This Week in Apps: ChatGPT comes to iPhone, Bing AI efforts expand, Instagram’s Twitter clone

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.

The app economy in 2023 hit a few snags, as consumer spending last year dropped for the first time by 2% to $167 billion, according to’s “State of Mobile” report. However, downloads are continuing to grow, up 11% year-over-year in 2022 to reach 255 billion. Consumers are also spending more time in mobile apps than ever before. On Android devices alone, hours spent in 2022 grew 9%, reaching 4.1 trillion.

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

ChatGPT comes to the iPhone

Image Credits: OpenAI (App Store screenshot)

ChatGPT is going mobile. On Thursday, OpenAI announced the launch of an official iOS app that allows users to access its popular AI chatbot on the go, months after the App Store was filled with dubious, unofficial services. The new ChatGPT app will be free to use, free from ads and will allow for voice input via Whisper, the company says, but will initially be limited to U.S. users at launch. Support for other markets will be available in the “coming weeks,” OpenAI said, without offering further details. An Android version is also promised to come “soon.”

Like its desktop counterpart, the new ChatGPT app allows users to interact with an AI chatbot to ask questions without running a traditional web search, plus get advice, find inspiration, learn, research and more. Given the issues with Apple’s own voice assistant, Siri, and its own lack of AI progress, the new release could push more users to try ChatGPT on their phones as their main mobile helper. This could potentially impact Google, as well, as the search engine today benefits from being the default search engine in Safari on Apple’s iPhone.

Consumer interest in AI has been growing, which led to the top 10 mobile AI apps generating double-digit millions in consumer spending before the first quarter of this year even wrapped, but far too many of today’s apps claiming to offer ChatGPT access were effectively scams that tricked users into high-priced subscriptions. Apple doesn’t always promptly take down fleeceware like this, despite the harm to consumers. (Some believe it’s not incentivized to do so given it benefits financially by leaving scam apps up where it can take a cut of the subscription payments.)

Now that there’s an official (and free!) ChatGPT app on the market, there’s little need for consumers to download a paid alternative. If people want more functionality — like faster response times or access to GPT-4 — they can pay OpenAI directly for a ChatGPT Plus subscription.

It remains to be seen how the launch will impact the wider AI chatbot market, or if Apple will begin to quietly pull down some of the more unscrupulous ChatGPT scam apps from the App Store. The app may also shift consumer behavior away from relying on voice assistants like Siri and, later, Google Assistant, as users turn to ChatGPT to answer more of their everyday questions and direct them to new information.

For the time being, the new ChatGPT app is No. 1 on the top free apps chart in the App Store and is also being featured at the top of the App Store’s Apps tab, and in a list of “Must-have” apps for iPhone. However, internally at Apple, staff has been banned from accessing ChatGPT over fears of leaked confidential data.

Microsoft expands AI features across its mobile apps

Open AI may have been the big news this week, but Microsoft also rolled out a number of AI updates to its suite of mobile apps as competition with Google and others heats up.

The company announced a number of changes to Bing, including the rollout of several of the features that it had detailed earlier this month. Across desktop and mobile, this included videos, Knowledge Cards, graphs, better formatting and social sharing capabilities in Bing Chat. Chat history is also arriving across desktop and mobile, allowing users to look back and view a list of their recent activity. (Mobile will receive the feature first, Microsoft says.)

Image Credits: Microsoft

Plus, users will now be able to add a Bing Chat widget to their iOS or Android Home Screen, for faster access to Bing Chat. Later, users will be able to also click the Bing app icon to be taken directly to chat or tap a microphone icon to ask a question.

Users will also be able to start a Bing Chat conversation on the desktop and then continue it on their smartphone — a feature that should arrive by next week. The company says it’s expanded the country and language support for voice input, as well.

In addition, Microsoft is adding Bing Chat to the mobile version of its Edge browser app, which lets you ask questions related to the mobile website you’re viewing, including for it to summarize the article or page. When reading, you’ll soon be able to highlight a word or phrase and have it open a conversation with Bing to learn more about the topic.

The updates included other apps, too, like the SwiftKey keyboard app, which gained the ability to compose text for you, based on the parameters you suggest related to the subject matter, tone, format and length. Microsoft suggests this could be used for writing emails, for example. The feature is coming to iOS and Android in a couple of weeks. An AI-powered translator is also being built into the SwiftKey keyboard.

Image Credits: Microsoft

Meanwhile, Skype users can now use Bing in their group chats.

The pace of app updates here is worth noting. Microsoft only debuted Bing Chat 100 days ago, it noted in its announcement on Tuesday, and it has continuously shipped new features since. The latest round of updates follows news from Google’s I/O developer event, where it opened up access to its AI chatbot Bard, which is now available without a waitlist.

It should be interesting to see how quickly Google follows to add Bard access across its own suite of mobile apps, as Bing is doing, or integrate Bard into its own home screen widgets. For now, Google is testing AI features through Search Labs, where today it houses a handful of projects, including AI-powered Google search features, AI in Google Workspaces, smart note-taking project Tailwind and generative music maker MusicLM.

What we know about Instagram’s Twitter clone

More details are emerging about Instagram’s Twitter clone due out later this summer. The decentralized social app will allow users to authenticate with their existing credentials in order to post short updates, including text, links, photos and videos, to the platform. Their account details, like usernames, profile photos and even block lists are said to carry over to the new experience, which will also interoperate with decentralized apps like Mastodon.

This week, we understand Meta has been reaching out to celebs and high-profile influencers to get them on board as early adopters. Athletes, actors, producers, showrunners and comedians are said to be the early priorities. In addition, one leak involved screenshots of the new app — or at least mock-ups. These show an app that has a very Twitter-like look and feel, with text posts, likes and comments, but in more of a timeline view that’s less media-heavy that an Instagram feed.

What do you think about Instagram’s Twitter app? Let me know what you’re thinking and hearing via email ( or Signal (415.234.3994) 



  • Apple released updated versions of its operating systems, including iOS 16.5, iPadOS 16.5, macOS Ventura 13.4, watchOS 9.5, tvOS 16.5, and HomePod 16.5. The updates bring new Pride Wallpaper and watch faces, plus bug fixes around unresponsiveness in Spotlight, Screen Time and Podcasts in CarPlay, as well as a security fix for an actively used exploit. However, one of the bigger consumer-facing changes is the addition of a new Sports Tab in Apple News that gives you access to stories, scores, standings and more, as well as a My Sports score feature and scheduled cards that take you directly to game pages for more detail.
  • On Apple TV 4K, Apple officially launched its new multiview feature for sports fans, allowing viewers to watch up to four simultaneous streams at once. The feature was previously in beta and is currently limited to watching select sports content, including Major League Soccer matches, Friday Night Baseball games and certain MLS and MLB live shows.
  • Georgia is the latest U.S. state to add support for driver’s licenses and state IDs in Apple Wallet.
  • Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman shares more details about Apple’s upcoming mixed reality headset expected at WWDC, including how the device has deviated from Tim Cook’s initial vision of unobtrusive glasses to a headset that resembles ski goggles and has a separate battery pack.
  • Apple introduced new accessibility features including Live Speech, Personal Voice and others, like Assistive Access which combines Phone and FaceTime apps and uses larger icons. However, people have been particularly intrigued by Personal Voice, which has users first spend about 15 minutes reading selected text prompts into their microphone. The tool then leverages machine learning on the local device to create a text-to-speech voice that sounds like you.

Apple accessibility displayed on iPad and

Image Credits: Apple


  • Google is moving forward with its in-app billing policy in India after complaints from developers who said the service wasn’t compliant with regulations that require Google to let developers offer third-party billing. The developers had argued the new system still requires them to pay a high service fee of 11% or more, despite using their own billing systems. But Google says the 4% fee reduction (from 15% originally) is fair and legal.
  • After Google mistakenly launched an internal build of its Personal Safety app to the Play Store, the site 9to5Google grabbed screenshots of a new “Dashcam” feature that will record video while you’re driving, helping to protect drivers in the event of an accident or other situations where video could be helpful.

App News

Media & Entertainment

Image Credits: NYT

The NYT launched its own audio app. The launch capitalizes on The Times’ acquisition of audio journalism app Audm in 2020, which served as the basis for the new offering. In the newly launched New York Times Audio, the company combines the publication’s top podcasts, like “The Daily,” “The Ezra Klein Show,” “Hard Fork,” “Modern Love,” “The Run-Up” and others, with those made exclusively for the new platform. Thanks to its $25 million acquisition of the production studio behind “Serial,” the app includes content related to that deal, as well, like the namesake show itself, plus new shows from the studio like “The Trojan Horse Affair,” “The Coldest Case in Laramie” and others, as well as “This American Life,” hosted by Ira Glass. Sports talk from The Athletic is also ne included along with Audm’s long-form narrated journalism from non-NYT sources. Audm will now shut down and its subscribers will be moved to NYT Audio. The app arrives following the success of other standalone mobile properties, like NYT Cooking and Games, but it’s unclear if it will see similar traction as users tend to enjoy streaming podcasts in a dedicated app that provides access to all their shows.

More in media…

  • Apple said a change in Google’s podcast search results now allows users to click a button to start listening to podcasts directly in the Apple Podcasts app on their iPhone or iPad, via a deep linking. The change follows Google’s announcement in February that it was winding down a feature that would allow users to play podcasts directly in its search results.
  • YouTube clarified that Google’s recently announced plan to delete inactive accounts will not impact YouTube’s digital archives. Many had been worried that YouTube videos associated with older Google accounts, including those that belonged to people who had died, would be removed as part of this change.
  • Spotify’s AI DJ feature is now available in the U.K. and Ireland. The feature was only available in the U.S. and Canada at launch.
  • Entertainment discovery app Likewise launched a ChatGPT plugin that helps users find TV shows, movies, books and podcasts they may like. The plugin is available through the ChatGPT Plus plugin store, but is not yet a feature in the mobile app itself.
  • Apple brings new concert discovery features to Apple Music and Maps. On the Apple Music app, fans will gain access to Set Lists, which let you browse and listen to the set lists from favorite artists on tour, and read more about their productions. On Apple Maps, Apple is adding over 40 new Guides curated by Apple Music editors that will highlight music venues initially across 10 cities worldwide.

Apple Music app displayed on two smartphones

Image Credits: Apple

  • An audio journalism app Curio, which turns expert journalism into professionally narrated content, launched an AI helper that can create customized audio episodes, based on your prompts. The AI, powered by OpenAI technologies, leverages Curio’s catalog of high-quality journalism licensed from partners like The Wall Street Journal, The Guardian, The Atlantic, The Washington Post, Bloomberg, New York Magazine and others. This allows users to now ask the AI, “Rio,” a question they want to learn more about, then have it create a bespoke audio episode that includes only fact-checked content from these sources.

Social Media

  • Twitter increased its video upload limits for Twitter Blue subscribers from one hour and 2GB to two hours and 8GB on the heels of Tucker Carlson’s announcement that he plans to publish his show directly on the platform. Soon after, Twitter users began to test the limits of the feature by uploading full-length movies, but so far, these posts have been pulled down with error messages that cite copyright claims.
  • Instagram announced support for GIFs in comments (on both posts and Reels) and support for collaborators in broadcast channels. The latter was introduced by CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who invited Instagram head Adam Mosseri into the channel to chat. Here, Mosseri teased other upcoming Instagram plans, like a lyrics feature for Reels. But the exec stayed silent on Instagram’s upcoming Twitter rival app, now in early development. When asked if he had anything to announce there, Mosseri just said “Nope.”

Image Credits: Meta

  • A Pew study conducted five months after Elon Musk’s acquisition asked if users had taken a break from Twitter over the past year. As it turns out, many had. The study, which was conducted in March, found that a majority of U.S. adult Twitter users, or 60%, said they have taken a break from Twitter for a period of “several weeks or more” over the past year. This doesn’t necessarily point a finger at Musk as the reason, as “the past 12 months” includes a large stretch of before he owned the social app. Still, what’s cause for concern is that a quarter of users also said they didn’t see themselves using Twitter a year from now.

Image Credits: Pew Research Center

  • Meta has started refunding advertisers for an April glitch that caused them to overspend, but small advertisers claim they’re not getting the same attention.
  • Meta expanded its paid verification service to the U.K. after launching in Australia and New Zealand, then the U.S.
  • Right-wing video site Rumble acquired podcasting and livestreaming service Callin from PayPal’s former COO David Sacks, who will now join Rumble’s board. The app had previously raised $12 million in Series A funding.
  • Twitter reportedly acquired a recruiting startup, Laskie, in its first acquisition during the Elon Musk era, Axios reported. The company had raised $6 million.
  • TikTok’s new creator fund will pay creators who make popular AR effects. The $6 million fund pays out based on user engagement. When an effect is used in 500,000 unique videos within 90 days of being published, a creator gets $700 USD. For every 100,000 videos published thereafter within the same 90 days, creators collect an additional $140.
  • Spotify and Bumble team up on a new feature that lets dating app users share their favorite artists on their profiles. Daters can display their Top 10 list, helping matches find things they have in common.
  • Digital creation app maker Picsart introduced new in-app social communities called Spaces that are dedicated to specific topics and interests. The spaces allow for social collaboration, similar to group forums or group chats, where users can browse, post and like and comment on each other’s posts.

Picsart's new Spaces feature

Image Credits: Picsart


Krafton to relaunch BGMI mobile game in India, a year after ban

Image Credits: Soumyabrata Roy / NurPhoto / Getty Images

  • South Korean tech giant Krafton won the approval from Indian authorities to resume operations of the popular India-focused battle royale mobile game, Battlegrounds Mobile India after the government banned PUBG in the region over its links to China. The new title has been granted a three-month trial approval, given Krafton’s move to address data security issues and the location of its servers. A final decision will be made later.
  • Fortnite and Unreal Engine maker Epic Games invested in CLO Virtual Fashion, a digital garment solutions provider offering 3D garment design software, a digital CMS and collaboration platform, and a marketplace for selling designs. The two companies said they purchased shares in each other, but declined to disclose terms.

News & Reading

  • News aggregator Artifact added a new feature that lets journalists and writers claim their profiles, so fans of their work can follow them on the app to see their content surfaced in recommendations. Writers who claim their profiles will be able to see how many people follow them and how many reads their articles have gained through the app. More metrics may be added in time. The company believes writers want a way to better connect with their audiences — beyond Twitter, that is — and this feature could allow them to gain a following that stays with them, even if they move between publications. (One issue? I followed all my TC colleagues to be supportive of them and found my Artifact homepage looking very much like TechCrunch afterward. I guess I need to diversify!) 

Image Credits: Artifact screenshot

  • Mozilla-owned read-it-later app Pocket added the ability to create lists of news articles, initially for U.S. users, with global support to come. The feature was one of several new additions, alongside the rollout of the redesigned app on iOS and better article-jumping features for Android.


  • Neobanking service Step takes on Apple’s new Savings Account offering with the launch of a 5% rate on its own savings account. Like Apple, there are no monthly fees and no minimum balance requirements and the funds are FDIC-insured up to $250,000. But there is a catch: to get the new rate, users will have to set up a monthly direct deposit of $500 or more from either a payroll provider or employer — effectively making Step their primary bank.
  • Apple introduced Tap to Pay on iPhone in Australia, enabling secure, contactless payments for businesses.
  • Online brokerage apps catering to Chinese users who want to invest overseas were pulled from Chinese app stores. Futu and Tiger Brokers agreed to stop accepting new customers from mainland China, The WSJ reported.
  • Investing platform Public introduced a new project called Alpha, designed to “enhance your investing experience with artificial intelligence powered by GPT-4.” Alpha aims to save users time researching and tracking stocks, ETFs, crypto and alternative assets by receiving instant answers to your questions. The feature is rolling out to all Public members. ChatGPT-4 subscribers, will also now have access to Alpha through the OpenAI plugin network.

Image Credits: Public

Travel & Transportation

  • In an interview with TechCrunch, Uber head of rides Camiel Irving talks about all the avenues the company is pursuing to move beyond being only a ride-hailing app, including its expansions into areas like boats, groceries, supporting teen riders and more.
  • In addition to the private chartered boat bookings and teen rider support, Uber announced a new way to hail a car via a phone call (1-833-USE-UBER). 
  • Porsche added support for Apple Maps EV routing, allowing Porsche Taycan drivers to use Apple Maps via CarPlay. The announcement follows GM’s plan to ditch CarPlay in all its future EVs in favor of working with Google instead.
  • Comedian Hasan Minhaj will be the newest personal navigator in Google’s Waze app, entertaining drivers with commentary on traffic, self-deprecating jokes and other funny insights.


  • Shein raised $2 billion at a $66 billion valuation, down from $100 billion in April 2022, The WSJ reported. Investors included Sequoia, General Catalyst and Mubadala. The e-commerce company generated $23 billion in 2022.


  • WhatsApp announced a new feature called “Chat Lock” that lets you lock down your chats from prying eyes. When used, the feature takes the thread out of the inbox and puts it in its own folder that can only be accessed with your device password or biometric, like a fingerprint.


  • Popular Android TV boxes being sold on Amazon, including AllWinner and RockChip, were found to be laced with malware. The boxes’ listings have thousands of good reviews and four out of five stars in their ratings. But security researchers discovered they were actually communicating with command-and-control servers as part of a larger botnet.
  • Twitter’s new encrypted DMs aren’t as safe as you think, security researchers are saying. Though Twitter had already acknowledged the feature doesn’t protect against man-in-the-middle attackers, researchers have pointed out that Twitter has the means to subvert the end-to-end nature of the conversation if it chose — but not without alerting users to that fact. While some encryption is better than none, it’s still worth using an app like Signal or WhatsApp if you wanted secure chats.
  • Apple touted its fraud-fighting capabilities in a recent Newsroom post as the tech giant aims to litigate its right to collect commissions from app developers in the court of public opinion. The company says it stopped over $2 billion in fraudulent transactions in 2022, blocked nearly 3.9 million credit cards, closed 428,000 developer accounts and stopped nearly 105,000 developer program enrollments over suspected fraud.

Image Credits: Apple

Government and Policy

  • The Supreme Court ruled in favor of Twitter and Google in a lawsuit that attempted to hold social platforms liable for dangerous content — specifically their hosting of content that promoted the terrorist organization ISIS. The case aimed to leverage an anti-terrorism law to open up the platforms to legal liability, but the court determined they were not responsible for aiding and abetting ISIS. The ruling on Twitter was applied to a related case on Google. The case was noteworthy because it had the potential to impact how Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act was applied. Currently, the law shields tech companies from being liable for the content they post, but a different decision could have carved out an exception for terrorist content.
  • Twitter owner Elon Musk threatened to sue Microsoft over an agreement regarding Microsoft’s use of Twitter data. In a letter to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, Twitter said Microsoft had used more data than it was supposed to and shared it with government agencies without permission. The letter appears to be an attempt to get Microsoft to pay for data access via Twitter’s new API fees. The microblogging app maker claimed that Microsoft products, including Xbox One, Bing, Azure, Power Platform and Microsoft Ads, had “retrieved over 26 billion tweets in 2022 alone.” In a tweet, Musk said that Microsoft had “trained illegally using Twitter data. Lawsuit time,” in a reference to Microsoft using Twitter data to train its AI. He also accused Microsoft of demonetizing the Twitter database and selling the data to others.
  • A group of TikTok creators is suing to overturn Montana’s new law that bans TikTok starting January 1, 2024, citing First Amendment violations. The state says it expected a legal challenge and is prepared to defend the new law. Montana’s new law bans apps tied to foreign adversaries including also Telegram, WeChat and Temu.
  • Ovulation tracking app Premom settled with the FTC and state AGs for $200,000 over its sharing of user information with third parties without gaining consent.


Skylight, from the makers of Halide

Image Credits: SkyLight via Lux

The creators of the popular iPhone camera app Halide are out this week with a new creation: Skylight Forecast, an app that predicts when you can see a spectacular sunset. The app uses dozens of atmospheric factors to make its intelligent predictions about whether you’ll see a great sunset, an average glow or nothing at all. The app also includes Home Screen and Lock Screen widgets and includes several nice touches. For instance, the app lights up in dynamic colors depending on the quality of the sunset, and the icons are adaptive to the circumstances, changing around based on condition. At launch, the app costs $1.99 per month, or $9.99 per year. Though typically the company offers one-time purchase options, it says it can’t do that in this case because of the ongoing costs for weather data.

Carrot Weather (Update: version 5.11)

Missing Dark Sky? The updated version of Carrot Weather out this week brings improved rain alerts via server-side push notifications as to when the rain will start and stop. You can also set a minimum delivery interval to receive these updates more or less often. It also added several new data sources for Europe and Japan, including OpenWeather and other regional sources. Plus, you can see monthly averages for any locations in the Location Details scene or time travel up to 80 years in the past or a year in the future, to compare weather trends, among other things. Some of these features are reserved for Premium subscribers, while others require a Premium Ultra subscription.

This Week in Apps: ChatGPT comes to iPhone, Bing AI efforts expand, Instagram’s Twitter clone by Sarah Perez originally published on TechCrunch

This Week in Apps: Google I/O 2023 recap; Android, apps and AI; Twitter’s new CEO

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.

The app economy in 2023 hit a few snags, as consumer spending last year dropped for the first time by 2% to $167 billion, according to’s “State of Mobile” report. However, downloads are continuing to grow, up 11% year-over-year in 2022 to reach 255 billion. Consumers are also spending more time in mobile apps than ever before. On Android devices alone, hours spent in 2022 grew 9%, reaching 4.1 trillion.

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:

Google I/O 2023 Recap

This week, Google held its annual developer conference, which meant there was a tidal wave of news about new Google products — like its midrange Pixel 7a smartphone, Pixel Tablet (with its great magnetic combo stand and speaker) and its first folding phone — the pricey ($1,800) Pixel Fold.

But the real star of the show was, of course, AI, and how Google is integrating it into a range of products and services from the workplace to coding to translation — and yes, even into Google Play and app developer tools.

If you missed the big event, TechCrunch has a Google I/O wrap-up, where you can find all the news, including AI announcements, like its next-gen large language model PaLM 2, other developer updates, like updates to Vertex AI and an ML Hub to train AI models, new Search features, a new GitHub Copilot competitor and more.

Android and Wear OS

In terms of news of note for Android developers, however, there was still quite a bit, including a preview of Android Wear OS 4, new marketing tools for apps, Android 14 updates and more.

For starters, we got a look at the first “foldable” apps. Though it’s not likely the Pixel Fold will gain a large market share, given its price point, a number of app developers have already optimized for Google’s first foldable phone. Google said apps from Microsoft (Office, Minecraft), Zoom, Netflix, Disney (Disney+, Hulu), Roblox, eBay, Spotify, Amazon (Shopping, Kindle), Canva and others will be optimized for the Pixel Fold at launch. The new device has a 5.8-inch external display (when folded) with a 17.4:9 aspect ratio and a 7.6-inch internal (unfolded) display with a 6:5 aspect ratio.

Google’s own apps, like Gmail and YouTube, are also Fold-ready, of course.

Coinciding with I/O, Google released the second beta of Android 14, which includes enhancements around camera and media, privacy and security, system UI and developer productivity, as well as improvements to large-screen devices.

The company teased Wear OS 4, as well, promising the update will bring improved battery life and accessibility features, an easier way to swap out your phone or watch without having to reset the device and new tools for building watch faces in collaboration with Samsung.

Plus, in news not tied to Wear OS 4, specifically, Android smartwatches are gaining access to Spotify’s AI DJ, and updated Google apps like Gmail and Calendar. And Google gets to brag it has the first smartwatch version of the WhatsApp messaging app.

Google showed off a new way to build Wear OS watch faces. Developers will get access to a new declarative format to design and build their watch faces, using the Jetpack Watch Face library. The format is basically just an XML file, so there is now no executable code involved.

Android Auto is poised to hit a milestone, the company also said, as it should be available in around 200 million vehicles by year-end. Meanwhile, Google built-in, powered by Android Automotive OS, is getting YouTube, GameSnacks and more Assistant integrations. Android Auto will add web conferencing support from Cisco, Teams and Zoom. And developers will now be able to bring Internet of Things (IoT) and weather apps to cars with Android Auto.

AI Everywhere

Image Credits: Google

The bigger news from this week’s event was not the aggregated updates, but Google’s plans for AI. The company is looking to showcase how AI will become a part of the tools and products people already use, like Google’s Workplace apps and Search, including Shopping, Android and more.

The company had been dropping AI updates for some time, having already announced plans to bring features that use AI to write text in Gmail, Docs, Sheets and Slides, for example. At I/O, it expanded on that to note it was also bringing automatic table generation in Sheets and image creation in Slides while also expanding the AI features already announced for Gmail and Docs to support mobile. And it unveiled a “Sidekick” tool for Docs that provides suggestions based on the document’s context as well as imagery or summaries.

On Android, Google is leveraging generative AI to allow users to personalize their phones with wallpapers created using prompts. The wallpapers use Google’s text-to-image diffusion models, the company said, and the color palette of your Android system will automatically be set to match the new wallpaper. In addition, new cinematic wallpapers will use on-device learning to turn photos into 3D images, arriving alongside new emoji wallpapers. Suddenly, iOS’s Lock Screen 3D wallpaper effect feels dated.

Google also introduced a new feature that combines Android’s guided customization with its advances in generative AI to help people compose more personal messages. The feature, called Magic Compose, can be used within conversations in Google Messages to rewrite texts in different styles. For instance, you can set the text to sound more positive or more professional — or, for fun, to sound as if Shakespeare wrote it.

Image Credits: Google

Another of the more fun additions involved the AI advances coming to Google Photos: the soon-to-launch “Magic Editor” feature. This demo caught people’s attention during the event as it showed off a practical, everyday use case for AI.

With Magic Editor, users will be able to make edits to specific parts of the photos — like the foreground or background — as well as fill in gaps in the photo or even reposition the subject for a better-framed shot. For instance, you could fill in the sky to turn a gray, overcast day into a bright blue sky with fluffy clouds, or you could “cut out” the subject of the photo and move them around to a better spot. The latter is similar to Apple’s image cutout feature in iOS 16 but actually put to use.

Image Credits: Google

The niftiest gimmick, however, was using AI to fill in gaps in a photo when you move things around. In one example, a photo of a child holding balloons while sitting on a bench was dragged closer to the center of the photo and AI created more of the bench and balloons to fill in the gaps. How well this works in real-world photos remains to be seen, of course.

Still, the ease of creating images via AI will lead to its own issues, which is why Google also introduced new tools for identifying and labeling AI photos in Search and elsewhere.

Google Play Store logo

Image Credits: KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP / Getty Images

In terms of the Android app ecosystem, the company announced several ways for developers to use AI to build and optimize their apps for Google Play alongside other new tools. Notably, developers will now be able to use a Generative AI helper to draft new Play Store listings using Google’s PaLM 2 model. This will initially be available in English and as an experimental tool. Developers could use the tool to generate listings or customize listings for different types of users, among other things.

AI will also be used to summarize users’ app reviews for the Play Store. A new machine translation tool will use AI to translate apps and listings into other languages.

These arrived alongside other Play Store updates aimed at helping developers grow their businesses, like tools to lure back lapsed users, expanded subscription features, and broader access to promotional content, including more ways to market in-app events. Plus developers will be able to now prompt users on certain app versions to update their apps, Google said.

And more…

Google I/O: Other App Updates

Also at I/O, the company announced a good handful of updates to existing apps, like Home and Maps, some of which involved the use of AI. It also took the waitlist off its AI chatbot Bard, announced plans for AI image generation (via an Adobe partnership) and integrations with third-party apps like Instacart and OpenTable. And it launched a new AI music-making feature in its AI Test Kitchen.

Google Maps

In Maps, Google unveiled Immersive View for Routes — a new feature that builds on the existing AI-powered Immersive View addition announced last year, which fuses Street View and aerial images together to create a digital model of the world. With Immersive View for Routes, you can preview a route ahead of taking it, as opposed to having to click through Street View. Google says you’ll be able to see bike lanes, sidewalks and parking along your journey, and get weather and traffic estimates based on historical data. The feature will start to roll out in the months ahead in 15 cities (Amsterdam, Berlin, Dublin, Florence, Las Vegas, London, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Paris, San Francisco, San Jose, Seattle, Tokyo and Venice).

Google's new Immersive View for Routes feature

Image Credits: Google


Google’s app for controlling your smart home devices, Google Home, was also updated this week with a redesigned interface that includes a new Favorites tab, easier ways to view cameras — including original Nest cameras, support for more Matter-enabled devices, expansion of Matter support to iOS and the ability to do more with Home from Wear OS — like see camera previews in notifications and make adjustments. A new home panel on Android devices is also available, offering quicker access to Google Home directly from the lock screen or quick settings.

Image Credits: Google/Google Home app


Plus, the company launched an experimental tool “MusicLM” for turning text prompts into music via its AI Test Kitchen app for web, Android and iOS. Users can ask for instruments like “electronic” or “classical,” as well as the “vibe, mood, or emotion” as they refine their creations.

Find My Device

Google introduced a series of improvements coming to its own Find My Device network as well as proactive alerts about unknown trackers traveling with you with support for Apple’s AirTag and others. The news follows Apple and Google’s recently announced plan to lead an industry-wide initiative to draft a specification that would alert users in the case of unwanted tracking from Bluetooth devices.

Find My Device will now make it easier to locate devices by ringing them or viewing their location on a map, even if offline.

WWDC worries

The flurry of AI updates from Google comes at a worrying time for Apple, whose own AI assistant’s progress is reportedly in disarray along with Apple’s other AI efforts. A recent report by The Information detailed organizational dysfunction around Siri as the voice assistant has failed to improve over time. It’s so bad that Apple’s Siri is supposedly mocked internally at Apple, the report said. The company also lost in-house AI expertise to Google, where there was more ground-breaking AI work on things like LLMs.

With WWDC only weeks away, we’ve only heard about the usual slate of coming updates to Apple’s platforms, while the big news is meant to be the long-rumored AR/VR headset for gaming. It’s unclear if there’s even significant consumer demand for such a device, given the declining VR headset sales in 2022.

Apple’s iOS 17 is said to be a quieter update focused on smaller quality-of-life improvements, not a breakthrough AI upgrade where Apple has figured out how to make Siri a better AI helper or has integrated AI improvements across its apps and OS, for instance.

None of Apple’s heel-dragging has hurt the company before, but if AI is the movement the industry claims it will be, this could be a weak spot for competitors to capitalize upon.

Twitter Gets a New CEO

New Twitter CEO Linda Yaccarino and Elon Musk

Image Credits: Collage by TechCrunch / Getty Images

Now that Elon Musk has run Twitter’s advertising business into the ground, the Twitter owner is bringing in new leadership — and not a moment too soon. Following rumors of the hire, Musk confirmed via tweet on Friday he has chosen NBCU chairman of its advertising and partnerships group, Linda Yaccarino, as Twitter’s new CEO, replacing himself. Musk will stay on to focus on product design and new technology, he said.

While Musk said Yaccarino will help transform Twitter into the “everything app,” the reality is that this hire is meant to telegraph to advertisers that an adult is once again back in the room as the company tries to recoup its lost advertising revenue and woo back its client base.

That’s a tall order for the new CEO, who will have to contend with Musk’s continual attempts to wreak havoc at Twitter by changing company policies and features with little or no warning, then sometimes reverting them, given enough backlash. That was the case, for instance, with some of the API changes and the labeling of respected U.S. news organizations as if they were on par with the state media and propaganda efforts in communist China. Twitter’s massive layoffs also mean there are fewer engineers to fix problems when Twitter breaks, leading to outages and security incidents, like private tweets becoming public.

Under Musk’s leadership, Twitter lost its top 500 advertisers, including major brands like Mondelez International, Coca-Cola, Merck, Hilton and AT&T. Ad revenue in its mobile app dropped 89% from September-October 2022 to January-February 2023, Sensor Tower data indicated. Despite Musk’s more recent claims of an advertiser return and Twitter reaching a break-even point, several former top advertisers were not found in a list of Twitter’s top 10 or top 50 ad customers as of April.

Meanwhile, the Telsa exec’s plans to monetize Twitter’s verified service via a Blue subscription has not gone well, generating around $11 million on mobile in its first three months — not enough to replace Twitter’s lost ad revenue which is forecast to be down by $2 billion this year.

Installing an ad chief as CEO may not solve Twitter’s problems, however, as Musk himself contributes to advertiser fears that the platform is no longer “brand-safe” by his tweeting and boosting of conspiracy theories and disparaging the media while suspending journalists. Hate speech also has risen under his purview.

Weekly News


Streaming & Entertainment

  • Disney+ and Hulu are going to be combined into a single app by year-end, Disney announced during earnings. The news came after Disney+ lost 4 million subscribers in Q2 2023 while Hulu gained 200,000 subs.
  • TikTok added a search feature called “NewMusic” that lets users find new tracks and a way for artists to reach their fans. Twitch introduced a new tool that lets streamers create and share short vertical video clips which can be published directly to YouTube Shorts. TikTok and Reels aren’t yet supported, but you could share to those platforms manually.
  • Shazam was updated with support for Apple’s new streaming music service, Apple Music Classical. 
  • Recently fired Tucker Carlson says he’s going to do a show on Twitter. Musk clarified Twitter has no deal with the former Fox News commentator.
  • Spotify removed around 7% of songs uploaded to its platform by AI music startup Boomy. The tens of thousands of tracks removed had been flagged by Universal Music as engaging in artificial streaming behavior — that is, bots pretending to be humans to inflate the streaming numbers.
  • The new MAX app which will replace HBO Max for existing customers is live for preorder on the App Store. The new app will include Discovery+ content when it rolls out in the U.S. on May 23. TechCrunch talked to the company about how it reportedly fixed the bugs and improved performance in the upcoming app.


  • Robinhood announced 24-hour trading for select stocks and ETFs, starting with 43 securities. The feature will arrive for all users next month. It also reported crypto trading revenue was down 30% YoY in Q1 to $38 million.
  • Banking and money management app Revolut is losing its CFO Mikko Salovaara shortly after CEO James Radford departed in March, which had not been announced publicly.
  • A new banking app Charlie launched its services aimed at the 62+ community. The app promises faster access to their Social Security check, 3% earnings on balances and no monthly fees or minimums. The company is backed by $7.5 million in funding, led by Better Tomorrow Ventures.
  • PayPal reported Q1 TPV up 10% YoY to $354.5 billion, above estimates, and net revenue up 9% to $7.04 billion. But shares dropped as the company lowered its forecast for full-year margins.


  • Pinterest is combining its creation tools for Pins and its video-focused Idea Pins and rolling out more editing features as well as measurement and engagement tools to woo creators.
  • Mastodon app Ivory, from the makers of Tweetbot (a Twitter client killed by Elon Musk) received an update (version 1.4) that brings a redesigned media viewer, new sounds for boosts, new icons and a Safari extension that let you open Mastodon links directly in Ivory.
  • Bluesky is gaining traction as new data shows the app had 628,000 downloads in April 2023 alone, up 606% from March. Mastodon had 90,000 downloads at this time.
  • Social news app Artifact now lets you follow your favorite writers, in another challenge to Twitter.
  • LinkedIn is phasing out its China app, InCareer, due to competition and broader economic concerns. The company will cut 716 jobs as a result.
  • Meta is shutting down its Messenger app for Apple Watch on May 31. The company, like others, decided the Watch doesn’t require a standalone app experience as users can still receive notifications on the Watch without a native app. Users, however, have not been happy about the move and are complaining on Twitter. Messenger is the latest in a long line of apps that have abandoned the Watch, including Uber, Target, Hulu, Evernote, Slack, Trello and more.

Image Credits: Meta


  • WhatsApp rolled out back-end fixes to address problems with spam calls that were impacting Indian users, which had caught the attention of the Indian government. The fixes leverage AI and ML systems to lessen the problem.
  • Stripe and WhatsApp partnered to allow Singapore-based users to pay some businesses within the app, following the launch of biz payments in India and Brazil.


  • Tinder is removing social handles from users’ bios. The company said the change comes about because people were using their profiles on the app to promote their businesses, sell things, fundraise and campaign, which is not what Tinder is meant for.
  • A new dating app called Teaser AI (preorder), built by the same team behind Dispo, promises to pair users with AI chatbots who can handle the initial “getting to know you” chats that become tedious.

Travel and Transportation

  • Uber added flight bookings to its U.K. app in partnership with Hopper as it moves toward becoming a super app.
  • Airbnb reported Q1 revenue up 20% YoY to $1.8 billion, above estimates, making for its first profitable Q1 with $117 million in net income. But a cautious outlook for Q2 sent the stock down by 10%+ after earnings.



  • Eventbrite integrated GPT capabilities into the platform to aid in event planning. The tools will arrive later this month to help with time-consuming steps in event planning, like creating event pages, email campaigns and social media ads.
  • ByteDance subsidiary Lemon Inc. filed a trademark for 8th NOTE PRESS, hinting toward book publishing plans. The company recently launched an Instagram and Pinterest competitor Lemon8 in the U.S., which it paid influencers to promote on TikTok.
  • Apple is bringing Final Cut Pro and Logic Pro to the iPad later this month. The apps will hit the App Store for $4.99/mo or $49/year.

Government & Policy

  • Florida joins other states in banning TikTok on government devices. The app was already banned on university-owned devices.
  • Apple’s App Tracking Transparency (ATT) feature, which requires apps to get consent from users before tracking them for ad targeting purposes, is now facing a competition probe in Italy. The competition watchdog is concerned that Apple is creating an unfair advantage for its own personalized ads that aren’t subject to the same permission pop-ups.



Image Credits: HiNOTE

A new app called HiNOTE lets users create personalized messages for things like greetings, invites, thank-you’s and more, which are shared as images with your own text. Often, people send a text followed by a photo or GIF to add a more personal feel to their communications, but HiNOTE lets you create imagery with whatever it is you want to say. The app has sent over 1 million notes since its 2022 launch. Read the full review on TechCrunch.

This Week in Apps: Google I/O 2023 recap; Android, apps and AI; Twitter’s new CEO by Sarah Perez originally published on TechCrunch

This Week in Apps: Apple and Google team up on trackers, Google I/O preview, apps hit NewFronts

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.

The app economy in 2023 hit a few snags, as consumer spending last year dropped for the first time by 2% to $167 billion, according to’s “State of Mobile” report. However, downloads are continuing to grow, up 11% year-over-year in 2022 to reach 255 billion. Consumers are also spending more time in mobile apps than ever before. On Android devices alone, hours spent in 2022 grew 9%, reaching 4.1 trillion.

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

Dorsey criticizes Twitter, Musk on the alternative social networks he’s backing

fluffy white cloud in a blue sky

Image Credits: Jose A. Bernat Bacete (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

As demand for Bluesky, the Jack Dorsey-backed decentralized Twitter rival grows, the former Twitter CEO took to the app to share his thoughts on Twitter’s future, Elon Musk and the decision to take the company private. As TechCrunch’s Darrell Etherington reported, Dorsey responded to questions posed to him from other users and reporters on Bluesky, including one where he was asked if Musk has proven to be the best possible steward for the social network.

Dorsey said he had not:

No. Nor do I think he acted right after realizing his timing was bad. Nor do I think the board should have forced the sale. It all went south. But it happened and all we can do now is build something to avoid that ever happening again. So I’m happy Jay and team and nostr devs exist and building it.

However, the Twitter co-founder stressed that Twitter would have never survived as a public company and defended himself from an accusation that he was deflecting blame for Twitter’s current situation.

Though Bluesky is having a moment, particularly as a haven for marginalized groups, sex workers and trans users, it’s not the only Twitter alternative Dorsey is now backing. In fact, he’s been more active in recent days on the social network nostr (which he also financially backed), where he’s also been critical of some of Musk’s recent decisions. For example, as The NYT reported, Dorsey posted last month “This is weak,” in response to Musk’s move to stop Twitter users from linking to Substack after it launched a Twitter-like service for its own community of writers and readers.

Dorsey also touted his belief in these platforms during Block’s recent earnings call, suggesting on his nostr profile this may be the first time the network’s name had been mentioned during a public earnings event.

Image Credits: Jack Dorsey on nostr

“Open protocols represent another fork in the road moment for people and companies,” Dorsey told investors. “Bitcoin, nostr, Bluesky, web5 and others are all working to level the playing field for competition and give individuals and organizations entirely new capabilities,” he added.

Over the past few weeks, Bluesky has been gaining traction, but the network has been difficult to access due to its invite-only nature. That’s turned Bluesky invites into hot commodities, where they’re even selling for hundreds of dollars on eBay, as most users have to wait to receive only one invite every two weeks.

Bluesky leadership will also sometimes gift a user with a larger number of invites in order to have them invite members of a specific community. Developers who can demonstrate they’re building a Bluesky app may also request additional invites, we understand.

The network has received outsized press coverage relative to its size — just 50,000+ users — possibly because of the heavy infusion of tech journalists on there and Dorsey’s name attached. But the reality is that Bluesky’s future remains uncertain. The company, for now, is able to build and grow thanks to the $13 million in initial funds it received from Twitter, where it was incubated under Dorsey’s leadership. It has since spun out into its own, independent company (a public benefit LLC). It’s unclear how Bluesky intends to maintain its operations in the long term, not to mention its freewheeling culture and accepting community. Networks can often be pleasant and welcoming when small, like Bluesky — or early Twitter, for that matter — but face challenges once they scale to millions of users.

NewFronts round-up

This week was IAB’s NewFronts, where digital media companies and social networks pitched their platforms to advertisers looking to reach online audiences. The event saw major brands introducing a range of new offerings, including both ad products and formats, as well as touting their latest features, in some cases, as Snap did with its My AI integration.

Here’s what you may have missed from the app makers’ NewFronts this week:

Snap Ads in Spotlight

Image Credits: Snap

  • Snap said it’s beginning to test a feature that lets partners leverage its new My AI chatbot to place sponsored links in front of users. Snap also announced new ad slots, including the option to reserve the first video ad seen in Snapchat’s Friend Stories and the ability to advertise within its TikTok-like Spotlight feature.
  • YouTube introduced new ad opportunities for Shorts, including the expansion of Shorts into Video reach campaigns that leverage Google AI to serve the best combination of ads and improve reach on YouTube. Plus, YouTube Select is now coming to Shorts, allowing advertisers to place their ads alongside the most popular YouTube Shorts’ content, similar to TikTok Pulse. Another option, First Position on Shorts, will let advertisers be the first ad Shorts users see in their viewing session.
  • TikTok announced partnerships with big-name publishers, including NBCU, Condé Nast, DotDash Meredith, BuzzFeed and others, in an effort to pull in more premium ad dollars. The new premium ad product, Pulse Premiere, would allow marketers, for the first time, to position their brand ads directly after TikTok’s publisher and media partners’ content in over a dozen categories, including lifestyle, sports, entertainment, education and more. Publisher partners would receive a rev share as a result.
  • Meta announced AR would become available to Reels Ads and Facebook Stories. They had previously been available only to the Facebook Feed, Instagram Feed and Instagram Stories. It also announced features to make Reels Ads more interactive, including a test of a larger “call to action” button with additional advertiser information on Facebook and Instagram Reels ads. Other updates included multi-destination product ads, the ability to pause a video ad to preview a link’s destination and support for Reels Ads campaigns with select third-party measurement firms.
  • NBCU will let Peacock users shop products that appear in its content through “Must ShopTV,” which puts a QR code on the screen when a shoppable product appears.

Apple & Google team up on Bluetooth tracker safety

Image Credits: James D. Morgan / Contributor / Getty Images

After numerous cases of Bluetooth trackers like Apple’s AirTag being used for stalking or other criminal apps, Apple and Google this week released a joint announcement saying they will work together to lead an industry-wide initiative to draft a specification that would alert users in the case of unwanted tracking from Bluetooth devices. The companies said they’re seeking input from other industry participants and advocacy groups in the matter, and noted that other tracker makers like Samsung, Tile, Chipolo, eufy Security and Pebblebee have also expressed interest in the draft.

The companies submitted a proposed specification as an Internet-Draft via a standards development organization, the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF). Other interested parties are now being invited to review and comment over the next three months. After this time, Apple and Google will offer feedback and will release a production implementation of the specification by year’s end that will be supported in future versions of iOS and Android, they said.

The spec would build on the AirTag protections Apple had already released but also, critically, would ensure that users would be able to combat unwanted tracking by offering tools across both iOS and Android platforms.

Google’s participation could signal more than a desire to protect its users — it’s been rumored the company may also be developing an AirTag rival.



  • Apple released its first Rapid Security Response update to the public, which updated iOS 16.4.1, iPadOS 16.4.1 and macOS 13.3.1 with security fixes. Rapid security responses were introduced as a way to quickly update Apple devices to fix security vulnerabilities that are under active exploitation or pose significant risks to its customers.
  • Bloomberg’s latest Apple Watch rumor says the updated version of watchOS will combine the old Glaces feature and the new iPhone-style widgets to make Watch widgets a big part of the new interface.
  • Apple released iOS 16.5, iPadOS 16.5, watchOS 9.5 and tvOS 16.5 beta 4 to both developers and the public.
  • Apple added 20 more games to its subscription-based Apple Arcade service, including a new exclusive Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles title along with classic games like Temple Run and
  • Apple announced fiscal Q2 earnings, where its Services segment revenue grew 5.5% YoY to reach $20.9 billion. The segment includes Apple Music, Apple TV+ and other subscription services where Apple completes, in some cases, with third-party apps on its platform. Apple also sold $51.3 billion worth of iPhones in Q2, beating expectations of $48.8 billion. Mac, iPad, Wearables, Home and Accessories all saw declines. Overall Q2 revenue was down 3% YoY to $94.84 billion, but beat expectations.

Google — I/O Preview

  • Google I/O kicks off next week and we already know at least one of the announcements — because Google leaked it. The company plans to introduce its first foldable smartphone with the Pixel Fold. The device shares Pixel’s familiar camera bar and features an interface that showcases Material UI design. We expect to learn more at the event.
  • In addition, Google I/O 2023 should bring a Pixel 7a, a budget device that could also help address Pixel demand in emerging markets, plus possibly a Pixel tablet, an AirTag rival, a Wear OS update, and a lot of new developer tools and features. We also expect to hear quite a bit about Google’s AI plans, with generative AI (like Bard) appearing across Google’s line of products.
  • To get ready for I/O, even if you’re attending virtually, Google offered a new planning guide and a playlist of developer content to help attendees prepare.
  • Checks, Google’s AI-powered data protection project, exited to Google from its in-house incubator Area 120. The tool uses AI to check mobile apps for compliance with various privacy rules and regulations.

App Updates


  • Social networking app IRL’s CEO Abraham Shafi stepped down following allegations he used bots to inflate the number of users IRL reported publicly and to its investors, The Information reported. A former employee had alleged he was fired after expressing concern over the use of bots. The SEC is now investigating if the company violated securities laws. IRL raised around $200 million from SoftBank Vision Fund, Founders Fund and others.
  • After laying off 50% of staff, declining audio social network Clubhouse says it’s building “Clubhouse 2.0,” but hasn’t shared exactly what that plan may involve. Last year, the company began shifting its focus away from public audio to private rooms but it’s not clear there’s much demand for audio social networking in the post-pandemic market.
  • Once-hot viral app Poparazzi shuts down and returns remaining funds to investors. The app had let friends tag others to build out their social profiles of real moments, not polished images, but had been on the decline, with only a few thousand MAUs down from a height of 4 million MAUs previously.
  • A Twitter bug saw users able to regain their blue Verification checks just by editing their bio. Shortly afterward, the Twitter desktop website began randomly logging out users. Later in the week, the mobile website was also down.
  • As Bluesky gains attention, rival decentralized social platform Mastodon announced a new, simpler onboarding experience that provides new users with an account on by default, instead of requiring them to pick a server. This doesn’t eliminate server choice, it simply means that joining another server requires a few extra clicks.
  • Neighborhood social network Nextdoor added new features powered by generative AI, including an Assistant feature aimed at helping users write posts that are more likely to drive positive community engagement. The Assistant will offer writing suggestions that users can review and optionally adopt. The company says it will also use AI to better match content to users when providing recommendations.
  • BeReal is testing another new feature in the U.K., “RealPeople,” that shows users a timeline of the “world’s most interesting people” — that is, athletes, artists, activists and other public figures. The company also recently began testing the option to post more often as usage has declined.
  • Meta introduced new discovery and personalization options for Facebook Reels. Users can now choose “Show More” or “Show Less” options to control what sort of Reels they want to see. Facebook will also explain why it’s showing you a Reel, like if a friend viewed it, and is adding Reels to the main navigation at the top of Facebook Watch.

Image Credits: Facebook

  • WordPress drops Twitter integration, says sharing to Instagram and Mastodon is coming instead. The Automattic-owned publishing platform said the Twitter connection on Jetpack and will cease to work, meaning users’ blog posts will no longer be auto-shared to Twitter as before. The company said Elon Musk’s decision to “dramatically change the terms and pricing” for Twitter’s API was to blame for this decision. The API now starts at $42,000/month for 50 million tweets. The move will likely hurt Twitter more than WordPress, as the latter powers over 40% of the global internet, including blogs.
  • Mozilla announced it’s opening up its own Mastodon server — or “instance,” in Mastodon lingo — into private beta testing. The company had said last year it planned to create and begin testing a publicly accessible instance at It explains its approach to Mastodon will involve high levels of moderation.
  • Twitter announced it would make its API free for public service announcements after New York’s Metro Transit Service (MTS) abandoned the service and the National Weather Services (NWS) said it would no longer auto-post warnings.
  • TikTok’s U.S. head of trust and safety Eric Han is leaving the company on May 12 as lawmakers weigh a TikTok ban. Han had played a key role in TikTok’s strategy to avoid a U.S. ban.
  • Discord is making all users change their usernames, the company announced this week. Originally, Discord users had been identified by a name and random number separated by a hash sign, but now it wants to adopt a simpler format so people can more easily share their usernames with others. The new plan will include a unique alphanumeric username with the @ symbol in front of it, plus a freely assignable display name that can be changed at any time.


  • Slack introduced SlackGPT, its own generative AI built on Slack’s platform which developers can use to create AI-driven experiences.
  • Microsoft launched its Bing chatbot to all users globally, meaning there’s no more waitlist to get started. It’s also adding more image- and graphic-centric answers in Bing Chat, including by creating graphs and charts and generating images from text prompts. It will also allow users to export their Bing Chat histories. And it will embrace multimodality, meaning it can understand queries with images and text combined. Bing now sees more than 100 million daily active users and says visitors have engaged in over half a billion chats.
  • Plexamp, the music player originally incubated by the Labs division of media company Plex, is tapping into ChatGPT with its latest update. The new feature called “Sonic Sage,” powered by OpenAI’s ChatGPT, will build unique music playlists by scanning users’ libraries and leveraging their TIDAL subscription.

Media & Entertainment

  • Spotify is looking to seed its platform with more audiobook titles. This week, Spotify and digital audiobook distributor Findaway, which Spotify acquired in 2021, announced that its service for indie authors, Findaway Voices, will eliminate the 20% distribution fee for audiobooks purchased on Spotify.
  • Spotify also announced the addition of Thorn to its Safety Advisory Council. The international anti-human trafficking organization was already a longtime safety partner to Spotify.
  • Pandora lost more users. Parent company SiriusXM reported Pandora’s monthly active user base fell below 47 million in the first quarter, down 8% from a year earlier (3.9 million MAUs), from 50.6 million. Overall, SiriusXM reported a 2% YoY drop in revenue, in the face of steep competition from Spotify, Apple, Amazon, Google and others.
  • ByteDance’s music app and Spotify rival, Resso, is shutting down its free tier. The app will require a premium subscription as of May 11, 2023, saying this provides better opportunities for rightsholders and artists. The service currently operates in India, Brazil and Indonesia, but had been rumored to be expanding as it was filing trademarks globally.
  • HBO Max and discovery+ added 1.6 million subscribers in the first quarter, growing to 97.6 million global customers. The company said it expects its streaming biz to be profitable this year.
  • Paramount+ grew to 60 million subscribers, meanwhile, ahead of its Showtime integration.



The Fingo App. Image Credits: Fingo

  • YC-backed Kenyan fintech Fingo launched its neobanking app, developed in collaboration with Pan-African financial institution Ecobank Kenya. The company raised $4 million in seed funding after its YC S21 participation. Fingo offers users a bank account, paired with free peer-to-peer transactions and access to savings, financial education and smart spending analytics.
  • The FDIC is looking into Tellus, an Andreessen Horowitz-backed fintech company that claims it can offer people higher yields on their savings balances by using that money to fund certain U.S. single-family-home loans. U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown, chairman of the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee, wrote a letter to FDIC Chairman Martin Gruenberg expressing concerns about Tellus, and asking the FDIC to review Tellus’s business practices which may put customers at risk.


  • WhatsApp now lets users create single-vote polls and forward media with captions, Meta announced this week. Single-vote polls let users run a poll where people are only allowed to vote once, including multiple choice, as has been the default.
  • Reddit’s latest update provides link previews for messaging apps. Now, when you share a Reddit link via a messaging app, it will include a visual preview of the content, the subreddit name, the total upvotes tally and the number of comments. The update also includes the ability to share directly to IG Stories and other tools for publishers.

Image Credits: Reddit

Travel & Transportation

  • Following its acquisition by Via, Citymapper said it’s lowering the paywall for its premium features while also introducing a new subscription plan ($1.49/mo) purely for removing ads.
  • Uber reported a Q1 earnings beat with its revenue up 29% YoY to $8.82 billion, gross bookings up 19% YoY to $31.4 billion and adjusted EBITDA up 353% YoY to $761 million. It also reported a $157 million net loss.
  • Uber Eats is also planning to offer support for Live Activities and Dynamic Island on iPhone and integrated with Alexa for order updates.
  • Lyft shared worrisome Q2 guidance sending its stock down after Q1 earnings where it had reported a 14% YoY increase in revenue to $1 billion and a net loss drop of 5% to $187.6 million. Ridership was up 9.8% YoY to 19.5 million.


  • Snowman, the mobile game studio behind Alto’s Adventure and Alto’s Odyssey, launched its newest title, Laya’s Horizon, exclusively with Netflix. The wingsuit game sees players mastering the art of flying, diving off mountains, weaving across forests and gliding over rivers to unlock new abilities as they explore a vast and peaceful world.
  • Cross-platform game engine Unity announced layoffs of 8% of its workforce, or around 600 jobs, after laying off 500+ in January and last June.
  • Amazon announced that customers in the United States, Canada, Germany and the United Kingdom can now play Fortnite on their Fire TVs via its Amazon Luna cloud gaming service.

Commerce & Food Delivery

Image Credits: Amazon

  • Amazon Inspire, the e-commerce giant’s in-app TikTok-like shopping feed has rolled out to all customers in the United States. The company had been experimenting since last year with the new feed, which features content creators by influencers.
  • DoorDash revenue was up 40% YoY in Q1, reaching $2.04 billion, beating estimates of $1.93 billion. Its net loss also declined 3% to $162 million and orders were up 27% to 512 million.


  • Medtech startup, which provides urine analysis through a mobile app, is laying off a third of its staff, or around 70 people. The company had just raised $50 million in Series D funding.
  • Airbnb announced Rooms, a feature that focuses on the ability to book single rooms averaging $67 per night as users complain about excessive fees, onerous checkout procedures and rising Airbnb prices.
  • Google’s smart home app, Google Home, added support for smart garage door openers.


  • Google announced that passkeys are now rolling out to Google Account users globally. Passkey let users sign in to websites and apps using the same biometrics or screen-lock PIN they use to unlock their devices.
  • Google announced that in 2022, it prevented 1.43 million policy-violating apps from being published on Google Play “in part due to new and improved security features and policy enhancements.”

Government, Policy and Lawsuits

  • The EU’s Digital Markets Act (DMA) became applicable on May 2, but enforcement is not expected until spring 2024. The act focused on gatekeepers like Apple, Google, Meta and Microsoft. It limits how they can use third-party data, bans self-preferencing, introduces interoperability requirements, bans tracking users for targeted ads without consent and more. It also says app stores can’t require the use of their own payment services and permits app sideloading.
  • Bipartisan U.S. lawmakers reintroduced the Kids Online Safety Act with updates aimed at fixing earlier issues. The bill says platforms have to take reasonable steps to stop the spread of posts that promote eating disorders, suicide, substance abuse and more and undergo independent analysis about their safety for minors. It now also includes protections for support services, like the National Suicide Hotline, substance abuse groups and LGBTQ+ youth centers. However, critics, including the ACLU, say the changes are not enough and they remain opposed to the increased surveillance of kids this bill would require and other matters.
  • France’s competition watchdog announced interim measures against Meta, saying it suspects Meta of abusing its dominant position in the French market for ads on social media and across the broader (non-search-related) online ads market.
  • The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) says Meta has “repeatedly violated” privacy rules and proposed to tighten its 2020 privacy order against the company, which would completely bar it from monetizing data from anyone under 18 in any way, among other new restrictions. The FTC also accused Meta of COPPA, a children’s privacy law, by misrepresenting its Messenger Kids parental controls, which allowed group chats and group calls with unapproved contacts.

Funding and M&A

  • Amazon acquired a small audio-focused artificial intelligence firm called Snackable.AI in 2022, The Post reported. Deal terms weren’t disclosed but Mari Joller, the founder and CEO of Snackable, is now the artificial intelligence and machine learning product leader at Amazon.



RTRO splash screen

Image Credits: RTRO

New social networking startup RTRO launched its app this week with the goal of connecting brands, creators and their fans and followers in a more positive environment focused on human connections and communities, not algorithm-driven content. To accomplish this, RTRO divides its social experience into two parts — on one side, you can keep up with friends or family in RTRO’s “circles.” On the other side, users can switch over to see content from creators and brands in their own space, dubbed RTRO TV.


Music distribution service DistroKid this week launched its first mobile app, initially only for iPhone. The new app lets artists upload new releases, receive instant payment alerts, access stats from Apple and Spotify, edit metadata and more from their phones. The company said the mobile app had been the number one request from DistroKid members.

This Week in Apps: Apple and Google team up on trackers, Google I/O preview, apps hit NewFronts by Sarah Perez originally published on TechCrunch

This Week in Apps: Users pan Snapchat’s AI, Bluesky has a moment, Apple wins antitrust appeal

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.

The app economy in 2023 hit a few snags, as consumer spending last year dropped for the first time by 2% to $167 billion, according to’s “State of Mobile” report. However, downloads are continuing to grow, up 11% year-over-year in 2022 to reach 255 billion. Consumers are also spending more time in mobile apps than ever before. On Android devices alone, hours spent in 2022 grew 9%, reaching 4.1 trillion.

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

Bluesky is having a moment

fluffy white cloud in a blue sky

Image Credits: Jose A. Bernat Bacete (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

If anyone was waiting for a winner to emerge among the many Twitter alternatives, current signs are pointing to Bluesky as a possible forerunner in the race. With its invite-only status, native mobile apps and ability to attract the always online, shitposting crowd, the app has been getting buzz this past week as users invited their friends, bringing the network to somewhere around 40,000+ users.

Bluesky today moves quickly, giving posters the dopamine rush of Twitter-level attention at times. People are vying to reach to its “What’s Hot” feed and are arguing about whether or not these pseudo-tweets should be called “posts” or “skeets” — the latter against the wishes of the CEO Jay Graber, who is begging for anything else, even “skoots.”

To what extent she’ll have any sway over the matter remains to be seen. In one viral post, Graber essentially admits the users are now running amok.

Image Credits: Bluesky screenshot

Blueskyers are also creating their own conventions for the site, dubbing the Bluesky “timeline” the “skyline,” for example, and are laughing about Elon Musk’s failures while posting their Bluesky memes.

Much of the crowd is young — ranging from Gen Z to millennial — and some have been known to joke about their plan to bully cringey Gen X’ers or any unwelcome bad actors off the app if they ever dare to join.

This experience, naturally, is not for everyone.

Despite there being a number of journalists on Bluesky, it’s so far not a place where people are sharing their work or having thoughtful discussions about the news of the day. There aren’t many (any?) right-wingers getting into arguments with leftists. There are few legit celebs or high-profile figures on board, beyond folks like Chrissy Teigen and AOC and a few others.

Instead, Bluesky feels like a weird afterparty where everyone is a little too drunk, a little too tired and has lost their filter.

This vibe may not last and neither may its appeal. It remains to be seen.

While “party Twitter” is a fun place to be for a time, it isn’t necessarily a fulfilling meal — just a sugary snack. That could leave some people returning to more robust networks, like Twitter or Mastodon to engage in more thoughtful discussions. And it may turn off some potential Bluesky users who aren’t a fan of the shitposting culture.

For others, however, a place that’s all brouhaha and no baggage may be just what they want.

There are also things the app needs to address before it opens more publicly. For now, it’s lacking many of the features people expect — like the ability to view your past likes, bookmark items, create lists, block users, use hashtags, DM others, perform advanced searches and more. This gives the network a bit of an ephemeral feeling, as posts — or skeets — quickly move down the feed, never to be seen again.

Despite its issues, Bluesky recalls the early days of the social web where trying new apps was actually fun. That’s the nature of its invite-only status, which is keeping the party small with a bouncer at the door.

In the meantime, if you want to join us on Bluesky, give us a follow.

TechCrunch team members on Bluesky include me — Sarah Perez (@sarahp), Amanda Silberling (@ralts), Brian Heater (@bheater), Frederic Lardinois (@fredericl), Romain Dillet (@romain), Matthew Panzarino (@panz), Darrell Etherington (, Ron Miller (@ronmiller), Alex Wilhelm (@alexwilhem), Becca Szkutak (@becca), Ivan Mehta (@methology), Bryce Durbin (@dicebourbon), Henry Pickavet (@pickavet), Miranda Halpern (@mirandahalpern), Morgan Sung (@morgansung), Natasha Mascarenhas (@natashareporter) and Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai (@lorenzofb).

(Those links should work when logged into the web app at We’re all mostly on so I didn’t write out that part of these usernames! If you have any unwanted invites, email me the codes, haha,  

Currently, Bluesky has 245,000 downloads on iOS, more than half of which came in April, indicating there’s far more demand than there is access for the time being.

Snapchat’s My AI is getting panned

Snapchat Bitmoji with thought bubble

Image Credits: Snap (modified by TechCrunch)

The user reviews for Snapchat’s “My AI” feature are in — and they’re not good.

Launched last week to global users after initially being a subscriber-only addition, Snapchat’s new AI chatbot powered by OpenAI’s GPT technology is now pinned to the top of the app’s Chat tab where users can ask it questions and get instant responses. But following the chatbot’s rollout to Snapchat’s wider community, Snapchat’s app has seen a spike in negative reviews amid a growing number of complaints shared on social media.

Over the past week, Snapchat’s average U.S. App Store review was 1.67, with 75% of reviews being one-star, according to data from app intelligence firm Sensor Tower. For comparison, across Q1 2023, the Snapchat average U.S. App Store review was 3.05, with only 35% of reviews being one-star.

The number of daily reviews has also increased by five times over the last week, the firm noted.

Another app data provider, Apptopia, reports a similar trend. Its analysis shows “AI” was the top keyword in Snapchat’s App Store reviews over the past seven days, where it was mentioned 2,973 times. The firm has given the term an “Impact Score” rating of -9.2. This Impact Score is a weighted index that measures the effect a term has on sentiment and ranges from -10 to +10.

Apptopia also said that Snapchat received around 3x more one-star ratings than usual on April 20, 2023. That’s the day after the My AI global release was announced.

Many Snapchat users aren’t thrilled with My AI, which appeared inside their app without warning or their consent. For some, it’s the chatbot’s placement that’s the cause of concern. My AI is pinned to the top of users’ Chat feed inside the app and can’t be unpinned, blocked or removed, as other conversations can be. Many are also pushing back at the fact that removing the My AI from their Chat feed requires a Snapchat+ subscription — effectively forcing them to pay to get their app back to normal.

Other users found the AI creepy, as it seemed to know their location even if they hadn’t explicitly shared it.

In response to the ongoing complaints, Snap published an explainer. It said the AI would have your location data if you were already using Snap Map and if you disabled location sharing, there could be a temporary delay (due to caching, we understand) before the AI would no longer have access to that data. Snap also said it made updates to My AI that clarify when it is aware of a Snapchatter’s location, and when it isn’t. Now, when users open My AI for the first time, they’ll receive a notice explaining that it may use the information they share with Snapchat to personalize its responses.

Apple and Meta beat antitrust lawsuits; Apple’s battle was with Epic Games, Meta with state AGs

Apple logo at entrance to an Apple store

Image Credits: Nicholas Kamm / AFP / Getty Images

Apple this week won its antitrust-focused appeals court battle with Fortnite maker Epic Games over its App Store policies, according to the opinion issued today by the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. The court largely upheld the district court’s earlier ruling related to Epic Games’ antitrust claims in favor of Apple, but it also upheld the lower court’s judgment in favor of Epic under California’s Unfair Competition Law.

The ruling is a major setback for Epic Games and other developers who hoped the ruling could set a precedent for further antitrust claims and require Apple to open iOS devices to third-party app stores and payment systems. However, the one bright spot for developers is that the ruling upheld the lower court’s prior decision on anti-steering changes.

Noted Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney: “Fortunately, the court’s positive decision rejecting Apple’s anti-steering provisions frees iOS developers to send consumers to the web to do business with them directly there. We’re working on next steps.”

In addition to Apple, Meta also won an antitrust lawsuit, under appeal, that had pitted the tech giant against dozens of state attorneys general, led by New York. The states alleged Meta had illegally maintained monopoly power in the social networking market through its acquisitions of photo-sharing app Instagram in 2012 and WhatsApp in 2014, and that it gained further power through data policies that harmed app developers.

The U.S. District Court Judge James Boasberg originally ruled that states had waited too long to challenge Meta’s acquisitions and that the policies they had cited were not illegal under antitrust law. The appeals court upheld this decision.



  • A rumor floating around says Apple’s iOS 17 may bring changes to the iPhone Lock Screen, new features for Apple Music including lyrics on the Lock Screen, Control Center UI changes, additional Lock Screen customizations and more. The source is the same one that correctly leaked the yellow iPhone 14, so people are giving it the benefit of the doubt.
  • Apple released the third betas for iOS 16.5, iPadOS 16.5 and macOS Ventura 13.4.
  • Apple’s Music and TV apps were updated for Windows 11 users and support for lyrics and improved playback for songs with “consecutive lossless tracks, among other bug fixes.
  • Apple is reportedly testing a system in iOS 16 to restrict features based on the user’s location, 9to5Mac says.
  • The EU confirmed that Apple is one of 19 tech giants that will be subject to the Digital Services Act. This online safety and transparency legislation will apply to Apple’s App Store, specifically, and will require changes to ads, recommendations and more.
  • In compliance with the Act, Apple reported its European MAUs for its App Stores, noting iOS has 101 million users, iPadOS has 23 million, macOS has 6 million, tvOS has 1 million and watchOS, Books and Podcasts have less than 1 million each.


Image Credits: Google

  • Google wants developers to get ready for I/O. In a new blog post, it suggests how to get prepared by browsing the program, creating an agenda and creating your developer profile.
  • Google has been testing a new Play Store ad slot ahead of its I/O developer conference in May. If rolled out publicly, the change could significantly expand the company’s Play Store search ads business by offering developers access to new prime real estate for their app marketing efforts directly on the Search tab alongside other personalized suggestions.
  • In a new report, Google said it prevented 1.43 million policy-violating apps from being published on Google Play in 2022 in part due to new and improved security features and policy enhancements.
  • As part of the ActivityX 1.7.0 release, Android’s Photo Picker support library will use a backported version provided by Google Play services on devices running Android KitKat (4.4) and later. The Photo Picker feature was launched last year to offer a browsable interface that presents the user with their media library, sorted by date from newest to oldest, that integrates nicely with an app’s experience without requiring media storage permissions.

Image Credits: Google

App Updates


Image Credits: Microsoft

  • iMessage is finally coming to Windows. Microsoft announced that Phone Link for iOS is rolling out to all Windows 11 customers, allowing iPhone users to make and receive phone calls, send and receive messages via iMessage, access their contacts, and see their phone’s notifications directly on their Windows PC. The feature had previously been available as an early preview to Windows Insiders.
  • WhatsApp introduced “Keep in Chat,” a feature that lets recipients of disappearing messages save them with the sender’s consent. It also expanded its multi-device feature so users can access their same account across multiple phones.
  • A federal court in Brazil ordered a temporary ban on Telegram after the company refused to share information about neo-Nazi groups with Brazil’s Federal Police.

Streaming & Entertainment

  • Spotify announced its Q1 earnings, reporting it now has 515 million MAUs, representing a 5% increase on the previous quarter and a 22% increase on the corresponding period last year. The streamer’s Q1 revenue was up 14% YoY to €3B, ad revenue was up 17% YoY to €329M, and Premium Subscribers were also up 15% YoY to 210M.
  • YouTube Music is adding support for podcasts on Android, iOS, and the web, plus support listening offline, in the background and casting for all U.S. users, with or without a Premium subscription.
  • Alphabet reported during earnings that YouTube’s ad revenue fell 2.6% year over year as advertisers pulled back from the platform due to economic uncertainty. YouTube only generated $6.69 billion in advertising revenue for the first fiscal quarter of 2023 compared to $6.87 billion during the same period last year.
  • Triller settled a lawsuit with Sony Music over its use of artists’ music on its platform by agreeing to pay $4.5 million.


Klarna spotlight 2023 updates

Image Credits: Klarna

  • Klarna’s payments and shopping app rolled out new features to give users a more personalized shopping experience. The app now has “Ask Klarna,” a personal shopping assistant where users can speak to real fashion experts; “Creator Shops,” a customized storefront for content creators; an AI-powered discovery shopping feed; and a resell functionality.
  • TikTok Shop has reportedly caught fire in Indonesia, TikTok’s second largest market, where TikTok has an estimated 110 million users. The Shop Seller app in the country has seen around 5.5 million installs.
  • Instacart added a few new ways for users to find deals on its app, including a “Your Items on Sale” section on a store’s page that uses an AI recommendation system to help users find personalized deals based on their past orders. There’s also a new “Stores to Help You Save” section and more.
  • Meta said it’s phasing out the onboarding of new Shops that don’t offer checkout on Facebook and Instagram. Beginning April 24, 2024, Shops without checkout on Facebook and Instagram enabled will no longer be accessible. This means that shops that direct people to an e-commerce site to complete a purchase will no longer be accessible through Meta’s apps.
  • Amid earnings, Pinterest announced a multiyear strategic ad partnership with Amazon aimed at bringing more brands and relevant products to its platform. The new deal will make the e-commerce giant Pinterest’s first partner on third-party ads, and will bring Pinterest users directly to Amazon when ads are clicked on.


  • U.K.-based stock-trading startup Lightyear expanded to the web, nearly two years after emerging from stealth. Though mobile is a popular way to interact with stock trading apps, the company said web was its mostly highly requested feature.
  • China’s biggest messaging app WeChat said this week it extended the use of e-CNY payments to transactions happening through its short video and mini-app platforms.
  • Robinhood launched “Connect,” a feature that lets users fund their Web3 wallets without having to leave a decentralized app or be in their Robinhood Crypto account. The feature is already live with MyDoge, Giddy, and Slingshot wallets, and will support Exodus and Phantom soon.


  • Snowman, the maker of hit mobile games like Alto’s Adventure and Alto’s Odyssey, has announced its new title, Laya’s Horizon, and its launch date. The company says it’s not quite ready to share details about the game yet, but notes it’s an “entirely new IP and something we’ve been working on for a long time.” The game is due out on iOS and Android for Netflix subscribers on May 2.


  • BeReal claims to have 20 million DAUs and is now letting users post up to three times per day in the U.K. as part of its pilot test of a “Bonus BeReal” feature. We reported the~20 million DAU last fall, citing multiple sources, indicating the network hasn’t grown much since. Third-party data from Apptopia says the October figure was around 15 million but was down to 6 million as of March.
  • Reddit hired a former Meta exec, Jim Squires, for its newly created role of EVP of Business Marketing and Growth.
  • During earnings, Mark Zuckerberg disputed that Meta is shifting away from its metaverse vision, saying he sees AI and the metaverse as part of its future. Reality Labs, Meta’s department for VR and AR, lost nearly $4 billion in the quarter. Last year, it lost $13.7 billion.
  • Meta says time spent on Instagram grew 24% due to its TikTok-style AI Reel recommendations. The company reported an earnings beat with Q1 revenue up 3% YoY to $28.6B, its net income down 24% YoY to $5.7B, and the “family daily active people” figure up 5% YoY to 3.02 billion for March 2023.
  • Meta’s avatars are gaining new body shapes, improved hair and new clothing textures. The company also announced that more than one billion avatars have been created across its platforms.

4 Meta avatars

Image Credits: Meta

  • Meta also lost its head of Development and Programming, Mina Lefevre, amid layoffs. The departure came as Meta scaled back its original programming, with cancelations of most of its FB Watch Originals, including Red Table Talk.
  • U.S. senators introduced a bipartisan bill that would ban kids under 13 from joining social media sites and require that tech companies get parental consent for teens’ accounts.
  • Snap had a bad quarter with revenue down 7% to $989 million when analysts were expecting $1.01 billion. However, global DAUs were up 15% YoY to 383 million, close to estimates of 384 million, and its $329 million net loss was lower than expected. The stock sank 24% on the weak results.
  • Clubhouse, the audio app that’s been on the downswing following the pandemic, said it was laying off 50% of its employees and will need to reset the company.
  • Reddit has begun testing Discord-like chat channels with 25 subreddits that have less than 100,000 members. The company is giving moderators tools like the ability to choose who can participate in the chat, manage the chat queue and moderate reported messages in a conversation. The channels will be persistent on the community navigation bar so members can visit them frequently.
  • NYC’s MTA ends its Twitter service after the Musk-run social media company demanded $50,000 per month for API access. “We want to communicate with our customers through all platforms, but we need a platform that is reliant and consistent and up to date,” MTA’s acting chief customer officer Shanifah Rieara said. As a result, the following MTA accounts will no longer offer real-time updates: @NYCTSubway, @NYCTBus, @LIRR and @MetroNorth.
  • A former IRL employee alleged in a legal filing over an alleged unfair dismissal that the company inflated its user count and then retailed against him and others who raised concerns, The Information reported.

Image Credits: T2

  • While Bluesky has its moment, another Twitter alternative T2 is also hoping to gain traction. The company this week readied for expansion with the launch of its invites system, aiming to grow its much smaller network of around 1,000 to at least double that if everyone invites at least one person. All users were to receive five invites, the company said. For some, the descriptions of Bluesky floating around are pushing them to try something else — shitposting is not for everyone. That could help T2 grow.

(Psst…Want a T2 invite? We have eight here. Feel free to find me on T2 as @sarahp).


Yelp's new search updates

Image Credits: Yelp

  • Yelp rolled out an AI-powered search experience and the ability to add videos to reviews. Thanks to the changes, Yelp says it can better understand a user’s search intent and highlight relevant information from reviews in new snippets that will appear under each business listing in search results. For video, users can now post high-resolution videos up to 12 seconds alongside their text and photos in their reviews.
  • Artifact, the personalized news aggregator from Instagram’s founders, is further embracing AI with the launch of a new feature that will now summarize news articles for you. The company announced today it’s introducing a tool that generates article summaries with a tap of a button, in order to give readers the ability to understand the “high-level points” of an article before they read. For a little extra fun, the feature can also be used to summarize news in a certain style — like “explain like I’m five,” in the style of Gen Z speech or using only emojis, for example.
  • Apple is reportedly working on an AI-powered health coaching subscription code-named Quartz, Bloomberg says. The coaching service would help users stay motivated to exercise, improve their eating habits and sleep better.
  • TikTok is testing a feature that lets users create AI-generated profile pictures similar to Lensa’s AI app. The tool asks users to select between three to 10 photos to create their avatars, according to screenshots posted by social media consultant Matt Navarra. TikTok confirmed the test was running in “a few select regions.”
  • Tinder announced a new verification process that will now use AI and video selfies to make a determination that someone is real and looks like their photos.
  • Spotify’s CEO discussed AI’s progress on the company’s earnings call, describing it as both “really cool and scary,” and acknowledging there’s risk to the creative industry. “I don’t think in my history with technology I’ve ever seen anything moving as fast as the development of AI currently is at the moment,” he said.


  • Taking cues from Apple and Google, Meta announced its Meta Quest Store would now include an App Privacy tab — a new tab for product description pages “that makes it easier to understand the types of data an app or game may access — before you download it.”
  • Dropbox laid off 16% of its staff or around 500 people, blaming slowing growth and the “AI era of computing.”

Funding and M&A

  • Yahoo (also TechCrunch’s parent co) acquired Wagr, a three-year-old social sports betting startup based out of Nashville. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. Wagr had $16 million in outside funding, including from Greycroft, Alexis Ohanian’s Seven Seven Six and others. The deal will see Wagr integrated into Yahoo Sports and Wagr itself shutting down.
  • Lookout sold its consumer mobile security business to Finland’s F-Secure in a deal valued at around $223 million, allowing it to fully embrace the enterprise business that have been its larger focus in recent years.
  • Fireside, the Mark Cuban-backed interactive entertainment app, confirmed its $25 million Series A, valuing the business at $138 million, post-money. The company had been rumored to be raising at a $125 million valuation last year.
  • Kakao Pay, the online payment service of South Korean tech and messaging giant Kakao, acquired a stake in Siebert Financial, a brokerage firm based in New York. Kakao spent $17 million on this transaction and the company now owns a 19.9% stake in Siebert.



Image Credits: Runway

The AI startup Runway, which helped develop the AI image generator Stable Diffusion, launched its first mobile app this week, giving users access to Gen-1, its video-to-video generative AI model. The app allows users to be able to record a video from their phones and generate an AI video in minutes as well as transform any existing video in their library by using text prompts, images or style presets.

Plus, users can select from a list of presets like “Cloudscape,” or transform their video to look like it’s a claymation, charcoal sketch, watercolor art, paper origami and more, TechCrunch’s Lauren Forristal reported, or they can upload an image or type an idea into the text box.

The app is currently iOS-only and has paid subscriptions.

The Standard ($143.99/year) plan offers 625 credits/month and other premium features like 1080p video, unlimited projects and more. The Pro ($344.99/year) plan offers 2,250 credits/month and all of Runway’s 30+ AI tools.

Petey for iPhone

Image Credits: Petey

Petey, the mobile app that introduced ChatGPT to Apple Watch users, recently brought its feature set to the iPhone, allowing users to access its AI assistant more quickly and even swap out Siri with Petey using Apple’s Shortcuts. Now, Petey has a new trick up its sleeve. In its latest update, out today, the app can be connected to Apple Music, so it can make playlists for you or help you add individual songs to your Apple Music library.

The new feature arrives alongside several other updates, including the ability to access the latest AI model, GPT-4, through a paid “Petey Premium” subscription.

To get Petey’s music recommendations, you simply type your request for a playlist into the app’s interface.

The app then lines up short previews of each recommended song below the returned playlist allowing you to scroll through and sample each one. If you like the song, you can tap on the three-dot “more” menu next to the song to either listen to the full version in Apple Music or save the track to your Library. You can also tap the “Create Playlist” button, to give the AI-built playlist a name, then open it up in Apple Music’s app and begin listening.

This Week in Apps: Users pan Snapchat’s AI, Bluesky has a moment, Apple wins antitrust appeal by Sarah Perez originally published on TechCrunch

This Week in Apps: Apple ‘sherlocks’ journaling apps, Twitter’s checkmark apocalypse, Snap summit recap

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.

The app economy in 2023 hit a few snags, as consumer spending last year dropped for the first time by 2% to $167 billion, according to’s “State of Mobile” report. However, downloads are continuing to grow, up 11% year-over-year in 2022, to reach 255 billion. Consumers are also spending more time in mobile apps than ever before. On Android devices alone, hours spent in 2022 grew 9%, reaching 4.1 trillion.

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

Apple plans its next “sherlock:” journaling apps

Apple is planning to “sherlock” a new class of applications if a new report from The Wall Street Journal holds true. The paper reported Apple is planning to introduce an iPhone journaling application as part of its expansion of health initiatives. The new app, which is unnamed, would challenge those on the market like Day One (acquired by maker Automattic in 2021). The WSJ said a document describing Apple’s app noted journaling helps to improve mental and physical well-being.

The app is reportedly set to arrive with the launch of iOS 17 and would put Apple again in the crosshairs of regulatory scrutiny. The company has come under fire in recent years for its habit of lifting ideas from the wider app developer and partner community. The practice has become so common, it’s got its own name — sherlocking — a reference to Apple software that started this trend decades ago.

The timing of this move is worth noting. Apple is currently under DoJ investigation for alleged anticompetitive behavior in the App Store and in other business practices. The DoJ has spoken to companies who have been “sherlocking” victims as part of its inquiry, including Tile, whose business was hit by the launch of Apple’s AirTag. The Justice Dept. has also spoken to other app developers, including smaller companies like Basecamp and parent control software maker Mobicip, as well as bigger developers like Match and Spotify, about Apple’s App Store terms.

For Apple to now launch yet another app that competes with a number of third-party developers shows Apple is not worried much about the regulatory pressure and isn’t adjusting its behavior.

Related to this, The WSJ also recently ran a feature on Apple’s “kiss of death,” citing partners who detailed what it felt like when the tech giant came calling. After initially being excited by the prospect of an Apple partnership, many partners now say Apple has stolen their ideas for itself, hurting their own businesses.

Twitter’s Checkmark Apocalypse has arrived — and it’s quite the debacle


Image Credits: Bryce Durbin / TechCrunch

Twitter has finally made good on its promise to yank its users’ verification checkmarks from their profiles in what has to be one of the more ridiculous decisions Elon Musk has made to date since taking ownership of the social media platform.

Seemingly not understanding the value of the company he owns, Musk believes that no one should be verified unless they’re paying Twitter. But in reality, the verification service was a resource provided to Twitter’s community that added value. The blue checkmark symbol indicated that a high-profile figure, celebrity, institution or journalist was who they said they were and not an impersonator.

Twitter is not a curated, visual platform like Instagram, where a verification mark (which you can also now pay for!) provides an influencer with clout or bragging rights. Instead, Twitter is a network that’s centered around the rapid-fire dissemination of news and information in real time. The checkmark meant the source had been already vetted to be the real person, organization or official in question, allowing for faster fact-checks. This aids in newsgathering and establishes a baseline of trust across the platform.

But of course, Musk doesn’t understand this.

He has such a low opinion and value for journalism that he went around adding “state-affiliated media” and then “government-funded” labels to the profiles of news outlets like PBS, NPR, CBC, BBC and others, lumping these editorially independent news-gathering organizations alongside state-run media entities like the Kremlin-backed Russia Today. Some of the news organizations finally left Twitter — something more should do, in fact. (No, I don’t control TC’s social media efforts.)

It’s unclear what’s happening with those labels now, as they’re disappearing from accounts on Friday, including those of China state-affiliated media.

Musk historically has demonstrated a callous disregard for journalism, calling The NYT “fake,” while tweeting out actual fake news himself. He also has Twitter’s comms email respond to press inquiries with a poop emoji. For that reason, it’s almost funny to watch Musk run headfirst into a wall with his complete mishandling of such a pivotal Twitter feature.

After all, if Musk had wanted to generate revenue from Twitter power users, he could have done so by giving ID-verified users their own checkmarks, perhaps with a different color scheme, that provided the set of special features and timeline prioritization that Twitter is now selling with its Blue subscription. That would have added value without disrupting the existing system.

Instead, he’s again created chaos by removing checkmarks from almost everyone, allowing for impersonation — and, in some cases, the spread of dangerous misinformation, as well. On top of that, he left legacy checkmarks on some high-profile accounts, like LeBron James and Stephen King, both of who said they would not pay for Twitter Blue. It was a power play, clearly. If the celebs don’t leave, they’re tacitly confirming they’ve accepted the new system.

In addition, Twitter is being dishonest about who is truly a paid Twitter Blue subscriber.

Yours truly paid for Blue earlier this year to fact-check a story and then immediately canceled. I now continue to have a checkmark despite the subscription’s expiration in February, as documented below. (In any event, don’t bother to follow me on Twitter, by the way — I’m on Bluesky, T2, Post and Mastodon.)

Along with the checkmark removals, Twitter has also now begun pressuring advertisers to either pay for Twitter Blue or Verified Organizations to continue running ads on the platform. Those businesses that already spend over $1,000 per month will have gold checks automatically, Twitter said.

Snap’s Partner Summit focuses on Shopping, AR and AI

Image Credits: Snap

Snap this week hosted its Partner Summit where it shared a number of features, updates and initiatives in areas like e-commerce, AR and AI. The company also used the time to introduce a range of consumer-facing updates for its Snapchat mobile app.

At the event, CEO Evan Spiegel commented on the proposed TikTok ban in the U.S., joking at first that Snap would “love that,” but noting that such a ban sets a dangerous precedent for other social platforms. Though he acknowledged there could be national security concerns, the exec, like Zuckerberg has, also pushed for tech regulations.

“It is important for us to be thoughtful and really develop a regulatory framework to deal with security concerns, especially around technology,” Spiegel.

Among the other event highlights and news:

  • Snap said the Snapchat+ paid subscription now has over 3 million users. That’s up from 2 million in February and 1 million last August.
  • Snap opened its Public Story revenue share program to creators with at least 50,000 followers and 25,000 monthly Snap views who post at least 10x per month.

Public Profiles on Snapchat

Image Credits: Snapchat

  • Snapchat added new Story modes like “After Dark” for posts after 8 pm and “Communities” which let users interact with people in their same school.
  • Snapchat updated its flashback feature Memories to show friends what they were doing on a given day exactly a year ago.
  • The Snap Map will start suggesting places that Snap thinks users would like. A new “Popular Last Night” tag will also show people where their friends were hanging out.
  • Snapchat is adding an interactive Lens that lets users complete puzzles and play games together while they’re face-to-face on a video call.

Snapchat's calling Lens

Image Credits: Snapchat

  • Snap also announced new AR Lenses powered by generative AI, starting with a new “Cosmic Lens” that turns you and your surroundings into an immersive, animated sci-fi scene. The move follows TikTok’s recently successful launch of the AI filter, “Bold Glamour.” The app will also use AI to recommend Lenses based on the photo or video users provided.

Snapchat's new AI lens

Image Credits: Snapchat

  • Bitmoji’s avatar style is being updated with a more expressive look with realistic dimensions, shading and lighting.
  • Snap’s enterprise biz, ARES, introduced AR Mirrors — a way to bring AR experiences to real-world locations, like retail stores. Men’s Wearhouse and Nike have used its AR Mirrors in stores and Coca-Cola is building a prototype drink machine with Snap that lets consumers use hand gestures to control the screen.

Image Credits: Snap

  • Snapchat announced its AI chatbot, My AI, is now free for all Snapchat global users instead of only Snapchat+ subscribers, as before. However, Snap is also rolling out a subscriber-only My AI feature which will see the chatbot able to “Snap” you back using generative AI to create photos. The AI chatbot will also now be able to be added to group chats with an @mention, make recommendations for places on Snap Map, suggest Lenses and send chat replies when you send it Snaps.

Image Credits: Snap

Platform News


  • Apple is introducing a new feature that will reduce the burden on app developers when it comes to solving subscription billing issues. Often, when an app’s subscribers have a payment method that fails, they’ll turn to the app developer for help. But the developer doesn’t handle billing issues for their App Store apps — those are managed by Apple itself. Now, Apple says a new warning message will appear to prompt users inside the app when their payment method fails, meaning they’ll no longer need to bother the developer for help with this common issue.

  • Apple is rumored to be developing VR apps and services for its upcoming mixed-reality headset in categories like gaming, fitness, live sports and collaboration.
  • Researchers said they found evidence that Apple’s Lockdown Mode has helped block an attack by hackers using spyware made by the infamous mercenary hacking provider NSO Group.
  • Apple launched its Apple Card savings account inside Apple Wallet offering an attention-getting 4.15% APY. The accounts are open to Apple Card holders in the U.S. and are technically managed by Goldman Sachs, so they have FDIC protections.
  • Apple Watch’s software is due to get its biggest update since its release, according to a new report by Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman. Details were sparse but we expect to hear more at WWDC.


  • Google Play will tell users to update their buggy, crashing apps: Google announced a new Play Store feature that will prompt users to update developers’ apps if the app crashes in the foreground and there’s a more stable version of the outdated app already available for download. The feature will apply to phones and tablets running Android 7.0 (SDK level 24) and above. Developers don’t need to do any integration work to take advantage of the feature, which is enabled automatically when Google Play determines a newer version of the app has a statistically relevant, lower crash rate.

  • Ahead of Google I/O, a leak is suggesting the upcoming Google Pixel Tablet will be priced around €600-650 ($658.63-$713.52 if converted directly to USD) — pricier than rivals — and the dock will cost around $120.
  • Google shared a number of updates to help app publishers increase revenue and grow their businesses with AdMob, including those around inventory access, bidding, revenue optimization and more.
  • Google Play Points can now get you more stuff. The company this week announced changes to the program which rewards users with points for making purchases on Google Play to now include app offers — like $10 off DoorDash or Instacart; Google merchandise (like Chrome dino game socks!); in-game items and coupons; and Google Play Credit for making in-app purchases, apps, books and subscriptions.

Image Credits: Google

App Updates

Messaging & Communications

  • Telegram’s latest update brings shareable chat folders, custom wallpapers and other features to users. The app’s chat folders can now be shared with a link, the company says, allowing users to invite friends or colleagues to dozens of work groups, collections of news channels and more.
  • Google Fi, the tech giant’s carrier service, is being rebranded to Google Fi Wireless and gaining new features, including the ability to add on a Pixel Watch or Samsung Galaxy Watch to their plan at no extra charge. Users can also get a free phone for adding a line if they agree to stay with the service for 24 months, among other things. The options are available from the Google Fi mobile app and website, where consumers manage their service.
  • The company behind the popular iPhone customization app Brass and others launched an AI chat app called Superchat, which allows iOS users to chat with virtual characters powered by OpenAI’s ChatGPT. Other companies already offer AI chats with characters in more advanced ways, including D-ID. Meanwhile, the developer of another AI chat app called Superchat says their concept was ripped off by another Superchat app before they could launch. “Super chat” is not a unique name, though, as it’s well-known as YouTube’s paid live chatting feature for creators and fans.


  • Roblox’s reach into a slightly older demographic is expanding, data shows. The gaming platform maker’s 17-to-24 age group has grown 33% year-over-year as kids are aging up but remaining on the platform.
  • Netflix is launching a follow-up to the supernatural thriller Oxenfree after acquiring the studio behind the game (Night School Studio) in 2021. The company says Oxenfree II: Lost Signals will arrive on July 12 on Netflix, Nintendo Switch, PS4/PS5 and Steam. Netflix recently announced it has 40 games slated for launch this year and has 70 in development with its partners.
  • Netflix also just hired former Halo Infinite creative head Joseph Staten to develop a multi-platform AAA title for the Netflix Games division. Staten will serve as a creative director at Netflix, he announced in a tweet, adding that his work will focus on developing on original IP.
  • Meta opened up its social VR space Horizon Worlds to teen users aged 13 to 17 after originally keeping it to 18 and up. The company said as part of its expansion it would include age-appropriate protections and safety defaults. Children’s rights activists had earlier urged Meta to abandon its plans to court younger users.
  • Niantic announced a partnership with Capcom to launch a game within the Monster Hunter franchise later this year. The new mobile title will come to both iOS and Android and will have players hunt monsters in the real world.


Image Credits: Meta

  • Instagram said users can now add up to five links to their profiles, in a move that challenges Linktree, Beacons and numerous other “link in bio” solution providers.
  • Reddit is shifting to a paid subscription model for API access, impacting app developers like the makers of the popular Reddit app, Apollo. The change will likely mean most third-party apps will need to shift to their own subscription model going forward. The company’s decision has to do with the demand for data to train AI models like OpenAI’s ChatGPT and others. “The Reddit corpus of data is really valuable…we don’t need to give all of that value to some of the largest companies in the world for free,” said Reddit CEO Steve Huffman.
  • The Verge does a deep divide into ActivityPub, the open source, decentralized social networking protocol powering Mastodon and the wider Fediverse. Want to get up to speed on the state of the Fediverse and its potential? This is a good place to start.
  • Fiction apps Wattpad and Yonder are now being overseen by KB Nam, previously head of Strategy and Research at their parent company Naver Webtoon. Nam will report directly to Webtoon Americas president, Ken Kim.
  • The Jack Dorsey-backed Twitter alternative Bluesky arrived on Android but remains invite-only. The community has around 20,000 users but the app has been downloaded 240,000 times on iOS to date.

Image Credits: Bluesky

  • Magazine app Flipboard is furthering its investment in the Fediverse with its newly launched “editorial desks” that curate news for the Mastodon community. Initially, the company will launch four desks — NewsTechCulture and Science — which it says won’t be automated by bots but instead by professional curators who have expertise in discovering and elevating interesting content.
  • Pinterest hired a Google Pixel VP to fill its CPO position. Sabrina Ellis spent the last 12 years at Google, where she led the work on Google Pixel. Previously, she spent eight years at Yahoo in numerous leadership roles. She will replace Pinterest’s current senior vice president of product, Naveen Gavini.
  • Imgur plans to ban explicit images, while still allowing for artistic nudity starting on May 15. The company says the service will adopt a mix of automatic and human moderation. The changes may impact NSFW subreddits (communities) on Reddit which allow for explicit images. The MediaLab-owned company said explicit content was a risk to Imgur’s “community and its business,” as the reason for the move.

Streaming and Entertainment

Spotify and Bereal integration

Image Credits: Spotify

  • Spotify announced it will now work with BeReal to allow the social app’s users to share what they’re listening to on Spotify through a new integration. After connecting your accounts, BeReal will automatically pull in the song or podcast you’re listening to on Spotify at the time you capture a BeReal.
  • Creator company Jellysmack is partnering with Spotify to bring its creators to the streaming platform. A selection of its creators will upload weekly video podcast episodes to the service, including Ed Bolian (VINwiki), Audit the AuditChristina RandallBrooke Makenna, and Jessica Kent.
  • Cameo introduced Cameo Collage, a free group-gifting feature. Gift givers can now combine celebrity Cameo videos with more personalized videos, images, GIFS and written messages from friends and family to create a digital collage for the recipient.
  • Netflix in its Q1 earnings said it would begin its password-sharing crackdown in the U.S. and other countries this summer (Q2). It has already implemented the changes in Canada, New Zealand, Portugal and Spain.
  • Netflix reported mixed earnings with revenue of $8.16 billion, behind estimates of $8.18 billion. It reported higher-than-expected earnings of $2.88 per share in Q1, as analysts had anticipated $2.86 per share.


Image Credits: Google / Waze

  • Waze on Google built-in has come to Volvo Cars and Polestar 2 cars. After a one-time setup, Volvo and Polestar drivers can access Waze’s real-time routing, navigation, alerts, settings, preferences and saved places on a bigger, eye-level display.

Health & Fitness

  • Marvel announced a new mobile fitness app, Marvel Move, featuring immersive audio-based running routines with popular Marvel Comics characters. The app, part of a collaboration with Six to Start, co-creator of the popular fitness app Zombies, Run!, includes five storylines to choose from including Thor & Loki, X-Men, The Hulk, Daredevil and Doctor Strange and the Scarlet Witch.


  • Samsung launched its own take on Apple News with its new “Samsung News” app that gives users access to everyday news from a variety of publications. The app will replace the company’s current “Samsung Free” app, and includes custom news feeds in addition to morning and evening briefings about the top news of the day.

Government, Policy and Lawsuits

  • WhatsApp, Signal, Viber, Wire and other encrypted messaging apps signed an open letter asking the U.K. government to “urgently rethink” its Online Safety Bill legislation, which they say will force tech companies to break end-to-end encryption on private messaging services, weakening the “privacy of billions of people around the world.”
  • Google has asked the court to dismiss multiple claims in its antitrust trial with Epic Games, Match, state AGs and others. In a new filing, Google’s legal team is now asking the court to dismiss several of the plaintiffs’ arguments regarding the nature of its app store business, revenue-sharing agreements and other app store-related projects in a partial motion for summary judgment. Google believes the court should now have enough information on hand to make determinations on a handful of the plaintiffs’ claims before the case goes to trial, saying that these items are not in violation of antitrust law. If the court agrees with Google’s position, the trial would still move forward as other claims would still need to be argued in court.
  • The U.K. Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) opened a consultation on Google’s proposal to let developers use alternative payment methods for in-app purchases on Android, aka “User Choice Billing.” It’s inviting interested stakeholders to respond to Google’s proposal by May 19 and will then make a decision on whether to accept the comments and resolve the case. Google is suggesting it cuts its commission to 4% if the developer offers Google’s own billing alongside their own. But this would only be cut to 3% if just third-party billing was offered.
  • Montana lawmakers approved a bill that would ban TikTok and would bar app stores from offering the app within the state, starting on January 1, 2024. It’s unclear how such a measure would be enforced as the app stores don’t offer a way to block distribution by state, only by country.

Funding and M&A

  • Starboard (Formerly Olympic Media) concluded the acquisition of right-wing Twitter alternative Parler and shut it down. The company said of the decision: “No reasonable person believes that a Twitter clone just for conservatives is a viable business any more [sic].” The Parler app will undergo a strategic assessment and it’s not clear what the company has in store for its future.
  • Epic Games expanded its Latin American footprint with its acquisition of the Brazilian game development studio Aquiris. The developer is best known for “Wonderbox: The Adventure Maker,” a magic-themed game-creation sandbox available on Apple Arcade.
  • Myxt, an audio file management platform for creators, raised $2 million in seed funding led by Accel Ventures and Quiet Capital. The startup offers a collaborative workplace app for audio creators that’s available on web, iOS and Android, where users can stream tracks, organize files and back up their library.
  • SoundHound closed on $100 million in strategic funding from Atlas Credit Partners as part of a new $125 million loan facility. The publicly traded company is using the money to refinance its debt and continue to fund its long-term strategy.
  • Japanese gaming giant Sega is acquiring Finland’s Rovio in an all-cash deal worth €706 million ($775 million). The deal is expected to close in Q2 or Rovio’s fiscal year (in the next couple of months). Sega’s offer represents a 63.1% premium on Rovio’s closing price on January 19.



Wavelength group chat

Image Credits: Wavelength

An interesting new chat app called Wavelength has arisen out of the ashes of the social networking app Telepath, which shut down last year. Now the team has shifted its focus to improving group chat experiences. Instead of having different group chats, it introduces the idea of threaded messaging combined with AI. The threads help to keep group chats less cluttered by making it easier to follow multiple conversations at once.

In addition, users can add OpenAI’s GPT-3.5 into their group chats by mentioning @AI. This makes the app among the first to offer chatting with AI. Snapchat is also now doing this with its My AI feature as is Ghost, which allows groups to chat with ChatGPT.

The startup aims to focus in other areas as well, like privacy, moderation, discovery and more. Notably, John Gruber is an advisor for the currently iOS and Mac-only app.

You can read more about Wavelength here.


A new social video app called Nocam has a radical idea to make social networking more authentic — it’s turning off the camera so you can’t see how you look while filming. The idea is to make capturing a moment feel natural while reducing the friction that comes with seeing a preview of your own image, which can often leave users hesitant to post or scrambling to add edits and filters to touch up their appearance.

Image Credits: Nocam

Nocam believes this concept better reflects the way people interact in real life, where we aren’t faced by a mirror that shows us what we look like, that is. The company describes its app as BeReal meets TikTok. But perhaps it’s more accurate to say BeReal meets TikTok Challenges, as the app focuses on sending users fun or silly prompts they have to act out with the camera, like doing a dance or just showing what they’re up to. Users can also prompt their friends, too.

You can read more about Nocam here.

Proton Pass

A screenshot of the browser extension of Proton Pass

Image Credits: Proton

Proton, the maker of the end-to-end encrypted email service Proton Mail, Proton VPN, Proton Drive and Proton Calendar, this week launched a new password manager called Proton Pass. Everything stored in the app is end-to-end encrypted, and Proton itself never has access to your data. The beta version is live now to Proton users with a lifetime plan and will then roll out to other subscribers and customers in the future.

The app comes about from the company’s acquisition of SimpleLogin, an email alias startup, and is available as a desktop as a browser extension, iOS or Android app.

You can read more about Proton Pass here.


Does anyone wish they still had their old phone?

This Week in Apps: Apple ‘sherlocks’ journaling apps, Twitter’s checkmark apocalypse, Snap summit recap by Sarah Perez originally published on TechCrunch

This Week in Apps: Newsrooms leave Twitter, Reels expands, Android 14 arrives

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.

The app economy in 2023 hit a few snags, as consumer spending last year dropped for the first time by 2% to $167 billion, according to’s “State of Mobile” report. However, downloads are continuing to grow, up 11% year-over-year in 2022 to reach 255 billion. Consumers are also spending more time in mobile apps than ever before. On Android devices alone, hours spent in 2022 grew 9%, reaching 4.1 trillion.

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:

Finally, finally, newsrooms leave Twitter

Image of Elon Musk with a Twitter bird on his finger

Image Credits: Bryce Durbin / TechCrunch

This week was one of the more interesting ones for Twitter since Elon Musk’s takeover, as multiple newsrooms finally had enough of Elon Musk’s antics. After Musk labeled NPR and others as “state-affiliated media” — a label previously reserved for state propaganda accounts, like the Kremlin-backed Russia Today and China’s XinhuaNPR and PBS have stopped tweeting.

After backlash to NPR’s new label, Twitter shifted to a newly made-up designation, “government-funded media.”

In addition to NPR, the news organizations PBS and the BBC received the new labels as well. The BBC objected, too, and Twitter changed its label to “publicly funded” instead. (PBS and NPR remain labeled as “government-funded” as of the time of writing.)

Musk’s capricious decision to lump independent news organizations alongside state-supported propaganda accounts is both misleading and dangerous. NPR, for instance, receives “less than 1 percent of its $300 million annual budget from the federally funded Corporation for Public Broadcasting.” PBS receives more of its funding from the public and philanthropic organizations than it does from the small amount it gets from government subsidies.

More importantly — unlike in state regimes where government officials heavily influence the spread of information to the people — NPR and PBS are editorially independent.

Whether you like the nature of their reporting is, of course, a subjective matter. But an objective analysis puts the two in the middle of the Ad Fontes media bias chart.

Musk, however, wanted to sully their brands by suggesting the U.S. government has influence over their reporting. That’s what labeling them “state media” or “government-funded” does, and he certainly knows it.

The Twitter owner delights in dragging down the media, having already done so on numerous occasions. He has tweeted conspiracies and called The NYT’s news “fake.” He banned reporters who commented on his own ban of a bot that tracked his private jet. He has shown so little regard for the media that he set Twitter’s press email to respond to inquiries with a poop emoji.

What he gets from these sorts of antics is unclear, because it’s not good for the business he runs.

The erratic billionaire seems more interested in performing stunts for his fans — followers who cheer on dumb things like this — than ensuring Twitter’s own brand can stay afloat.

But so far, the real-world fallout has been minimal. Not this week. To actually target media like this — by marring their brands on Twitter’s platform — was the last straw for some.

In addition to NPR and PBS, other news organizations have also now abandoned ship, including Boston NPR affiliate WBUR, Hawaii Public Radio and LA-based local news source LAist. You can be sure many others are reconsidering the extent of their investments.

What Musk may not understand is that, despite journalists’ own addictions to the app, Twitter actually sends very little traffic to news sites. And what it does send is declining. Largely, media organizations get inbound views from much bigger platforms, like Facebook, Google Search and Google News.

They can, in fact, live without Twitter. And now they will.

What’s more, if more newsrooms are to follow suit, Twitter’s reputation will be harmed. The app, after all, is not listed in the Social Networking category on the App Store, but in “News.” The network, if anything, is known as the first place news lands, not only from traditional media organizations but from on-the-ground, live tweets by regular people witnessing news events, too.

But if the news leaves Twitter, what will Twitter become?

Death by a thousand cuts: The Twitter alternatives grow

At the same time, Twitter alternatives are siphoning off portions of the user base, including those interested in discussions around news and other topical events.

This week, for instance, Twitter and Substack got into it over Substack’s launch of Notes, its new Twitter-like discussions feature for newsletter authors and their readers. In response, Twitter throttled Substack links, put up warnings and prevented users from liking, replying or retweeting posts with Substack links.

Musk also accused Substack of trying to download a massive portion of its user base to bootstrap Substack Notes.

In an exceedingly awkward interview with The Verge, where Substack CEO Chris Best should have been able to take a victory lap as a viable Twitter threat, he instead fully dropped the ball. The exec dodged questions over content moderation, making it clear to anyone following that Substack would permit all kinds of speech — potentially losing the company new subscribers who would have otherwise considered joining.

For example, when pressed about whether or not racist speech would be allowed on Substack, Best would not respond with an affirmative “no.” Instead, he replied, “We have content policies that are deliberately tuned to allow lots of things that we disagree with, that we strongly disagree with.” When pressed further, he wouldn’t even respond to a question as to whether or not it would allow “overt racism” on the platform. “I’m not going to engage in speculation,” he said.

Wow, just wow.

And yet, Best’s obvious signaling here could appeal to a certain toxic-leaning crowd that still hangs out on Twitter.

It’s clear at least that Elon Musk must view Substack as a threat to Twitter’s business because of its appeal to self-identified free speech enthusiasts who now rally around Musk himself.

Substack isn’t alone in targeting Twitter’s users with a new discussion platform at this time.

Though arguably aiming for a different demographic, the news aggregator app Artifact from Instagram’s founders this week rolled out commenting.

Like Substack Notes, the feature could appeal to those who want to engage in discussions around the news, though perhaps those of a more civil nature. Artifact promises it will engage in moderation, bans if needed, and it curates its news sources upfront. And with the app’s newly Reddit-like comment upvoting features and user reputation scores, it’s incentivizing people to spend their time building up a name for themselves on its platform, instead of over on Twitter.

Then there are the many, many Twitter alternatives to contend with, including Mastodon (and its app ecosystem), Bluesky, T2, Post and others still to emerge.

While most are being built as Twitter clones, Post’s idea is to create a feed that caters to news publishers by allowing for micropayments that let users read otherwise paywalled articles. The idea is interesting but, like all newcomers, the question is one of scale.

Still, as newsrooms scramble for Twitter’s exit doors, Post’s platform could look more appealing. And if the news orgs come, the people may follow.

Even if these alternatives only pull a few thousand users away from Twitter at first, those numbers could grow over time as each individual network grows. It’s too soon to say if any will pull ahead as the default “new Twitter,”  but they could deliver death by a thousand cuts, so to speak.

Why Twitter won’t die

That begs the question as to if or when Twitter itself will ever actually die. And the answer is that it may not for quite some time.

Myspace still lived long after Facebook took over. (In fact, you can still sign up.)

Google Plus became a barren wasteland long before Google pulled the plug. (It was even hacked and no one cared!)

BlackBerry phones were sold well into the iPhone era. (Kim Kardashian still carried one for years.)

In other words, we won’t just wake up one day to find Twitter has suddenly gone offline. It will slowly become less relevant, barring major changes to get it back on track, and when it dies we may not even notice.

Already, Twitter is morphing into something new. Today’s Twitter is nothing like its predecessor. Across every front, the app is being made over, often for the worse.

Musk revamped Twitter Blue with the goal of democratizing verification, only to create a system where something that was once a feature that made Twitter better, was now a curse. Verification previously served the purpose of confirming people were who they claimed. Now, it’s open to anyone, including bad actors, who want to masquerade as others or cause trouble. What’s more, Twitter says it plans to make the main For You (algorithmic) timeline only available to those who pay — a move that would make Twitter far less useful.

Musk also cut off API access to app developers, then updated its API pricing to make building simple Twitter tools, like helpful bots, out of reach. Apps and bots have since shut down.

He also reinstated controversial accounts, like those of white supremacists, and now generally uses Twitter to create chaos, leading to continual confusion among users as to what the state of the network is on any given day.

Twitter currently keeps itself in the news by being in a constant state of flux. 

Over the past several days, for instance, Twitter announced it would reduce Twitter Blue subscribers’ ad load; saw Twitter Circle bugs that allowed others to see private tweets; got sued by its ex-CEO and other execs over unpaid legal bills; announced a new date (4/20 ofc) to remove legacy checkmarks; rebranded Super Follows to Subscriptions, promising creators it won’t keep any of their money at first; partnered with the investment platform eToro to show real-time information about stocks and crypto prices; and added support for 10,000-character-long tweets.

All this activity masks what’s actually going on: Twitter’s slower, quieter demise.

Musk can claim all he likes that the company is now breaking even. The fact is, it’s been losing money compared to where it was before.

Over the past two months,the top 50 Twitter advertisers spent $83 million, down from $102 million year-over-year, and major brands including Mars, AT&T, VW and Stellantis haven’t returned. Traffic to Twitter’s ad portal was down 18.7% year-over-year, indicating declining interest from marketers. The percentage of Americans who reported using Twitter dropped from 32.4% to 29.5% from pre-Elon to post-Elon, one survey said.

Advertisers aren’t just on pause. They’ve also seemingly lost trust in Twitter, as Quartz reported this week with the damning headline Elon Musk is personally ruining Twitter’s ad business.” The article notes the company is expected to bring in 28% less revenue this year than in 2022, or $2.98 billion down from $4.14 billion.

Despite everything, Twitter has perservered, and will likely take some time before it reaches its inevitable end. Widespread company-wide layoffs and Twitter’s refusal to pay its bills or its rent have helped it stay afloat in the near term.

But the company can’t run on Musk’s hopes and dreams about becoming a super app called “X” forever. Twitter will require funds to stay alive. And if cash isn’t flowing in from advertisers, then perhaps Musk will dig into his own pockets or those of its Saudi investors to keep the tweet engine going for a bit longer.

In other words, don’t hold your breath awaiting Twitter’s coming demise.

But feel free to withhold your attention.

Weekly News



  • iOS 16.4.1 was released with bug fixes related to emoji skin tone variations and Siri — the latter addressing issues that caused Siri to not respond at times; iPadOS 16.4.1 accompanied the release.
  • Apple also released security updates for its older operating systems, including iOS 15.7.5, iPadOS 15.7.5, macOS Monterey 12.6.5 and macOS Big Sur 11.7.6.
  • New beta builds rolled out, too, including iOS 16.5 Beta 2 and iPadOS 16.5 Beta 2, as well as macOS 13.4, watchOS 9.5 and tvOS 16.5.


Image Credits: Brian Heater

  • ⭐ ANDROID 14 ⭐ After two developer previews, Google launched the first of four planned public beta releases of Android 14. The beta is also the first release that anyone can install over the air if they have a supported Pixel device. There are only a couple of user-facing changes in the beta, including a new back arrow that matches your wallpaper or theme. Developers will also be able to add custom actions to the system sharesheet, which will now be smarter about how it ranks sharing targets.
  • Google made a series of announcements at KotlinConf, where it was a gold-level sponsor. A summary of the latest news can be found here, including news that the K2 compiler will be released in Kotlin 2.0, Compose for iOS is in Alpha, the Gradle Kotlin DSL will be the default for new builds, Kotlin Multiplatform will become stable this year, and more.
  • Google says that Play Store apps that allow for account creation will also have to add features that let users “initiate account and data deletion” from their app and online. The change is being rolled out slowly to give developers time to comply.

Image Credits: Google

  • Starting May 31, Google will restrict personal loan apps from accessing sensitive user data like photos, videos, precise location, call logs, external storage and contacts after many app makers’ engaged in predatory behavior by harassing borrowers in India and Kenya. Google also introduced rules to ban unlicensed loan apps from the Google Play Store.
  • Google brings its AirPlay-like Nearby Share feature to Windows so you can transfer files between Android and PCs.
  • Google’s Android is gaining a new auto-archive feature for apps. The company says the feature will reduce unnecessary uninstalls and help users successfully install new apps. “Once a user opts in, auto-archive can help them automatically free up to nearly 60% of an app’s storage space, without removing the app presence or users’ data from the device,” said Google.

App Updates


  • Baidu sued various app developers and Apple over the numerous fake apps pretending to be its Ernie AI bot on the App Store. Launched last month, Ernie — a Chinese version of something like the U.S.-based ChatGPT — does not have an official app. At the time of the announcement, there were at least four fake apps found.
  • Snapchat added new guardrails around its AI chatbot. The app had been criticized for responding in an unsafe and inappropriate manner shortly after its launch in February. Now, the AI bot will include an age filter and insights for parents and guardians about their children’s interactions with the chatbot in its parent controls hub, Family Center.
  • The $4.99 ChatGPT app for Apple Watch, Petey AI, expanded to the iPhone with a recent update. The new app is faster than the watch-based counterpart and supports Dynamic Island and Live Activities. You can also switch out Siri with Petey using Siri Shortcuts.

Image Credits: Petey

  • Poe’s AI chatbot app, made by Quora, now lets users make their own chatbots using prompts combined with an existing bot, like ChatGPT, as the base. Initially, Poe debuted with support for a handful of general knowledge chatbots, including Sage and Dragonfly, powered by OpenAI technology, and Claude, powered by Anthropic. Last month, Poe rolled out subscriptions that allow users to pay to access the more powerful bots based on new language models, including GPT-4 from OpenAI and Claude+ from Anthropic. The new chatbot feature will only work with Claude and ChatGPT as the base bots and works on both web and mobile.
  • User spending on AI apps increased by more than 4,000% year-over-year, according to Apptopia data. Downloads also increased by 1506% year-over-year, reaching nearly 20 million in March. Multiple similarly named apps like Nova AI, Genie AI and Chat with Ask AI have broken into top charts. Chat with Ask AI was on the top 10 free apps list on iOS in multiple countries.

Image Credits: Apptopia

  • The European Parliament is close to finalizing new AI measures that will require chatbot makers to reveal if they use copyrighted material, the FT reported citing sources.
  • Pixelmator Photo rebranded as Photomator and introduced a new AI-powered subject selection feature, as well as others around selective adjustments, brush selections, gradient mask tools and more.
  • Microsoft added three AI features to its SwiftKey keyboard app on iOS and Android: web search results, a tone option where AI writes text, and its AI chatbot. The features were previously available in Bing. The company also announced Bing recently hit 100 million daily users (and 100 million chats).


Instagram Reels

Image Credits: Instagram

  • ⭐  Instagram Reels gained a number of new features in a significant update. ⭐ Among the changes are features that help creators see what’s trending in terms of both audio and hashtags, new tools that make it easier to edit reels in the app, an expansion of gifts to more markets outside the U.S., updates to Reels insights with two new metrics (total watch time and avg. watch time) and a new way to see how your reels are contributing to your growth.

Instagram's new Reels metrics

Image Credits: Instagram

  • Pinterest expanded its Creator Inclusion Fund to 5 more countries: Canada, Germany, Austria, Switzerland and France. The program began in 2021 to help communities that Pinterest said have been “disproportionately underrepresented — including Black, Latiné, LGBTQIA+, Asian, Indigenous people and people with disabilities.” The fund has already supported creators in the U.S., U.K. and Brazil.
  • Reddit posts on its main feeds were revamped to now have a cleaner layout with less unused space and more emphasis on community. The company said the changes will make it “easier for redditors to find the conversations they’re looking for.”
  • Yik Yak users are angry about the changes being made to the anonymous chat app after its acquisition by Sidechat. Its new parent company revamped the Yik Yak app to look and function like the anonymous college chat app, when Yik Yak before was more community-based. The apps appear to now run on the same servers and users are asked for their student ID, which they worry will identify them or allow for targeted ads.
  • Snapchat’s Lenses have arrived in Microsoft Teams. With the launch, Teams users gain access to a collection of 26 popular Lenses during meetings. The Lenses let you do things like turn yourself into a cartoon character or add fun backgrounds to your video calls.
  • Snap also signed new music licensing deals to expand its Sounds library, which offers music that can be used in Snaps and Stories.
  • Instagram added new features to its creator marketplace via new APIs to make it easier for brands to discover and work with creators on the third-party creator marketing platforms they already use. It also expanded access to brand agencies.
  • Artifact, the recently launched personalized news app from Instagram’s founders, launched a social discussions feature. Previously in private testing, the feature introduces a way for users to comment and engage in conversations around news articles they’re reading on the service, which can then be up and downvoted by others, similar to Reddit. Users will also gain a visible reputation score based on their activity.
  • Following last month’s NBC News investigation into Pinterest that exposed how pedophiles had been using the service to curate image boards of young girls, the company on Tuesday announced further safety measures for its platform, including a new set of parental controls and updated age verification policies, among other things. However, the company also said that it would soon re-open some of its previously locked-down features for teens to allow them to once again message and share content with others after approving contacts.


Streaming & Entertainment

  • Spotify shut down its Clubhouse-style live audio app Spotify Live, previously known as Locker Room ahead of its acquisition. Spotify bought the company in its €57 million acquisition of Betty Labs in March 2021.
  • Spotify also said it’s shutting down Heardle, the Wordle-like music guessing game it acquired last year, saying its new focus will be on the discovery features it introduced recently at Stream On, including the new TikTok-like recommendation feeds.
  • Spotify and activity tracking app Strava teamed up on a new in-app integration that lets users easily access their Spotify music, podcasts and audiobooks from the Strava app while tracking activities.
  • Warner Bros. Discovery announced its new streaming service Max that will combine HBO Max and Discovery+ content into a single destination. The company promised a better-performing, more personalized app across platforms, which will include a range of new titles, including more spin-offs from Game of Thrones, Harry Potter, True Detective, Big Bang Theory and others, as well as more DC Comics movies. The HBO Max will automatically update to become Max on most platforms on May 23, but Discovery+ users will be allowed to remain in their same app if they choose.

Image Credits: Warner Bros. Discovery

Image Credits: YouTube

  • The popular music player Winamp is coming to iOS and Android after a big revamp, but it won’t be what users expect. Now owned by a company called Llama Group, the online player doesn’t look like the old Winamp at all. Instead, it will work as a streaming service where users only follow their favorite artists, who they also support in a sort of Patreon-like model of subscriptions. Currently, only some indie European and Vietnamese bands and singers were available. The player is available on the web for now, with mobile apps arriving in Q3.
  • Sling TV came to the Amazon Echo Show 8 and 10, nearly two years after Amazon first announced it would.
  • Spotify finally added an iPhone Lock Screen widget that offers an icon that will provide easy access to the app. The icon of the Spotify logo, when tapped, launches the iOS app before unlocking the phone.

Image Credits: Spotify


  • Nintendo and app developer DeNA officially launched Nintendo Systems, the joint venture first unveiled back in November, which is meant to help reinforce Nintendo’s business and “create value-added services,” the companies said. It’s not yet known what exactly the two companies are currently working on, as no games or software have been announced.
  • Nintendo is pulling Mario away from the mobile gaming market. In a Variety report, Nintendo designer Shigeru Miyamoto said that “mobile apps will not be the primary path of future Mario games.” The company had earlier launched two moderately successful iOS titles and others, Dr. Mario World, that was removed two years after its release. Super Mario Run grossed $60 million in its first year and 2019’s Mario Kart Tour has generated $300 million.
  • Pokémon GO is sidestepping the App Store and Google’s Play Store by selling its PokéCoins via its new Pokémon GO Web Store. The company emailed it users to notify them of the launch where it’s selling the bundles. The U.S., however, was not among the countries supported at launch.
  • Messenger introduced 14 free-to-play games you can play during video calls in the messaging app on the web, iOS or Android. Among the titles were Words With Friends, Card Wars, Exploding Kittens, Mini Gold FRVR and more.

Image Credits: Facebook Gaming


  • Social finance app Hyve opened to the public after earlier raising $2.25 million in a pre-seed round in January 2022 from an investor group that included The Flying Whale VC, MoreVC and the founders of Guardio. The app is targeting Gen Z and young millennials with tools to pay down debt, save and invest with the help of friends and family.
  • Visa announced a new interoperable peer-to-peer (P2P) payment offering, Visa+, that allows people to transfer money to friends even if they use a different payment service. The service will later this year power a new integration that lets Venmo and PayPal users transfer money between their users — both are owned by PayPal, however. Other companies that have committed to Visa+ include Western Union, TabaPay, i2C and DailyPay.


Image Credits: Visa


  • Hackers used spyware created by an under-the-radar Israeli spyware maker QuaDream to create malicious calendar invites in order to hack the iPhones of journalists, political opposition figures and one NGO worker.
  • WhatsApp introduced new device verification and account protection features, including new defenses against SIM jacking and other social engineering attacks. The downside of the changes is that moving WhatsApp to a new phone may become more difficult with added steps.
  • Several security experts found malware on Chinese shopping app Pinduoduo that exploited vulnerabilities in the Android OS. The exploits were said to be used to spy on both users and competitors in an effort to boost sales and were found in off-Play Store versions of the app, as Google Play Protect would have likely identified the malware. The team working on the app was then moved to Temu, now a top U.S. shopping app.


  • You can now order a Domino’s pizza from your car thanks to the app’s new CarPlay support.
  • Amazon removed systemwide hands-free Alexa access on Alexa Built-In smartphones, including a handful of models from OnePlus, as well as models from brands like Motorola, Sony, LG and Moto.
  • Truecaller rolled out an update that will finally provide live caller ID support on iOS, available to people using its paid tiers. However, the system comes with a catch — it only works via a Siri interaction, due to Apple’s limitations on third-party caller ID apps.
  • Opera, the makers of an ad-blocking web browser, rolled out an updated version of its iOS app that now includes its free VPN. Previously available on Mac, Windows, Linux and Android, the iOS release now makes Opera the first browser to offer a free VPN service across all major computing platforms, the company said.
  • ComiXology vets return to startups with DSTLRY, a next-gen comics publisher that will distribute both in print and digitally via an app that will launch further down the road.
  • Google Maps introduced new features to make it easier for users to navigate national parks, including trail maps that show the entire route, not just a pin.

Government & Policy

  • Apple won an appeal against a U.K. antitrust regulator that wanted to open an investigation of the iPhone makers’ mobile browser and cloud gaming service. The Competition Appeals Tribunal (CAT) ruled the regulator was too late in deciding to open the probe. “We are pleased with the Competition Appeal Tribunal’s decision and will continue working to deliver support for developers and a safe and secure experience for users,” said Apple.
  • TikTok was fined £12.7 million (~$15.7 million) for breaching U.K. data protection law, including rules intended to protect children. Per the ICO, TikTok had an estimated 1.4 million underage U.K. users during a two-year period (May 2018 and July 2020), contrary to the terms of service stating users must be 13 or older.
  • Australia is the latest country to ban TikTok on government devices. Other countries with bans include New Zealand, the U.S., the U.K., Canada, Belgium and others in the EU.
  • Germany’s antitrust authority confirmed Apple meets its test for special abuse controls — saying the company has “paramount significance for competition across markets”. The designation stands for five years and allows Apple to face an inquiry into its possible antitrust abuses. Apple plans to appeal.
  • Vietnam’s Ministry of Information and Communications is opening a probe into TikTok over harmful content and false information. The ministry said TikTok’s Vietnam arm had taken down 2.43 million videos uploaded by Vietnamese users in Q1 2023 over violations of community guidelines related to “nudity, sexual acts involving minors or inciting violence” and “for frightening content, harassment, bullying, suicides, and others.” Now the office believes that removal may not be enough and should be subject to tougher rules.
  • South Korea Fair Trade Commission (KFTC) fined Google $32 million for blocking developers from releasing games on a Korean Play Store competitor called One Store. Google allegedly required Korean video game makers to exclusively release their new games in the Play Store from June 2016 to April 2018, in violation of fair competition laws.
  • Arkansas Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders signed a bill that requires that social media companies verify new users’ ages and get a parent’s consent for users under 18. The state is now the second to create its own laws to regulate social media, following Utah, due to the lack of federal oversight.

Funding and M&A

  • Right-wing social media platform Parler was acquired by digital media conglomerate Starboard, which recently changed its name from Olympic Media. The company will temporarily shut down the app ahead of a revamp and relaunch of an updated version. Financial terms weren’t disclosed.
  • U.S.-based savings and investing startup Acorns acquired London-based GoHenry for an undisclosed sum. Acorns was most recently valued at $2 billion; GoHenry was believed to be valued at between $250 million and $500 million in October 2022.
  • Savvy Games Group, a games and esports company that is part of the Saudi government’s Public Investment Fund, is acquiring mobile games studio Scopely for $4.9 billion. Scopley’s top games include Yahtzee With Buddies, Star Trek Fleet Command, Marvel Strike Force, Stumble Guys and Scrabble Go.
  • Emirates Telecommunications acquired a 50.03% stake in the super app Careem from Uber’s Middle East unit for $400 million. Uber will keep Careem’s ride-hailing business as part of this deal.
  • SMB growth app Zeely’s raised a $1 million seed round from Ukrainian VC Vesna.Capital, Angel One Fund (a Ukrainian fund), Imaguru Ventures, and angels Murat Abdrakhmanov (an investor in Udemy), Adrian J. Slywotzky (a partner at Oliver Wyman) and ZAS Ventures. Zeely’s app can generate a web store quickly on a mobile, as well as allow a business to promote itself across social media platforms like TikTok quickly and easily.
  • General Atlantic invested another $100 million in PhonePe, three months after leading a $350 million investment in the Indian fintech startup. At a $12 billion valuation, PhonePe is India’s most valuable fintech and competes with Google Pay and Paytm.

This Week in Apps: Newsrooms leave Twitter, Reels expands, Android 14 arrives by Sarah Perez originally published on TechCrunch

This Week in Apps: WWDC23, ByteDance pushes Lemon8 ahead of TikTok ban, T2 capitalizes on Twitter chaos

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.

The app economy in 2023 hit a few snags, as consumer spending last year dropped for the first time by 2% to $167 billion, according to’s “State of Mobile” report. However, downloads are continuing to grow, up 11% year-over-year in 2022 to reach 255 billion. Consumers are also spending more time in mobile apps than ever before. On Android devices alone, hours spent in 2022 grew 9%, reaching 4.1 trillion.

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

DUB DUB Returns

WWDC 2023 banner

Image Credits: Apple

As expected, Apple announced its plans for this year’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC). The big event will return to Apple Park in Cupertino on June 5-9. However, the event looks like it will still be another scaled-down version, similar to last year, with its keynote and State of the Union again livestreamed.

Apple also noted it will host a special all-day event for developers and students on June 5. And, as in previous years, developers will be able to meet some of the teams at Apple, celebrate top apps at the Apple Design Awards ceremony and enjoy various evening activities. Student developers will also participate in a Swift Student Challenge competition, which could win them WWDC23 outerwear, AirPods Pro, a customized pin set and a one-year membership to the Apple Developer Program. The deadline to apply is April 19.

The company will continue to post WWDC announcements leading up to and during the conference, so keep an eye on your inboxes and the Apple Developer app for updates.

The big question on everyone’s minds is whether or not Apple will present its AR/VR headset during WWDC this year. Various reports have suggested mass production on the device has been pushed back a couple of months to the third quarter of 2023. Plus, a concerning report by The New York Times indicated the device is among the first to generate rare, internal dissent among Apple employees — some of whom don’t believe it’s a fit for the company. Expected to be priced at $3,000, some are worried about its utility and the still unproven market. Still, Bloomberg is betting on a headset reveal and the accompanying xrOS software.

The company will also likely introduce the latest updates to its existing OS lineup, including iOS 17, iPadOS 17, watchOS 10, macOS 14 and tvOS 17. Not much is known about these coming releases except that iOS 17 is codenamed Dawn and will include several of users’ “most-requested” features.

ByteDance pushes another social app, Lemon8, into the App Store’s Top Charts as a TikTok ban looms

Lemon8 screenshot

Image Credits: Lemon8

As U.S. lawmakers moved forward with their plans for a TikTok ban or forced sale, the app’s Chinese parent company, ByteDance, began driving another of its social platforms into the Top Charts of the U.S. App Store. The ByteDance-owned app Lemon8, an Instagram rival that describes itself as a “lifestyle community,” jumped into the U.S. App Store’s Top Charts on Monday, becoming the No. 10 Overall app, across both apps and games. By the next day, it ranked No. 9 on the App Store’s Top Apps chart, excluding games.

This is a dramatic chart climb for the little-known app and one that points to paid user acquisition efforts powering this surge. Prior to Monday, the Lemon8 app had never before ranked in the Top 200 Overall Charts in the U.S., according to app store intelligence provided to TechCrunch by

The firm confirmed that such a quick move from being an unranked app to being No. 9 among the top free apps in the U.S. — ahead of YouTube, WhatsApp, Gmail and Facebook — implies a “significant” and “recent” user acquisition push on the app publisher’s part.

The app was launched globally back in March 2020 but was only more recently launched on the U.S. App Store, seemingly for testing purposes. Over the past few days this week, it was more “officially” launched — that is, it was accompanied by the clearly sizable spend on paid discovery or app install ads. Globally, Lemon8 had 16 million total installs, Apptopia’s data indicates, with Japan as its largest market.

To push the app up the charts, ByteDance simply leveraged its own channels with influencer reviews on TikTok. Across a number of undisclosed ads, many creators began posting about Lemon8, with their new videos appearing in just the 24 hours prior to the app’s skyrocketing. Most of the reviews used similar language, describing the app as “cute” and a mix of “Pinterest and Instagram.” The creators didn’t tell their followers they were being paid to boost Lemon8.

Despite these efforts, Lemon8 may not be a viable backup plan for a TikTok ban, as lawmakers could consider a wide-ranging set of restrictions on Chinese tech, including on mobile applications far beyond TikTok alone.

Twitter alternative T2 capitalizes on Twitter’s plan to kill legacy verification, hires from Discord

As Twitter begins its shift to a “pay to play” business model, a new Twitter alternative is preparing to take flight. T2, the seed-funded Twitter rival developed by Google and Twitter veterans, is ready to capitalize on Twitter’s upheaval with the launch of a verification program specifically targeting those who are poised to lose their checkmark under Elon Musk’s new Twitter policies. T2 also this week announced a notable new hire with the addition of Discord’s former Senior Director of Engineering Michael Greer as its new chief technology officer (CTO).

Greer joined Discord in 2017, initially as director of Engineering, which touched on a number of areas, including revenue, growth, apps, community servers, design systems, messaging and more. He was promoted to senior director of Engineering just last June. Prior to Discord, Greer worked as the CTO at Tapp Media and The Onion for multiyear stints. At T2, Greer will now oversee the development team and guide the company’s technical growth.

Image Credits: T2 screenshot

Also this week, T2 debuted a new verification process with the launch of its “Get the Checkmark” program timed to correspond to Twitter’s removal of legacy verification checkmarks across all users who aren’t paying for the Twitter Blue subscription. Twitter said its own checkmark removals will begin on April 1st and will include removing the verification from organizations and individuals who had previously qualified as “notable” under the company’s prior rules. Ahead of this change, T2 users who are legacy Twitter checkmark holders can claim their T2 checkmark by filling out this form and then following the subsequent email instructions which involve communicating with T2 via Twitter DM or reply.

After April 1 (or whenever legacy checks actually disappear), will switch over to a new verification flow. For now, while the app is small and in closed testing, this will involve chatting directly with a T2 representative. (A process that would make it very hard for bots to be verified!) Later on, T2 plans to scale this verification using in-app identity and selfie checks. These will be designated as “T2 Authenticated” profiles and will have the standard verified check, not the ruffled edge version of the previously Twitter verified crowd.

Too bad T2 still requires an invite to get in — this is clever marketing!



  • Meanwhile, iPadOS 16.4 brings new Pencil hover features. By hovering a Pencil 2 up to 12 millimeters above the new iPad Pro’s screen, you’re able to view line and line width and color previews, along with the ability to choose drawing implements in Markup.
  • Apple reminded developers that starting on April 25, 2023, iOS, iPadOS and watchOS apps submitted to the App Store must be built with Xcode 14.1 or later. Xcode 14, which includes the latest SDKs, is a free download on the Mac App Store.
  • Apple launched Apple Pay Later, a payment option that lets you split the cost of an Apple Pay purchase into four equal payments over six weeks without interest or late fees. However, the feature isn’t yet broadly available, despite its public debut. Instead, Apple said it will invite randomly selected users to access a pre-release version before rolling it out to all eligible users in the coming months.


  • Google won partial relief in its Android antitrust case in India. A tribunal court set aside four out of 10 directives, including the need to allow third-party app stores within Play Store and restrictions around the uninstallation of pre-installed apps by users. However, the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal upheld the $161 million penalty levied on Google by the local watchdog, the Competition Commission of India (CCI).
  • PayPal introduced Android support for Passkeys, a quick new way to sign into PayPal. This password-free login system is backed by Apple, Google, Microsoft, the FIDO alliance and others. Android mobile device users in the U.S. running the Android 9+ OS can create a passkey for their PayPal personal account using the Chrome browser. The feature is rolling out as of March 23 and is becoming more broadly available over time.

App Updates


  • Snap said it’s seeking AI experts for its Safety Advisory Board. The company had clearly put the cart before the horse with its implementation of AI in its new chatbot. While chatting with a Washington Post columnist pretending to be a teen, the bot allegedly advised the columnist about hiding pot and alcohol at a birthday party. In addition, researchers at the Center for Humane Technology found that the bot gave sex advice to a user pretending to be 13 years old. Snap recently said it was working on giving parents more control around teens’ use of the My AI chatbot — another thing it should have done before, you know, launching the thing.
  • Microsoft already slipped ads into Bing. The company said it was exploring putting ads in the responses given by Bing Chat, its new search agent powered by OpenAI’s GPT-4 which is available on the desktop web and Bing mobile app.


mastodon mascot peeking out of the flipboard logo holding an android phone

Image Credits: Flipboard

  • Magazine app Flipboard is integrating Mastodon in its Android application, as the company broadens its commitment to the federated social web. The feature allows users to browse a feed of short updates from the people they follow, reply to, like and boost posts, as well as click on hashtags to follow discussions, among other things. As on iPhone, where the functionality launched first, Android users can find the new feature by navigating over the accounts section and then logging in with their Mastodon credentials for the instance they’re on. And if the user doesn’t yet have a Mastodon account, they can request access to join Flipboard’s own server from here.
  • Twitter unveiled new API pricing, weeks after initially announcing its plan to shut down its free API. Now, there will be three new tiers for developers: a “Free” tier with 1,500 tweets per month, a $100 per month “Basic” tier with expanded access and an “Enterprise” tier that reportedly costs $42,000 per month. Many developers, including Twitter bot makers, are unhappy with the changes as they won’t be able to afford the access needed to run their smaller projects.
  • Twitter will remove the legacy checkmarks on April 1st. Afterward, only Twitter Blue verified accounts will appear on the algorithmic “For You” timeline starting April 15.
  • Twitter also open sourced some of its code on GitHub, including its algorithm for tweet recommendations on the For You feed, but not its ad recommendation algorithm.
  • Meta will allow Facebook and Instagram users to opt out of tracking in Europe, according to The WSJ and confirmed by Meta. Users will be able to opt for a version of the service where they’re only targeted with ads based on broader categories, like age and location. The changes follow multiple multimillion-dollar fines in the EU.
  • Reddit said it removed 473% more subreddits in 2022 and permanently suspended 244% more accounts for violations of its non-consensual intimate imagery policies.
  • Snap’s head of growth and previously longtime product head Jacob Andreou announced he will be leaving the company in May after eight years to join Greylock as a general partner.

Media & Entertainment

  • YouTube expanded its Analytics for Artists tool with the addition of YouTube Shorts-related data to the “Total Reach” metric, which gives artists and their teams an overview of how their music is reaching audiences across YouTube. Before this, the Total Reach metric only included official content uploaded by the artists and long-form videos uploaded by fans. Now it will include Shorts, too.
  • Spotify was spotted testing out new card-style user profiles that offer the ability for users to establish more of a social identity on the platform in addition to providing easy access to Spotify’s unique features — like its personalized recommendations, Blend playlists, co-listening experiences and more.

  • Spotify launched new personalized playlists called Niche Mixes that let you create mixes based on just a few words of description in the Search tab. For instance, you could type in an “activity, vibe or aesthetic,” the company notes, then append the word “mix” to generate the custom playlist. For example, you could make a “feel good morning mix,” “90s running mix” or “driving singalong mix.” The feature is available to all free and premium users in English.
  • While the U.S. government debates TikTok’s future, the video app announced a new product called Branded Effects aimed at businesses. The solution will allow brands to collaborate with TikTok effect creators to design custom effects — like AR experiences and other interactive features — to accompany their online campaigns and marketing efforts.


  • Netflix appears to be working to bring its games to the TV with the iPhone as a controller. New code discovered inside the Netflix app is set to ask the user: “A game on your TV needs a controller to play. Do you want to use this phone as a game controller?” Netflix declined to comment on its plans.
  • Pokémon GO fans are upset over changes to the pricing of Remote Raid Passes. The game’s maker Niantic said the cost of these items will nearly double to 195 coins for one pass or 525 coins for three passes. Previously, one pass was 100 coins (about $1) and three passes were 250 coins (about $2.50). Plus, players will only be able to participate in five raids per day. The pricing changes suggest the company is facing economic headwinds. Niantic has not been successful in translating its AR platform to other titles to create another hit as big as Pokémon GO.
  • In Epic Games’ antitrust case against Google, lawyers for the plaintiffs submitted a number of exhibits to demonstrate Google employees’ tendency to switch off chat history on internal discussions. Epic believes this behavior is meant to destroy sensitive communications related to its Fortnite lawsuit. Shortly after the new filing, a federal judge ruled that Google’s failure to preserve messages requires sanctions. The judge is requiring Google to pay attorney fees and is debating what other non-monetary sanctions will be needed.


  • Block said on Thursday it had verified 44 million of its over 51 million monthly active users through its identity program as of December 31. The statement was made following an investigative report from short seller Hindenburg Research, which claimed 40-75% of Cash App accounts they reviewed were fake, committing fraud or were additional accounts belonging to a single individual.


  • Google Fi subscribers can finally use 5G on the iPhone. The support requires the new iOS 16.4 update on an iPhone 12 or newer, then the phone has to be switched over to 5G Auto in cellular settings.
  • Google Search, including its mobile search app, will now include extreme heat alerts that will tell users when a heat wave is expected to start along with tips to help users stay cool.
  • Lyft’s co-founders, CEO Logan Green and president John Zimmer, are stepping down. Green on April 17 and Zimmer on June 30. Ex-Amazon exec David Risher will be the new CEO.
  • OverDrive, a longtime digital reading companion used by library patrons, will be shutting down for good. After announcing its plans to sunset the app and removing it from app stores last year, the company now says that OverDrive will fully shut down on May 1, 2023. Readers will be directed to use the newer digital app Libby instead.

Security Concerns

  • Two targeted spyware campaigns involving several zero-day exploits for Android, iOS and mobile versions of the Chrome browser were detailed by researchers from Google’s Threat Analysis Group. Hackers were able to install a tool that allowed them to track the location of devices in Italy, Malaysia and Kazakhstan.
  • A Washington Post report warns that many of the most popular VPN services and apps have misled users about their practices while also disguising their origins, ownership and locations. It noted also that many of these apps are based in China or controlled by Chinese nationals.

Funding and M&A

  • New York City-based LeapXpert, which monitors employee communications with customers and co-workers across chat apps like iMessage, WhatsApp, Telegram, Signal and WeChat, raised $22 million in Series A funding led by Rockefeller Asset Management.
  • Indian fintech PhonePe will no longer be acquiring BNPL service ZestMoney, in a deal that was set to be between $200-300 million. The M&A was called off over due diligence concerns.
  • YC and Foundation Capital-backed meditation app Simple Habit was acquired by wellness marketplace company Ingenio for an undisclosed sum. Simple Habit will rebrand itself to Sleep Reset as a result of the deal.
  • Autio, a location-based audio entertainment app co-founded by actor Kevin Costner (previously known as HearHere), raised a $5.9 million seed extension led by iHeartMedia.
  • Cabify — the Madrid-based platform that competes against Uber in Spain and Latin America — announced $110 million in funding. However, the exact breakdown of the funding is unclear. The figure includes a €40 million loan from the European Investment Bank announced in December 2022 and the proceeds of a funding round of an unconfirmed amount that Cabify secured in July 2022.


Perplexity AI

Image Credits: Perplexity on the App Store

AI search startup Perplexity AI this week announced $25.6 million in a new funding round led by New Enterprise Associates (NEA). The San Francisco-based company is one of now several hoping to challenge Google by offering users a new way to ask and get answers to their everyday system. Notably, Perplexity’s CEO worked previously as a researcher at DeepMind and the Google Brain project. That connection has brought some half dozen AI researchers at Google and DeepMind as investors, including SVP for Research and AI, Jeff Dean. While Perplexity launched in December, it’s been recently gaining more traction, Bloomberg reported, with February’s 13 million visits more than double that of January’s.

However, the company’s mobile app only launched this past week (March 28), offering a way for iPhone users to get instant answers on any topic with up-to-date (and cited!) sources. You can also ask the chatbot follow-up questions and engage with the app using either typing or your voice. Plus, you can keep your thread history to pick up where you left off. Noted one App Store review, “this really is too good to be true,” noting that the app was free to use despite all the functionality — making it a possible threat to OpenAI.

Apple Music Classical

The new Apple Music Classical app, shown on 3 smartphone screens, offers Apple Music subscribers access to over 5 million classical music tracks.

Image Credits: Apple

Apple’s new app for classical music, Apple Music Classical, is now available as a free download for Apple Music subscribers. At launch, the service will be available globally, except in select markets, including China, Japan, South Korea, Russia, Taiwan and Turkey. However, Apple says it will arrive in these countries at some point in the future.

The company said that there are more than 5 million tracks available on the app right now, as well over 50+ million data points with data attributes of 20,000+ composers, 115,000+ unique works and 350,000+ movements. This data helps Apple Music subscribers find recordings across the catalog through the app’s specialized search engine built for classical music.

As Apple explains, classical works have multiple movements and tracks, while famous pieces have hundreds of recordings with different orchestras, conductors and soloists. In addition, many composers have their own special catalog classifications, which means classical music search has to be built differently with these complexities in mind. Because of these challenges, it’s been difficult to find classical works on traditional music streaming apps.

In the new app, users can search for works using keyword combinations that include composer, work, opus number, conductor, artist, instrument or even the work’s name. Plus, when you look up a work on the app, you’ll find all its associated recordings as well as a hand-picked “Editor’s Choice” performance. Apple Music Classical’s editors created over 700 playlists to guide listeners through 800 years of music and plans to add more over time.

Arc’s mobile browser companion app

Image Credits: Arc

A buzzy new desktop web browser Arc has been rethinking how browsers should work. However, with the launch of its mobile app this week, Arc opted not to create another browser to compete with Safari. Instead, its app serves mainly as a mobile companion to Arc, offering users access to their Spaces and tabs from Arc for Mac while on the go, as well as the ability to save links from other apps to read later, and a way to view your saved Easels (a scrapbooking feature) and Notes. Arc is interesting because it’s trying to reimagine a basic part of everyday computing with an eye on the future — and it has a lot of fans. However, its focus is scattered, trying to solve many problems at once at the same time it’s inventing new tools to use, like its web scrapbooks which feels more like a standalone product idea that’s been mashed into a browser. The real test for Arc will be when it exits its private beta testing and opens to the wider public.

This Week in Apps: WWDC23, ByteDance pushes Lemon8 ahead of TikTok ban, T2 capitalizes on Twitter chaos by Sarah Perez originally published on TechCrunch

This Week in Apps: TikTok goes to Congress, apps connect to ChatGPT, Microsoft’s mobile games store plan

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.

The app economy in 2023 hit a few snags, as consumer spending last year dropped for the first time by 2% to $167 billion, according to’s “State of Mobile” report. However, downloads are continuing to grow, up 11% year-over-year in 2022 to reach 255 billion. Consumers are also spending more time in mobile apps than ever before. On Android devices alone, hours spent in 2022 grew 9%, reaching 4.1 trillion.

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 tries to avoid a ban in U.S. congressional hearing

TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew testifying

Image Credits: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Thursday’s testimony by TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew before the U.S. House Committee on Energy & Commerce was largely unproductive. Representatives were often more interested in sharing their own opinions, posturing and shouting over the CEO’s answers to their questions, rather than attempting to learn any real intel about how TikTok works or what it does to protect its youngest users from harm.

Overall, it seemed the hearing was more for show than any sort of fact-finding mission — these reps already had their minds made up, for the most part, about whether or not the app should be banned.

During the hearing, however, a few legitimate questions were raised that had troubling responses. On the matter of Project Texas — TikTok’s plan to move all U.S. user data off of its own servers over to Oracle servers in the U.S. — it wasn’t clear how that would fully separate TikTok from its Chinese parent company ByteDance. As one line of questioning pointed out, TikTok employees use an internal software program known as Lark — a sort of Chinese Slack — to communicate with their ByteDance colleagues. TikTok’s CEO reports to ByteDance’s CEO, Liang Rubo. Chew also admitted that even under Project Texas there were exceptions that would allow data to leave the country for “interoperability purposes” and he would have to “get back to your team” on the specifics there. And when directly questioned about what sort of other software or IT services would still connect TikTok to ByteDance under Project Texas, Chew again said he would have to “get back to you” with his answers.

TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew Testifies At U.S. House Hearing

Image Credits: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

In addition, the exec couldn’t confirm where TikTok sells its data. Chew said he didn’t “believe” they sold to data brokers, but said he would have to “get back” to Congress on who they may actually sell to.

While Chew may be correct that today’s TikTok isn’t doing more data collection than U.S. social giants, it’s being held to different standards. As a Chinese company with its hands on this data, there’s the potential for the CCP to meddle in TikTok’s operations, the politicians believe. Though that may not have happened yet, there is a threat posed by China’s 2017 National Intelligence Law, which compels businesses to assist in intelligence-gathering operations, if asked. TikTok claims it wouldn’t comply, but how could it not, if ByteDance is its parent?

The House reps also asked a range of questions about minor safety. Ironically, it was TikTok that led the way in this area by being the first of the big social apps in the U.S. to roll out in-app parental controls and lock down teen accounts. Still, dangerous challenges have proliferated on its platform (though Meta was later revealed to have had a hand in which ones made the news!). And like other algorithmic-based platforms, there’s always a danger that its recommendations could surface harmful content at times.

However, some of the dangers of social media aren’t unique to TikTok alone. Social media usage overall is contributing to increased anxiety, depression, body dissatisfaction, disordered eating and other troubles, including suicide ideation, which is why it needs regulation or at least some basic guidelines. But today’s politicians don’t seem to be able to do the hard work of actually getting laws passed in this area, despite their bipartisan interest in doing so. They’d rather put on a show in Congress to make themselves look good to their potential voters so they can win their next election.

OpenAI launches ChatGPT plugins, and some of your favorite apps are already on board

OpenAI this week launched plugins for ChatGPT, which allow the bot to access third-party databases and other sources of knowledge, including those on the web. The company said it would start with a small set of users before rolling out access to the still now alpha stage product more broadly. OpenAI is also hosting its own plugins, including a web browser and code interpreter and is now extending plugin access to developers on its waitlist.

A number of companies consumers know and love have already built plugins for ChatGPT, including Expedia, FiscalNote, Instacart, Kayak, Klarna, Milo, OpenTable, Shopify, Slack, Speak, Wolfram and Zapier. For example, OpenTable’s plugin can search across restaurants for available bookings, while the Instacart plugin can place orders from local stores.

To get started, users pick a plugin to enable when they start a conversation on In a demo on OpenAI’s website, it shows a user asking in plain language for “one great restaurant suggestion on Saturday” and ” a simple recipe for Sunday” involving vegan food. The OpenTable plugin finds a local restaurant with a reservation, then follows detailed requests for returning the recipe info and ordering ingredients on Instacart. (If only this technology was available in Siri!) It’s easy to imagine a future where you could one day interact with these services through AI commands, not by tapping around on apps’ screens. And being able to talk naturally to the AI could make services easier to use for everyone, not just the technically inclined.

Microsoft plans a mobile games store

Microsoft is betting that incoming tech regulations will allow it a way to compete in the mobile gaming market alongside Apple and Google (and likely Epic Games, if things go its way). In an interview with the Financial Times this week, Microsoft gaming head Phil Spencer noted that the EU’s Digital Market Act (DMA) is expected to go into effect next March, which would allow companies to load their own app stores on Apple and Android devices. And Microsoft wants to do just that.

“We want to be in a position to offer Xbox and content from both us and our third-party partners across any screen where somebody would want to play,” Spencer told the FT.

Microsoft had already hinted at its plans to launch an Xbox-branded mobile game store that would leverage content from Activision Blizzard — assuming that deal gains regulatory approval. The game maker’s IP could help Microsoft seed a new game store thanks to its titles like Call of Duty Mobile and those from the Candy Crush franchise. Microsoft has also acquired a number of gaming studios over the past several years, including Ninja Theory, Playground Games and Bethesda owner Zenimax Media.

If things progress as planned, the mobile apps and games market could have an entirely different shape in the years ahead. Netflix is also seemingly betting on this change, prepping its own vast library of games that come with a Netflix membership. For the time being, the games are just a perk of membership, but if one day Netflix could launch its own games store and fill it with titles, it seems it may choose to expand to paid games as well.



  • Google says it prevented over $2 billion in fraudulent and abusive transactions via Play Commerce last year, in an update likely designed to convince developers to not switch to third-party billing.
  • Google took down hundreds of loan apps from the Play Store in Kenya following the launch of a new policy, which requires digital lenders in the East African country to submit proof of a license to operate. The new policy went into effect in January.
  • Samsung said its devices will get up to four generations of One UI and Android OS upgrades. The company had previously promised 3 upgrades. The expanded commitment will be offered on select Galaxy S series, Z series smartphones, A Series and tablets.
  • Three large Android manufacturers in China — Xiaomi, Oppo and Vivo — announced a partnership to make it easier to switch devices. The companies will offer a migration tool that will help consumers in China move their files and other phone data between the companies’ various smartphone models.
  • Google flagged several apps made by Chinese e-commerce giant Pinduoduo as malware, alerted users who had the apps installed and suspended the company’s official app for security concerns while it investigates. Google Play Protect, the Android security mechanism, was also set to block users from installing the malicious apps.


  • Apple issues the Release Candidate versions of iOS 16.4, iPadOS 16.4, watchOS 9.4, tvOS 16.4 and macOS Ventura 13.3.
  • Apple’s iOS 16.4 includes new features like voice isolation for calls, which “prioritizes your voice and blocks out ambient noise around you,” says Apple’s release notes. It also sees the return of Apple Books’ curling animation and brings duplicate detection to iCloud Shared Photo Libraries.
  • Code in the iOS 16.4 beta also leaked what seem to be references to new AirPods and Beats earphones.
  • Apple fixed a bug that was allowing some Apple Music users to see other people’s playlists in their libraries.

App Updates


  • Adobe embraces generative AI. The company this week launched its new Firefly family of generative AI models and generative AI tools aimed at marketers, with its enterprise offering, Adobe Sensei Generative AI Services. Firefly offers a model designed to generate images and text effects from descriptions. The model will soon be able to create content across Adobe apps, including Express, Photoshop, Illustrator and Adobe Experience Manager after being given a text prompt. For now, it’s web-only while in beta.

Adobe Firefly

Image Credits: Adobe  

  • According to a new analysis of the AI app ecosystem from analytics provider, consumers this year have now spent more than $14 million in the 10 highest-earning apps that advertise their use of ChatGPT or OpenAI technologies. In February 2023, these 10 apps combined accounted for nearly $5.9 million in global consumer spending, the firm says. And within the first 20 days of March, the apps were averaging $232,000 in daily consumer spending, up 11% from the average of $210,000 in February.

Image Credits:


  • Snap unveiled a new business, AR Enterprise Services, which offers the company’s AR Lenses and Filters to brands. The SaaS business includes Snap tech like AR try-on, a 3D product viewer, Snap’s SDK for AR experiences, and more. Snap will work with clients to help customize their solutions, which can also be integrated directly into the business’ own apps and websites. The company says 250+ million people out of its 375 million daily active users now engage with AR on Snapchat.

Instagram's new Reminder Ads

Image Credits: Instagram

  • Ahead of its congressional hearing, TikTok rolled out updates to its community guidelines. The company said it overhauled the guidelines to make them easier to understand, and added new policies on AI and climate misinformation. Plus, it added more detail about its existing policies regarding civil and election integrity, age restrictions and expanded a section covering deepfakes.
  • TikTok also announced it had 150 million MAUs in the U.S., up from 100 million in August 2021. The company has over 1 billion MAUs globally.


  • Epic Games announced new animation tools that make it possible to create realistic facial animations using video captured from an iPhone, the Verge reported from GDC. The tools are an expansion of the company’s MetaHuman creator tools first introduced in 2021.
  • Epic also launched its Unreal Editor for Fortnite (UEFN) on the Epic Games Store as a public beta. The software includes many of the same tools Epic uses to create Fortnite, it said.
  • Plus, Epic announced it will now share 40% of Fortnite revenue with anyone who designs “islands” in the game, which includes the money the company earns from its in-game currency V-Bucks.
  • Roblox rolled out new AI tools, including Code Assistant, which allows game creators to use text prompts to create code, and Material Generators for creating 2D surfaces in games.
  • Netflix announced plans to release 40 more games this year and add Monument Valley to its lineup in 2024. Among the new titles are Ubisoft’s Mighty Quest: Rogue Palace, an unnamed Super Evil Megacorp game, and others. Monument Valley’s addition is interesting as that means the game will still be a paid download for non-Nextflix members and available through subscription on Apple Arcade and Google Play Pass.


Productivity / Learning

  • Microsoft debuted Loop, a Notion competitor that offers a hub for managing tasks and projects that also syncs across Microsoft 365 apps and workspaces on the web. The debut version is available to users with a Microsoft Account or Azure Active Directory account, but will “soon” arrive on iOS and Android.
  • Duolingo, a language learning app with over 500 million users, is working on a music app, TechCrunch learned. A job description seemingly confirms this plan, as it describes a candidate who is an “expert in music education who combines both theoretical knowledge of relevant learning science research and hands-on teaching experience.”


  • WhatsApp announced a new Windows client that brings performance improvements and better calling features. The app will allow for video calls with up to eight people and audio calls with up to 32 people, similar to its mobile counterpart. The company also said it will increase the number of people allowed in group calls going forward.
  • WhatsApp also updated its Communities product with new controls for group admins that give them the ability to decide who is able to join a group. It will also now make it easier to see which groups you have in common with someone.

WhatsApp groups features

Image Credits: WhatsApp



  • Spotify’s still relatively new audiobooks service expanded to Canada, bringing the experience to both English and French-speaking customers. The service now has 350,000 titles available and is live in the U.S. and other English-speaking markets.
  • Twitch said it’s laying off 400 employees as part of parent company Amazon’s larger plan to lay off 9,000 workers across divisions, including AWS and advertising.

Government, Policy and Lawsuits

  • Utah’s Gov. Spencer Cox signed two bills that regulate social media apps, making it the first U.S. state to impose restrictions on the industry. The lack of federal regulation will likely see more states take the same path, which could become a massive headache for compliance, as each state’s rules may differ. Utah’s new regulations say that social media companies will have to age-verify all users, receive parents’ permission before minors can open social media accounts, restrict minors’ usage of social media from 10:30 pm to 6:30 am unless a parent changes the settings, limit personal data collection from minors and allow parents to access a minor’s accounts, including all their posts and private messages. Fines can be imposed for non-compliance. We guess Utah teens will be returning to texting pretty soon!
  • The subscription economy may be headed for a crackdown. The FTC this week proposed a “click to cancel” rule that would require sellers offering subscriptions to make it as easy for consumers to cancel their enrollment as it was to sign up. Watch out, Match and every meal delivery service ever invented!

Funding and M&A

Image Credits: Flash

  • Newly launched Indian startup Flash offers a mobile app where consumers can create an email to be used on all shopping sites, allowing them to earn coupons and cash back instead of bogging down their inbox. The company raised $5.8 million in seed funding from a number of investors, including Global Founders Capital (GFC), White Venture Capital and Zinal Growth, and others.
  • OP3N, a startup described as the “Web3 version of WhatsApp meets Amazon,” and makers of blockchain chat app Superapp, raised $28 million in Series A funding, valuing the company at $100 million. The round was led by Animoca Brands and included Dragonfly Capital, SuperScrypt, Creative Artists Agency and NEA’s Connect Ventures, Republic Crypto, Avalanche’s Blizzard Fund, Galaxy Digital and Warner Music Interactive.
  • Snap quietly acquired Amsterdam-based 3D-scanning studio Th3rd in the second quarter of last year. The startup’s tech and team are helping with Snap’s AR efforts.



Image Credits: Zigazoo

Hoping to capitalize on the TikTok drama this week, startup Zigazoo announced the launch of a TikTok-like app for Gen Z users. The company previously offered a similar video app for Gen Alpha kids, but is now expanding to older teens. Its new Gen Z-focused app is a video thread-style platform, but unlike TikTok, it doesn’t allow users to comment. Instead, users can only respond to each other with other videos, which the company believes may reduce trolling. The startup hopes to create a more positive environment where users can share videos featuring dance, music, fashion, gaming, memes and more. You can read TechCrunch’s full review here.


Hipstamatic is back. Amid user complaints over the current state of Instagram, Hipstamatic returned to the App Store today with a relaunch of its social network for iPhone photography enthusiasts. Its refreshed app, which will today replace Hipstamatic X on the App Store, will offer a chronological feed, photo filtering tools, no ads and no TikTok-like feeds or videos. Users will earn stamps instead of likes, and will browse “stacks” of photos, instead of endless feeds.

During its decade-plus existence, the company had rolled out variations on its original concept, like its quirky Hipstamatic X for analog photography lovers, while also maintaining Hipstamatic Classicone of the first apps to receive Apple’s “App of the Year” award.

With its revamped app, the company will try to bring some of its earlier pizazz to a generation that’s chasing retro tech, opting for things like flip phones and wired headphones at times for the “aesthetic.” The app will monetize via a $4.99 per month subscription (or $29.99/year), which unlocks its premium filters, editing features and other perks like claiming your preferred username.


Image Credits: Woolly

The slow but steady Twitter exodus has brought a new abundance of third-party Mastodon apps like IvoryMammoth and Ice Cubes that connect users to the increasingly popular open source and decentralized social network. Today, we can add one more app to that list with the launch of Woolly, another solidly built iOS Mastodon client focused on offering a more customizable home screen, threaded views for reading longer conversations and a TweetDeck-inspired layout for the iPad.

The main differentiator between this app and others is its approach to home screen customization. With Woolly, users can pin things like multiple remote timelines, lists, bookmarks, search, hashtags or even other user profiles directly to the app’s main tab bar, enabling quick and easy access to your favorite content. Plus, on iPad, you can access a landscape view with columns, similar to TweetDeck. Read TechCrunch’s full review here.

This Week in Apps: TikTok goes to Congress, apps connect to ChatGPT, Microsoft’s mobile games store plan by Sarah Perez originally published on TechCrunch

This Week in Apps: AI-powered productivity apps, US weighs TikTok ban, SVB crash boosts crypto apps

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.

The app economy in 2023 hit a few snags as consumer spending last year dropped for the first time by 2% to $167 billion, according to’s “State of Mobile” report. However, downloads are continuing to grow, up 11% year over year in 2022 to reach 255 billion. Consumers are also spending more time in mobile apps than ever before. On Android devices alone, hours spent in 2022 grew 9%, reaching 4.1 trillion.

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

Our Everyday Apps Get AI

While the announcement wasn’t necessarily targeted toward mobile, the sweeping AI-fueled changes that are coming to the biggest productivity apps from Microsoft and Google will have a wider impact on the productivity app industry. That is, they’re now raising the stakes for what a productivity app should be able to do. It will no longer be enough to simply offer an elegant, refined, and efficient note-taking tool, docs editor, spreadsheet, slideshow maker, and so on — the apps will also need to have baked-in AI smarts.

This week, in case you missed it, both Microsoft and Google announced the new generation of their productivity software products. Microsoft, which calls its digital helper a “Copilot,” is bringing AI to everyday tools like Word, Excel, Outlook, PowerPoint, Teams, and more. It’s integrating a new Business Chat feature that understands what a knowledge worker has in their inbox, calendar, chats, and across their files, and can be prompted to do things like create a status report on a project that’s then shared to the team. It’s even leveraging AI to help workers build their own line-of-business apps using natural language prompts.

Elsewhere, Microsoft-owned LinkedIn expanded its generative AI assistant to recruitment ads and writing profiles. The company’s AI-powered writing suggestions are built on advanced GPT models, including GPT-4 (profiles) and GPT-3.5 (job descriptions).

Google, meanwhile, said it would bring AI tools to Workspace, its productivity suite that includes Gmail, Docs, Sheets, Meet, Slides, and Chat. Though the company hasn’t fully shared its vision for Chat — saying only that it will “enable workflows for getting things done” — it’s likely aiming to keep up with Microsoft’s plans. In addition, Google is leveraging generative AI to create auto-generated images, audio, and video in Slides, which is an interesting angle on modern productivity — and, potentially, a threat to the one-off tools built to address each individual generative AI use case.

These enhancements to users’ everyday apps, from emails to docs to spreadsheets and more, will help to bring AI to mainstream users in a way that a ChatGPT-powered Bing alone cannot. The new tech is now just baked in, under the hood, offering additional functionality to the end user. It may eventually even reduce the working hours required to complete various tasks, as productivity users lean more on AI to write and edit for them, create presentations, take meeting notes, manage inboxes, and more.

But to what end? Will workers now be expected to fill their newly freed hours with ever more work or will technology finally fulfill its original promise of allowing us to lead more comfortable lives? Do we still need to work 40 hours a week when AI can work for us?

TikTok’s fate up in the air in U.S.

Will they or won’t they…ban TikTok? That’s the question sure to be on the minds of ByteDance execs as they weigh their decision to either spin off the U.S. operations of the TikTok app or risk being fully banned in the U.S. The anti-TikTok sentiment in Congress has rare bipartisan support at a time when the two sides can’t seem to agree on anything, which makes the potential for a ban look more likely. It’s not helping ByteDance’s case that the FBI and DOJ are investigating ByteDance’s use of TikTok to spy on journalists, either.

Other Western markets are also taking steps to limit TikTok’s threat, not just the U.S. This week, New Zealand banned TikTok from government devices days after the U.K. did the same. The moves follow lawmakers’ banning of the app in Canada and Belgium and in the E.U.

TikTok, for the time being, is hoping to assure lawmakers of its safety, even offering an audit by U.S. tech giant Oracle.

But while a full ban may put an end to lawmakers’ immediate concerns about the potential for CCP surveillance of U.S. citizens or the potential to manipulate the populace with pro-China propaganda, the real concern here is lawmakers’ inability to pass regulations over U.S. user data privacy for all our apps, not just those from China.

Expect next week’s Congressional hearing with TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew to be an interesting one to watch!

SVB meltdown hits app makers, boosts crypto apps

Silicon Valley Bank’s failure was the biggest story of this week, as numerous tech companies, large and small, and their investors had funds tied up in the bank, which is now under regulator control and whose parent company is officially filing for bankruptcy. Among the public companies with exposure to SVB were big names like Roku, Roblox, Quotient, Vimeo, Rocket Lab, SoFi, Life360, Sezzle, Unity, AppLovin, Wish, and many others.

While there were several factors that played into the eventual bank run, from bad bets to bad decisions, the ability to stoke fear and panic on Twitter played a notable role, with some investors tweeting in ALL CAPS that people should be ABSOLUTELY TERRIFIED RIGHT NOW.

U.S. lawmakers have since taken notice of how bad actors on Twitter factored into the bank’s collapse, even going so far as to blame VCs and others for using social media apps and online chats to coordinate their SVB withdrawals, effectively ensuring the bank’s failure.

“I’ve been supportive of the venture capital community — I was a venture capitalist before — but I think there were some bad actors in the VC community who literally started to spur this run by virtually crying fire in a crowded theater in terms of rushing all these deposits out,” said Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) in a report by The Hill. 

“No matter how strong capital and liquidity supervision are, if a bank has an overwhelming run that’s spurred by social media or whatever so that it’s seeing deposits flee at that pace, the bank can be put in danger of failing,” Treasury secretary Janet Yellen also said.

Whether the bank’s failure — and the subsequent failures of crypto-friendly banks Signature and Silvergate — will lead to new, retightened regulations remains to be seen, but one category of apps did benefit from the chaos.

Despite the seeming contagion to crypto banks, Apptopia reported the top crypto apps’ downloads rose over 15% following SVB’s collapse. At the same time, the top 10 traditional banks and top 10 “digital first” bank app downloads fell by about 5% and 3%, respectively. This begs the question of whether the people shouting FIRE! last weekend were also those who were heavily invested in crypto and therefore would have benefited from negative public sentiment toward traditional banking.

Though the fed is making SVB’s depositors whole, the crisis also exposed the reach of SVB’s tendrils beyond the Valley and the potential for a banking collapse to disproportionately impact some groups over others. The effects were felt as wide as the African startup ecosystem and highlighted the inequities in the broader tech industry. On one side, you have startups whose founders could self-fund their companies while waiting on a resolution, and on the other, there were serious concerns over missing payroll and business stoppage.

Many suspect we’ll see continuing fallout from SVB in terms of raising venture debt, something SVB was known for. Whether it opens up the floor to new entrants or drives up the cost of venture debt is being debated, but we’re sure to feel the impacts of this failure for months to come.



  • Apple rolled out its fourth developer betas for iOS 16.4, iPadOS 16.4, watchOS 9.4, and tvOS 16.4.
  • Apple launched a new way to shop for iPhones with help from a live specialist. The sales rep cannot see you but you can see them while asking questions about models, features, offers, trade-ins and more.
  • Apple is reportedly moving forward with its AR/VR headset this year.
  • Apple AI experiments? According to a new report from The New York Times, many teams at Apple, including those working Siri, have been testing “language-generating concepts.” A former Apple engineer told the paper Siri’s development had been slow because of clunky code, which made it harder to update. It’s not known if Apple is now building its own LLMs or adopting an existing model.


  • Google said its Google Play Games for PC service, which brings Android games to Windows users, will roll out to Japan and to European markets and will gain new titles and tools for game developers. Over the next couple of months, the service will add several popular games, including Garena Free Fire, Ludo King (a popular board game in India), and MapleStory M. It will also introduce early access to machine translation in the Play Console for translating games into 8 languages.
  • Missed the Google for Games Developer Summit? Google has a recap here.

App News

Social Apps

Snapchat content filtering

Image Credits: Snapchat

  • Snapchat added new parental controls that block “sensitive” and “suggestive” content from viewing by younger teens. The company said it’s introducing content filtering capabilities that will allow parents to restrict teens from being exposed to content that’s not prohibited but shouldn’t be recommended to younger users across Stories (Discover) and Spotlight. The feature still requires parents to access these parental controls in the Family Center, which they may not know exists.
  • Pinterest is partnering with America’s largest publisher Dotdash Meredith on exclusive video content from brands such as Better Homes & Gardens, Southern Living, Brides, Food & Wine, Serious Eats, Allrecipes and Martha Stewart. Pinterest recently announced a similar deal with Condé Nast.
  • Meta is focusing on its “year of efficiency” by cutting another 10,000 jobs.
  • Meta also gave up on NFTs, shutting down the NFT and digital collectible features on Instagram and Facebook.
  • Instagram tests a feature that makes it easier to reshare Reels you sent to friends.
  • Meta launched paid verification on Instagram and Facebook in the U.S. Meta Verified is $11.99 per month on the web or $14.99 per month on mobile. The feature delivers a verified badge, proactive impersonation protection and direct access to customer support.
  • Twitter starts showing how many times a tweet has been bookmarked, initially on iOS. The company promises it won’t display who is bookmarking tweets, though. It’s not clear whether anyone cares how many bookmarks a tweet has, but the goal is likely aimed at making Twitter look more engaging.
  • Twitter’s API packages are getting pricey. The company’s new Enterprise Packages start at $42,000/mo for 50 million tweets.

Entertainment & Streaming

TikTok's new refresh feature

Image Credits: TikTok


  • The FTC finalizes Epic’s $245 million settlement over sketchy Fortnite purchases. “Fortnite’s counterintuitive, inconsistent, and confusing button configuration led players to incur unwanted charges based on the press of a single button,” the FTC wrote. It also criticized Epic for allowing kids to make unauthorized purchases without their parents’ permission.
  • Unreal Editor for Fortnite (UEFN) is set to launch on March 22, according to a tweet from an official Fortnite account.


  • Be My Eyes, an app that allows blind and low-vision people to ask sighted people to describe what their phone sees, is gaining AI capabilities powered by GPT-4. The app’s new “Virtual Volunteer” will be able to answer questions about images users snap and provide instantaneous visual assistance for a wide variety of tasks.
  • Language learning app Duolingo debuted a Max subscription for $30/month or $168/year that offers GPT-4 features for English speakers taking Spanish and French courses. The AI feature is rolling out to iOS first.


Security Concerns

  • Twitter’s dumb decision to make SMS 2FA a paid feature will kick in this weekend. Here’s how to protect yourself.
  • Google warns users to take action to protect against remotely exploitable flaws in popular Android phones. Google’s security research unit sounded the alarm about a set of vulnerabilities found in certain Samsung chips included in dozens of Android models, wearables and vehicles.
  • Firefox launched Total Cookie Protection, which stops cookies from tracking you around the web, to its Firefox Android app.

Funding and M&A

Image Credits: Sidechat & Yik Yak logos, image via TechCrunch

  • Anonymous app Sidechat picks up rival Yik Yak…and users aren’t happy. A quiet acquisition involving two press-shy companies was unveiled by a publisher name change on the App Store and users complained about being forced to move to Sidechat.
  • NYC-based transportation startup Via will acquire London-based Citymapper, a Google Maps alternative for planning journeys in a city using public transportation. Citymapper has around 50 million global users. Financial terms are not being disclosed but are a mix of cash and stock. Sources said the deal is mostly a washout for investors.
  • Walmart invested $200 million in Indian mobile payments giant PhonePe.
  • Meal delivery startup Entrée raised $2.5 million in pre-seed funding led by M25 with participation from investors, including Hustle Fund, Pillar VC and The Community Fund. The app offers fine dining meals delivered to the home with an average order volume of over $60.
  • Bloomberg reports that Abu Dhabi–based G42 has acquired a $100 million+ stake in ByteDance at a ~$220 billion valuation. This valuation is down from the $300 billion valuation ByteDance set during a recent share buyback program.
  • Ho Chi Minh City–based prescription delivery app Medigo raised $2 million in new funding from East Ventures, with participation from Pavilion Capital and Touchstone Partners.

Government, Policy and Lawsuits


Camo 2

A popular webcam app for PC and Mac is returning. Camo was originally launched in 2020 to allow iPhone users to use their phones as a webcam. Now, Camo 2 is out, offering support for any webcam, including regular webcams as well as built-in devices, monitors with built-in cameras, DSLR and mirrorless cameras, inputs from capture cards and HDMI dongles, action cameras and other software virtual cameras.


Image Credits: Mavn

Reports Lauren Forristal: Mavn is “a new female-founded startup that connects content creators with brands and other businesses.” The new app gives users “access to a variety of experiences, from PR packages and paid posts to campaigns, photoshoots, events, dining at fancy restaurants and more.” The app is available for both iOS and Android.

Petey: AI assistant brings ChatGPT to the Apple Watch

Image Credits: Petey


The app was previously called watchGPT, but Apple’s crackdown on GPT apps led the developer to have issues getting the app approved. So the name was changed, and boom, the app went live. As the name implies, Petey offers a ChatGPT-like experience from your Watch, allowing users to ask questions either with or without typing and have the answers read out to you via text-to-speech. The app also includes a complication so you can quickly open the assistant with a tap on your watch face.


ghost app

Image Credits: Ghost

A new startup called Ghost believes that putting in extra guardrails around the anonymous experience will allow users to have fun, without the usual downsides. To test this theory, the company has launched its Ghost messaging app that allows users to share an anonymous message in a group chat with friends in order to flirt, joke, or ask questions without revealing their identity. The app also includes a range of other features, including the ability to ask ChatGPT a question directly within the group chat, among other things.

This Week in Apps: AI-powered productivity apps, US weighs TikTok ban, SVB crash boosts crypto apps by Sarah Perez originally published on TechCrunch

This Week in Apps: TikTok-style feeds come to Spotify and Reddit; Meta’s Fediverse plans

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.

The app economy in 2023 hit a few snags, as consumer spending last year dropped for the first time by 2% to $167 billion, according to’s “State of Mobile” report. However, downloads are continuing to grow, up 11% year-over-year in 2022 to reach 255 billion. Consumers are also spending more time in mobile apps than ever before. On Android devices alone, hours spent in 2022 grew 9%, reaching 4.1 trillion.

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

The TikTok-ification of consumer apps, now including Reddit and Spotify

Image Credits: Spotify

The TikTok model had already infiltrated many consumer apps — Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat, Pinterest and several more (even Netflix and Amazon!). Now you can add a handful of other high-profile apps to the list. Most notably, Spotify and Reddit this week announced their own takes on the TikTok feed with significant changes to their respective app’s designs. SoundCloud also introduced video feeds for music as a test.

For Reddit, the changes come only a year into a broader redesign. Reddit on Tuesday unveiled an updated user interface that now separates text-based content and video into separate feeds in the app, dubbed “Read” and “Watch.” The company said that, by doing so, users could switch between text-browsing — Reddit’s historical draw — to a video experience, depending on their current mood. While Reddit had tested other models for integrating video in the app before this change, this puts access to its video feed more front-and-center in the app experience.

Meanwhile, Spotify this week revealed a mobile app overhaul that introduces video-based “discovery” feeds for music, podcasts and audiobooks in an effort to engage users and reclaim some of the time spent on music discovery that had shifted over to TikTok.

What’s interesting about these latest updates is that they involve two apps that aren’t really known for video having found ways to launch their own video-based feeds as key parts of their new user experiences. While it wasn’t as much of a stretch for apps like Instagram or YouTube to adopt short-form video, Spotify and Reddit seemed less likely candidates, as they focused on other types of content, like text and audio.

But Spotify has also watched as TikTok has eaten into its market, becoming a music discovery platform so powerful that it’s now in control of the top charts. TikTok is minting new hits and artists and can even put decades-old music back into rotation when older songs get attached to a viral trend.

This is not great news for Spotify, which wants to be able to sell artists access to marketing tools to get their music found and streamed — and it wants to differentiate itself among consumers by offering better music discovery features. The company’s Discover Weekly playlist is still one of consumer tech’s best products, but it’s no longer enough to sell the service’s ability to connect fans to new music in a world where TikTok now exists.

That brings us to Spotify’s TikTok-ified revamp, which not only introduces video feeds for content discovery but also capitalizes on the format to connect users with their various interests, drilling down different types of music categories, playlists or compilations designed for specific activities. The app’s new feeds introduce video clips from artists (their short, looping Canvas videos, which already accompanied their streams), podcast video clips, podcast audio clips with a static background and animated real-time transcriptions overlaid on top, as well as clips of audiobook narrations.

The changes are radical — and potentially controversial, too.

We’ve already seen long social media threads where users announce how is the last straw — and one that will push them back to Apple Music, they lament. The general sentiment is that they don’t want a TikTok in their music app.


But Spotify’s feeds aren’t really a TikTok clone. There are no creators pushing content for likes and comments. There aren’t viral dances and challenges and trends. Its goals are increasing streams and helping people find new things to enjoy. (Well that…and helping Spotify make more money).

Arguably, a multimedia feed is a better format for serendipitous discovery than a carousel that points to albums or playlists. It’s why Netflix has trailers (even annoying autoplay ones). Hearing and seeing is simply more engaging than reading text. That can be true and users can hate it.

Image Credits: Spotify screenshot

Another key thing to note is that Spotify is also using the video feed format to not only serve as a discovery engine across formats but a starting place for connecting users to the specific type of music they want to hear now — without requiring users to type into a search box. Under the music sub-feed, the app will point you to short-form video feeds focused on various genres or even activities, like relaxing, studying or working out, for example.

This shift targets the changing consumer behavior of a younger generation (Gen Z, and soon, Alpha), which remains Spotify’s core demographic. As Google noted last year, younger people are using the web differently — and it’s a potential crisis for its own business. Speaking at an event, a Google Search exec explained how young people now often begin certain types of searches directly on Instagram and TikTok, bypassing Google Search.

Spotify, if it failed to adapt to changing trends, could have faced the same fate.

It may have seen users heading directly to TikTok to find new music, rather than its own app — no matter how many clever, personalized playlists it offered. Rather than waiting for this to be an existential threat (and one possibly accompanied by the launch of a dedicated TikTok Music app, as has been reported), it embraced the trend.

Still, it’s a big risk.

Some users weren’t necessarily thrilled with the modernized look of Google Search, now filled with colorful cards and videos instead of just a list of links. And similarly, a number of Spotify users may defect from the now video-first app to go back to more “classic” players, like Apple Music.

There’s a bit of old man yells at cloud to this early backlash, however. Internet technology is always changing as is consumer behavior. Spotify could have refused to experiment in this area, but in a way, it has a responsibility to do so as a prominent consumer app. If the changes don’t deliver the results it wants — if consumers cancel subscriptions, if engagement and discovery decline — it would likely dial things back.

Image Credits: Spotify

But if it succeeds, it would be a boon for its bottom line.

Going forward, Spotify says more artists can pay for its controversial Discovery Mode tool, which adds a signal to Spotify’s personalized algorithms — algorithms that now inform its video feeds. The feature includes paying Spotify a commission on streams. It’s not exactly an ad, but rather a tool to manipulate what feels more like an organic experience to the end user. Plus, artists can use a new feature called Showcase to place a mobile card in the new video feeds to introduce their music to potential fans. Longer-term, Spotify could insert more ads into this experience, too.

At least we’ll have to credit Spotify with this: It decided not to merely dabble with its TikTok-style features, it went all in. This is no mere add-on to its product, it’s the face of it. Unlike Reddit, which made visiting its TikTok-inspired feed a more intentional choice, Spotify’s feeds are everywhere. It’s a real test for Spotify’s brand and, as CEO Daniel Ek said at the event, the “biggest change Spotify has undergone since we introduced mobile 10 years ago.” Now the ball is in consumers’ court as to what comes next.

More from Spotify

The app’s changes were among many new features Spotify introduced at its Stream On live event in LA.

Podcasters were also pitched new tools that would give them the option to add interactive features — like Q&As and polls. These were previously reserved for Anchor creators only, but Anchor is now being merged into the larger Spotify for Podcasters dashboard. Spotify also expanded access to video podcasts, which now could hold more appeal given the new video feeds.

Artists, meanwhile, are being offered access to new tools for running campaigns, and promoting concerts and merchandise, as well as new Countdown Pages that let fans presave albums, watch exclusive videos, preorder merch, preview tracklists and watch a timer count down to a new release.

The Countdown pages can also showcase Spotify’s new Clips — under-30-second vertical videos that are uploaded directly to Spotify for Artists. These will appear on artist profiles and album pages, as well.

The feature can be used to share the story behind a song, announce an upcoming release, feature a collaborator, show off merch or, for new artists, as an introduction — or anything else an artist may want to share. Unlike on social media platforms, the goal with Clips is not to generate Likes, but rather streams of the artist’s music instead.

It’s another way Spotify is shifting its app to video outside of the TikTok-style feeds.

Corporate takeover of the Fediverse?

At the start of the week, some in the Fediverse user base were upset about Medium’s entry into their open source, decentralized space with news that Medium’s new Mastodon server would involve a fee. (It’s actually just another perk of a Medium membership.) But by the end of the week, a much bigger threat to the status quo had emerged as Meta confirmed it was working on a decentralized, text-based app. The app would effectively serve as a Twitter alternative, but also seemingly would threaten the growth of the free and decentralized web where platforms like Meta have less control.

The app, codenamed P92, would let users log in using their Instagram credentials and would support ActivityPub. The latter is concerning Fediverse advocates who fear Meta’s real interest in this space has nothing to do with their values but rather is just another example of the “embrace, extend, extinguish” approach big tech takes when there’s a threat to its power.

In the case of the Fediverse, however, there may be a tool for fighting back. Server operators could refuse to federate with any Meta-run instances, essentially carving out a space for social networking outside of big tech’s reach. Or servers could choose only to federate if Meta agreed to certain conditions, like account portability or not screwing around with ActivityPub’s development.



Image Credits: Google

  • Google’s annual I/O developer conference is returning to the Shoreline Amphitheater in Mountain View on May 10. The in-person event is still more scaled-down than in pre-COVID years and the keynotes will be livestreamed. Various talks will focus on Google’s OS efforts, like Android and Wear OS.
  • The second developer preview of Android 14 has shipped, offering new additions that mostly focus on added security and privacy features, rather than consumer-facing ones. One new addition is the updated photo picker which will now ask users if they want to give an app permission to access every photo or only select ones. Android 14 is also adding a credential manager as a platform API, introducing new optimizations to Android’s memory management system, and offering more personalization options to end users for various settings like temperature units and numbering systems.
  • Google’s Play Console will open release tracks dedicated to Wear OS allowing developers to ship Wear OS updates independently of their core Android release.
  • Google began rolling out the first Beta for the new Privacy Sandbox on Android to a small percentage of Android devices. The effort is focused on developing new technologies to enable personalized ads for mobile devices with more respect for consumer privacy.
  • Android 15 will be code-named Vanilla.


  • Apple’s new App Store pricing capabilities, announced in December, are now available across all app and in-app purchase types including paid apps and one-time in-app purchases, Apple announced. That means developers can now use more flexible price points and globally equalized prices. In addition, the company said on May 9, 2023, pricing for existing apps and one‑time in‑app purchases will be updated across all 175 App Store storefronts to take advantage of new enhanced global pricing.
  • Apple’s Emergency SOS feature which connects users to a satellite messaging service when a cell signal is not available is now live in 12 markets, including the U.S. and Canada, after an EU expansion. Newly supported countries include Austria, Belgium, Italy, Luxembourg, The Netherlands and Portugal.
  • Apple rolled out the third iOS 16.4 public beta, which includes the 31 new emoji, Safari push notifications and minor changes to first-party apps, including Podcasts and Apple Music, among other things. This will also be the last beta to require users to install a certificate — going forward, beta updates will be linked to users’ Apple IDs, instead.
  • Apple released TestFlight 3.3 to its App Store. The company said it includes just stability improvements and bug fixes.
  • A new consumer survey published by The WSJ (via Daring Fireball) noted that Apple is now beating Samsung in Korea in the key demographic of 18- to 29-year-olds.

App Updates


  • Facebook announced it would begin testing the ability for users to access their Messenger inbox within the Facebook app. The company had separated the technologies in 2016 in a push to drive users to the standalone Messenger app.
  • WhatsApp is working on a new anti-spam feature that will allow users to automatically silence incoming calls from unknown numbers.
  • Telegram launched its new Power Saving Mode on iOS alongside other features. The battery saver was first announced on Mac. The feature disables animations and other effects to extend battery life and can be set to automatically turn on when the battery reaches a certain percentage. Now iOS users can also granularly adjust playback speed for videos, podcasts, voice and video messages; can view when messages were read by individual group members; can send invite links as messages; can mark all chats in a folder as read; and more.

Image Credits: Telegram

  • Japanese messaging platform LINE added support for ChatGPT in its app, allowing users to send up to five messages for free per day or upgrade to unlimited messages for around $5/month. The feature was so popular it gained 200,000 users in a day.
  • Discord announced a set of new AI experiences, including an update to its Clyde bot that will integrate OpenAI’s ChatGPT technology. With the release, users will be able to ask Clyde questions, have conversations or ask the bot to perform tasks, like sending you a GIF.
  • Signal and WhatsApp took a stand against the Online Safety Bill in the UK, along with other secure messaging apps, all of which are refusing to undermine the encryption they use to cater to government demands.


  • TikTok is now blocking links to app stores from creators’ bios. The company confirmed that only business accounts would now have this ability, which even extends to include links within link-in-bio services like Linktree. While there’s no charge and no ad product involved, the move seems a push to get businesses to buy ads, rather than partnering with creators on CPI campaigns.
  • Twitter had another outage this week, this time impacting images and links. Maybe they should bring back the fail whale.
  • In addition to Spotify and SoundCloud, Reddit has also now adopted the TikTok-style format for its own app. The company this week launched a redesign of its app, which includes a new Watch feed for videos while another new feed, Read, will focus on text content. The company believes separating the two will allow users to more easily jump into the experience they prefer.
  • In addition, Reddit said it’s closing down its Clubhouse clone, Reddit Talk. The company explained its third-party audio vendor was closing up shop and it didn’t have its own in-house resources ready.
  • Meta said it will stop offering Reels bonuses to creators on Instagram and Facebook after first announcing the incentivized content program in 2021.
  • An NBC News investigation found creeps and pedophiles on Pinterest, pinning images of young girls. The company said it would launch a feature that would allow users to report boards and more optioning for flagging profiles in the near-term and was planning to introduce age-verification measures at a later date.
  • Gowalla, a location-based social networking app first launched in 2009, is coming back. The app is making its return just in time for SXSW (again!) to see if the time is now right for its concept to succeed. The new app has an updated look and hopes to capitalize on the void created by Snap’s shutdown of Zenly.
  • Alongside the new version of its TV OS, which focuses on sports updates and live news, Roku also announced a revamp of its companion mobile app. The company described the new design as more visually immersive and said it would add features that let users access things like account management, privacy and security settings, and devices attached to their Roku account. The app will also now support up to 1,000 photos for photostreams instead of just 100. The new sports experience and “Continue Watching” rows will also be included in the update.

Image Credits: Roku

Entertainment & Streaming

  • Spotify’s not the only app taking inspiration from TikTok. SoundCloud this week also introduced vertical video feeds that highlight song clips in its new TikTok-style “Discover” and “Following” feeds.
  • SoundCloud also gained a new CEO: Eliah Seton, who previously oversaw Creator and Roster divisions, strategy, M&A, content partnerships, biz dev, distribution and artist partnerships. Fred Wilson, founder of Union Square Ventures and member of SoundCloud’s board since 2011, was also been appointed as the new chairman of the board.

SoundCloud feed on two smartphone screens

Image Credits: SoundCloud

  • TikTok gets a paywall. The company introduced a new feature called Series, which allows creators to sell Collections of up to 80 paid videos of up to 20 minutes long. Initially, creators are allowed to keep 100% of the revenue generated.
  • SiriusXM announced layoffs of 475 people, or 8% of its total workforce, citing the “uncertain economic environment.” The company runs the satellite radio service as well as Pandora and Stitcher.
  • Wattpad also announced layoffs of 15% of its staff (42 of 267 people), citing the economic environment.
  • Sonos said it would add support for spatial audio on Apple Music on March 28, making the company the first partner to bring spatial audio into the home.
  • Apple launched its Apple Music Classical app for preorder. (More on that below.)


  • Utah is allowing residents to use the GET Mobile ID app to create a digital identity which can then be used to generate a digital driving license remotely. The mobile driving license (mDL) can be used at TSA checkpoints at Salt Lake City International Airport.
  • Popular widget maker and personalization app Widgetsmith announced it has now topped 100 million downloads since its launch in September 2020.
  • Snoop Dogg is among the co-founders of a new app called Shiller that lets creators promote their NFTs, collect virtual tips and engage with a web3 community.
  • Epic Games is now letting developers self-publish to its Epic Games Store, taking only a 12% commission on game sales and no IAP cut if they use their own payments tool. 
  • Microsoft’s Outlook Mac app is now free, instead of requiring a 365 subscription.

Image Credits: Microsoft

  • Microsoft’s enterprise-focused Azure OpenAI service made ChatGPT available to businesses looking to add the AI model to their own apps. The Azure OpenAI service already offers other OpenAI technology, including GPT-3.5, Codex and DALL-E 2. ChatGPT is priced at $0.002 per 1,000 tokens, or about 750 words, with billing for ChatGPT usage to begin March 13. Snap has already integrated ChatGPT and others, like Instacart and Office Depot, said they will soon.

Government, Policy and Lawsuits

  • A bipartisan group of U.S. senators introduced new legislation, the RESTRICT Act, that would allow the administration to restrict or even ban foreign technology, including TikTok if it considers the tech a national security threat. If passed, it would give the Dept. of Commerce the power to “review, prevent and mitigate” software, hardware and services from foreign adversaries.
  • Meanwhile, TikTok announced Project Clover, a charm offensive focused on EU regulators that will include keeping EU user data on servers in Europe and allowing a cybersecurity audit by a European firm.
  • EU regulators also asked Twitter to hire more moderators and fact-checkers, the FT said. The policymakers were worried about the company’s plan to lean on volunteers and AI for moderation.
  • Irish data protection commissioner Helen Dixon said regulators were concerned about Twitter’s decision to roll out its subscription service, Twitter Blue, without notice or discussions with the DPC — a best practice, though not a legal requirement.

Funding and M&A

  • Gaming startup Believer, founded by ex-Riot execs, raised $55 million from Lightspeed, a16z and others in a Series A round. The company is still being cagey about its plans — including what platforms it will support — but is focused on large, multiplayer “open world” games.
  • Alongside the launch of new password manager Uno, the startup disclosed a $3 million seed round led by a16z, with participation from Lookout founder Kevin Mahaffey and Dug Song from Duo Security. The app will work on Mac, Chrome and iOS and aims to improve on the designs of other password managers with a more user-friendly experience and interface.
  • Korean tech giant Kakao made a $1 billion bid to buy one-third of SM Entertainment.
  • Bach, an app for planning group travel and bachelorette trips, raised $9 million in Series A funding led by Pritzker Group Venture Capital. Available on both iOS and Android, the app lets friends chat about trips, plan an itinerary, split expenses, browse curated experiences and more.


Apple Music Classical (preorder)

Image Credits: Apple

Apple announced on Thursday it will soon launch a new music streaming service focused on classical music. Based on its 2021 acquisition of Amsterdam-based streamer Primephonic, the new Apple Music Classical app will offer Apple Music subscribers access to more than 5 million classical music tracks, including new releases in high-quality audio, as well as hundreds of curated playlists, thousands of exclusive albums and other features like composer bios and deep dives on key works.

Users will be able to search by composer, work, conductor or even catalog number, to locate recordings. These can be streamed in high-quality audio of up to 192 kHz/24-bit Hi-Res Lossless. And thousands of recordings will be available in Apple’s immersive spatial audio, as well.

The service will be included with an Apple Music subscription, including Individual ($10.99/mo), Student ($5.99/mo) and Family ($16.99/mo) plans, and the Apple One bundles. At launch, it will be iOS only (iOS 15.4+) with Android to follow “soon.”

The app is available for preorder on the App Store for a March 28 release.

This Week in Apps: TikTok-style feeds come to Spotify and Reddit; Meta’s Fediverse plans by Sarah Perez originally published on TechCrunch