Bumble now lets you filter potential matches on Bumble Date, Bizz and BFF

Bumble has come up with a new way for its dating app and related businesses to generate revenue. The company this week launched filters – a way to sift through potential matches by a set of specific criteria. For example, Bumble Date users can now filter matches by astrological sign or relationship type, among other things, while those on Bumble BFF or Bumble Bizz, could filter matches by interests or industry, respectively.

The new feature is meant to save users time by limiting their selection of potential matches to those who are more relevant to their own interests.

A dating app user may want to filter out those who are only looking for casual situations, while a business user may want to filter matches based on whether they’re looking for a job, mentor, or collaborator, Bumble explains. And on Bumble’s friend-finding platform, Bumble BFF, people may want to filter for people who enjoy the same things they do – like fitness or photography.

“We’ve been working internally and with our users to create just the right mix of filters that allow for deeper, more meaningful connections and we’re very pleased with what we’ve developed,” said Alexandra Williamson, Bumble Chief of Brand, in a statement about the launch. “Whether you’re looking for a new job in media, a new mom friend or a date with a Sagittarius who loves live music, Bumble Filters enable you to tailor your experience in a way that ultimately gives you more control of the kinds of relationships you’re looking to build,” she said.

Filtering matches by specific criteria isn’t anything new to dating apps. Other more traditional dating sites, like Match and OKCupid, have offered ways to filter matches, too. But Bumble’s more direct rival Tinder has focused less on filtering and more on speed of moving through matches. It doesn’t let users specify preferences beyond some basics – like location, distance, gender and age.

Whether or not filtering actually helps in delivering a good match, however, is less clear. But it’s certainly something people want.

Today, many women on dating apps ask men for their height, for instance – so often, in fact, that men began volunteering this information on their profiles, even if the profile doesn’t have a field for height. Often, sober people don’t want to match with people who say they drink regularly. Non-smokers generally want to date the same. And so on. But over-filtering could lead to users missing out – after all, how important is the star sign, really, or whether they have pets? (Allergies notwithstanding, of course.)

On the dating side of Bumble, the new filters include height, exercise, star sign, education, drinking, smoking, pets, relationship type, family plans, religion, and political leaning.

Bumble BFFs can filter for drinking, smoking, exercise and pets, too, as well as type of friendship, relationship status, whether they have kids, or if they’re new to the area.

And Bumble Bizz users can filter by industry, networking relationship type, education, and years of experience.

Bumble hopes filters will be an additional stream of revenue for its business, which it said in September was on track for a revenue run rate to $200 million per year. Bumble now claims 46 million users.

The company says all users will receive two free filters in Bumble Date, Bumble BFF, and Bumble Bizz, but additional filters will have to be purchased through Bumble Boost – the premium upgrade that also allow you to see who liked you, extend your matches, and rematch expired connections. (Boost’s pricing varies based on the time frame – a week, a month, etc. Its weekly plan is $8.99/week, currently).

Bumble’s filters are available on both iOS and Android.

 

Nielsen: the second screen is booming as 45% often or always use devices while watching TV

Americans are regularly checking a second screen while watching TV, according to a new report from Nielsen which examined the media consumption habits of U.S. adults in the second quarter of 2018. Today, 28 percent of adults say they “sometimes” use a digital device, like a phone or tablet, when watching TV. A much larger 45 percent report they use a second screen “very often” or “always.”

The figures go to show how addicted U.S. consumers are to their smartphones – we don’t even put them down when tuning in to a favorite show or to watch a movie.

In fact, very few people – only 12 percent – reported they “never” use another device while watching TV.

Of course, there are other reasons why some people want to actively use their smartphone while watching television, beyond the need to scroll through Instagram during the commercial breaks.

Sometimes, people may want to actively engage with other fans or participate in an online conversation if they’re watching a TV program or other event live. For instance, they may want to tweet out their support for their team during a football game, or may want to react in real-time to a shocking turn of events on “Game of Thrones.”

Nielsen’s report noted this, as well. It said digital devices have actually impacted how we consume and interact with media today. That is, we’re using the second screen to augment the overall TV viewing experience, not detract from it.

In fact, most of the activities that take place on our devices while watching TV are related to the content.

For example, 71 percent said they use their device to look up something related to the TV content, while 41 percent said they text, email or message someone about the content. 35 percent said they shop for a product or service being advertised and 28 percent write or read social media posts about the content they’re viewing.

15 percent even use the device to direct them to a new program – meaning, they’ve tuned to different content after seeing something posted online.

Digital devices aren’t the only ways people simultaneous consume media. Surprisingly, a small handful of people listen to audio while watching TV, the report also found.

But this is a much smaller group, for obvious reasons – it can be difficult to process two different sources of information at the same time. Still, 6 percent said they often watch and listen to different content simultaneously – which is arguably an impressive, if very odd, skill to possess. But over half said they would never use TV and audio at the same time.

The report also looked at how people consume media – which hasn’t changed as much as you would think, despite the increased use of digital devices.

Instead, “prime time” is still a popular time of time for watching TV, including live and time-shifted programming as well as TV-connected devices like media players and game consoles.

In Q2 2018, U.S. adults spent 38 out of a possible 60 minutes on media consumption from 9 PM to 10 PM, including live and time-shifted TV, TV-connected devices, radio and digital devices (computer, smartphone, tablet).

9 PM was also the peak TV hour, with over half of consumers watching linear TV or interacting with TV connected devices like game consoles or streaming content through Roku, Apple TV, Chromecast or Fire TV.

 

 

Google CEO Sundar Pichai thinks Android users know how much their phones are tracking them

Google CEO Sundar Pichai thinks Android users have a good understanding of the volume of data Google collects on them, when they agree to use the Android mobile operating system. The exec, who is testifying today in front of the House Judiciary committee for a hearing entitled: Transparency & Accountability: Examining Google and its Data Collection, Use and Filtering Practices, claimed that users are in control of the information Google has on them.

“For Google services, you have a choice of what information is collected, and we make it transparent,” Pichai said, in response to Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA)’s questioning.

The reality is that most people don’t read user agreements in full, and aren’t fully aware of what data their phones and apps are able to access. Even on Apple’s platform, known to be fairly privacy-forward, apps have been collecting user data – including location – and selling it to third parties, as noted by a recent The New York Times investigation.

Google’s defense on the data collection front is similar to Facebook’s – that is, Pichai responded that Google provides tools that put users in control.

But do they actually use them?

“It’s really important for us that average users are able to understand it,” said Pichai, stating that users do understand the user agreement for Android OS.

“We actually…remind users to do a privacy checkup, and we make it very obvious every month. In fact, in the last 28 days, 160 million users went to their My Account settings, where they can clearly see what information we have – we actually show it back to them. We give clear toggles, by category, where they can decide whether that information is collected, stored, or – more importantly – if they decide to stop using it, we work hard to make it possible for users to take their data with them,” he said.

The 160 million users sounds like a large number, but at Google’s scale, where numerous products have over a billion users apiece, it’s not as big as it seems.

In addition, it has become clear that simply “opting out” of Google’s data collection methods is not always enough. For example, earlier this year, it was discovered that Google was continuing to track users’ location even when users had explicitly turned the Location History setting off – a clear indication they did not want their data collected or shared.

Further in the hearing, Pichai was asked if Google could improve its user dashboard and tools to better teach people how to protect their privacy, including turning off data collection and location tracking.

“There’s complexity,” Pichai said, but admitted this is “something I do think we can do better.”

“We want to simplify it, and make it easier for average users to navigate these settings,” he continued. “It’s something we are working on.”

 

 

Google CEO Sundar Pichai thinks Android users know how much their phones are tracking them

Google CEO Sundar Pichai thinks Android users have a good understanding of the volume of data Google collects on them, when they agree to use the Android mobile operating system. The exec, who is testifying today in front of the House Judiciary committee for a hearing entitled: Transparency & Accountability: Examining Google and its Data Collection, Use and Filtering Practices, claimed that users are in control of the information Google has on them.

“For Google services, you have a choice of what information is collected, and we make it transparent,” Pichai said, in response to Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA)’s questioning.

The reality is that most people don’t read user agreements in full, and aren’t fully aware of what data their phones and apps are able to access. Even on Apple’s platform, known to be fairly privacy-forward, apps have been collecting user data – including location – and selling it to third parties, as noted by a recent The New York Times investigation.

Google’s defense on the data collection front is similar to Facebook’s – that is, Pichai responded that Google provides tools that put users in control.

But do they actually use them?

“It’s really important for us that average users are able to understand it,” said Pichai, stating that users do understand the user agreement for Android OS.

“We actually…remind users to do a privacy checkup, and we make it very obvious every month. In fact, in the last 28 days, 160 million users went to their My Account settings, where they can clearly see what information we have – we actually show it back to them. We give clear toggles, by category, where they can decide whether that information is collected, stored, or – more importantly – if they decide to stop using it, we work hard to make it possible for users to take their data with them,” he said.

The 160 million users sounds like a large number, but at Google’s scale, where numerous products have over a billion users apiece, it’s not as big as it seems.

In addition, it has become clear that simply “opting out” of Google’s data collection methods is not always enough. For example, earlier this year, it was discovered that Google was continuing to track users’ location even when users had explicitly turned the Location History setting off – a clear indication they did not want their data collected or shared.

Further in the hearing, Pichai was asked if Google could improve its user dashboard and tools to better teach people how to protect their privacy, including turning off data collection and location tracking.

“There’s complexity,” Pichai said, but admitted this is “something I do think we can do better.”

“We want to simplify it, and make it easier for average users to navigate these settings,” he continued. “It’s something we are working on.”

 

 

Google Maps’ new personalized suggestions come to iOS

A more personalized version of Google Maps is now arriving on iOS. At Google’s I/O developer conference earlier this year, the company introduced a series of new features designed to help Google Maps users learn what’s happening around them, track area businesses to receive updates about their events and promotions, and receive personalized suggestions of places to visit, dine, and more. The latter now appear in a “For You” tab in the revamped Google Maps app, which first arrived on Android this June.

Today, the feature is rolling out more broadly.

According to Google, the “For You” tab is now making its way to over 130  more countries on Android and is launching on iOS across 40+ countries.

When switching over to this tab, you’ll see any number of suggestions – from newly opened places to visit or restaurants to try to new pop-ups – to new menu items at favorite restaurants and restaurant suggestions Google thinks you’d like to try. It bases these on your personal tastes and preferences it’s inferred from your use of the Google Maps app, including what sort of businesses you search and follow.

The “For You” tab can also help you with travel planning, by making suggestions of places before you depart, Google notes.

To get better recommendations, you’ll want to follow local businesses you like in Google Maps, or even neighborhoods you frequent, to personalize your suggestions further.

The feature is part of a larger overhaul of Google Maps that’s aiming to challenge Facebook as the place where businesses offer updates of their goings-on, news about their sales, events, and other information they want to share with customers – as well as target potential new customers through ads and being featured in users’ recommendations.

In October, Google Maps launched the “Follow” button for tracking businesses, and last month rolled out a new “Google My Business” app for business owners, so they could more easily create and publish content to their business profile on Google.

With these products in place – content publication tools and the ability for users to follow that content – Google is now ready to turn those signals into personalized suggestions. You’ll find it at the bottom of the Google Maps app, where it will show you potential “matches” (and the percentage for the match), plus news about recent openings, trending spots, and other suggestions.

The company says the “For You” tab is rolling out starting today across the new markets and on iOS.

Netflix just had a record-breaking November on mobile

Netflix just broke new records on consumer spending in its mobile apps, according to new data app intelligence firm Sensor Tower has shared with TechCrunch. In November, Netflix pulled in an estimated $86.6 million in worldwide consumer spending across its iOS and Android apps combined — a figure that’s 77 percent higher than the $49 million it generated last November. That’s a new record.

Before, the biggest month Netflix had to date was July 2018, when it grossed an estimated $84.7 million. At the time, that was the most it had made on mobile since it began monetizing on mobile in September 2015.

To date, Netflix has grossed more than $1.58 billion on mobile.

The firm didn’t speculate as to what, specifically, drove Netflix to break records again in November, but there are probably a few factors at play, including the trend toward cord cutting and shift toward streaming services for traditional “TV” viewing.

But most notably is the increasing revenue coming to Netflix from its international markets.

Sensor Tower did point out that Netflix’s U.S. app revenue grew 76 percent year-over-year in November, but other countries contributing more than $1 million in gross revenue were higher. For example, Germany grew 90 percent, Brazil was 94 percent, South Korea was 107 percent and Japan was 175 percent.

However, the U.S. still accounts for the majority of Netflix’s in-app subscription revenue, at 57 percent in November, or $49.4 million. But with Netflix’s international expansion, its share is declining. When Netflix first began offering subscriptions in fall 2015, the U.S. then accounted for 71 percent of its revenue.

Netflix in recent weeks has been doubling down on mobile. The company is now testing a mobile-only subscription aimed at making its service more affordable in Asia and other emerging markets.

In Q3, the company gained nearly 7 million new subscribers, with 5.87 million of those coming from international markets.

Image credit: Sensor Tower 

Note: Post updated with corrected percentages after publication due to a Sensor Tower calculation error. 

Google warns app developers of three malicious SDKs being used for ad fraud

A few days ago, Google removed popular Cheetah Mobile and Kika Tech apps from its Play Store following a BuzzFeed investigation, which discovered the apps were engaging in ad fraud. Today, as a result of Google’s ongoing investigation into the situation, it has discovered three malicious ad network SDKs that were being used to conduct of ad fraud in these apps. The company is now emailing developers who have these SDKs installed in their apps, and demanding their removal. Otherwise, the developers’ apps will be pulled from Google Play, as well.

To be clear, the developers with the SDKs (software development kits) installed aren’t necessarily aware of the SDKs’ malicious nature. In fact, most are likely not, Google says.

Google shared this news in a blog post today, but it didn’t name the SDKs that were involved in the ad fraud scheme.

TechCrunch has learned the ad network SDKs in question are AltaMob, BatMobi and YeahMobi.

Google didn’t share the scale to which these SDKs are being used in Android apps, but based on Google’s blog post, it appears to be taking this situation seriously – which points to the potential scale of this abuse.

“If an app violates our Google Play Developer policies, we take action,” wrote Dave Kleidermacher, VP, Head of Security & Privacy, Android & Play, in the post. “That’s why we began our own independent investigation after we received reports of apps on Google Play accused of conducting app install attribution abuse by falsely claiming credit for newly installed apps to collect the download bounty from that app’s developer,” he said.

The developers will have a short grace period to remove the SDKs from their apps.

The original BuzzFeed report had found that eight apps with a total of 2 billion downloads from Cheetah Mobile and Kika Tech had been exploiting user permissions as part of an ad fraud scheme, according to research from app analytics and research firm Kochava, which was shared with BuzzFeed.

Following the report, Cheetah Mobile apps Battery Doctor and CM Launcher were removed by Cheetah itself. The company additionally issued a press release aimed at reassuring investors that the removal of CM File Manager wouldn’t impact its revenue. It also said it was in discussions with Google to resolve the issues.

As of today, Google’s investigation into these apps is not fully resolved.

But it pulled two apps from Google Play on Monday: Cheetah Mobile’s File Manager and the Kika Keyboard. The apps, the report had said, contained code that was used for ad fraud  – specifically, ad fraud techniques known as click injection and click flooding.

The apps were engaging in app install attribution abuse, which refers to a means of falsely claiming credit for a newly installed app in order to collect the download bounty from the app developer. The three SDKs that Google is now banishing were found to be falsely crediting app installs by creating false clicks.

Combined, the two companies had hundreds of millions of active users, and the two apps that were removed had a combined 250 million installs.

In addition to removing the two apps from Google Play, Google also kicked them out of its AdMob mobile advertising network.

With Cheetah’s voluntary removal of two apps and Google’s booting of two more, a total of four of the eight apps that were conducting ad fraud are now gone from the Google Play store. When Google’s investigation wraps, the other four may be removed as well.

Even more apps could be removed in the future, too, given that Google is demanding that developers now remove the malicious SDKs. Those who fail to comply will get the boot, too.

One resource Google Play publishers, ad attribution providers, and advertisers, may want to take advantage of, going forward, is the Google Play Install Referrer API. This will tell them how their apps were actually installed.

Explains Google in its blog post:

Google Play has been working to minimize app install attribution fraud for several years. In 2017 Google Play made available the Google Play Install Referrer API, which allows ad attribution providers, publishers and advertisers to determine which referrer was responsible for sending the user to Google Play for a given app install. This API was specifically designed to be resistant to install attribution fraud and we strongly encourage attribution providers, advertisers and publishers to insist on this standard of proof when measuring app install ads. Users, developers, advertisers and ad networks all benefit from a transparent, fair system.

“We will continue to investigate and improve our capabilities to better detect and protect against abusive behavior and the malicious actors behind them,” said Kleidermacher.

Walmart acquires art and wall décor retailer Art.com

Walmart’s acquisition spree continues. Only a couple of months after picking up apparel and lingerie brands, ELOQUII and Bare Necessities, respectively, the company on Thursday announced its plans to acquire the assets from online art and wall décor retailer, Art.com. The deal is expected to close in early 2019, and includes Art.com’s catalog, IP, trade name, and U.S. operations.

Walmart did not disclose the amount of the deal, but it’s said to be in line with Walmart’s other recent deals in terms of size. Art.com had been doing more than $300 million in annual sales, according to CNBC.

In its announcement, Walmart describes Art.com, originally founded in 1998, as the “world’s largest online retailer in the art and décor category.” It also notes Art.com’s wide-ranging assortment includes two million curated images that customers buy as posters, prints, and other art pieces for their home.

The site offers on-demand and customization capabilities, with the majority of its inventory being printed on demand at the time of ordering – that’s useful, as it means Walmart won’t have to house large stores of inventory for this home décor business, as most of it is made-to-order. All the servicing is also done on-site, including custom framing and mounting on canvas and wood, Walmart says.

Art.com’s site includes technology like visual search and a way to visualize the art on your own walls, and it offers financing through Affirm and installation through another Walmart partner, Handy.

Walmart says the plan is to operate Art.com’s assets as a standalone and complementary site. It will also add Art.com assortment to Walmart.com, Jet.com, and Hayneedle.com, in the future. By doing so, customers will have access to “millions of additional choices for art, wall décor, and personalized print-on-demand capabilities,” says Walmart.

The retailer has been steadily expanding its assortment in long tail categories, like home décor – one of the areas of focus with the Walmart.com website’s redesign, which rolled out earlier this year. The updated site offers a more modern, cleaner look-and-feel, deeper personalization, improved recommendations, and the addition of speciality shopping experiences in areas like home and fashion.

Art.com is now one of many acquisitions Walmart has made to capture more of the e-commerce market across those categories and others, with deals for ModCloth ($75M), Bonobos ($310M), Moosejaw ($51M), ShoeBuy, Jet.com ($3B), and Hayneedle, in addition to the more recent additions of ELOQUII and Bare Necessities.

Netflix tops other streamers with most Golden Globes nods, but Amazon beats it on TV

Netflix is having another good year when it comes to racking up the Golden Globe nominations. Last year, Netflix topped the list of the most-nominated networks alongside HBO with 12 nods, even if that didn’t translate to many wins for the streaming service. This time around, Netflix has scored eight nominations for its TV series and another five in the film category.

However, Netflix is not the most-nominated “TV” network. This year, that honor goes to FX Networks, which accumulated 10 nominations for its shows like “Atlanta,” “Pose” and “The Americans.”

FX is followed by HBO and Amazon Prime Video, each with nine nominations apiece.

HBO is usually further ahead because of its top vote-getter “Games of Thrones,” but the show’s hiatus meant it wasn’t eligible to compete this year. So, consider this a glimpse of how HBO will fare in the years ahead, when the “Game of Thrones” final season has wrapped.

Instead, HBO shows like “Barry” and “Sharp Objects” helped HBO score.

While Netflix led all streaming services by earning 13 total nominations across film and television, Amazon Prime Video was ahead on the TV side of things. It grabbed nominations for shows like “Homecoming,” featuring Julia Roberts; popular comedy “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel;” and the limited series “A Very English Scandal,” with Hugh Grant. (Perhaps Hollywood star power still sells on the small screen?)

Netflix, meanwhile received nods for Chuck Lorre’s comedy “The Kominsky Method,” starring Michael Douglas and Alan Arkin, which is up for best comedy series. Netflix’s “Bodyguard” is also up for best drama, and actors from “Glow,” “Ozark” and “Seven Seconds,” were nominated, as well.

Like HBO, Netflix this year was missing the chance to compete with some of its top shows, like “Stranger Things” and “The Crown.” Plus, post-scandal, longtime favorite “House of Cards” didn’t get any nominations for its last season.

Netflix’s eight nominations put it ahead of Hulu, though, which only pulled in two nominations this year — both for “The Handmaid’s Tale.” Though Hulu also invests in original content, it does so on a smaller scale than Netflix and Amazon, which in part accounts for its meager showing. (It could also do better with what it greenlights…”The Handmaid’s Tale” is arguably very good, but difficult to watch. And its other shows don’t have as big a following, except perhaps those from Stephen King.)

On the film side of things, Netflix’s Oscar hopeful “Roma” received three nominations, including best foreign language film, best director (Alfonso Cuarón) and best screenplay. The foreign language film “Girl” (Belgium) and “Dumplin'” also helped Netflix earn more shots this year.

(via Engadget, Deadline)

Apple puts third-party screen time apps on notice

A number of app developers building third-party screen time trackers and parental control applications are worried that Apple’s increased scrutiny of their apps in recent weeks is not a coincidence. With Apple’s launch of iOS 12, the company has implemented its own built-in screen time tracking tools and controls. Not long after, developers’ third-party screen time apps came under increased review from Apple, and, in some cases, rejections and removals from the App Store.

The impacted developers have been using a variety of methods to track screen time, as there has not been any official means of tracking this data. This included the use of background location, VPNs, and MDM-based solutions, and sometimes a combination of methods.

A small crowd of a half-dozen or so developers began to discuss their troubles amongst themselves over the past couple months. But not all wanted to go on record. After all, publicly criticizing Apple is not something many developers feel comfortable doing, especially when their business is at risk.

However, a few did take to their company blogs to report their troubles when they thought they had reached the end of the road.

In October, for example, the digital detox app called Mute publicly announced its removal from the App Store around the same time that many other screen time tracking apps had been put on notice.

Then three-year old screen time app Space did the same after its removal from the App Store in November.

They were not alone. Several others, who did not want to be quoted, were also facing rejections.

Some of the developers, we understand, were told they were in violation of App Store developer guideline 2.5.4, which specifies when multitasking apps are allowed to use background location. Specifically, developers were told they were “misusing background location mode for purposes other than location-related features.”

Others were told their app violated developer guideline 2.5.1, which references using public APIs in an unapproved manner.

And others, still, were told the way they’ve implemented screen time and parental controls was no longer permitted.

Above: Space on iOS

In an odd turn of events, after Space and Mute published on their public company blogs to complain, they received a call from Apple and had their apps reinstated on the App Store.

The Apple reps asked the companies about how they handled data privacy, and reminded them they have to have a customer-facing feature that requires location-based services in order to legitimize their use of such an approach, they reported.

“We are of course hugely grateful that Apple has chosen to continue to allow our business to operate,” said Space CEO Georgina Powell.

But these were not isolated incidents. Across the third-party screen time app industry, apps were coming under review – in some cases, after operating for years without incident.

Above: Moment app on iOS

But at the same time, some apps were getting a pass – as if Apple is making its decisions on a one-off basis.

For example, an app called Moment – which TechCrunch has covered a few times over the past four years and has been featured by Apple – also received a call from Apple, we learned.

Apple had some questions for Moment, which they answered to Apple’s satisfaction. The app was not removed or threatened.

Asked if they were concerned at all about the increased scrutiny, Moment’s creator Kevin Holesh responded, “I do feel confident about Moment’s future after talking to Apple.” But he added he’s now “mostly watching to see how things play out with this issue going forward.”

The makers of the screen time app solution and hardware device, Circle with Disney, is also unaffected, we were told. (But then, imagine the consumer backlash if your $99 home network device just stopped working.)

Though not all apps were getting the boot, it seemed, Apple did seem to have a problem with screen time apps that took advantage of mobile device management (MDM) and/or VPNs to operate.

For example, the developer behind Kidslox had implemented a combination of MDM and a VPN for screen time and parental controls. The app tracks the time the device is connected to the VPN for screen time, which Apple said it could no longer do.

Kidslox CEO Viktor Yevpak tried to explain a VPN was necessary for more than just screen time. The app also includes a feature that checks websites against a blacklist to allow for kids to safely browse when they were connected through the VPN.

“I said, there has to be a middle ground, because you’re pretty much killing the entire company,” Yevpak told TechCrunch, recalling his conversations with Apple’s app review. “We have over 30 people working on it, and you’re us telling us to shut down,” he had told them.

After several rejections of updates to Kidslox’ year-old app, the developer finally took to the company blog to also call out Apple for what it believed was the “systematic destruction” of the third-party screen time management industry.

Like many we spoke to, he’s highly suspicious about the timing of Apple’s review, given that iOS 12’s screen time feature has just launched.

Kidslox remains available on the App Store today but its updates are not being approved. Yevpak says the company has been discussing ways to pivot the business, as it seems its time is up.

Apple, of course, never intended for VPNs to be used for screen time tracking or parental controls, nor did it want the enterprise-focused MDM technology to be implemented in consumer-based apps. And by permitting its use to date in apps like these, Apple had given up control over how its devices can be used by consumers.

But its policies have not matched up with its App Store approvals. Apple has greenlit – and it has been directly aware of – screen time apps using MDM in ways that violated its guidelines for years.

Above: OurPact’s app rules allow parents to block apps

One case in point app is OurPact (specifically, its OurPact Jr. product), an app which leverages MDM technology to allow parents to control if and when kids can use certain apps on their phone, block texting, filter the web, and much more. Its apps – one designed for the parent and the other for the child – have been live for four years. OurPact now says that Apple will no longer allow the company to use MDM for its purposes.

“Our team has received confirmation from Apple that managing application access and content outside of iOS Screen Time will not be permitted in the Apple device ecosystem,” says Amir Moussavian, OurPact parent company Eturi Corp., in a statement provided to TechCrunch. “It’s incredibly disappointing that Apple is choosing to dissolve the iOS parental control market at a time when childhood and adolescent screen time management is finally being understood as a necessity.”

The company says its OurPact Jr. app, the app designed for the child’s device, is impacted by the change. But its parent app will continue to operate.

Apple’s permissiveness to allow these “rule-breaking” apps signaled to developers entering the screen time space anew that MDM was being tacitly approved in these scenarios, even if Apple’s own terms and agreements said otherwise.

Developer Andrew Armour of ACTIVATE Fitness, said he decided to implement MDM for a screen time management solution for iOS after seeing many other developers already had been the same thing for years, he told TechCrunch.

“I have sunk my entire life savings into the development of this mobile application to provide families with a solution to better regulate and manage screen time and at the same time promote physical activity,” Armour said, speaking about his app’s App Store rejection.”After two years of hard work and determination, my entrepreneurial journey to introduce ACTIVATE Fitness to the world has come to an end due to an Apple rejection in a flawed and unfair review process,” he lamented.

Apple could choose to release an official Screen Time API or carve out exceptions for screen time apps that use MDM or other technologies. Its decision to instead put the entire third-party industry on notice after rolling out its own screen time solution, however, seems to indicate it now wants to control the experience of monitoring screen time usage on iOS, and not leave it up to these third parties.

At the end of the day, the decision is bad for consumers because Apple’s solution doesn’t offer many of the features of the MDM-based solutions focused on parental controls. For example, parents using third-party screen time solutions can hide certain apps from kids’ homescreens and control when those apps function.

Apple declined to comment on the matter.

But sources familiar with Apple’s thinking dismissed this as being some sort of targeted crackdown against third-party screen time apps. Rather, the pushback developers received was part of Apple’s ongoing app review process, they said, and noted that the rules these apps violate have been in place for years.

That’s a fair point. Apple can opt to enforce its rules at any time, and building apps in violation of those rules is never a great idea – especially when developers are knowingly taking advantage of technologies in ways they had to know Apple never intended.

That being said, a decision to purge the App Store of third-party screen time and parental control apps is one that may come across to the impacted end users of these apps as being in poor taste.

In recent months, big tech companies – including the likes of Facebook and Google – have been made aware of the addictive nature of our devices and the apps we use and the negative effects on our mental health. They have all been rolling out solutions to counter this problem. For Apple to be seen as tamping down on the very apps that have been trying to battle these problems for years – before Silicon Valley took notice – is not a great look.