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

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 a couple of snags as client 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% 12 months over 12 months in 2022 to achieve 255 billion. Customers 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 affords 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 rather more.

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Prime Tales

Our On a regular basis Apps Get AI

Whereas the announcement wasn’t essentially focused towards cell, the sweeping AI-fueled modifications which can be coming to the most important productiveness apps from Microsoft and Google can have a wider impression on the productiveness app business. That’s, they’re now elevating the stakes for what a productiveness app ought to be capable of do. It’ll not be sufficient to easily provide a chic, refined, and environment friendly note-taking software, docs editor, spreadsheet, slideshow maker, and so forth — the apps may even have to 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 characteristic that understands what a data employee has of their inbox, calendar, chats, and throughout their information, and will be prompted to do issues like create a standing report on a challenge that’s then shared to the staff. It’s even leveraging AI to help workers build their own line-of-business apps utilizing pure language prompts.

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

Google, in the meantime, stated it could carry 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 finished” — it’s probably aiming to maintain up with Microsoft’s plans. As well as, Google is leveraging generative AI to create auto-generated photos, audio, and video in Slides, which is an attention-grabbing angle on trendy productiveness — and, doubtlessly, a risk 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 carry AI to mainstream customers in a manner {that a} ChatGPT-powered Bing alone can’t. The brand new tech is now simply baked in, underneath the hood, providing extra performance to the tip consumer. It could finally 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 know-how lastly fulfill its unique promise of permitting us to guide extra comfy lives? Will we nonetheless have to 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 question certain to be on the minds of ByteDance execs as they weigh their determination to both 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 uncommon bipartisan help at a time when the 2 sides can’t appear to agree on something, which makes the potential for a ban look extra probably. 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 risk, not just the U.S. This week, New Zealand banned TikTok from government devices days after the U.K. did the same. The strikes comply with lawmakers’ banning of the app in Canada and Belgium and within the E.U.

TikTok, in the interim, is hoping to guarantee lawmakers of its security, even providing an audit by U.S. tech giant 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 true concern right here is lawmakers’ incapacity to move rules over U.S. consumer information privateness for all our apps, not simply these from China.

Anticipate subsequent week’s Congressional hearing with TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew to be an attention-grabbing one to look at!

SVB meltdown hits app makers, boosts crypto apps

Silicon Valley Financial institution’s failure was the biggest story of this week, as quite a few tech corporations, giant and small, and their traders had funds tied up within the financial institution, which is now under regulator control and whose father or mother firm is formally filing for bankruptcy. Among the many public corporations with publicity to SVB have been large names like Roku, Roblox, Quotient, Vimeo, Rocket Lab, SoFi, Life360, Sezzle, Unity, AppLovin, Wish, and plenty of others.

Whereas there have been a number of elements that performed into the eventual financial institution run, from bad bets to bad decisions, the skill to stoke worry and panic on Twitter performed a notable function, with some investors tweeting in ALL CAPS that individuals ought to be ABSOLUTELY TERRIFIED RIGHT NOW.

U.S. lawmakers have since taken discover of how bad actors on Twitter factored into the financial institution’s collapse, even going as far as in charge 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 group — I used to be a enterprise capitalist earlier than — however I believe there have been some unhealthy actors within the VC group who actually began to spur this run by nearly crying fireplace in a crowded theater when it comes to dashing all these deposits out,” stated Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) in a report by The Hill. 

“Irrespective of how robust 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 will be put at risk of failing,” Treasury secretary Janet Yellen additionally stated.

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 remains to be seen, however one class of apps did profit from the chaos.

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

Although the fed is making SVB’s depositors whole, the disaster additionally uncovered the attain of SVB’s tendrils past the Valley and the potential for a banking collapse to disproportionately impression some teams over others. The consequences have been felt as extensive as the African startup ecosystem and highlighted the inequities in the broader tech industry. On one aspect, you’ve got startups whose founders could self-fund their companies whereas ready on a decision, and on the opposite, there have been severe issues over lacking payroll and enterprise stoppage.

Many suspect we’ll see persevering with fallout from SVB in terms of raising venture debt, one thing SVB was recognized 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 return.



  • 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 assist from a reside specialist. The gross sales rep can’t see you however you possibly can see them whereas asking questions on fashions, options, affords, trade-ins and extra.
  • Apple is reportedly transferring ahead with its AR/VR headset this 12 months.
  • Apple AI experiments? In response to a brand new report from The New York Times, many groups at Apple, together with these working Siri, have been testing “language-generating ideas.” A former Apple engineer instructed the paper Siri’s growth had been gradual due to clunky code, which made it more durable to replace. It’s not recognized if Apple is now constructing its personal LLMs or adopting an current mannequin.


  • Google said its Google Play 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 subsequent couple of months, the service will add a number of widespread video games, together with Garena Free Fireplace, Ludo King (a well-liked board sport in India), and MapleStory M. It’ll 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 here.

App Information

Social Apps

Snapchat content filtering

Picture Credit: Snapchat

  • Snapchat added new parental controls that block “sensitive” and “suggestive” content from viewing by younger teens. The corporate stated it’s introducing content material filtering capabilities that may permit dad and mom to limit teenagers from being uncovered to content material that’s not prohibited however shouldn’t be beneficial to youthful customers throughout Tales (Uncover) and Highlight. The characteristic nonetheless requires dad and mom to entry these parental controls within the Family Center, which they could not know exists.
  • Pinterest is partnering with America’s largest publisher Dotdash Meredith on unique video content material from manufacturers corresponding to Higher Houses & Gardens, Southern Dwelling, Brides, Meals & Wine, Severe Eats, Allrecipes and Martha Stewart. Pinterest just lately introduced the same cope with Condé Nast.
  • Meta is specializing in its “12 months of effectivity” by cutting another 10,000 jobs.
  • Meta additionally gave up on NFTs, shutting down the NFT and digital collectible options on Instagram and Fb.
  • Instagram tests a feature 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 monthly on the net or $14.99 monthly on cell. The characteristic delivers a verified badge, proactive impersonation safety and direct entry to buyer help.
  • Twitter begins displaying how many times 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 aim is probably going aimed toward making Twitter look extra partaking.
  • Twitter’s API packages are getting dear. The corporate’s new Enterprise Packages start at $42,000/mo for 50 million tweets.

Leisure & Streaming

TikTok's new refresh feature

Picture Credit: TikTok

  • YouTube stated Trump can come back. (Which suggests he in all probability purchased advertisements.)
  • TikTok entered a multiyear partnership with Major League Soccer. Followers will be capable of 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 new “Refresh” button that lets customers reset their feed suggestions with recent content material when their FYP will get stale (SEE ABOVE). When the Refresh button is tapped, TikTok will floor content material as if you happen to had simply signed up for the app.
  • And TikTok is adding a new STEM content feed alongside its FYP and Following feeds to U.S. customers.
  • Twitch CEO Emmett Shear is stepping down. One of many unique 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. staff at Epic Video games–owned Bandcamp, an internet audio distributor, announced their formation of a union.
  • YouTube TV is hiking prices to $72.99 per month because of rising content material prices. Making up for the rise a bit, the service additionally introduced it’s beginning to roll out multiview, which permits U.S. customers to look at as much as 4 streams concurrently, initially for sports activities content material.
  • SiriusXM is planning to reboot itself as an app more focused 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 features for sports fans, together with picture-in-picture mode and an iOS widget. The options embrace a brand new “Aspect View” that lets internet customers watch video games in a small display screen overlay on prime 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” characteristic.
  • Spotify stated HiFi will still come out “at some point.” We’ll consider it once we see it.
  • FilmRise launched FilmRise For Her, which streams rom-coms, motion pictures with lead actresses, true crime, and extra.
  • Kakao Leisure will shut down the Korean branch of Tapas Entertainment, 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 feature, TuneIn Explorer, to iOS and Android gadgets. The app now offers customers the flexibility to hearken to stations around the globe.


  • 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 costs 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 response to a tweet from an official Fortnite account.


  • Be My Eyes, an app that permits blind and low-vision folks to ask sighted folks to explain what their telephone sees, is gaining AI capabilities powered by GPT-4. The app’s new “Digital Volunteer” will be capable of reply questions on photos 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 offers GPT-4 features for English speakers taking Spanish and French programs. The AI characteristic is rolling out to iOS first.

And so on.

Safety Considerations

  • Twitter’s dumb determination to make SMS 2FA a paid characteristic will kick on this weekend. Here’s how to protect yourself.
  • Google warns users to take action to guard in opposition to remotely exploitable flaws in widespread 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 Complete Cookie Safety, which stops cookies from monitoring you across the internet, to its Firefox Android app.

Funding and M&A

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

  • Anonymous app Sidechat picks up rival Yik Yak…and users aren’t happy. A quiet acquisition involving two press-shy corporations was unveiled by a writer title change on the App Retailer and customers complained about being compelled to maneuver to Sidechat.
  • NYC-based transportation startup Via will acquire London-based Citymapper, a Google Maps different for planning journeys in a metropolis utilizing public transportation. Citymapper has round 50 million international customers. Monetary phrases should not being disclosed however are a mixture of money and inventory. Sources stated the deal is usually a washout for traders.
  • 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 traders, together with Hustle Fund, Pillar VC and The Group Fund. The app affords nice eating meals delivered to the house with a mean order quantity of over $60.
  • Bloomberg experiences 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 help for any webcam, together with common webcams in addition to built-in gadgets, displays 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

Reports 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 quite a lot of experiences, from PR packages and paid posts to campaigns, photoshoots, occasions, eating at fancy eating places and extra.” The app is offered 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 authorized. So the title was modified, and increase, the app went reside. Because the title implies, Petey offers a ChatGPT-like experience 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 possibly can shortly 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 standard downsides. To check this principle, the corporate has launched its Ghost messaging app that permits customers to share an nameless message in a gaggle chat with buddies with a purpose 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 straight throughout the group chat, amongst different issues.

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