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

Welcome when to This Week in Apps, the weekly TechCrunch series that recaps the latest in mobile OS news, mobile applications and the overall app economy.

Global app spending reached $65 billion in the first half of 2022, up only slightly from the $64.4 billion during the same period in 2021, as hypergrowth fueled by the pandemic has slowed down. But overall, the app economy is standing to grow, having produced a record number of downloads and consumer spending wideness both the iOS and Google Play stores combined in 2021, equal to the latest year-end reports. Global spending wideness iOS and Google Play last year was $133 billion, and consumers downloaded 143.6 billion apps.

This Week in Apps offers a way to alimony 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.

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Top Stories

TikTok is getting a rating system

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

App Store icon on iPhone screen

Image Credits: TechCrunch

A major shift in the U.S. app economy has just taken place. In the second quarter of this year, U.S. consumer spending in non-game mobile apps surpassed spending in mobile games for the first time in May 2022, and the trend unfurled in June. This crush the total revenue generated by non-game apps higher for the quarter, reaching well-nigh $3.4 billion on the U.S. App Store, compared with $3.3 billion spent on mobile games.

After the shift in May, 50.3% of the spending was coming from non-game apps by June 2022, equal to new findings in a report from app intelligence firm Sensor Tower. By comparison, games had rumored for increasingly than two-thirds of total spending on the U.S. App Store just five years ago.

The trend was limited to the U.S. App Store and was not seen on Google Play, however. In Q2, games rumored for $2.3 billion in consumer spending on Google Play in the U.S., while non-game apps rumored for well-nigh $1 billion. Read increasingly well-nigh the new data here.

Kids and teens now spend increasingly time on TikTok than YouTube

The TikTok logo is seen on an iPhone 11 Pro max

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

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

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

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

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

TikTok is eating into Google Search and Maps, says Google

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

TechCrunch tapped this news pursuit comments made at Fortune’s Brainstorm Tech event this week.

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

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

Weekly News

Platforms: Apple

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

Apple's new visual lookup feature

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

Platforms: Google

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

E-commerce

  • TikTok launched a new educational program targeting small businesses that want to learn how to use its platform to momentum sales. The launch follows TikTok’s visualization to pause the expansion of its Shop initiative. The program walks businesses through setting up an account, creating content and using TikTok ads products, and features coaching and tips from other SMBs.
  • NYC fast wordage apps could squatter a shutdown if new bills proposed by New York’s Municipality Council get approved. The municipality is concerned well-nigh the visionless stores’ workers’ safety.

Augmented Reality

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

Fintech/Crypto

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

Social

Image Credits: TechCrunch

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

Twitter custom timeline

Twitter custom timeline. Image Credits: Twitter/Amir Shevat

  • Facebook started testing a way for users to have up to five separate profiles tied to a single account. The visitor said this would indulge users to take wholesomeness of variegated profiles for interacting with specific groups — like a profile for use with friends and flipside one for coworkers.
  • Activist investor Elliott Management told Pinterest that it has uninventive a 9% stake in the company. The Pinterest stock jumped increasingly than 15% without hours on the news.

Messaging

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

Dating

Image Credits: Match

  • Match Group is expanding its use of self-ruling preliminaries checks wideness increasingly of its dating apps. The feature, powered by Garbo, was first launched on Tinder older this year. It’s now misogynist on other Match Group apps, including Match and Stir.
  • Google has responded to Match Group’s antitrust lawsuit in a new magistrate filing, which refers to Match’s original complaint as a “cynical attempt” to take wholesomeness of Google Play’s distribution platform and other tools while attempting to sidestep Google’s fees. The two tech giants have been rival it out in magistrate after Match sued Google this May over its so-called monopoly power in Android app payments. The companies have a temporary truce that sees Match setting whispered its commissions in escrow while they rely the court’s decision. If Google prevails, it wants to kick Match out of its app store altogether. 

Streaming & Entertainment

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

Gaming

Reading & News

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

Government & Policy

  • TikTok this week paused a privacy policy change in Europe without a regulator inquiry over how the platform planned to stop asking users for consent to receive targeted ads.
  • Confirming older reports, Kakao said it’s removing the external payment link from its KakaoTalk messaging app on the Play Store to come into compliance with Google’s terms, without stuff obstructed from issuing updates. The move brought increasingly sustentation to the policy and saw the regulator get involved in talks, which was likely the point of Kakao’s protest in the first place.
  • After an FTC commissioner urged the U.S. to ban TikTok, rival Triller reported a surge in users. Triller had pivoted to focus increasingly on entertainment and events as TikTok established itself as the top short form video platform in the U.S.

Funding and M&A

???? Match Group acquired the members-only dating app The League, which focuses on matching would-be and career-focused professionals. The app has previously faced accusations it’s elitist, particularly considering it screens and vets members without an using process instead of stuff unshut to all. Deal terms weren’t revealed.

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

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

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

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

???? Israeli visitor ironSource is merging with the game minutiae platform Unity Software, without the latter saw its share price fall over 70% in 2022 and have a market cap of under $12 billion. IronSource went public a year ago at an $11.1 billion valuation and is valued at $4.4 billion at the time of the merger. Silver Lake and Sequoia will invest $1 billion in Unity without the merger.

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

???? Indian fintech OneCard raised over $100 million in a Series D round of financing that values the merchantry at over $1.4 billion. The visitor offers a metal credit vellum controlled by an app that moreover offers contactless payments. The startup has over 250,000 customers.

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

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

Downloads

Linktree launches a native app

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