AI apps, Bing hits the Prime Charts, Google and Mozilla take a look at non-WebKit browsers • TechCrunch

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

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

This Week in Apps presents a technique 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 rather more.

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AI’s impression on apps

Picture Credit: Bloomberg (opens in a new window) / Getty Photos

Extra AI apps are on the best way. It was an enormous week for AI information as each Microsoft and Google took the stage at competing occasions to intro their AI developments to the general public. Microsoft fared a little bit higher with its information that OpenAI’s ChatGPT-like tech was coming to Bing, pushing its companion mobile app up into the App Store’s top ranks. In the meantime, Google flubbed a bit with its rival AI, Bard, which, in a broadcast demonstration of the know-how, shared an incorrect answer to a query in regards to the James Webb House Telescope (it was NOT the primary to take an image of an exoplanet, NASA says).

Whereas each AI fashions will often and confidently get issues fallacious at instances, Google’s failure to fact-check the solutions it was displaying off appeared to point the corporate was dashing out the tech in response to Microsoft’s transfer into its territory…which it was.

Google ought to have been far forward on this AI race, having invested in and developed AI know-how for years with assist from a few of the prime consultants within the subject. But it’s been caught off guard — and never solely by OpenAI.

Earlier than this present AI race, Amazon’s Alexa grew to become the family identify for AI-powered voice assistants. Google, however, got burned when it confirmed off a few of its extra spectacular shopper purposes of AI. It faced backlash over its consideration of AI ethics when it confirmed off Duplex’s skill to name eating places to ebook reservations whereas pretending to sound human. Google additionally typically builds neat AI instruments — like an AI that can generate music from text descriptions — however gained’t launch them.

The corporate has appeared to be sluggish to maneuver on AI — seemingly hesitant to upset its search and promoting money cow that depends on advertisements offered atop an inventory of hyperlinks. Microsoft doesn’t care about that, although, noting that every 1% of search ad share gain it makes is a $2 billion revenue opp.

That’s why what we’ve gotten from Google round AI has been a kind of regular stream of smaller AI-powered characteristic drops over time, not some large and costly overhaul of search that might have killed its margins.

As a substitute, we get issues like multisearch, which expands net search to incorporate textual content and pictures mixed. Google this week announced it was going global and the close by possibility, multisearch close to me, was additionally rolling out extra broadly.

The corporate additionally rolled out different AI-powered enhancements to issues like translation and Google Maps. For instance, Google at this week’s occasion spoke about its new “immersive view” maps providing extra true-to-life scenes, that are created by leveraging an AI method referred to as neural radiance fields (NeRF). However these maps are solely out there in a handful of cities. And as cool as they’re, they really feel extra like an iteration on Road View somewhat than a serious AI leap.

In the meantime, Google used its occasion to indicate off a variety of different options that weren’t AI search demos or ChatGPT rivals. It launched Maps’ AR-powered Reside View, which Google said is hitting a few more cities. (This requires customers to carry up their telephones and scan the world — not likely a delicate gesture should you’re making an attempt to cover the truth that you’re a vacationer and even probably misplaced!) And it talked about new EV Maps.

Microsoft, however, used its press occasion to completely give attention to AI as the following evolution of search. It demoed its ChatGPT-like AI in Bing which can also be built-in with its Edge web browser. And it talked intimately about the next-gen OpenAI large language model it’s using, calling it “extra highly effective than ChatGPT,” which definitely excited shoppers.

The corporate additionally cleverly launched a waitlist for the AI-powered Bing that required individuals to set Microsoft defaults on their PC and obtain the Bing app. Because of this, the Bing app is now ranked within the prime 10 on the U.S. App Retailer and is the No. 2 Productiveness app behind Gmail. To place this in perspective, the Bing app forward of the AI information had been ranked No. 160 on the U.S. App Retailer’s Productiveness apps chart — in different phrases, virtually invisible.

Google, in the meantime, misplaced $100 billion in market value as Alphabet’s inventory fell after the advert with the AI’s mistake aired forward of the corporate’s occasion.

Whereas the large race in AI apps continues to be between Google and Microsoft (by way of OpenAI), AI will quickly discover its method into plenty of cell apps by way of integrations. Already, we’ve seen the fake ChatGPT apps arrive and belatedly get the boot from the app shops. In the present day, a seek for the time period “ChatGPT” nonetheless returns quite a few apps that suggest they’re related to OpenAI or just presume customers gained’t care, so long as they provide a ChatGPT-like expertise. And we’ve seen the AI image generators go viral. Quora this week additionally introduced an AI playground referred to as Poe, which encompasses a handful of AI chatbots from OpenAI and Anthropic. (See “Downloads” part under.)

Shoppers are clearly hungry to see AI put to make use of in apps. The developments additionally enliven what’s change into a stale App Retailer through the years, as Apple blocked different new tech, like NFTs, blockchain transactions and Web3 applied sciences from being totally purposeful on its App Retailer, forcing startups to build their own.

An finish to Apple’s ban on non-WebKit browsers?

Picture Credit: Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto by way of Getty Photos

Some browser makers imagine they’ll be capable to launch their very own, non-WebKit-powered browser apps sooner or later, due to anticipated laws that may drive Apple to open up its App Retailer to extra competitors.

This week, a number of tales emerged that prime browser makers like Mozilla and Google have been engaged on the event of non-WebKit browser apps for iOS. Google Chromium builders, for example, have begun building an iOS browser that makes use of Google’s Blink engine — an app that right now wouldn’t be allowed on the App Retailer, as Apple’s pointers particularly state that browser apps “should use the suitable WebKit framework and WebKit Javascript.”

Google, nevertheless, downplayed the information, claiming it was solely a prototype meant to assist it find out about iOS efficiency.

In an announcement, a spokesperson informed us, “That is an experimental prototype that we’re creating as a part of an open-source undertaking with the objective to grasp sure facets of efficiency on iOS. It is not going to be out there to customers and we’ll proceed to abide by Apple’s insurance policies.”

Google isn’t the one one dabbling on this space. When reached for remark, Mozilla was much more clear about its plans when it was spotted working on a Gecko-based version of Firefox for iOS, clearly indicating that its work is in anticipation of a extra aggressive panorama.

“We abide by Apple’s iOS app retailer insurance policies, and are merely performing some exploratory work to grasp the technical challenges for Gecko-based browsers on iOS if these insurance policies had been to vary,” a Mozilla spokesperson informed us. “We hope the day will come when individuals can freely resolve to make use of the browser of their alternative, together with the chance to pick the engine that underpins it.”

After all, even when Apple had been to divulge heart’s contents to non-WebKit browsers, it may theoretically impose different limits on competing apps to dictate how they’re allowed to make use of system assets. That might be one more reason for the businesses to experiment now in order that they’ll be prepared to fulfill any such requirement if and when the App Retailer opens up.

Youngsters’ TikTok utilization once more tops YouTube

TikTok logo displayed on a smartphone

Picture Credit: Jonathan Raa/NurPhoto / Getty Photos

TikTok as soon as once more discovered itself because the social app youngsters and teenagers are spending probably the most time utilizing all through the day, even outpacing YouTube. In accordance with an ongoing annual review of kids’ and teens’ app usage and habits globally, the youthful demographic — minors ranging in ages from 4 by way of 18 — started to look at extra TikTok than YouTube on a median each day foundation beginning in June 2020, and TikTok’s numbers have continued to develop ever since.

In June 2020, TikTok overtook YouTube for the primary time, with youngsters watching a median of 82 minutes per day on TikTok versus a median of 75 minutes per day on YouTube, in response to new knowledge from parental management software program maker Qustodio.

This previous 12 months, the gulf between the 2 widened, it mentioned, as youngsters in 2022 noticed their common each day use of TikTok climb to a whopping 107 minutes, or 60% longer than the time they spent watching video content material on YouTube (67 minutes).

Picture Credit: Qustodio

TikTok was additionally used extra, when it comes to common each day minutes, than different social apps like Snapchat, Instagram, Fb, Pinterest and Twitter.

The examine was revealed prematurely of a TikTok-focused Congressional hearing. In March, TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew will testify earlier than the Home Power and Commerce Committee in regards to the app’s knowledge safety, ties to China, privateness issues and impacts on kids.

Social media issues additionally got a shoutout throughout President Biden’s State of the Union address this week when he pressed Congress to go laws to guard shoppers from Large Tech. “We should lastly maintain social media corporations accountable…It’s time to go bipartisan laws to cease Large Tech from gathering private knowledge on youngsters and youngsters on-line, ban focused promoting to kids, and impose stricter limits on the non-public knowledge these corporations accumulate on all of us.”


  • A redesigned Residence app is due to arrive within the forthcoming iOS 16.4 replace. The characteristic had initially appeared in iOS 16.2 however was pulled out earlier than launch.
  • Apple’s tvOS and HomePod software program was updated to 16.3.1.
  • Some customers have been complaining about iCloud backup points after updating to iOS 16.3.


  • Google launched the first Developer Preview of Android 14, which helps a variety of units, together with tablets and foldable form factors. Among the changes are plenty of background optimizations, assist for bigger fonts (customers can scale them as much as 200%), per-app language preferences, numerous privateness and safety updates, customization options, the power to dam the set up of apps (with a targetSdkVersion decrease than 23) to guard towards malware, passkeys assist and extra.
  • Android TV 13 was additionally finally launched. Android 13 has been out there for telephones and tablets for practically a 12 months and a half.
  • Google introduced the alpha release of Credential Manager, a brand new Jetpack API that permits app builders to simplify customers’ authentication journey whereas additionally including assist for passkeys.
  • It additionally rolled out the latest version of the Google Cellular Adverts SDK (10.0.0).


Picture Credit: Cyan Worlds

  • A remastered version of the basic puzzle sport Myst arrived on iOS. The brand new sport, Myst Cellular, is predicated on the remastered sport that was already launched on Oculus VR headsets and the PC, however has been rebuilt for Apple’s M1 and M2 chipsets on newer units. The sport is free to obtain and discover the primary location however to proceed, you’ll have to pay $14.99.
  • Activision offered perception into its mobile gaming portfolio during Q4 earnings, noting that Name of Responsibility Cellular grew by double-digits YoY and set a brand new quarterly file and 10-year-old Sweet Crush Saga noticed 20% YoY web bookings progress. General, King’s income grew 6% YoY with web bookings up 9%.
  • Rogue Video games announced a number of new titles coming completely to Netflix, together with a twin-stick Roguelite shooter Mud & Neon, which gained the general Better of Present award at PAX West; and Highwater, an atmospheric journey/technique hybrid. Each video games shall be out there on cell in addition to PC and console, however the Netflix deal gives the video games to iOS and Android subscribers free of charge with no in-app purchases.

Picture Credit: Rogue Video games


  • Zenly co-founder Antoine Martin says he’s returning to the social app market with the launch of a brand new firm referred to as Amo. The previous Zenly CEO is working with ex-Zenly managing director Michael Goldenstein and others on the brand new startup, whose objective is to repair the issues with right now’s social networks by specializing in connecting associates in the true world, not connecting the entire world. Particulars are nonetheless quiet in the meanwhile, however the firm is gathering sign-ups on a waitlist now.
Amo splash screen

Picture Credit: Amo

Picture Credit: Instagram

  • After asserting new API pricing beginning with a $100 fundamental tier, Twitter blocked access to its developer community website. Builders used to entry the positioning for bulletins and to ask questions. Twitter didn’t clarify if the block was intentional or a bug (like one associated to its API points earlier this week).
  • Some Mastodon customers have gone again to Twitter, it appears. Wired reported the decentralized social app and Twitter different has seen its MAUs drop from 2.5 million to now 1.4 million as of the top of January. However Techdirt took issue with the characterization of this as a “slump,” as Wired had referred to as it, noting that Mastodon had grown considerably since Musk took over Twitter, even with the drop. Plus, the Fediverse as an entire, not simply Mastodon, is as much as round 2.6 million MAUs customers, a lot increased than the 600,000 it has within the pre-Musk period. “I’m undecided how going from 600k to 2.6 million in simply a few months may be deemed ‘a droop.’ It certain seems to be like fairly rattling good retention general,” scoffed Techdirt’s Mike Masnick.
  • Fb creators gained new moderation tools, together with the power to go looking feedback by key phrases, emojis, commenter names and, dates, and take bulk actions, equivalent to liking or hiding.
  • Throughout This autumn earnings, Pinterest reported 450 million MAUs, up 4% YoY however its $877 million in income missed expectations. The corporate mentioned it might give attention to shoppable movies.


WhatsApp status updates

Picture Credit: WhatsApp

  • WhatsApp added the power to publish a Standing to a non-public viewers alongside with 30-second Voice Status messages, Standing reactions and extra throughout iOS, Android and the online.
  • Telegram added a brand new profile picture maker that turns stickers or animated emoji into your pfp, plus instruments to translate complete chats, assist for sorting emoji by classes, detailed pie charts for viewing community utilization and different options in its latest update.


OkCupid's ChatGPT questions

Picture Credit: OkCupid

  • ChatGPT for locating love? OkCupid began testing match questions that had been generated by ChatGPT. The questions assist daters discover compatibility with others throughout a variety of innocuous questions, like “are you a morning particular person or an evening particular person?” (Sure, the bot got here up with that one!)
  • Tinder added an incognito mode that permits you to browse that solely exhibits your profile to these you’ve preferred. It additionally added a “block profile” characteristic for hiding your self from individuals you understand whenever you encounter them within the app amongst different privateness modifications.


Picture Credit: Netflix

  • Netflix’s password crackdown isn’t going properly as plenty of indignant prospects are actually planning to boycott the changes by canceling their service. 
    • Customers are particularly upset over the rules that impression prolonged households from sharing accounts — like dad and mom who pay for his or her school college students’ accounts or grown kids who pay for his or her aged dad and mom’ entry — plus, households the place a member recurrently travels for work (or is deployed abroad). The modifications additionally impression individuals with a number of properties. Subscribers say they’re already paying for further screens and that needs to be sufficient.
    • Netflix claims that each one anybody has to do is reauthenticate as soon as per thirty days with the app on the family’s important location, however shoppers see that requirement as a burden — and an impossibility in some circumstances. In the event that they don’t, although, the “touring” account may lose entry. Netflix will drive individuals to pay further for the freeloaders or they’ll select emigrate to a brand new account with a profile switch characteristic. It stays to be seen if Netflix will preserve these similar guidelines within the U.S., because the rollout has been exterior to its house marketplace for now.
  • Spotify now lets you block playlists from impacting your “style profile.” This might enable individuals to dam sure playlists, like these used for finding out, sleeping, understanding or these favored by the youngsters, from influencing their suggestions.
Spotify's new exclude from taste profile feature

Picture Credit: Spotify

And so on.

  • Sensor Tower reported on the state of health apps, noting that Well being and Health apps in Europe reached 232 million installs final 12 months, up 16% from 2019. The agency mentioned it now takes practically $4 million in gross income in a given month to change into the No. 1 ranked Well being and Health app on the app shops, up 23% from the $3.5 million required in 2021.
  • Robinhood mentioned it’s going to buy up to 55 million shares, or 7%+ of its excellent shares, that had been purchased by Sam Bankman-Fried in 2022. The corporate reported $380 million in income in This autumn, up 5% YoY and a web loss down 61% to $166 million. 2022 income was down 25% YoY to $1.36 billion.
  • Courageous’s iOS and Android apps added support for Solana’s DApp in its built-in web3 pockets.
  • DoorDash integrated with gasoline financial savings app GasBuddy to permit its drivers to seek out the most cost effective close by gasoline.
  • Flipboard’s iOS and Android apps were updated with support for its new Notes feature that lets Flipboard journal curators dialog with their readers by way of brief notes, intros and polls.
  • PayPal is getting a new CEO as Dan Schulman prepares to go away at 12 months’s finish. The corporate additionally reported Q4 revenue up 7% YoY to $7.33 billion and TPV up 5% to $357.4 billion.
  • Uber integrated its driver app with Apple CarPlay. Higher late than by no means.
  • Fantastical’s in style calendar app added support for Live Activities so now you can see upcoming occasions on the Lock Display screen.
  • Japan’s Honest Commerce Fee issued a new report relating to its investigation of Apple and Google’s app shops. The report accuses each corporations of “abuse of a superior bargaining place,” and makes a number of suggestions, together with these round commissions and in-app funds and says the businesses mustn’t reap the benefits of options not made out there to builders. It doesn’t explicitly say the platforms have to host third-party app shops, nevertheless.
  • The Indian authorities supplied additional particulars about its ban on more than 90 lending apps, together with its issues over Chinese language affect. China traders had been on the cap tables of a few of the banned apps, it mentioned, and apps had been storing consumer knowledge exterior the nation. Cash laundering and different mortgage practices had been additionally a priority. Later within the week, it lifted the ban on PayU’s LazyPay, Kissht, KreditBee, Indiabulls’ Residence Loans, mPokket, Buddy Mortgage and Faircent after reviewing their cap tables for Chinese language traders.
  • Google Play started requiring regulatory approval for loan apps in Nigeria and Kenya as of January 31, matching related guidelines in India, Indonesia and the Philippines.
  • U.S. policymakers are concerned about TikTok’s plan to permit oversight of its algorithm as an alternative choice to a ban, noting that it might be technically difficult and there may nonetheless be backdoors that allowed China’s authorities to govern content material on the platform.
  • Utah is pushing through new bills that may require social media corporations to confirm customers’ ages and provides dad and mom entry to their youngsters’ accounts.
  • In a presentation to the EU, Meta confirmed knowledge that indicated that pop-up content material warnings lowered the sharing of flagged posts by 25% on Fb and 38% on Instagram. TikTok, for comparability, stories a discount of 29%.
  • Lunar, a Danish neobank final valued at $2.2 billion, raised $38 million from undisclosed traders to proceed to construct its banking and monetary companies platform. The corporate final 12 months raised a Sequence D extension that introduced its complete funding then to €280 million.
  • Meta bought the go-ahead to acquire VR software maker Within, regardless of FTC issues. The corporate’s flagship app is the VR health app Supernatural.
  • Fintech app Fierce, which presents free inventory buying and selling, checking and later crypto, launched on iOS after receiving $10 million in seed funding from traders together with Pendrell, AP Capital, Wheelhouse Digital Studios, House Whale Capital and different angels.


Quora Poe

Picture Credit: Quora

Q&A platform Quora opened up public access to its new AI chatbot app, Poe, which lets customers ask questions and get solutions from a variety of AI chatbots, together with these from ChatGPT maker OpenAI, and different corporations like Anthropic. Past permitting customers to experiment with new AI applied sciences, Poe’s content material will in the end assist to evolve Quora itself. If and when Poe’s content material meets a excessive sufficient high quality normal, it will likely be distributed on Quora’s website itself, the place it has the power to succeed in Quora’s 400 million month-to-month guests, the corporate mentioned.

At launch, there are three basic data chatbots: Sage, Claude and Dragonfly. Each Sage and Dragonfly are powered by OpenAI whereas Claude is powered by Anthropic know-how. All have their very own limitations at current. For example, Sage and Claude don’t have data of occasions after 2021, and Dragonfly could refuse to reply some questions. All three have additionally been recognized to make incorrect statements — which is one more reason why Quora itself isn’t instantly integrating Poe into its service. Builders will even be capable to add their very own bots to Poe sooner or later.

Epic Video games’ Postparty

Fortnite Postparty app and in-game skins

Picture Credit: Epic Video games

Fortnite maker Epic Video games launched a new clip-sharing app referred to as Postparty on iOS and Android that provides avid gamers a technique to simply share their clips on social media. The app permits for sharing from Xbox, Change, PlayStation and PC for Fortnite customers and simply Xbox and PlayStation for Epic’s Rocket League. Fortnite customers will see the app promoted after an in-game kill, prompting them to obtain the app to allow them to share clips. The app was created by Houseparty developer Life on Air, acquired by Epic in 2019. (Houseparty shut down in 2021.) After sharing their first clip from the app, Fortnite customers will get particular in-game pores and skin, spray and wrap.


Picture Credit: Spillt

A former Instagram engineer launched a brand new recipe app referred to as Spillt, lined by The Information, which helps customers discover, manage and cook dinner recipes — the latter by helpfully holding the cellphone’s display on through the recipe’s prep. That’s a characteristic the favored Pestle app also has, together with its voice-powered guided cooking, nevertheless. However Spillt’s worth proposition is that it presents a method for customers to see which recipes their associates are saving in a Information Feed of kinds. It stays to be seen if it may really achieve traction amid a sea of recipe apps, but it surely’s at the very least differentiated from the set of “TikTok for cooking” apps which might be available on the market right now.

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