Credit: Cyan Worlds

  • A remastered model of the basic puzzle recreation Myst arrived on iOS. The brand new recreation, Myst Cell, is predicated on the remastered recreation that was already launched on Oculus VR headsets and the PC, however has been rebuilt for Apple’s M1 and M2 chipsets on newer gadgets. The sport is free to obtain and discover the primary location however to proceed, you’ll have to pay $14.99.
  • Activision offered perception into its cellular gaming portfolio throughout This autumn earnings, noting that Name of Responsibility Cell grew by double-digits YoY and set a brand new quarterly document and 10-year-old Sweet Crush Saga noticed 20% YoY web bookings development. Total, King’s income grew 6% YoY with web bookings up 9%.
  • Rogue Video games introduced a number of new titles coming completely to Netflix, together with a twin-stick Roguelite shooter Mud & Neon, which received the general Better of Present award at PAX West; and Highwater, an atmospheric journey/technique hybrid. Each video games can be out there on cellular in addition to PC and console, however the Netflix deal offers the video games to iOS and Android subscribers totally free with no in-app purchases.

Picture Credit: Rogue Video games


  • Zenly co-founder Antoine Martin says he’s returning to the social app market with the launch of a brand new firm referred to as Amo. The previous Zenly CEO is working with ex-Zenly managing director Michael Goldenstein and others on the brand new startup, whose purpose is to repair the issues with immediately’s social networks by specializing in connecting pals in the actual world, not connecting the entire world. Particulars are nonetheless quiet in the meanwhile, however the firm is accumulating sign-ups on a waitlist now.
Amo splash screen

Picture Credit: Amo

Picture Credit: Instagram

  • After saying new API pricing beginning with a $100 fundamental tier, Twitter blocked entry to its developer neighborhood web site. Builders used to entry the location for bulletins and to ask questions. Twitter didn’t clarify if the block was intentional or a bug (like one associated to its API points earlier this week).
  • Some Mastodon customers have gone again to Twitter, it appears. Wired reported the decentralized social app and Twitter various has seen its MAUs drop from 2.5 million to now 1.4 million as of the top of January. However Techdirt took problem with the characterization of this as a “stoop,” as Wired had referred to as it, noting that Mastodon had grown considerably since Musk took over Twitter, even with the drop. Plus, the Fediverse as an entire, not simply Mastodon, is as much as round 2.6 million MAUs customers, a lot larger than the 600,000 it has within the pre-Musk period. “I’m unsure how going from 600k to 2.6 million in simply a few months might be deemed ‘a stoop.’ It certain seems to be like fairly rattling good retention total,” scoffed Techdirt’s Mike Masnick.
  • Fb creators gained new moderation instruments, together with the power to go looking feedback by key phrases, emojis, commenter names and, dates, and take bulk actions, akin to liking or hiding.
  • Throughout This autumn earnings, Pinterest reported 450 million MAUs, up 4% YoY however its $877 million in income missed expectations. The corporate stated it could concentrate on shoppable movies.


WhatsApp status updates

Picture Credit: WhatsApp

  • WhatsApp added the power to publish a Standing to a non-public viewers alongside with 30-second Voice Standing messages, Standing reactions and extra throughout iOS, Android and the online.
  • Telegram added a brand new profile picture maker that turns stickers or animated emoji into your pfp, plus instruments to translate whole chats, help for sorting emoji by classes, detailed pie charts for viewing community utilization and different options in its newest replace.


OkCupid's ChatGPT questions

Picture Credit: OkCupid

  • ChatGPT for locating love? OkCupid started testing match questions that had been generated by ChatGPT. The questions assist daters discover compatibility with others throughout a variety of innocuous questions, like “are you a morning particular person or an evening particular person?” (Sure, the bot got here up with that one!)
  • Tinder added an incognito mode that permits you to browse that solely reveals your profile to these you’ve preferred. It additionally added a “block profile” characteristic for hiding your self from individuals you realize while you encounter them within the app amongst different privateness modifications.


Picture Credit: Netflix

  • Netflix’s password crackdown isn’t going effectively as various offended prospects at the moment are planning to boycott the modifications by canceling their service. 
    • Customers are notably upset over the foundations that affect prolonged households from sharing accounts — like dad and mom who pay for his or her faculty college students’ accounts or grown kids who pay for his or her aged dad and mom’ entry — plus, households the place a member commonly travels for work (or is deployed abroad). The modifications additionally affect individuals with a number of properties. Subscribers say they’re already paying for additional screens and that ought to be sufficient.
    • Netflix claims that every one anybody has to do is reauthenticate as soon as per thirty days with the app on the family’s essential location, however customers see that requirement as a burden — and an impossibility in some circumstances. In the event that they don’t, although, the “touring” account might lose entry. Netflix will power individuals to pay additional for the freeloaders or they’ll select emigrate to a brand new account with a profile switch characteristic. It stays to be seen if Netflix will maintain these identical guidelines within the U.S., because the rollout has been exterior to its dwelling marketplace for now.
  • Spotify now helps you to block playlists from impacting your “style profile.” This is able to enable individuals to dam sure playlists, like these used for finding out, sleeping, understanding or these favored by the children, from influencing their suggestions.
Spotify's new exclude from taste profile feature

Picture Credit: Spotify

And so on.

  • Sensor Tower reported on the state of health apps, noting that Well being and Health apps in Europe reached 232 million installs final yr, up 16% from 2019. The agency stated it now takes almost $4 million in gross income in a given month to develop into the No. 1 ranked Well being and Health app on the app shops, up 23% from the $3.5 million required in 2021.
  • Robinhood stated it’s going to purchase as much as 55 million shares, or 7%+ of its excellent shares, that had been purchased by Sam Bankman-Fried in 2022. The corporate reported $380 million in income in This autumn, up 5% YoY and a web loss down 61% to $166 million. 2022 income was down 25% YoY to $1.36 billion.
  • Courageous’s iOS and Android apps added help for Solana’s DApp in its built-in web3 pockets.
  • DoorDash built-in with gasoline financial savings app GasBuddy to permit its drivers to seek out the most cost effective close by gasoline.
  • Flipboard’s iOS and Android apps had been up to date with help for its new Notes characteristic that lets Flipboard journal curators dialog with their readers by brief notes, intros and polls.
  • PayPal is getting a brand new CEO as Dan Schulman prepares to go away at yr’s finish. The corporate additionally reported This autumn income up 7% YoY to $7.33 billion and TPV up 5% to $357.4 billion.
  • Uber built-in its driver app with Apple CarPlay. Higher late than by no means.
  • Fantastical’s well-liked calendar app added help for Dwell Actions so now you can see upcoming occasions on the Lock Display screen.
  • Japan’s Truthful Commerce Fee issued a brand new report relating to its investigation of Apple and Google’s app shops. The report accuses each corporations of “abuse of a superior bargaining place,” and makes a number of suggestions, together with these round commissions and in-app funds and says the businesses mustn’t benefit from options not made out there to builders. It doesn’t explicitly say the platforms have to host third-party app shops, nonetheless.
  • The Indian authorities supplied additional particulars about its ban on greater than 90 lending apps, together with its considerations over Chinese language affect. China traders had been on the cap tables of a number of the banned apps, it stated, and apps had been storing consumer knowledge outdoors the nation. Cash laundering and different mortgage practices had been additionally a priority. Later within the week, it lifted the ban on PayU’s LazyPay, Kissht, KreditBee, Indiabulls’ Dwelling Loans, mPokket, Buddy Mortgage and Faircent after reviewing their cap tables for Chinese language traders.
  • Google Play started requiring regulatory approval for mortgage apps in Nigeria and Kenya as of January 31, matching comparable guidelines in India, Indonesia and the Philippines.
  • U.S. policymakers are involved about TikTok’s plan to permit oversight of its algorithm as a substitute for a ban, noting that it could be technically difficult and there might nonetheless be backdoors that allowed China’s authorities to control content material on the platform.
  • Utah is pushing by new payments that will require social media corporations to confirm customers’ ages and provides dad and mom entry to their youngsters’ accounts.
  • In a presentation to the EU, Meta confirmed knowledge that indicated that pop-up content material warnings diminished the sharing of flagged posts by 25% on Fb and 38% on Instagram. TikTok, for comparability, studies a discount of 29%.
  • Lunar, a Danish neobank final valued at $2.2 billion, raised $38 million from undisclosed traders to proceed to construct its banking and monetary companies platform. The corporate final yr raised a Sequence D extension that introduced its whole funding then to €280 million.
  • Meta obtained the go-ahead to purchase VR software program maker Inside, regardless of FTC considerations. The corporate’s flagship app is the VR health app Supernatural.
  • Fintech app Fierce, which provides free inventory buying and selling, checking and later crypto, launched on iOS after receiving $10 million in seed funding from traders together with Pendrell, AP Capital, Wheelhouse Digital Studios, Area Whale Capital and different angels.


Quora Poe

Picture Credit: Quora

Q&A platform Quora opened up public entry to its new AI chatbot app, Poe, which lets customers ask questions and get solutions from a variety of AI chatbots, together with these from ChatGPT maker OpenAI, and different corporations like Anthropic. Past permitting customers to experiment with new AI applied sciences, Poe’s content material will finally assist to evolve Quora itself. If and when Poe’s content material meets a excessive sufficient high quality commonplace, it is going to be distributed on Quora’s website itself, the place it has the power to achieve Quora’s 400 million month-to-month guests, the corporate stated.

At launch, there are three normal data chatbots: Sage, Claude and Dragonfly. Each Sage and Dragonfly are powered by OpenAI whereas Claude is powered by Anthropic expertise. All have their very own limitations at current. As an illustration, Sage and Claude don’t have data of occasions after 2021, and Dragonfly could refuse to reply some questions. All three have additionally been identified to make incorrect statements — which is one more reason why Quora itself isn’t instantly integrating Poe into its service. Builders may also be capable to add their very own bots to Poe sooner or later.

Epic Video games’ Postparty

Fortnite Postparty app and in-game skins

Picture Credit: Epic Video games

Fortnite maker Epic Video games launched a brand new clip-sharing app referred to as Postparty on iOS and Android that provides players a strategy to simply share their clips on social media. The app permits for sharing from Xbox, Swap, PlayStation and PC for Fortnite customers and simply Xbox and PlayStation for Epic’s Rocket League. Fortnite customers will see the app promoted after an in-game kill, prompting them to obtain the app to allow them to share clips. The app was created by Houseparty developer Life on Air, acquired by Epic in 2019. (Houseparty shut down in 2021.) After sharing their first clip from the app, Fortnite customers will get particular in-game pores and skin, spray and wrap.


Picture Credit: Spillt

A former Instagram engineer launched a brand new recipe app referred to as Spillt, coated by The Data, which helps customers discover, arrange and prepare dinner recipes — the latter by helpfully conserving the cellphone’s display screen on throughout the recipe’s prep. That’s a characteristic the favored Pestle app additionally has, together with its voice-powered guided cooking, nonetheless. However Spillt’s worth proposition is that it provides a manner for customers to see which recipes their pals are saving in a Information Feed of types. It stays to be seen if it could actually truly acquire traction amid a sea of recipe apps, however it’s a minimum of differentiated from the set of “TikTok for cooking” apps which can be in the marketplace immediately.

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