App analytics firm Sensor Tower acquires rival

Sensor Tower, a leading app analytics firm, is acquiring rival in a move that consolidates the mobile intelligence industry, creating a powerhouse that could dominate the sector and provide aggressively competitive insights into the app economy. Sensor Tower and help businesses and developers gain insight into how mobile apps are performing — offering […]

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Market intelligence firm Sensor Tower conducts layoffs, several execs out

Sensor Tower, a prominent market intelligence firm for the app economy, this week laid off a notable portion of its workforce, estimated at around 40 people out of the 270+ at the company, according to LinkedIn’s headcount. The layoffs included C-suite executives, TechCrunch has learned from multiple sources, including the CMO, CFO, and Chief Product […]

‘Top Widgets’ soars to No 1 on the App Store, displacing BeReal, as iOS 16 customization takes off

As iOS 16 Lock Screen customization takes off, an iPhone personalization app called Top Widgets has soared to the No. 1 spot on the U.S. App Store’s top free apps list, displacing BeReal. The Sichuan, China-based app maker first introduced Top Widgets in August 2020 to capitalize on the introduction of Home Screen widgets with the release of iOS 14. With its newly added support for iOS 16’s Lock Screen widgets, the app has gained approximately 1.3 million downloads in the two days following Monday’s iOS 16 launch.

That’s up 1,812% from the two days prior to iOS 16’s release, when the app saw approximately 68,000 installs, according to data from mobile intelligence firm Sensor Tower.

To date, Top Widgets has topped 30 million worldwide installs, the firm says. The majority are from the company’s home country of China, which accounts for around 25.8 million lifetime downloads, or 86% of the total. The U.S., by comparison, is a smaller market for this app, with some 730,000 installs to date, or 2% of the total.

In addition to ranking in the No. 1 position on the U.S. App Store as of Thursday, the app is also No. 1 in 58 other global markets. It’s the No. 1 app in the Utilities category in 80 markets.

Top Widgets is similar in some ways to other popular widget designers, like Widgetsmith — one of the more successful apps to emerge from the original iPhone customization craze, thanks to its DIY tools for creating custom widgets that match your overall iPhone theme, wallpaper and icons. (In fact, Top Widgets even stuffs the keyword “widgetsmith” into its App Store description!)

Image Credits: Top Widgets

Like other widget markers, Top Widgets’ tools allow users to select from a range of common Home Screen widget types, like photos, clocks, calendars, weather, reminders, and more.

But it also includes a few features that differentiate it from other widget apps on the market, including a transparent widget type that doesn’t block your iPhone’s background wallpaper as well as a variety of “quick launcher” widget styles that let you put tappable access to favorite apps in a widget format — which offers more customization possibilities compared with the use of app icons.

@itshibazia a tutorial on how to actually get your apps like this… you don’t need ios 16 #topwidgets #topwidgetstutorial #ChewTheVibes #fyp #iphonetutorial #applewatch #iphoneorganization #iphoneapps #tech #apple #ios16 #iphonehacks #iphonetutorials ♬ original sound – Hiba Zia

In addition, the app includes an interesting widget type it calls “x-panel,” which puts a variety of informational blocks — like battery percentage, storage space used, Wi-Fi toggles and more — into a single dashboard-like widget that can be pinned to your Home Screen.

With its iOS 16 release, this x-panel style widget has now been ported to the Lock Screen, providing a tiny dashboard of information about your phone you can view without having to unlock your device. This could be useful for those who want more at-a-glance information available, since the current Lock Screen design limits the number of widgets that can be added. (But you’ll need good eyesight to read it!)

The iOS 16 version of the Top Widgets app also offers a number of other Lock Screen widget types — like animations and cartoons that cleverly use the Lock Screen’s rectangular widget designs to create an image stretched across two widgets placed side-by-side.

For example, you can add two Lock Screen widgets with a cupid shooting his arrow through a beating heart or watch as a bunny inflates a balloon. Or, if you prefer to use square widgets, the app offers a set of smaller emoji-like widgets that could to be added together in a row, including things like a smiley, heart, and little chick.

These sorts of widgets have an obvious appeal to a younger, Gen Z crowd, who may be more interested in personalizing their Lock Screen with cute characters, designs and animations, rather than the sort of “boring” information an adult would want to see — like their next calendar appointment, emails, or reminders, for instance.

Naturally, this found the app featured in a variety of TikTok videos this week, including one top viral video that’s now pulled in over 514,000 views and has been bookmarked 87.4K times.

@tinylittleangel.77 I’m in love &lt3 APPS USED: TOP WIDGETS #ios16 #ios16features #iosupdate #ios14homescreen #ios16new #iphone #iphone11 #topwidgets #widgetsmith #fyp #fypage #xyzbca ♬ there is a light and it never goes out spedup – posh 🍋

While the App Store’s Top Charts algorithm has historically relied on factors like the number of installs and the velocity of those installs, among other factors, it’s now being regularly manipulated by TikTok-based marketing efforts. It’s likely this viral video and others featuring the widget are behind many of Top Widgets’ new U.S. installs these past few days.

The app itself is published under the developer name of Chengdu Guluoying Technology Co. and points to the website No developer names or contact information, beyond a postal mailing address, is provided on its site. TechCrunch attempted to reach the company through various standard email addresses ahead of publication. We did not hear back.

‘Top Widgets’ soars to No 1 on the App Store, displacing BeReal, as iOS 16 customization takes off by Sarah Perez originally published on TechCrunch

Wegmans discontinues its in-store scan-and-go mobile app, citing high losses

Wegmans, the popular supermarket chain, will kill off its in-store scan-and-go app this Sunday, September 18, 2022. The company informed customers of the news in an email yesterday, stating that it experienced too many losses from the Wegmans SCAN program to continue making the mobile app available to users.

“Unfortunately, the losses we are experiencing from this program prevent us from continuing to make it available in its current state,” CEO Colleen Wegman wrote in the email to customers. “We’ve learned a lot and we will continue to introduce new digital solutions to streamline your shopping experience for the future.”

As a “sign of gratitude” from the company, Wegmans applied a $20 coupon to each SCAN customer’s Shoppers Club accounts.

While we know the SCAN app was hurting the business, Wegmans declined to share to TechCrunch just how much money it lost. The supermarket chain also didn’t offer any details on what its future plans were for “new digital solutions.”

“We’ve made the decision to turn off the app until we can make improvements that will meet the needs of our customers and business,” the company told us.

Wegmans SCAN app launched in 2020, during the pandemic, as a contactless option for in-store shoppers. The free mobile app allowed users to conveniently scan barcodes while grocery shopping and pay for items quicker at the self-checkout register.

Wegman’s losses from the app point to a common problem among companies that utilize in-store scan-and-go technology– shoplifting. Walmart temporarily suspended Scan and Go, its cashier-less checkout program due to theft, an ex-Walmart exec told Business Insider in 2019. Walmart initially tested the technology in 2012 and has since relaunched the self-scanning system.

According to a 2018 study conducted by a professor at the University of Leicester, Adrian Beck, data showed that product loss could go up an extra 1% for 10% of a store’s scan-and-go sales.

Another reason why Wegmans could be dropping the app may be due to low user adoption. In 2020, the Wegmans SCAN app saw about 45% of its total installs, with around 142,000 downloads, data from Sensor Tower estimates. The mobile app market intelligence firm told TechCrunch that the Wegmans SCAN app has reached approximately 319,000 installs to date.

When compared to a similar in-store scan-and-go app, Sainsbury’s SmartShop, the Wegmans scan app has fewer installs. SmartShop launched two years earlier than Wegmans SCAN and now has risen to about 3.6 million installs, said Sensor Tower.

Wegmans discontinues its in-store scan-and-go mobile app, citing high losses by Lauren Forristal originally published on TechCrunch

A16z-backed Shein challenger Cider is growing rapidly

Shein has shown the world how combining social media marketing, data analytics, and China’s well-oiled supply chain has created a $100 billion fast fashion behemoth.

Its success naturally spawns imitators and challengers. Among its fastest-growing challengers is Cider, which, like Shein, relies on China’s responsive clothing manufacturers to sell affordable, trend-led pieces to customers around the world.

Cider has racked up roughly 7.4 million installs across the world to date, according to data provided by market intelligence firm Sensor Tower. That number is dwarfed by Shein, which gained over 170 million downloads worldwide in 2021 and surpassed Amazon as the top shopping app in the U.S. last year.

But keep in mind Cider was only founded in 2020 while Shein started out over a decade ago. And Cider has broken into the crowded U.S. market, which accounts for 43% of its total downloads. In the first half of 2022, it recorded 2 million downloads in the U.S., marking a staggering 1,686% year-over-year growth.

Cider’s other major markets are the U.K., Germany, France, Canada, and South Korea, Sensor Tower finds. It currently ranks among the top 10 shopping apps in the App Stores of France and South Korea, app analytics firm shows.

Cider’s App Store rankings over the past 90 days. Data:

Shein has grown to be too big to be easily toppled, so startups like Cider are targeting the giant’s untapped niches instead. A browse around Shein today shows the company is increasingly coming after Amazon and is unbounded by its origin in fashion. From pet toys to air purifiers, Shein keeps on widening its product offerings.

Cider, in comparison, is more focused. It clearly wants to be the go-to shop for Gen Z consumers with its array of Y2K looks of crop tops and vibrantly colored tees.

The startup’s traction is by no means a shock given the list of resourceful investors that it has attracted: a16z, of which partner Connie Chan personally explained how Cider’s demand-driven marketplace works; DST Global, ByteDance’s early investor; IDG Capital, one of China’s most prominent VC firms; and MSA Capital, which bets on global startups inspired by China’s tech business models.

As of last September, Cider had raised $130 million in funding and crossed the $1 billion valuation point.

The company is vague about its physical base, saying only it “has offices in Los Angeles” and employs between 200-500 employees, according to its website. It won’t be surprising if the firm announces one day that its headquarters is outside China. Over the past few months, Shein, which has for years clung to the narrative that its inception was inspired by its founder’s trip to LA, has been shifting its key assets to Singapore.

As China tightens control over how tech firms move data across borders and Chinese firms become increasingly ensnarled in geopolitical complications, Chinese-founded startups will look to position themselves as “global” companies, whether that’s done through branding or actual corporate structuring.

Social subscription Snapchat+ is already faring better than Twitter Blue

Snapchat’s recent move into premium subscriptions has gained a bit of traction in its first weeks on the market. Though the social app maker just last week reported a disappointing second quarter with an earnings miss amid a weak advertising landscape, its brand-new subscription Snapchat+ has already helped the app rake in over $5 million in revenue in its first month, according to new estimates.

The figure is a massive jump over the five-figure in-app purchase revenue number Snapchat had seen before the subscription’s arrival. In addition, the number is already larger than Twitter’s in-app revenue which totals nearly $4 million since Twitter Blue’s June 2021 launch, per data from app market intelligence firm Sensor Tower.

The Snapchat+ paid consumer 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, which 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, provided to TechCrunch. This represents the first 30 days of Snapchat+’s availability, June 29, 2022 – July 26, 2022, the firm notes. 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+.

Currently, Snapchat offers a few other in-app purchases for things like geofilters and tokens, per its App Store listing. But as of the time of writing, the app’s top three in-app purchases were all tiers of Snapchat+, said Sensor Tower. The $3.99 monthly plan was in the top spot, followed by the 12-month and 6-month subscriptions at $39.99 and $21.99, respectively.

For all time, Sensor Tower estimates Snapchat’s app has generated approximately $27.7 million in worldwide consumer spending.

Of course, in-app mobile spending represents only a small fraction of how a company like Snap makes money. The company pulled in $1.11 billion in revenue in Q2 2022, nearly all of which is from its advertising products including Snap Ads and AR Ads (like Sponsored Filters and Sponsored Lenses). The company also sells hardware products, like its Spectacles eyewear and new Pixy drone, but these have no substantial impact on its revenue at present.

Without first-party data, it’s not possible to exactly contrast how Snapchat+ is faring versus other social app subscriptions aimed at power users, like Twitter Blue. The audience demographics differ and Twitter offers a variety of other in-app purchases — like those associated with Super Follows (creator subscriptions) and live audio Spaces, for example. Snapchat also offers other in-app purchases. However, Sensor Tower reports that during Twitter Blue’s first 30 days, the app saw only around $9,000 in in-app spending. This comparison is a bit unfair, though, because the subscription was limited to select markets at launch.

Still, it seems Twitter Blue hasn’t yet proven to be a big winner. The Twitter app has seen nearly $4 million in worldwide spending across the App Store and Google Play since the launch of Twitter Blue on June 3, 2021, Sensor Tower estimates. The majority of that spending ($3.4 million) has been on iOS. This suggests Snapchat+’s first month could have already outpaced Twitter Blue’s lifetime revenue. (Snap declined to comment on Sensor Tower’s estimates.)

Sensor Tower analysts suggest Snapchat+ could be faring better because of Snapchat’s power users.

The app is tied with Instagram as having the highest percentage of power users in the U.S. in Q2 2022. That is, Snapchat and Instagram saw 34% of their active installs open the app every single day during the second quarter. This is in comparison to Facebook (31%), TikTok (23%), and Twitter (19%).

Image Credits: Sensor Tower

This Week in Apps: Elon wants out, TikTok’s content ratings, a new milestone for subscription revenue

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:

Top Stories

TikTok is getting a rating system

Some TikToks are too racy or mature for younger teens — a problem TikTok aims to address with the upcoming launch of a new content ratings system. The “Content Levels” system, as it will be called, is meant to provide a means of classifying content on the video app — similar to how movies, TV shows and video games today feature age ratings.

TikTok acknowledged some content on its app may contain “mature or complex themes that may reflect personal experiences or real-world events that are intended for older audiences.” It will work to assign these sorts of videos a “maturity score” that will block them from being viewed by younger users. Not all videos will be rated, however. The goal will be to rate videos that get flagged for review and those that are gaining virality. Initially, the system will focus on preventing inappropriate content from reaching users ages 13 to 17, TikTok says, but will become a broader system over time.

The launch follows a 2021 congressional inquiry into social apps, including TikTok and others, which focused on how their algorithmic recommendation systems could be promoting harmful content, like eating disorder content, to younger users. TikTok has also been making headlines for its promotion of dangerous and destructive viral stunts, like kids destroying public school bathroomsshooting each other with pellet guns or jumping off milk crates, among other things.

TikTok, like other social apps, is in hot water over the potential negative impacts to minors using its service. But it’s under particular scrutiny since the reveal that parent company ByteDance — in China — was accessing U.S. TikTok user data. Alongside the maturity ratings, TikTok says it will also launch content filters that will let users block videos with hashtags or certain words from their feeds.

For all its ills, TikTok has more developed parental controls than its U.S. rivals and the launch of a content ratings system could push other apps reaching minors, like Instagram and Snapchat, to do the same.

Will he or won’t he? The Twitter deal heads to court

Elon wants out. The Tesla and SpaceX exec has got a serious case of buyer’s remorse. Musk offered to buy Twitter at $54.20 per share — it’s a weed joke! Get it? 420! — but the stock today is only trading at $36.29 per share. So it’s not so funny anymore. Now the exec is attempting to use some flimsy excuses about “bots” on the network in order to get out of the legal agreement. But Twitter just said, see you in court! (Well, in legalese, it said Musk’s termination was “invalid and wrongful.”) Twitter then delivered a few more jabs in a letter filed with the SEC, noting Musk “apparently believes that he — unlike every other party subject to Delaware contract law — is free to change his mind, trash the company, disrupt its operations, destroy stockholder value, and walk away.” Burn!

Sadly, caught in the chaos are Twitter’s advertisers, some of whom are exiting, and of course, the Twitter employees who often don’t know what’s going on, who will prevail or what Musk may do if the deal is forced through. (Vent here if you want!) And what does this mean for Twitter’s conference Chirp later this year, if the deal is still in limbo?

This has been such a weird and fraught acquisition since day one, with some poor folks at the SEC having to collate tweets of poop emoji and memes as investor alerts. It’s also one that makes a pretty good case as to why we should tax billionaires more — too much money turns large companies and people’s livelihoods into toys for their amusement, apparently.

Non-game revenue tops games for the first time on the U.S. App Store

App Store icon on iPhone screen

Image Credits: TechCrunch

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. Read more about the new data here.

Kids and teens now spend more time on TikTok than YouTube

The TikTok logo is seen on an iPhone 11 Pro max

Image Credits: Nur Photo (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

A study of 400,000 families performed by parental control software maker Qustodio found that kids and teens ages 4-18 now spend more time watching videos on TikTok than they do watching YouTube — and that’s been the case since June 2020, in fact. That month, TikTok overtook YouTube for the first time, as this younger demographic began averaging 82 minutes per day on TikTok versus an average of 75 minutes per day on YouTube.

YouTube had still been ahead in 2019 as kids and teens were spending an average of 48 minutes on the platform on a global basis, compared with 38 minutes on TikTok. But with the shift in usage that took place in June 2020, TikTok came out on top for 2020 as a whole, with an average of 75 minutes per day, compared with 64 minutes for YouTube.

In the years since, TikTok has continued to dominate with younger users. By the end of 2021, kids and teens were watching an average of 91 minutes of TikTok per day compared with just 56 minutes per day spent watching YouTube, on a global basis.

Likely aware of this threat, YouTube launched its own short-form platform called Shorts, which it now claims has topped 1.5 billion logged-in monthly users. The company believes this will push users toward its long-form content — but so far, that hasn’t happened, it seems. Read the full report here.

TikTok is eating into Google Search and Maps, says Google

In a bit of an incredible reveal (if one that helps Google from an anticompetitive standpoint), a Google exec admitted that younger people’s use of TikTok and Instagram is actually impacting the company’s core products, like Search and Maps.

TechCrunch broke this news following comments made at Fortune’s Brainstorm Tech event this week.

“In our studies, something like almost 40% of young people, when they’re looking for a place for lunch, they don’t go to Google Maps or Search,” said Google SVP Prabhakar Raghavan, who runs Google’s Knowledge & Information organization. “They go to TikTok or Instagram.”

Google confirmed to us his comments were based on internal research that involved a survey of U.S. users, ages 18 to 24. The data has not yet been made public, we’re told, but may later be added to Google’s competition site, alongside other stats — like how 55% of product searches now begin on Amazon, for example.

Weekly News

Platforms: Apple

  • The iOS 16 public beta has arrived. It’s here, it’s surprisingly functional, and it brings a number of great new features to iPhone users, including a customizable Lock Screen with support for new Lock Screen widgets, more granular Focus Mode features, an improved messaging experience with an Undo Send option, SMS filters, iCloud Shared Photo Library for families, CAPTHCA bypassing and this clever new image cutout feature that lets you “pick up” objects from photos and copy them into other apps. On iPadOS 16, there are a number of specialized features, including the new Stage Manager multitasking interface.

Apple's new visual lookup feature

Apple’s new visual lookup feature. Image Credits: Apple

Platforms: Google

  • Samsung rolled out its One UI 4.5 update for Galaxy Watches, which is powered by Wear OS 3.5. The update includes a full QWERTY keyboard, customizable watch faces and dual-SIM support, and will run on the Galaxy Watch4, the Galaxy Watch4 Classic and other models.
  • Google expanded its Play Games for PC beta, which brings Android apps to Windows, to more regions, including Thailand and Australia.
  • Google released the fourth and final Android 13 beta ahead of its official launch, which the company says is “just a few weeks away.” There were not many changes with this update, as Google already reached platform stability with Android 13 beta 3 last month.


  • TikTok launched a new educational program targeting small businesses that want to learn how to use its platform to drive sales. The launch follows TikTok’s decision to pause the expansion of its Shop initiative. The program walks businesses through setting up an account, creating content and using TikTok ads products, and features coaching and tips from other SMBs.
  • NYC fast delivery apps could face a shutdown if new bills proposed by New York’s City Council get approved. The city is concerned about the dark stores’ workers’ safety.

Augmented Reality

  • Shopify showed off a wild internal experiment using Apple’s new RoomPlan API that allowed users to more easily reset their room in order to see how new furniture could work. The test lets you remove the furniture already in your room to create a lifelike digital twin of your room that can be overlaid in your real space using AR. Users could then swipe through new room sets to see how they’d look in their own space. Spotify said it has nothing in production related to this right now — but wow, someone should!


  • FlickPlay, an AR social app that lets users unlock NFTs and display them in a wallet, was among those selected to participate in Disney’s 2022 startup accelerator, among others focused on AR, web3 and AI experiences.


Image Credits: TechCrunch

  • Two anonymous social Q&A apps are heading to court. Sendit’s maker, Iconic Hearts, is suing rival NGL for stealing its proprietary business data in order to build what’s since become a top-ranked Q&A app on the App Store. Of note, the court filing reveals that the apps are using fake questions to engage their users — something many had already suspected.
  • Reddit and GIPHY partner. Reddit is now allowing its safe-for-work and non-quarantined subreddits to enable GIPHY for use in the comments. Those moderators who don’t want the GIF comments will need to opt out. Previously GIFs in comments were available as a paid subscription perk (via Reddit’s Powerups), but most of these will now be available for free.
  • TikTok’s head of global security stepped down. Someone had to pay for that security debacle which found that U.S. TikTok user data was being viewed in China. Global security head Roland Cloutier will be stepping down effective September 2 and will be replaced by Kim Albarella, who’s been appointed the interim head of TikTok’s Global Security Organization.
  • A children’s rights group called out TikTok for age-appropriate design issues, ahead of TikTok’s launch of new safety features. The group’s research looked at various apps’ default settings and terms offered to minors, including also WhatsApp and Instagram — spanning 14 different countries — including the U.S., Brazil, Indonesia and the U.K. The report noted TikTok was defaulting 17-year-olds to public accounts outside of certain EU markets and the U.K., lacked terms in people’s first languages and wasn’t being transparent about age requirements, among other things.
  • Instagram began testing a Live Producer tool that lets creators go live from their desktop using streaming software, like OBS,  Streamyard and Streamlabs. Only a small group of participants currently has access to the tool, which opens up access to using additional cameras, external mics and graphics.
  • Instagram also rolled out more features to its creator subscription test, including subscriber group chats, reels and posts for subscribers only, and a subscriber-only tab on a creator’s profile.
  • Twitter is testing custom timelines built by developers around specific themes, starting with a custom timeline for The Bachelorette in the U.S. This is the latest product that attempts to allow users different views into Twitter, along with List, Topics, Communities and Trending. It’s also now testing a feature that reminds users to add image descriptions for accessibility.

Twitter custom timeline

Twitter custom timeline. Image Credits: Twitter/Amir Shevat

  • Facebook started testing a way for users to have up to five separate profiles tied to a single account. The company said this would allow users to take advantage of different profiles for interacting with specific groups — like a profile for use with friends and another one for coworkers.
  • Activist investor Elliott Management told Pinterest that it has acquired a 9%+ stake in the company. The Pinterest stock jumped more than 15% after hours on the news.


  • WhatsApp rolled out the ability for users to react to messages using any emoji, instead of just the chosen six it had offered previously. The feature is one of several WhatsApp developed for its broader Communities update but is making available to all app users.
  • Meta’s smartglasses, Ray-Ban Stories, now let users make calls, hear message readouts and send end-to-end encrypted messages with WhatsApp. The glasses already support Messenger and offer other features like photo-taking and video recording, listening to music and more.


Image Credits: Match

  • Match Group is expanding its use of free background checks across more of its dating apps. The feature, powered by Garbo, was first launched on Tinder earlier this year. It’s now available on other Match Group apps, including Match and Stir.
  • Google has responded to Match Group’s antitrust lawsuit in a new court filing, which refers to Match’s original complaint as a “cynical attempt” to take advantage of Google Play’s distribution platform and other tools while attempting to sidestep Google’s fees. The two tech giants have been battling it out in court after Match sued Google this May over its alleged monopoly power in Android app payments. The companies have a temporary truce that sees Match setting aside its commissions in escrow while they await the court’s decision. If Google prevails, it wants to kick Match out of its app store altogether. 

Streaming & Entertainment

  • Truecaller is taking on Clubhouse — even though the hype has worn off over live audio. The caller ID app maker ventured into a new market with the launch of Open Doors, a live audio app that lets people communicate in real time. Unlike Clubhouse and others, the new app offers no rooms, invites, recording tools or extensive moderation features. It claims to only scan user contacts on the local device.
  • Netflix inked a deal with Microsoft for its upcoming ad-supported plan. According to reports, Netflix appreciated Microsoft’s approach to privacy and ability to iterate quickly. (It also helped it wasn’t a streaming competitor, like Comcast’s NBCU or Roku.)
  • Apple added a new perk for Apple Music subscribers, Apple Music Sessions, which gives listeners access to exclusive releases in spatial audio that have been recorded in Apple’s music studios around the world. The sessions began by featuring country artists, including Carrie Underwood and Tenille Townes.


  • Twitter’s H1 2022 report found there were roughly 1.5 billion tweets about gaming on its platform, up 36% year-over-year. Genshin Impact (No. 1) and Wordle (No. 2) were the most tweeted-about games.

Reading & News

  • Upnext launched a read-it-later app and Pocket competitor for iOS, iPad and web. The app aims to differentiate itself by supporting anything users want to save, not just articles but also things like videos, podcasts, Twitter threads, PDFs and more. It then organizes this in a home screen that curates your collection with Daily Picks, and offers a swipe-based interface for archiving content.

Government & Policy

  • TikTok this week paused a privacy policy change in Europe after a regulator inquiry over how the platform planned to stop asking users for consent to receive targeted ads.
  • Confirming earlier reports, Kakao said it’s removing the external payment link from its KakaoTalk messaging app on the Play Store to come into compliance with Google’s terms, after being blocked from issuing updates. The move brought more attention to the policy and saw the regulator get involved in talks, which was likely the point of Kakao’s protest in the first place.
  • After an FTC commissioner urged the U.S. to ban TikTok, rival Triller reported a surge in users. Triller had pivoted to focus more on entertainment and events as TikTok established itself as the top short form video platform in the U.S.

Funding and M&A

🤝 Match Group acquired the members-only dating app The League, which focuses on matching ambitious and career-focused professionals. The app has previously faced accusations it’s elitist, particularly because it screens and vets members after an application process instead of being open to all. Deal terms weren’t revealed.

🤝 Spotify acquired the Wordle-inspired music-guessing game Heardle for an undisclosed sum. The company believes the deal could help support music discovery in its app and could help drive organic social sharing. Heardle’s website had 41 million visits last month.

💰 Tutoring marketplace and app Preply raised $50 million in Series C funding led by edtech-focused Owl Ventures. The startup has 32,000 tutors from 190 countries teaching over 50 languages, it says, and claims to have grown revenues and users 10x since 2019.

🤝 Fintech for kids GoHenry app acquired Pixbay to help it expand into Europe. The latter has 200,000 members across France and Spain. U.K.-based GoHenry has over 2 million users in the U.K. and U.S.

💰 Japan’s SmartBank raised $20 million in Series A funding for its prepaid card and finance app. The round was led by Globis Capital Partners. The startup claims 100,000+ downloads so far and is aiming for 1 million by the end of next year.

🤝 Israeli company ironSource is merging with the game development platform Unity Software, after the latter saw its share price fall over 70% in 2022 and have a market cap of under $12 billion. IronSource went public a year ago at an $11.1 billion valuation and is valued at $4.4 billion at the time of the merger. Silver Lake and Sequoia will invest $1 billion in Unity after the merger.

💰 Consumer fintech startup Uprise raised $1.4 million in pre-seed funding from a range of investors. The company offers a website and app aimed at Gen Z users that takes in their full financial picture, including overlooked items like employer benefits, and offers recommendations.

💰 Indian fintech OneCard raised over $100 million in a Series D round of financing that values the business at over $1.4 billion. The company offers a metal credit card controlled by an app that also offers contactless payments. The startup has over 250,000 customers.

💰 Stori, a Mexican fintech offering credit cards controlled by an app, raised $50 million in equity at a $1.2 billion valuation and another $100 million in debt financing. BAI Capital, GIC and GGV Capital co-led the equity portion of the deal. The company claims to have seen 20x revenue growth in 2021, but doesn’t share internal metrics.

💰 U.K. stock trading app Lightyear raised $25 million in Series A funding led by Lightspeed. The startup said it’s launching in 19 European countries, including Germany and France.


Linktree launches a native app

Linktree, a website that allows individuals, including online creators, to manage a list of links they can feature in their social media bios via a Linktree URL, launched its first mobile app this week. The new app for iOS and Android lets users create a Linktree from their phone, add and manage their links, customize their design and more. Users can also track analytics, sales and payments, among other things. (You can read more about the new app here on TechCrunch.)

U.S. 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 8 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 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.

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

A popular anonymous social app called NGL has now topped 15 million global installs, according to new data from app intelligence firm Sensor Tower, released today. The app, which is now one of a handful of unregulated and potentially problematic anonymous apps targeting teens, has been swiftly climbing the charts since its December 2021 launch. But while NGL is now sitting in the top 10 in the U.S. App Store, much of its current growth is being driven by Android users in markets like India and Indonesia, Sensor Tower’s data indicates.

Emerging markets can help push new apps like NGL up the charts, where they gain even more attention from consumers. But in the case of NGL and others, there are reasons to be concerned about its rapid adoption. The app and some of its rivals have been accused of using bots to drive user engagement.

This is an issue because the app promises “anonymous” social interactions in the form of Q&A’s from online friends and then monetizes by offering “hints” as to who sent you those messages, which has allowed it to pull in millions. In other words, both the App Store and Google Play as well as the app developer itself appear to be profiting from an illegitimate operation that tricks people into thinking their friends are asking questions, when some of the questions are actually automated.

When TechCrunch recently tested NGL and its rival Sendit, we copied the provided short links into an Instagram Story that was only live for a mere moment before we took it down. This tricked the apps into thinking we were now awaiting anonymous questions from our friends. A few hours later, questions — supposedly from our friends who saw our link — appeared in the apps’ respective inboxes. But in reality, no one had seen our link as it was never live long enough to be clicked by anyone, much less half by the half dozen people who supposedly send us messages, according to NGL.

It seems pretty clear from these tests NGL is attempting to mislead users — and its low-ranked app store reviews are filled with complaints about its usage of bots.

Keyword analysis for the U.S. finds reviews referencing words like “bot” or “bots,” “fake messages,” “fake questions,” “scam,” and other terms about the app’s tricks or how the user “wasted” ten dollars to get hints about who had asked the questions. The app’s five-star reviews, meanwhile, come across as fairly suspect as many repeat the same phrase: “very good.”

Image Credits: NGL app reviews via Sensor Tower

NGL charges users $9.99 per week for a subscription providing unlimited hints as to who sent the questions you receive. The hints aren’t useful, either, users said in the reviews, as they only offer broad details like location and device model. To date, Sensor Tower says NGL’s users have spent around $2.4 million in the app. The $9.99 unlimited hints subscription was the top in-app purchase, followed by the $1.99 per week unlimited hints option, the firm noted.

Despite these issues, the app continues to gain traction. NGL’s Google Play installs now outpace its App Store installs, with the app seeing some 6.5 million Android downloads in June compared with 4.4 million for iOS.

Indonesia is NGL’s largest market to date, accounting for approximately a fifth of NGL’s lifetime installs or about 3.1 million installs, 83% of which are from Google Play, Sensor Tower says. The U.S. is the app’s second-largest market by installs, representing nearly a fifth of its lifetime installs, or about 3 million installs. India represents about 10% of total installs with about 1.5 million.

So far this month, NGL’s growth trends have continued with the app pulling in another 4.6 million installs as of July 10 (2.7 million installs on Android and 1.9 million on iOS.) That’s up 107x from the 43,000 installs the app saw. during the first 10 days of June, but it’s down by 41% when compared with the prior 10-day period (June 21-30), when the app saw 7.8 million installs. This indicates adoption levels may be somewhat normalizing since the surge in late June, but the app is continuing to grow steadily for the time being.

It’s not clear why the app stores have not taken action against this app and its rivals, given how trivially easy it was to trick this app and competitors into sending us fake questions. At the very least, when an app reaches the top of the app store, it begs for a closer inspection.

NGL has not commented on the new data or users’ complaints at this time.

Anonymous social apps shift their attention to Instagram in the wake of Snapchat’s ban

Anonymous social apps targeting teens haven’t gone away in the wake of Snapchat’s new policy, which earlier this year banned these types of social experiences from integrating with its developer platform. Instead, the apps have simply found a new way to reach young people: via Instagram. In recent weeks, new apps like Sendit for Instagram and NGL have launched anonymous Q&A apps that allow users to post “ask me anything”-style questions to Instagram in order to receive anonymous responses from friends. Teens flocked to the apps, both of which surged to the top of the App Store after launching.

History has demonstrated these sorts of social experiences tend to be problematic. Online anonymity among teens often leads to bullying and abuse. Snapchat, for instance, ultimately chose to suspend anonymous apps on its platform after being sued multiple times by families whose teens died by suicide after being bullied on Snapchat-connected anonymous messaging apps. Lawmakers and regulators have also been pressuring social platforms to implement more safeguards for their youngest users.

But as attention today is mainly attuned to how Big Tech is tackling issues around online safety for younger users, indie apps like Sendit and NGL have been able to fly under the radar. And, like the anonymous apps that came before them, they’ve quickly taken off.

According to data from Sensor Tower, the anonymous Q&A app Sendit for Instagram launched on June 24, 2022 and immediately saw 117,000 installs within the first two days, driving it to No. 3 on the U.S. App Store. The app now has somewhere north of 150,000 installs, Sensor Tower says, but exact estimates are not available. Another firm, (formerly App Annie), sees the app with 266,000 iOS downloads but doesn’t have Google Play data.

It has since tweaked its name to Sendit – Q&A on Instagram. also noted the app shot up to No. 1 at launch within the Social Networking category as well as overall in non-gaming apps in the U.S. App Store from June 23, 2022, through June 28, 2022.

The same company behind Sendit for Instagram also operates a version of Sendit aimed at Snapchat which has over 18 million lifetime installs and has generated more than $11 million in consumer spending to date, Sensor Tower said.

Meanwhile, the anonymous Q&A app NGL launched on Dec. 10, 2021, and has seen more than 3.5 million installs to date, Sensor Tower data shows. It reached the No. 1 position on the U.S. App Store for the first time on June 16, 2022, and has now topped $1 million in consumer spending. had estimated its downloads were even higher — around 5 million.

There are concerns these apps aren’t necessarily operating on the up-and-up, however.

For starters, Sendit for Instagram users have been complaining in reviews the app had originally marketed itself to them as “Sendit Reveal” during the pre-order phase. The company, the reviews allege, had promised a new Sendit app that would reveal which friends had sent the anonymous messages. Obviously, this was a big draw for the app’s young users, as everyone wanted to know who had said what.

Image Credits: Sendit (app data via Mobileaction)

App Store screenshots from the time confirmed this was the case, as well.

The marketing strategy worked. User demand for “Reveal” helped drive installs of the app, which then rebranded as Sendit – for Instagram after launch.

Reached for comment about what appeared to be a bait-and-switch technique to acquire users, Sendit’s founder Hunter Rice didn’t directly address the issue. He suggested that coverage of this amounted to “clickbait” on our part.

“There’s a lot of great things about what we’re doing that are newsworthy,” Rice told TechCrunch. “You’re welcome to have your fun with this topic, but I’m only interested in talking about real news,” he said.

But an analysis of App Store reviews at least indicates users felt they were misled by the earlier branding and had expected a much different experience.

Image Credits: Sendit for Instagram reviews, as analyzed via Sensor Tower

The company behind Sendit, Fullsenders (now also referring to itself as Icon Hearts on its website), had another viral hit last year with an app called Push It. The social app had also climbed to the top of the App Store. At the time, users complained the app was using bots to send them fake questions to answer — things they knew their friends would have never asked, they said. Rice had denied the use of bots at the time.

The flagship version of the company’s Sendit app saw similar complaints about bots, as does its new Instagram version. App Store reviews are again filled with users questioning the legitimacy of the questions’ origins.

Image Credits: Sendit for Instagram App Store reviews

Essentially a clone of Sendit, the new app NGL also allows users to post anonymous Q&As on Instagram. To differentiate itself, the app touts its “world class [sic] AI content moderation,” which claims to filter out bullying and harassment.

As it turns out, there are not many complaints about bullying among the app’s 68,000+ App Store reviews. But there are a number of people griping about bots asking them fake questions here, too. Similar to the concerns consumers had raised about Fullsenders’ apps, many NGL users insist they’re seeing questions they believe were not sent in by their friends. Notably, the app is charging users a subscription of $10 per week to “reveal” who sent the question. Users are also complaining this paid service only offers hints like what kind of phone the user has or what area they live in.

NGL did not respond to a request for comment.

TechCrunch tested both apps, NGL and Sendit for Instagram. We copied the personalized links and posted them to an Instagram Story that was only shown to “Close Friends,” then immediately took the post down so no one would see it. This tricked the apps into thinking we had published our link so friends could respond. Several hours later, both apps sent us a series of questions supposedly sent from “friends.” The questions were innocuous, like “the strangest dream you’ve ever had?” (Sendit) or “what was the best day so far this year?” (NGL), for example.

No one had access to the links we had created, so these were clearly automated messages.

We asked Instagram if either of these apps were integrated with its platform by way of Meta’s developer tools, which are governed by its platform policies. Meta, so far, has been unable to provide this information.

App intelligence firm Apptopia told us it only has visibility into NGL at present and found it uses the Facebook SDK in its Google Play version but not in the iOS app. Neither Sensor Tower nor had visibility into either app’s components, they said.

As the apps only offer the ability to post links to Stories, they aren’t necessarily reliant on technical integrations offered through Meta developer tools in order to function. That means they wouldn’t be held accountable by Meta’s developer policies related to anonymous messaging apps, either.

Meta’s policy seems more lenient than Snap’s as it allows anonymous messaging if apps offer a blocking function. (Section 8.8.2.a of the policy states: “Pages or Apps may not facilitate person-to-person messaging, relays, or interactions that mask user identities from each other without giving individual users the ability to block other users within the messaging experience.”) Meta’s policy also bans bots under its spam section (8.8.2.b).

Recently, it had seemed Meta was taking action against NGL as users began reporting Instagram was removing the links to the NGL app from their Instagram Stories. But Instagram told us NGL had access to the links feature revoked “by mistake” and that access has since been restored.

These Instagram-tied mobile apps arrive at a time when Snapchat is looking to tighten how third parties use its platform tools. That change could impact Sendit’s traction. The app had benefitted from Snapchat’s earlier ban on the anonymous apps YOLO and LMK, which had been cited in lawsuits. But now, Sendit is among those that are supposed to be banned from the platform under Snap’s new developer policies. (Snap told TechCrunch last month it had given Sendit more time to come into compliance with its policies after the developer requested an extension.)

Investing in the anonymous consumer social space almost never pays off in the long term. The web is littered with failed anonymous social apps that have had to wind down due to bullying and other issues, including, Yik Yak, After School, Secret, Yolo, and Sarahah, among others.

In previous years, the app stores themselves had even taken action against apps that offered anonymous messaging experiences. Sarahah, for example, was banned from both Google Play and Apple’s App Store after accusations it was facilitating bullying. Today, Apple insists on a set of protections for any app that includes user-generated content, but it doesn’t ban the anonymous social category in general.

It’s not clear if the app stores will take any action on these new anonymous apps despite the way they’re misleading their young users about the nature of the inbound messages, which are bot-driven and not really from friends.

Without enforced policies, there will always be a new crop of developers willing to risk long-term success for short-term profits. In fact, the business models for this latest group of apps depend on the lack of policy and regulation in this market.