This Week in Apps: Zoom has issues, Pinterest founder’s new COVID-19 research app, record Q1 spending

Welcome back to This Week in Apps, the Extra Crunch series that recaps the latest OS news, the applications they support and the money that flows through it all.

The app industry saw a record 204 billion downloads and $120 billion in consumer spending in 2019, according to App Annie’s “State of Mobile” annual report. People are now spending 3 hours and 40 minutes per day using apps, rivaling TV. Apps aren’t just a way to pass idle hours — they’re a big business. In 2019, mobile-first companies had a combined $544 billion valuation, 6.5x higher than those without a mobile focus.

In this Extra Crunch series, we help you keep up with the latest news from the world of apps, delivered on a weekly basis.

This week, we’re continuing our special coverage of how the COVID-19 outbreak is impacting apps and the wider mobile app industry — or rather, the boost many apps are receiving as a result. In fact, the first quarter saw consumer spending hit record levels in Q1 as everyone was staying indoors. But as some apps shoot up the charts, scrutiny over their practices increases. This week saw No. 1 app Zoom defending itself against a host of complaints over security issues, for example, while social video app Houseparty defended itself against a possible smear campaign. There’s also a new app from the Pinterest CEO for tracking the spread of COVID-19.

Also this week: more leaks about the new version of iOS, Apple bought Dark Sky, Niantic pivoted, TikTok moved up the charts and more.

Coronavirus/COVID-19 special coverage

Pinterest CEO, scientists team up on COVID-19 tracking app

Apple accidentally confirms the existence of an unreleased product, AirTags

Whoops! Apple inadvertently revealed the existence of an unreleased product, AirTags, in a support video uploaded to its YouTube account today. The video, “How to erase your iPhone,” offers a tutorial about resetting an iPhone to factory settings. Around the 1:43 mark, it instructs users to turn off “Find my iPhone” as part of the process. On the Settings page that then appears, another option for “Enable Offline Finding” is shown, and beneath that, the text references AirTags by name.

Specifically, it says: “Offline finding enables this device and AirTags to be found when not connected to Wi-Fi or cellular.”

The discovery was first spotted by the eagle-eyed blog Appleosophy.

Apple has since pulled the video. (A copy of the video is embedded below.)

AirTags, essentially Apple’s Tile competitor, were already known to be in the works. Based on details and assets found in Apple’s iOS code, AirTags are believed to be small tracking tiles with Bluetooth connectivity that can be used to find lost items — just like Tile.

The difference is that Apple’s AirTags will benefit from deeper integration with iOS, including within its “Find My” app. There, the tags will show up in a new “Items” tab allowing you to keep track of items that tend to get lost or stolen — like your keys, wallet or even your bike.

According to reports from MacRumors, the tags will feature a removable CR2032 coin cell battery, also similar to Tile.

Apple’s intention to copy Tile’s concept has not gone unnoticed by Tile.

The company on Wednesday told a congressional panel that Apple’s anticompetitive behavior has “gotten worse, not better.”

During the hearing, Tile referenced Apple’s plans to integrate its own product into the “Find My” app. Tile and other Bluetooth trackers won’t be able to do the same. They also have to ask for background location access repeatedly, while Apple’s AirTags, presumably, will not. That gives Apple’s own product an advantage as it owns the platform.

Apple has been asked for comment.

Image credits: Apple, via YouTube; MacRumors 

In a significant change, Apple customers can now buy or rent titles directly in the Prime Video app

A recent update from Amazon has made it easier for Apple customers to buy or rent movies from its Prime Video app. Before, customers using the Prime Video app from an iOS device or Apple TV would have to first purchase or rent the movie elsewhere — like through the Amazon website or a Prime Video app on another device, such as the Fire TV, Roku or an Android device. Now, Prime Video users can make the purchase directly through the app instead.

The changes weren’t formally announced, but quickly spotted once live.

Amazon declined to comment, but confirmed to TechCrunch the feature is live now for customers in the U.S., U.K. and Germany.

The change makes it possible for Prime Video users to rent or buy hundreds of thousands of titles from Amazon’s video catalog. This includes new release movies, TV shows, classic movies, award-winning series, Oscar-nominated films and more.

This is supported on a majority of Apple devices, including the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch running iOS/iPadOS 12.2 or higher, as well as Apple TV HD and Apple TV 4K.

Amazon for years has prevented users from directly purchasing movies and TV shows from the Prime Video app on Apple devices. That’s because Apple requires a 30% cut of all in-app purchases taking place on its platform. To avoid fees, many apps — including not only Amazon, but also Netflix, Tinder, Spotify and others — have bypassed the major app platforms’ fees at times by redirecting users to a website.

Since the news broke, many have questioned if Amazon had some sort of deal with Apple that was making the change possible — especially because it didn’t raise the cost of rentals or subscriptions to cover a 30% cut.

As it turns out, it sort of does.

Apple tells TechCrunch it offers a program aimed at supporting subscription video entertainment providers.

“Apple has an established program for premium subscription video entertainment providers to offer a variety of customer benefits — including integration with the Apple TV app, AirPlay 2 support, tvOS apps, universal search, Siri support and, where applicable, single or zero sign-on,” an Apple spokesperson said. “On qualifying premium video entertainment apps such as Prime Video, Altice One and Canal+, customers have the option to buy or rent movies and TV shows using the payment method tied to their existing video subscription,” the spokesperson noted.

It remains to be seen if Amazon will extend Apple the same courtesy on its Fire TV platform, by allowing Apple customers to rent or buy movies directly in the Apple TV app there.

Amazon’s adoption of this program is notable, as it comes at a time when Apple is under increased scrutiny for alleged anti-competitive behaviors — particularly those against companies with a rival product or service — like Prime Video is to Apple TV+, or Fire TV is to Apple TV, for example.

Amazon called attention to the new feature in its Prime Video app, which now alerts you upon first launch that “Movie night just got better” in a full-screen pop-up. It also advertises the easier option for direct purchases through a home screen banner.

Facebook launches a global version of its Community Help feature in response to the COVID-19 pandemic

Facebook first launched its Community Help feature in 2017, to give users a way to offer assistance, search for help and receive help in the wake of a crisis. The feature has since been used to connect Facebook users after man-made, accidental and natural disasters, like terrorist attacks or weather events, for example. Today, Facebook is expanding Community Help as part of its COVID-19 efforts. The new COVID-19 Community Help hub will allow people to request or offer help to those impacted by the coronavirus outbreak, as well as donate to nonprofit fundraisers.

This is the first time Facebook has launched Community Help on a global scale. It’s also the first time it’s been used for a health pandemic.

The feature will launch first in the U.S., Canada, France, U.K. and Australia, Facebook says.

A somewhat similar feature, Help Map, was recently introduced by the neighborhood social network and Facebook competitor Nextdoor, but it hasn’t yet seen widespread adoption. In part, that’s because Nextdoor isn’t making the new addition as obvious as it could — it’s currently buried in the “More” tab instead of being a central focus in the app. Also, the Help Map simply allows people to list themselves as being able to offer assistance to someone in need or as being in need of aid.

Facebook’s Community Help hub, meanwhile, builds on Facebook’s earlier efforts with Crisis Response, which connected multiple tools in one place.The COVID-19 Community Help feature can be found within Facebook’s existing COVID-19 Information Center, which is live in more than 30 countries.

Launched earlier in March, the COVID-19 Information Center today sits at the top of the News Feed and connects users to authoritative health information from global health authorities, along with curated posts from politicians, journalists, and other public figures.

Since its debut, more than 1 billion users have accessed the information shared by health authorities on the Information Center and through the educational pop-ups on Facebook and Instagram, the company claims. More than 100 million people clicked through to learn more from the sources directly.

Before today’s official launch, the COVID-19 Information Center tested Community Help in select U.S. cities. There, local users have been posting requests for help — like those about a hospital in need of masks or volunteers to help distribute food. Others shared their free assistance being offered — like free meals for hourly workers now out of a job or free virtual workouts for those missing their gym routine.

This now continues as the Community Hub launches across the supported markets. However, it will now exist as its own destination, which includes fundraisers. It also will include additional categories, like Food, Baby Supplies, Toiletries and Business Support — the latter which allows local businesses to ask for help and respond to offers for help.

Facebook also clarifies that users will be able to post or comment in reply to posts about offering assistance, as either an individual user or as a Facebook Page. And both individuals and Facebook Pages will be able to share posts to let others know what they need.

In addition, the COVID-19 Community Help hub will fundraise through two COVID-response efforts: the UNF/WHO COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund Facebook Fundraiser and the Combat Coronavirus with the CDC Foundation Facebook Fundraiser (U.S. only), where Facebook is matching donations, up to $10 million to each fundraiser. While not available today, Facebook will soon allow people to seek out and donate to local nonprofit fundraisers, it says.

Facebook says the COVID-19 Community Help hub will arrive in more countries around the world in the next few weeks, starting first with higher-risk countries across Europe and Asia-Pacific.

Wide Open School organizes free educational resources to help parents and teachers homeschool

Nearly 300 million kids are missing school worldwide because of the coronavirus outbreak, including some 54 million in the U.S. alone. That’s left parents scrambling for resources to help continue their children’s education, often while also working from home themselves — an almost insurmountable challenge. Today, the non-profit media organization Common Sense is launching a site to help parents called Wide Open School (WideOpenSchool.org), which combines the best educational resources for publishers, nonprofits, and education companies in one place.

At launch, this free resource includes content from the American Federation of Teachers, Amplify, Boys & Girls Clubs of America, Head Start, Khan Academy, National Geographic, Noggin, PBS, Scholastic, Sesame Workshop, Time for Kids, XQ Institute, and even YouTube.

All the content offered through Wide Open School is freely available.

But it’s not just a list of helpful websites. Instead, Wide Open School actually programs a full school day for the child by grade level, to ensure they’re getting a mix of educational material that aligns with what their day would have been when attending school.

For example, a 4th grader may be pointed to Prodigy’s math games, YouTube art tutorials, and Khan Academy reading resources in the morning, then instructed to read a book, draw, or listen to music during their screen-free lunch break. In the afternoon, they may take social studies via Google Earth, study science through Amplify, and take P.E. by way of GoNoodle.

The site even suggests evening activities that can be done as a family, like bedtime reading or movies to stream, among other things.

In addition, Wide Open School offers a guide to getting started with learning at home, a collection of virtual field trips, a collection with resources for art and music, and one with resources for emotional well-being — the latter especially critical at a time when anxiety levels are high among parents and kids alike.

There’s also a section dedicated to parents of children with special needs

Everything is organized in a colorful grid with picture images so it can be easily used by children on their own.

For struggling parents new to homeschooling, a resource like this will likely be welcome.

However, Common Sense is opening up the tools to educators, as well. Though many U.S. school systems already offer their students a set of digital resources through direct relationships with educational companies, like Nat Geo or Scholastic, those resources were typically meant to supplement the education the child was receiving at school, not replace it. There may still be large holes in the child’s education that aren’t being addressed.

Common Sense says on the new Wide Open School website has been curated for educational quality.

This taps into the organization’s key strength, as its focus has always been on promoting safe technology and media for children. Today, its main website is known for its trusted reviews of TV, movies, books, games, and apps that help parents understand a given piece of content’s age-appropriateness, as well as concerns with the title in question, if any.

To create the new Wide Open School, Common Sense was able to tap into its existing understanding of the educational media available for families, and then organize it by grade level.

Common Sense says it also worked with key distribution and technology partners Apple, Google, Zoom, Comcast, Salesforce, and Zoom, which have also suggested tools and resources, to ensure they’re aware of and can access the content.

“The coronavirus pandemic has elevated the need for quality learning materials all in one place for families and educators, and Common Sense is proud that trusted experts and partners have joined together to launch Wide Open School so quickly,” said James P. Steyer, CEO and founder of Common Sense, in a statement about the launch.

“Many organizations have moved swiftly to respond to this crisis with incredible resources and special offers for educators and families. We wanted to use our nearly 20 years of experience as an expert reviewer and curator to create the go-to source of quality content that will provide educators with the support they need to shift to remote teaching and a one-stop, trusted place for families to engage kids who are now learning from home,” he added.

Though many U.S. schools are moving towards remote learning, some aren’t yet ready or fully rolled out. And even those schools that have shifted online aren’t necessarily programming the equivalent of a full school day for the students. That can be difficult for parents working from home, as kids complete their more limited educational activities, then look to be entertained. Left on their own, that’s meant full days of gaming or binging YouTube — much to the exacerbation of parents who don’t consider coronavirus cancellations just an early start to summer break.

Wide Open School can supplement whatever remote learning is taking place, as well, or can be used by teachers who are creating online lessons for the first time.

The new website launched publicly today, but is still considered a beta — meaning it’s not the final product.

Common Sense is still working to expand the site and is forging additional educational partnerships with media and education companies, nonprofits, and teachers, in order to add more content, it says.

The site will be available across platforms, including mobile, desktop and TV, in order to allow everyone — even low-income families — to access its resources.

It’s working to add other resources to aid low-income families as well, including information about accessing free or discounted broadband services, as well as resources for more urgent needs to address health, hunger, shelter, and psychological needs.

Niantic is updating Pokémon GO and other titles to support indoor gaming

Niantic, the development company behind popular AR mobile games Pokémon GO and Harry Potter: Wizards Unite, is adapting its titles to support at-home gaming in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Typically, Niantic’s games have encouraged people to go outdoors, explore their world and connect with others in real life as they played. But with government lockdowns and home quarantines under way, it’s no longer safe to play these games as originally intended. 

The company says it will now prioritize making changes to its AR titles to allow people to play inside and around their own homes.

For example, Niantic’s Adventure Sync function will now track your indoor steps as you do things like run on a treadmill, clean your house or make other indoor movements and activities. It’s also enhancing the games’ social features to allow friends to stay in touch virtually, and soon take on Raid Battles together while staying at home.

Instead of discouraging virtual movement inside the game, as Niantic has in the past, players will be able to virtually visit and share memories about their favorite real-world places. And this summer, Niantic will re-imagine its plans for live events to allow players to participate without having to leave home.

These updates aren’t just those made for the consideration of players’ needs during this time of crisis — they’re also necessary changes to ensure Niantic continues to operate both during the pandemic and beyond.

Niantic’s live events have driven big business to the cities that hosted them — nearly $250 million in tourism revenue in 2019, it once said. It also served as a mechanism to drive its own revenues and keep players engaged over time. The plan had worked — Pokémon GO has continued to grow, even though it’s not the hyped-up global phenomenon it was at launch. Last year was its highest-grossing year ever, a report from Sensor Tower found, as the game pulled in nearly $900 million in player spending in 2019. Much of the revenue was due to the game’s significant updates and real-world events, the report noted.

These latest updates aren’t the first changes Niantic has made in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. It had already modified gameplay in Pokémon GO to encourage users to stay inside — including by rewarding players who caught their Pokémon while inside, for example. It also just launched a new form of gameplay called the GO Battle League, which can be played from home, with reduced walking requirements and discounted select items so players wouldn’t have to walk as far to catch Pokémon, among other things.

In Harry Potter: Wizards Unite, the company increased the amount of content that’s near players on the map, so they could progress in the game without traveling far. Potions were also tuned to support people playing from home.

And in both titles, gifts were adjusted to include more helpful content throughout each day.

In Niantic’s first game, Ingress, it has made a few changes, too. Ingress Portals are now tuned to encourage at-home play and it has reduced the need to interact with multiple Portals. Several other changes make it easier to play the game without having to walk around as much.

Niantic has not yet gone so far as to fully eliminate the use of outdoor walks as a means of gameplay, however. Instead, it still encourages people to get outside — in areas where it’s permitted by local authorities to go for walks.

Though Niantic had made earlier changes to its games due to the outbreak, today’s announcement represents a more formal strategy for its business. It also lays out a detailed roadmap of what Niantic has in store. Not all its new features are live. Instead, Niantic says they’ll roll out in the “coming days and weeks,” without committing to an exact time frame.

“We created Niantic with a mission to help people get outside, exercise, and explore the world, with the ultimate goal of helping people connect with others. Today we support a global community of hundreds of millions of people who look to our games for regular entertainment and an opportunity to get outside and connect with friends,” said Niantic founder and CEO John Hanke, on the company blog.

“We have always believed that our games can include elements of indoor play that complement the outdoor, exercise and explore DNA of what we build. Now is the time for us to prioritize this work, with the key challenge of making playing indoors as exciting and innovative as our outdoor gameplay,” he added.

WeWork sells off social network Meetup to AlleyCorp and other investors

Meetup, the social networking platform designed to connect people in person, is being spun out from shared office space provider WeWork, the company confirmed on Monday. The site is being sold to AlleyCorp and other private investors for an undisclosed sum, but one that’s reportedly far less than the $156 million acquisition price WeWork paid for the social network back in 2017.

Fortune (paywalled) was first to break the news of Meetup’s sale. The company has also now put out a press release with further details.

Meetup, which has operated for two-and-a-half years as a WeWork subsidiary, will divest itself from its parent company and continue to operate, it says. The site today serves 49 million registered members and over 230,000 organizers who create an average of 15,000 in-person events per day.

But even before the COVID-19 pandemic, Meetup had been struggling. The company in November announced a round of layoffs amid other cost-cutting measures. And these had followed earlier cuts of 10% of staff during acquisition negotiations.

With the COVID-19 pandemic now in full force, fewer people than ever are willing and able to meet in-person, leading to Meetup to position itself today as a place for groups to meet “online during times of crisis,” its release said. That remains to be seen.

The investor groups in Meetup’s latest acquisition are led by Kevin Ryan’s AlleyCorp and also include other “mission-driven private funds” and “accomplished technology executives,” the company claims.

The deal will see Ryan joining Meetup as Chairman of the Board. David Siegel will remain Meetup CEO and board member, and will continue to lead the company.

Meetup groups will continue to operate as will Meetup’s enterprise business solution, Meetup Pro, which has been used by over 1,500 clients to date, including Adobe, Google, Microsoft Azure, IBM, Twitter, and Looker, among others.

“This acquisition provides the long-term capital to ensure that Meetup focuses on what is most important: the organizers who make Meetup successful, our passionate members, and our dedicated employees,” said David Siegel, CEO of Meetup, in a statement. “We are excited to continue on our mission of empowering personal growth through real human connections, and I’m happy to have brought in a team of smart investors who share and support the same values,” he said.

WeWork’s intention to sell off Meetup was previously known. Unfortunately for the longtime social network, it was one of several casualties arising from WeWork’s larger troubles.

It’s unclear, however, what the future holds for Meetup. Though the government lockdown policies may eventually end, consumers’ appetite for getting together in real-life groups with people they first met online may not be as strong it was before. Meetup may have to shift more of its focus to supporting online-only groups — a market that’s today dominated by Facebook Groups, or niche apps catering to specific categories, like Peanut for moms or Nextdoor for neighbors, for instance.

“We are confident in the enormous potential of the business and Meetup’s mission of bringing people together in substantive ways,” said AlleyCorp’s Ryan, in a statement. “We are very excited to collectively serve and grow Meetup’s extensive and incredibly engaged user base.”

 

 

This Week in Apps: Apple launches a COVID-19 app, the outbreak’s impact on social and video apps and more

Welcome back to This Week in Apps, the Extra Crunch series that recaps the latest OS news, the applications they support and the money that flows through it all.

The app industry saw a record 204 billion downloads and $120 billion in consumer spending in 2019, according to App Annie’s “State of Mobile” annual report. People are now spending 3 hours and 40 minutes per day using apps, rivaling TV. Apps aren’t just a way to pass idle hours — they’re a big business. In 2019, mobile-first companies had a combined $544 billion valuation, 6.5x higher than those without a mobile focus.

In this Extra Crunch series, we help you keep up with the latest news from the world of apps, delivered on a weekly basis.

This week, we’re continuing our special coverage of how the COVID-19 outbreak is impacting apps and the wider mobile app industry as more COVID-19 apps appear — including one from Apple built in partnership with the CDC, among others. We also take a look at the gains made by social and video apps in recent weeks as people struggle to stay connected while stuck at home in quarantine. In other headlines, we dig into Instagram’s co-watching feature, the Google for Games conference news, Apple’s latest releases and updates, Epic Games expansion into publishing and more.

Coronavirus Special Coverage

Social video apps are exploding due to the COVID-19 pandemic

Report: WhatsApp has seen a 40% increase in usage due to COVID-19 pandemic

Social media usage has grown as a result of the COVID-19 crisis, as more users go online to stay connected with family, friends and colleagues. Now, new data from insights and consulting firm Kantar reveals exactly how much some apps are benefiting. According to a survey of more than 25,000 consumers in 30 markets conducted from March 14 to 24, WhatsApp is the social media app that has experienced the greatest gains due to COVID-19.

Overall, Facebook-owned WhatsApp has seen a 40% increase in usage that grew from an initial 27% bump in the earlier days of the pandemic to 41% in the mid-phase. For countries already in the later phase of the pandemic, WhatsApp usage has jumped by 51%.

In individual markets, that usage may be even higher, Kantar noted. For example, WhatsApp usage in Spain was up 76%.

Across all messaging platforms, the growth in usage has been the largest in the 18 to 34-year-old age group, the study also found. In addition, WhatsApp, Facebook and Instagram saw a 40%+ increase in usage from this same demographic.

Other social media apps seeing gains during the pandemic include, not surprisingly, Facebook and China’s WeChat and Weibo.

Overall, Facebook usage has increased by 37%, while China’s local social media apps saw usage climb by 58%, Kantar says.

Despite the gains, consumers reported they didn’t trust their social media platforms for critical news related to COVID-19. National news channels and government agency websites were considered better options, with 58% and 48% of survey respondents, respectively, identifying them as a “trustworthy” source of news and information. Social media platforms, meanwhile, were only considered “trustworthy” by 11% of consumers.

Kantar’s is not the first study to report on the growth in social media activity attributed to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Facebook recently shared its own data, noting that total messaging on its platform was up by more than 50% over last month. This would include Facebook Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp combined. It also claimed that time across all apps since the crisis had grown 70%, as well, and time in group calls (three or more participants) was up by more than 1,000% during the last month.

In addition, Instagram and Facebook Live views doubled in a week’s time, Facebook said.

While not exactly an apples-to-apples comparison, Facebook’s metrics confirm Kantar’s report of significant growth during March related to the pandemic. The company spoke, too, of preparing its infrastructure for this unprecedented amount of usage. Previously, Facebook was able to remain stable during major events, like New Year’s Eve or the Olympics, but now says it’s seeing sustained, record levels of use, which required it to reduce bit rates on Facebook and Instagram videos and add capacity as needed.

Related to this, another report from influencer marketing platform Klear compared the week of March 7-14 to the week of March 15-21, in order to drill down into more specific Instagram user behavior. It found that users posted 6.1 Instagram Stories per day, on average, an increase of 15% week-over-week. Stories’ impressions, meaning views, also increased by 21% during that time.

Target pauses plans for grocery pickup amid COVID-19 outbreak

Target is pausing its plans to offer curbside pick-up of groceries and alcoholic beverages, citing the COVID-19 outbreak as the key factor in its decision to delay the launch. Although groceries via Order Pickup and Drive Up would be valuable services at a time when people are being asked to distance themselves from others to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, Target says it won’t have time to train employees on these new processes right now.

Like many retailers and grocers, Target is impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak, which is significantly changing the way people shop. People are more likely to buy in bulk to minimize trips to the store. And many are panic-buying critical supplies, like toilet paper. Target says it’s seen a sustained surge in both traffic and sales, particularly in food and beverage and other household essentials, like cleaning supplies and baby products. Other categories, including apparel and accessories, have slowed.

The launch of any new system or process takes time to adjust to, even when there’s ample time to train. But Target staff today is working at increased levels — its March sales are 20% higher than March of last year, as a  point of comparison.

Like everywhere, Target also faces staffing concerns as people scramble to figure out childcare when schools are closed. It will have to reassess employee schedules on the fly, as staff leaves unexpectedly when they or a family member gets sick. There have also been a small number of cases where Target employees themselves have tested positive for the virus. And as the outbreak spreads, more will likely be exposed, given their continual contact with the public.

To address these concerns, Target is cleaning its stores regularly, promoting social distancing, wiping down carts, adding signage to guide guests, cleaning checklanes after each transaction, and more. It’s also stopping in-store returns for three weeks, but will honor later returns when the ban is lifted, as a result. And it’s pausing its small-format store openings and remodels planned for this year — shifting those to 2021, given the chaos around its business today.

To assist employees, Target announced that it’s investing more than $300 million in added wages, a new paid leave program, bonus payouts and relief fund contributions.

Though Target won’t roll out curbside fresh grocery pickup now, it continues to operate the grocery delivery business Shipt. This and other grocery delivery services are booming due to the outbreak. Instacart this week said it was hiring 300,000 more full-service shoppers due to coronavirus. Walmart, CVS, Amazon, and other U.S. employers are hiring more than 800,000 new workers due to the COVID-19 impacts.