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


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Welcome again to This Week in Apps, the weekly TechCrunch collection that recaps the most recent in cell OS information, cell purposes and the general app economic system.

The app economic system in 2023 hit just a few snags as client spending final 12 months dropped for the primary time by 2% to $167 billion, in accordance with knowledge.ai’s “State of Cell” report. Nevertheless, downloads are persevering with to develop, up 11% 12 months over 12 months in 2022 to succeed in 255 billion. Shoppers are additionally spending extra time in cell apps than ever earlier than. On Android gadgets alone, hours spent in 2022 grew 9%, reaching 4.1 trillion.

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

Would you like This Week in Apps in your inbox each Saturday? Enroll right here. 

Prime Tales

Our On a regular basis Apps Get AI

Whereas the announcement wasn’t essentially focused towards cell, the sweeping AI-fueled adjustments which are coming to the largest productiveness apps from Microsoft and Google can have a wider affect on the productiveness app business. That’s, they’re now elevating the stakes for what a productiveness app ought to have the ability to do. It is going to now not be sufficient to easily provide a sublime, refined, and environment friendly note-taking instrument, docs editor, spreadsheet, slideshow maker, and so forth — the apps can even must have baked-in AI smarts.

This week, in case you missed it, each Microsoft and Google introduced the brand new era of their productiveness software program merchandise. Microsoft, which calls its digital helper a “Copilot,” is bringing AI to on a regular basis instruments like Phrase, Excel, Outlook, PowerPoint, Groups, and extra. It’s integrating a brand new Enterprise Chat function that understands what a data employee has of their inbox, calendar, chats, and throughout their information, and might be prompted to do issues like create a standing report on a venture that’s then shared to the staff. It’s even leveraging AI to assist employees construct their very own line-of-business apps utilizing pure language prompts.

Elsewhere, Microsoft-owned LinkedIn expanded its generative AI assistant to recruitment adverts and writing profiles. The corporate’s AI-powered writing solutions are constructed on superior GPT fashions, together with GPT-4 (profiles) and GPT-3.5 (job descriptions).

Google, in the meantime, mentioned it could deliver AI instruments to Workspace, its productiveness suite that features Gmail, Docs, Sheets, Meet, Slides, and Chat. Although the corporate hasn’t totally shared its imaginative and prescient for Chat — saying solely that it’s going to “allow workflows for getting issues accomplished” — it’s possible aiming to maintain up with Microsoft’s plans. As well as, Google is leveraging generative AI to create auto-generated photographs, audio, and video in Slides, which is an fascinating angle on fashionable productiveness — and, doubtlessly, a menace to the one-off instruments constructed to deal with every particular person generative AI use case.

These enhancements to customers’ on a regular basis apps, from emails to docs to spreadsheets and extra, will assist to deliver AI to mainstream customers in a manner {that a} ChatGPT-powered Bing alone can’t. The brand new tech is now simply baked in, below the hood, providing further performance to the top consumer. It might ultimately even scale back the working hours required to finish varied duties, as productiveness customers lean extra on AI to jot down and edit for them, create shows, take assembly notes, handle inboxes, and extra.

However to what finish? Will employees now be anticipated to fill their newly freed hours with ever extra work or will expertise lastly fulfill its authentic promise of permitting us to steer extra comfy lives? Can we nonetheless must work 40 hours per week when AI can work for us?

TikTok’s destiny up within the air in U.S.

Will they or gained’t they…ban TikTok? That’s the query certain to be on the minds of ByteDance execs as they weigh their resolution to both spin off the U.S. operations of the TikTok app or danger being totally banned within the U.S. The anti-TikTok sentiment in Congress has uncommon bipartisan assist at a time when the 2 sides can’t appear to agree on something, which makes the potential for a ban look extra possible. It’s not serving to ByteDance’s case that the FBI and DOJ are investigating ByteDance’s use of TikTok to spy on journalists, both.

Different Western markets are additionally taking steps to restrict TikTok’s menace, not simply the U.S. This week, New Zealand banned TikTok from authorities gadgets days after the U.Okay. did the identical. The strikes comply with lawmakers’ banning of the app in Canada and Belgium and within the E.U.

TikTok, in the intervening time, is hoping to guarantee lawmakers of its security, even providing an audit by U.S. tech large Oracle.

However whereas a full ban could put an finish to lawmakers’ fast issues in regards to the potential for CCP surveillance of U.S. residents or the potential to govern the populace with pro-China propaganda, the actual concern right here is lawmakers’ incapability to cross rules over U.S. consumer knowledge privateness for all our apps, not simply these from China.

Anticipate subsequent week’s Congressional listening to with TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew to be an fascinating one to observe!

SVB meltdown hits app makers, boosts crypto apps

Silicon Valley Financial institution’s failure was the largest story of this week, as quite a few tech firms, massive and small, and their buyers had funds tied up within the financial institution, which is now below regulator management and whose mum or dad firm is formally submitting for chapter. Among the many public firms with publicity to SVB have been massive names like Roku, Roblox, Quotient, Vimeo, Rocket Lab, SoFi, Life360, Sezzle, Unity, AppLovin, Want, and plenty of others.

Whereas there have been a number of components that performed into the eventual financial institution run, from unhealthy bets to unhealthy choices, the capability to stoke worry and panic on Twitter performed a notable function, with some buyers tweeting in ALL CAPS that folks ought to be ABSOLUTELY TERRIFIED RIGHT NOW.

U.S. lawmakers have since taken discover of how unhealthy actors on Twitter factored into the financial institution’s collapse, even going as far as accountable VCs and others for utilizing social media apps and on-line chats to coordinate their SVB withdrawals, successfully guaranteeing the financial institution’s failure.

“I’ve been supportive of the enterprise capital neighborhood — I used to be a enterprise capitalist earlier than — however I believe there have been some unhealthy actors within the VC neighborhood who actually began to spur this run by nearly crying fireplace in a crowded theater by way of speeding all these deposits out,” mentioned Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) in a report by The Hill. 

“Regardless of how sturdy capital and liquidity supervision are, if a financial institution has an amazing run that’s spurred by social media or no matter in order that it’s seeing deposits flee at that tempo, the financial institution might be put in peril of failing,” Treasury secretary Janet Yellen additionally mentioned.

Whether or not the financial institution’s failure — and the following failures of crypto-friendly banks Signature and Silvergate — will result in new, retightened rules stays to be seen, however one class of apps did profit from the chaos.

Regardless of the seeming contagion to crypto banks, Apptopia reported the highest crypto apps’ downloads rose over 15% following SVB’s collapse. On the similar time, the highest 10 conventional banks and high 10 “digital first” financial institution app downloads fell by about 5% and three%, respectively. This begs the query of whether or not the individuals shouting FIRE! final weekend have been additionally those that have been closely invested in crypto and subsequently would have benefited from detrimental public sentiment towards conventional banking.

Although the fed is making SVB’s depositors entire, the disaster additionally uncovered the attain of SVB’s tendrils past the Valley and the potential for a banking collapse to disproportionately affect some teams over others. The consequences have been felt as broad because the African startup ecosystem and highlighted the inequities within the broader tech business. On one facet, you’ve gotten startups whose founders might self-fund their firms whereas ready on a decision, and on the opposite, there have been critical issues over lacking payroll and enterprise stoppage.

Many suspect we’ll see persevering with fallout from SVB by way of elevating enterprise debt, one thing SVB was identified for. Whether or not it opens up the ground to new entrants or drives up the price of enterprise debt is being debated, however we’re certain to really feel the impacts of this failure for months to come back.



  • Apple rolled out its fourth developer betas for iOS 16.4, iPadOS 16.4, watchOS 9.4, and tvOS 16.4.
  • Apple launched a brand new manner to buy iPhones with assist from a reside specialist. The gross sales rep can’t see you however you may see them whereas asking questions on fashions, options, gives, trade-ins and extra.
  • Apple is reportedly transferring ahead with its AR/VR headset this 12 months.
  • Apple AI experiments? In keeping with a brand new report from The New York Instances, many groups at Apple, together with these working Siri, have been testing “language-generating ideas.” A former Apple engineer advised the paper Siri’s improvement had been gradual due to clunky code, which made it more durable to replace. It’s not identified if Apple is now constructing its personal LLMs or adopting an current mannequin.


  • Google mentioned its Google Play Video games for PC service, which brings Android video games to Home windows customers, will roll out to Japan and to European markets and can acquire new titles and instruments for sport builders. Over the following couple of months, the service will add a number of in style video games, together with Garena Free Fireplace, Ludo King (a well-liked board sport in India), and MapleStory M. It is going to additionally introduce early entry to machine translation within the Play Console for translating video games into 8 languages.
  • Missed the Google for Video games Developer Summit? Google has a recap right here.

App Information

Social Apps

Picture Credit: Snapchat

  • Snapchat added new parental controls that block “delicate” and “suggestive” content material from viewing by youthful teenagers. The corporate mentioned it’s introducing content material filtering capabilities that can permit dad and mom to limit teenagers from being uncovered to content material that’s not prohibited however shouldn’t be really helpful to youthful customers throughout Tales (Uncover) and Highlight. The function nonetheless requires dad and mom to entry these parental controls within the Household Heart, which they could not know exists.
  • Pinterest is partnering with America’s largest writer Dotdash Meredith on unique video content material from manufacturers corresponding to Higher Properties & Gardens, Southern Dwelling, Brides, Meals & Wine, Severe Eats, Allrecipes and Martha Stewart. Pinterest just lately introduced an analogous take care of Condé Nast.
  • Meta is specializing in its “12 months of effectivity” by slicing one other 10,000 jobs.
  • Meta additionally gave up on NFTs, shutting down the NFT and digital collectible options on Instagram and Fb.
  • Instagram checks a function that makes it simpler to reshare Reels you despatched to buddies.
  • Meta launched paid verification on Instagram and Fb within the U.S. Meta Verified is $11.99 per 30 days on the net or $14.99 per 30 days on cell. The function delivers a verified badge, proactive impersonation safety and direct entry to buyer assist.
  • Twitter begins displaying what number of occasions a tweet has been bookmarked, initially on iOS. The corporate guarantees it gained’t show who’s bookmarking tweets, although. It’s not clear whether or not anybody cares what number of bookmarks a tweet has, however the objective is probably going geared toward making Twitter look extra partaking.
  • Twitter’s API packages are getting expensive. The corporate’s new Enterprise Packages begin at $42,000/mo for 50 million tweets.

Leisure & Streaming

TikTok's new refresh feature

Picture Credit: TikTok

  • YouTube mentioned Trump can come again. (Which suggests he in all probability purchased adverts.)
  • TikTok entered a multiyear partnership with Main League Soccer. Followers will have the ability to search “MLS” on TikTok and get entry to a brand new “MLS Hub,” that includes new content material from MLS golf equipment and gamers.
  • TikTok additionally added a brand new “Refresh” button that lets customers reset their feed suggestions with contemporary content material when their FYP will get stale (SEE ABOVE). When the Refresh button is tapped, TikTok will floor content material as in the event you had simply signed up for the app.
  • And TikTok is including a brand new STEM content material feed alongside its FYP and Following feeds to U.S. customers.
  • Twitch CEO Emmett Shear is stepping down. One of many authentic founders of Justin.television, Shear has labored at Twitch for 16 years and is able to transfer on. Twitch president Dan Clancy will take the CEO function efficient instantly.
  • U.S. workers at Epic Video games–owned Bandcamp, a web based audio distributor, introduced their formation of a union.
  • YouTube TV is mountaineering costs to $72.99 per 30 days as a consequence of rising content material prices. Making up for the rise a bit, the service additionally introduced it’s starting to roll out multiview, which permits U.S. customers to observe as much as 4 streams concurrently, initially for sports activities content material.
  • SiriusXM is planning to reboot itself as an app extra targeted on streaming. The corporate isn’t dropping satellite tv for pc radio simply but, however transferring towards a future the place the supply technique gained’t be as related.
  • Sling TV launched new options for sports activities followers, together with picture-in-picture mode and an iOS widget. The options embody a brand new “Facet View” that lets net customers watch video games in a small display screen overlay on high of no matter it’s they’re doing. There’s additionally a brand new customized widget for iOS gadgets and an up to date reside “Sports activities Scores” function.
  • Spotify mentioned HiFi will nonetheless come out “in some unspecified time in the future.” We’ll consider it after we see it.
  • FilmRise launched FilmRise For Her, which streams rom-coms, films with lead actresses, true crime, and extra.
  • Kakao Leisure will shut down the Korean department of Tapas Leisure, its U.S.-headquartered storytelling platform, subsequent month.
  • TuneIn, the radio service that permits customers to livestream information, sports activities, music and podcasts, rolled out an interactive map function, TuneIn Explorer, to iOS and Android gadgets. The app now offers customers the flexibility to hearken to stations all over the world.


  • The FTC finalizes Epic’s $245 million settlement over sketchy Fortnite purchases. “Fortnite’s counterintuitive, inconsistent, and complicated button configuration led gamers to incur undesirable expenses primarily based on the press of a single button,” the FTC wrote. It additionally criticized Epic for permitting youngsters to make unauthorized purchases with out their dad and mom’ permission.
  • Unreal Editor for Fortnite (UEFN) is about to launch on March 22, in accordance with a tweet from an official Fortnite account.


  • Be My Eyes, an app that permits blind and low-vision individuals to ask sighted individuals to explain what their cellphone sees, is gaining AI capabilities powered by GPT-4. The app’s new “Digital Volunteer” will have the ability to reply questions on photographs customers snap and supply instantaneous visible help for all kinds of duties.
  • Language studying app Duolingo debuted a Max subscription for $30/month or $168/12 months that gives GPT-4 options for English audio system taking Spanish and French programs. The AI function is rolling out to iOS first.

And many others.

Safety Issues

  • Twitter’s dumb resolution to make SMS 2FA a paid function will kick on this weekend. Right here’s shield your self.
  • Google warns customers to take motion to guard towards remotely exploitable flaws in in style Android telephones. Google’s safety analysis unit sounded the alarm a couple of set of vulnerabilities present in sure Samsung chips included in dozens of Android fashions, wearables and autos.
  • Firefox launched Whole Cookie Safety, which stops cookies from monitoring you across the net, to its Firefox Android app.

Funding and M&A

Picture Credit: Sidechat & Yik Yak logos, picture by way of TechCrunch

  • Nameless app Sidechat picks up rival Yik Yak…and customers aren’t completely happy. A quiet acquisition involving two press-shy firms was unveiled by a writer identify change on the App Retailer and customers complained about being compelled to maneuver to Sidechat.
  • NYC-based transportation startup By way of will purchase London-based Citymapper, a Google Maps various for planning journeys in a metropolis utilizing public transportation. Citymapper has round 50 million world customers. Monetary phrases should not being disclosed however are a mixture of money and inventory. Sources mentioned the deal is generally a washout for buyers.
  • Walmart invested $200 million in Indian cell funds large PhonePe.
  • Meal supply startup Entrée raised $2.5 million in pre-seed funding led by M25 with participation from buyers, together with Hustle Fund, Pillar VC and The Neighborhood Fund. The app gives high-quality eating meals delivered to the house with a median order quantity of over $60.
  • Bloomberg reviews that Abu Dhabi–primarily 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 throughout a current share buyback program.
  • Ho Chi Minh Metropolis–primarily based prescription supply app Medigo raised $2 million in new funding from East Ventures, with participation from Pavilion Capital and Touchstone Companions.

Authorities, Coverage and Lawsuits


Camo 2

A preferred webcam app for PC and Mac is returning. Camo was initially launched in 2020 to permit iPhone customers to make use of their telephones as a webcam. Now, Camo 2 is out, providing assist for any webcam, together with common webcams in addition to built-in gadgets, screens with built-in cameras, DSLR and mirrorless cameras, inputs from seize playing cards and HDMI dongles, motion cameras and different software program digital cameras.


Picture Credit: Mavn

Experiences Lauren Forristal: Mavn is “a brand new female-founded startup that connects content material creators with manufacturers and different companies.” The brand new app offers customers “entry to a wide range of experiences, from PR packages and paid posts to campaigns, photoshoots, occasions, eating at fancy eating places and extra.” The app is on the market for each iOS and Android.

Petey: AI assistant brings ChatGPT to the Apple Watch

Picture Credit: Petey


The app was beforehand referred to as watchGPT, however Apple’s crackdown on GPT apps led the developer to have points getting the app accepted. So the identify was modified, and increase, the app went reside. Because the identify implies, Petey gives a ChatGPT-like expertise out of your Watch, permitting customers to ask questions both with or with out typing and have the solutions learn out to you by way of text-to-speech. The app additionally features a complication so you may rapidly open the assistant with a faucet in your watch face.


ghost app

Picture Credit: Ghost

A brand new startup referred to as Ghost believes that placing in further guardrails across the nameless expertise will permit customers to have enjoyable, with out the same old downsides. To check this idea, the corporate has launched its Ghost messaging app that permits customers to share an nameless message in a bunch chat with buddies so as to flirt, joke, or ask questions with out revealing their id. The app additionally features a vary of different options, together with the flexibility to ask ChatGPT a query immediately inside the group chat, amongst different issues.

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