Published On: Wed, Aug 5th, 2020

This Week in Apps: Apple’s antitrust case, Microsoft could buy TikTok, Facetune comes for video

Welcome behind to This Week in Apps, a TechCrunch series* that recaps a latest OS news, a applications they support and a income that flows by it all.

The app attention is as prohibited as ever, with a record 204 billion downloads and $120 billion in consumer spending in 2019. People are now spending 3 hours and 40 mins per day regulating apps, rivaling TV. Apps aren’t usually a approach to pass idle hours — they’re a vast business. In 2019, mobile-first companies had a sum $544 billion valuation, 6.5x aloft than those yet a mobile focus.

In this series, we assistance we keep adult with a latest news from a universe of apps, delivered on a weekly basis.

* This Week in Apps was formerly permitted usually to Extra Crunch subscribers. We’re now creation these reports permitted to all TechCrunch readers.  

This week, we’re focused on rounding adult a news from a U.S. antitrust examination into Apple, as it pertains to apps, a App Store and developers.

Let’s dive in.

Apps and a Antitrust Hearings

app store idol 2

Image Credits: TechCrunch

Developers’ courtesy over Apple’s purported anti-competitive function with courtesy to how it runs a App Store was one of a many topics that came adult during this week’s antitrust hearings. Apple CEO Tim Cook shielded a company’s App Store elect structure and diagnosis of developers in his sworn testimony before a House Antitrust Subcommittee.

But a papers a cabinet had collected prove that there were times, in fact, when developers had not all been treated equally, nor did they all have a same terms. Though it’s not surprising, or even unusual, to hear that Apple had forged out special deals for incomparable companies, a association has continued to insist a App Store is an even personification margin for all developers, both vast and small. That’s not a case, a papers reveal, as incomparable companies got deals permitting them to compensate reduction in elect or had entrance to faster app reviews and dedicated crew for their needs.

In addition, a papers fact how Apple’s control of a App Store allows it to unilaterally make decisions about app pauses and removals. This impacts vast companies, like Spotify, as good as tiny developers, like those minute in these emails:

Documents from a US antitrust examination into Apple by TechCrunch on Scribd

Here are pivotal sections that associate to Apple a App Store:

  • Apple Cut a Special Deal with Amazon, pp. 34-51; 67-69: Though Apple claims an even personification margin for developers, a manners didn’t request to incomparable companies. As partial of an endless understanding with Amazon over a Prime Video app and Apple device sales on, Amazon concluded to mislay “tens of thousands” of unapproved (not indispensably counterfeit) sellers of Apple products, to give Apple control over a knowledge on a sell site, among other things. Apple let Amazon compensate a 15% elect for in-app sign-ups on Prime Video subscriptions, instead of a 30% apps have to compensate during their initial year.
  • Apple Cut a Special Deal with Baidu, pp. 52-54: Apple also negotiated with Baidu to make it a default hunt engine in China, and as partial of that agreement, offering it entrance to an “App Review Fast Track,” where Baidu would be authorised to send Apple a beta app for examination to speed adult a capitulation process. Apple also reserved dual pivotal contacts to work with Baidu. Again, not startling that a vast association got special treatment, yet a celebration line is that all developers are treated equally. Access to faster app reviews is not something permitted to all developers, underneath certain conditions, or even publicly documented.
  • Apple Considered a 40% Commission, pp. 107-109: Apple in 2011 debated lifting a elect to 40%. “I consider we might be withdrawal income on a list if we usually asked for about 30% of a initial year of sub,” one exec said. Tim Cook, in a hearing, pronounced Apple wouldn’t lift commissions given it competed for developer interest, too.
  • Requiring Apple’s Apps as a Default, pp. 32-33: Apple, until recently, never authorised iOS users to make a opposite app from a third-party developer their default app for that charge on their device. That means map links open in Apple Maps and Calendar appointments lead to Apple’s Calendar app, and so on. The arriving iOS 14 recover will concede users to change their default browser and email apps, however. The papers prove Apple was in possession of complaints from users who wanted to be means to personalize their device to their possess needs. Today, Apple still has no skeleton to concede third-party apps to be set as a default for maps, music, voice assistance, messages, reminders, records and others, that impacts startups and indie developers who make peculiarity products yet can’t benefit a foothold on iOS/iPadOS.
  • Requiring WebKit for all browsers, pp. 55-56: Apple emails discussed Opera’s 2010 skeleton to contention a browser it claimed was “up to 6 times faster than Safari,” observant that “it is doubtful that this Opera recover is regulating a webkit, that is required.” Opera, a many smaller association than Apple, was anticipating to plea Apple’s control over a browser knowledge by holding claims to a press — a tactic mostly used to denote a boundary of developers’ rights to discharge apps on iPhone.
  • Banning Apps for Spam, pp. 1-5: Apple criminialized a developer for spamming a App Store, notwithstanding a developer’s explain that he was usually formulating apart apps given of issues with discoverability on a App Store. The developer, that published a array of maps/guides apps, pronounced people could hunt for a city by name and find a standalone maps app for that city. But they weren’t being destined to a combined app that Apple demanded reinstate a particular ones, for those same searches. The developer pronounced he would many rather use one singular app, as that would be easier to maintain, yet had built apart ones given of discoverability issues. Internal Apple emails prove that Apple stopped usurpation a developer’s submissions, forcing them to quit to a combined app.
  • App Store Fraud, pp. 6-18: The NYT in 2012 reported on issues around fake charges attack developers’ apps, that had amounted to millions of dollars for during slightest one developer over a march of a year. Though rascal is a prevalent problem with digital purchases, a developers’ incomparable censure was not that rascal occurred — they didn’t censure Apple for that, indispensably — yet that Apple was nonchalant to their requests for help. Apple didn’t respond to emails and didn’t offer a dedicated phone line for complaints, they said. Apple’s inner emails indicated a association didn’t trust there was a genuine emanate with fraud. (“We’ve regularly answered this doubt and haven’t nonetheless identified a box where there is an tangible issue,” one exec said.) Apple execs also pronounced a emanate had to do with developers who had high levels of refunds and a timing of their refunds. The emails indicated that Apple would “intentionally respond with a customary and rather deceptive response” about how stating won’t determine due to timing differences and remarkable that “we do not away examine any query.” But a association was wakeful that some developers had issues. “It is hapless as a emanate is really tiny as a elect of a business and impacts a really tiny elect of a developers,” Apple said. Of course, during Apple’s scale, anything that happens to a handful of developers will be a “small percentage” of a business. But for developers, it could be their whole business.
  • App Store Search Changes, pg. 21; pg. 28: A Nov 2015 email indicated that App Store Search changes implemented that month done it harder to find some apps. For instance a hunt for keyword “Twitter” never returned a app “Tweetbot for Twitter,” during all, notwithstanding a app’s high ranking and ubiquitous popularity, evidenced by reviews. Meanwhile, an app that hadn’t been updated given 2008 (Tweeter) would seem in a hunt results. Phil Schiller forwarded a email to Apple execs with a note “FYI.” (TechCrunch had also reported during a time a changes had impacted a rankings of several iPad apps.) Search issues continued in 2017, as another email indicated that a developer’s app wasn’t being returned for vicious App Store keyword hunt terms in a initial 100 results, even for an accurate keyword match. While Apple might knowledge technical problems when it creates changes, developers are left with no apparatus when those changes effectively “disappear” them from a App Store.
  • Apple Removes Parental Control Apps, pp. 70-76, 80-87: Tim Cook was directly questioned about Apple’s dismissal of shade time apps, and responded that a removals were associated to those apps’ use of privacy-invading MDM technology. The papers prove even Apple was endangered about a pierce to anathema a apps, given their dismissal directly followed a launch of Apple’s possess Screen Time solution. “This is utterly incriminating. Is it true?” one exec asked after The NYT lonesome a story (four months after TechCrunch pennyless a news!). The apps that were criminialized didn’t all use MDM, we reported. In addition, Apple didn’t offer a pathway to correspondence with courtesy to apps’ off-brand use of MDM until Jun 2019. In Congress’ accumulate of emails from impacted developers, one pronounced they spent an additional $30K perplexing to repair a problem, yet was privately told “we no longer support Parental Control Apps” even yet a App Store still had several listed. A series of consumers also complained about how a apps they relied on had disappeared.
  • Apple used App Store to Block Large Companies’ Apps, Too, pp. 77-79, 80-98, 97-98, 102-106: Indie developers weren’t a usually ones during a forgiveness of Apple’s control over a App Store. Verizon (Disclosure: TechCrunch’s primogenitor company’s parent), Spotify, T-Mobile, Amazon and Valve (Steam) also had submitted complaints about their apps not being authorised in or being paused, due to terms violations, and being forced to use Apple’s in-app purchases. Spotify, for example, pronounced it had built a special alighting page usually for correspondence with App Store Rules about not directing users to non-App Store squeeze mechanisms. But Apple deserted a app updates for promulgation an email after a hearing duration to users directing them to ascent from Spotify’s website. “Apple claimed that Spotify could not promulgate with a possess customers, inside a possess app, about a existence of a possess Premium use — even if there was no link, button, or discuss of any offer of any kind,” Spotify authorised wrote to Apple legal. “Shortly after a assembly in early July, Apple objected to an out-of-app acquire email to giveaway users, claiming that this email disregarded a App Store Rules given it mentioned a Premium service,” it said. Apple directly competes with Spotify, that has income to compensate costly lawyers. What are indie developers to do when met with identical situations?

Breaking News

Trump administration to sequence China-based ByteDance to sell TikTok’s U.S. Operations

Image Credit: Costfoto / Barcroft Media (Photo credit should examination Costfoto / Barcroft Media around Getty Images

The Trump administration pronounced on Friday it will pointer an sequence directing ByteDance to deprive a tenure of a U.S. app, TikTok, if it wants to continue to work in a U.S., Bloomberg reported. The app’s associations with China have been underneath increasing inspection in a U.S., along with other Chinese tech firms. Most recently, a app has been undergoing a inhabitant confidence examination for intensity risks. After a initial news, reports bubbled up that Microsoft is in talks to buy a Chinese amicable network

TikTok has turn one of a largest apps in a universe and is valued during $50 billion, Reuters reported. The association has been looking for choice options, including a offer from some investors, like Sequoia and General Atlantic, to send infancy control to them. TikTok also fielded merger offers from other companies and investment firms, a news had said.

In a meantime, TikTok has recently betrothed to open a algorithm and comment U.S. creators. It also done another pivotal U.S. hire, with Sandie Hawkins, former VP and conduct of Americas for Adobe’s Advertising Cloud, now GM of tellurian business solutions for both TikTok and a primogenitor ByteDance.

Hoping to gain on a chaos, Triller sued TikTok over obvious infringement.

Other Headlines

GettyImages 688189016

Image credit: Carl Court/Getty Images

  • U.S. Travel App Installs Reached 60% of Pre-COVID Levels in Jun — Sensor Tower reports on trend in transport app installs hinting during recovery. Vacation let apps Airbnb and VRBO were splendid spots.
  • Telegram hits out during Apple’s App Store ‘tax’ in latest EU antitrust censure — Apple’s antitrust woes aren’t singular to a U.S., TC reports. The messaging app builder says Apple has to concede apps to be downloaded outward a App Store, observant that Apple’s 30% elect leads to aloft prices for app users.
  • Quibi Patent Suit Moves Forward — Variety reported a decider ruled this week that startup Eko’s obvious transgression lawsuit opposite short-form video app Quibi could pierce forward. The judge, however, discharged 3 of 9 claims a fit alleged, yet left a heart of a fit — that Quibi used trade secrets to build a app and infringes on Eko’s existent patent.
  • Tinder Hires Ex-CBS Interactive Boss Jim Lanzone as CEO — The WSJ reported this week Tinder hired Lanzone as CEO, next stream Tinder CEO Elie Seidman. The new exec will news to Match Group CEO Shar Dubey, and has a plea of running a company’s flagship app by a pandemic.
  • Roblox jumps to over 150M monthly users, will compensate out $250M to developers in 2020 — The gaming height now has some-more than 150 million MAUs, adult from a 115 million it announced in Feb before a U.S.’s shelter-in-place orders went into effect. The association also pronounced a developer village is on gait to acquire some-more than $250 million in 2020, adult from a $110 million they warranted final year.
  • Facebook Offers Money to Reel In TikTok Creators — The WSJ reported Facebook’s plan to opposite TikTok was to compensate creators to use a Instagram height instead. The intensity payments for some would be in a hundreds of thousands of dollars, a news noted.
  • Top Mobile Apps See Declines in User Engagement — TC reported on new information from App Annie, that found that mobile users now have 93 apps on their phone as of a finish of 2019, adult from 85 apps during a finish of 2015. They also now use around 41 apps per month, adult from 35 in 2015. Worldwide, daily time spent in apps has grown to 3.1 hours per day in 2019, adult from 2.1 hours per day in 2015. But with that expansion has also come increasing farrago among a tip apps, a news found. That means tip apps now make adult a smaller suit of consumers’ sum time spent in apps, compared with 5 years ago.
  • Amazon revamps a Alexa app to concentration on first-party features, some-more personalization — TC reported on Amazon’s revamp of a Alexa app. The new app aims to offer a some-more personalized experience, quite on users’ home screens, and offers some-more instructions on how and when consumers can use a digital assistant. Notably, a app has changed a third-party ability suggestions off a categorical screen.
  • India bans 47 apps cloning limited Chinese services — TC reported that India, that final month blocked 59 apps grown by Chinese firms on a drift that they poise a hazard to a nation’s security, has criminialized an additional 47 apps that were facilitating entrance to formerly criminialized services, like TikTok.

Funding and MA

  • YC alum Paragon snags $2.5 million seed for low-code app formation platform. Investors embody Y Combinator, Village Global, Global Founders Capital, Soma Capital and FundersClub.
  • Revolut extends Series D turn to $580 million with $80 million in new funding. The fintech startup had lifted $500 million led by TCV during a $5.5 billion gratefulness in February.
  • Huuuge Games acquired games studio Double Star, Apptopia reported, citing The studio’s tip pretension is a diversion Bow Land, that has generated $3.7k around in-app purchases this year, a organisation said.
  • Toppr raises $46 million to scale a online training height in India. Toppr is one of a largest online training startups in India and offers apps for iOS, Android and web.
  • Delightree raises $3 million to assistance authorization business owners facilitate their operations. The startup aims to pierce many of what now happens by pen-and-paper over to smartphones.


Google One 

Image Credits: Google

Google introduced a mobile application for a cloud storage use Google One. The app will automatically behind adult your phone’s contents, like photos, videos, contacts and calendar events, regulating a 15 GB of giveaway storage that comes with a Google account.

Facetune Video

Image Credits: TechCrunch

Lightricks, a startup behind a suite of print and video modifying apps — including many notably, selfie editor Facetune 2 — is holding a retouching capabilities to video. Today, a association is launching Facetune Video, a selfie video modifying app, that allows users to retouch and revise their selfie and mural videos regulating a set of AI-powered tools.

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