Apple launches a dedicated mobile app for its developer community

Apple today is introducing a new resource for the over 23 million registered members of its developer community, with the launch of a dedicated Apple Developer mobile app. The new app is an expansion on the existing WWDC app for Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference, which it will now replace. Instead of only including information about the developer event itself, the app will expand to include other relevant resources — like technical and design articles, developer news and updates, videos, and more. It will also offer a way for developers to enroll in the Apple Developer program and maintain their membership.

Today, developer information is spread out across Apple’s website, and elsewhere. It even arrives in developers’ inbox in the form of email updates from various product teams. Now it will be available in a single, streamlined mobile app experience.

At launch, the Apple Developer app may not have everything you could otherwise find on Apple’s Developer website, but its offerings will grow over time. For example, today you’ll find technical information and over 600 videos, but you won’t find things like the Apple Developer Forums or a way to connect a local Apple Developer program — like Apple’s App Accelerators, Design Labs or Developer Academies.

Instead, the app’s content is organized across four main sections: Discover, for finding developer information, news and updates; Videos, where you’ll find the videos the WWDC app once hosted; WWDC, for event attendees; and Account, where developers can manage their account and program membership.

Apple’s goal is to use the app to get relevant content in front of developers in a timely fashion and to point them to things they may not even realize exist on the Apple Developer website, or even at Apple, overall. And in some cases, the app will include more mobile-friendly content — like articles that attempt to educate in a more digestible, short-form manner.

In other words, it may be the same content as found online in technical papers, but packaged in a slightly different way. Later, the app will also expand to address some of the things that Apple hasn’t yet documented — a topic of increasing concern among developers as of late. (One developer even built a website called “No Overview Available” that helps you find out if an Apple API is missing documentation.)

Elsewhere in the app, developers will continue to be able to watch WWDC session videos and review the WWDC schedule, when available. They’ll also be able to sign up for or renew an Apple Developer program membership, then pay for it using Apple Pay or other payment methods.

The app’s launch comes at a time when Apple has been focused on growing its international community of developers through investments in local developer academies and accelerators — efforts that have been paying off.

For example, over the past year, the developer community in Indonesia grew its membership by 60% after the opening of two Developer Academy facilities in 2019. In Brazil, the original location for an Apple Developer Academy, the community grew by 50% this year. In India, the location of Apple’s first accelerator lab, the community grew by 45%. Other areas that grew their developer base this year included the U.K. (up 40%), France (30%), Italy (28%), and China (17%).

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In serving these regions, Apple found that some developers are more inclined to open an app than they are an email — which is another reason it wanted to offer a mobile-optimized, mobile-friendly developer resource. Plus, the company discovered it had developer resources that some people didn’t even know about, like its App Store mini site. By centralizing all this content into an app, it’s more accessible.

The Apple Developer app is being soft-launched today in all worldwide markets, but Apple Developer program membership management tools are U.S.-only for now. Apple considers this a version 1, and aims to get developer feedback as it expands.

The Apple Developer app is available on iOS, including Apple Watch and iMessage.

 

This Week in Apps: League of Legends goes mobile, Tim Cook talks to China 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 in 2018 saw 194 billion downloads and more than $100 billion in purchases. Just in the past quarter, consumer spending exceeded $23 billion and installs topped 31 billion. It’s a fact: we spend more time on our phones than we do watching TV.

This week, Chinese censorship is still a big topic, and one which sees Apple CEO sitting down with Chinese regulators to discuss. China was also found to have forced a spy app on its people, according to a code review. Meanwhile, TikTok got cloned in Russia. It also decided to bring in corporate lawyers to help it to figure out how to moderate its content and be transparent.

We also take a look at headlines about Luna Display’s response to sherlocking, an Arcade developer’s localization efforts, and hear from a former App Store reviewer, among other things.

Let’s get to it.

Media software Plex launches a new desktop app for Mac and Windows

Plex today is launching a new desktop application for Mac and Windows, with the goal of eventually replacing Plex Media Player as the company’s only desktop solution. The app’s arrival also signals a change in direction for the company, which will also now remove its existing Windows Store application and end support for the traditional home theater PC setup — the latter which involves a desktop computer connected to a TV or home theater.

The company explains this decision was made after examining how people were using Plex today, and found that most would have an equal or even better experience with a streaming device and its new players.

“It marks the end of an era for us, and we’d be lying if we said it wasn’t a little bittersweet,” the company wrote in a blog post about the change.

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Home theater PC-style configurations are today a bit of a holdover from an earlier era where there were fewer resources to stream personal media from your PC to your TV. Today, however, Plex’s apps for streaming devices are fairly capable, and a heck of a lot simpler to set up and use by mainstream consumers.

The company also noted that the new Apple TV and Android players support nearly all the same formats and that Plex’s app for streaming devices has come a long way in recent years.

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“Modern streaming devices don’t need as much care and feeding as desktop computers. They don’t need to sleep (much), they use a tiny amount of electricity…and they don’t require nearly as much effort to get up and running. They have remotes that work wonderfully out of the box (no more fiddly custom key mappings!) In short, they’re designed for the environment in which you’re using them, and it shows,” the company explained, in hopes of fending off any backlash.

Meanwhile, the new Plex desktop app includes all the capabilities of Plex Media Player along with support for offline access. Previously called “Sync,” this feature has been renamed to “Downloads,” and lets you take your media with you. Similar support for offline media will come to Plex’s mobile apps, too, at a later date, the company said.

To use the Downloads feature, you’ll need a Plex Pass subscription. But otherwise, the new desktop app is free.

Though the desktop app is meant to replace Plex Media Player, the company says it will continue to update the software until January 2020, to allow time for everyone to make the transition.

Plex’s overall business has been changing, in recent years, to become more than just a home media organizer. Today, Plex is a DIY streaming solution that allows users to watch not just their own media across platforms, but also stream podcastsnews, web series, music from TIDAL, as well as capture and record live TV from a digital antenna.

This change has led to other closures, including Plex’s decision last year to Plugins, Cloud Sync and its “Watch Later” bookmarking feature, in addition to the technically challenging Plex Cloud.

It’s unclear how successful Plex’s changes have been as the company doesn’t disclose its number of paying subscribers. However, last year, Plex said it has 15 million registered users — meaning both free and paid. In January 2019, it upped that number to 20 million and noted it had “millions” of people using Plex on a monthly basis.

YouTube confirms a test where the comments are hidden by default

YouTube’s comments section has a bad reputation. It’s even been called “the worst on the internet,” and a reflection of YouTube’s overall toxic culture where creators are rewarded for outrageous behavior — whether that’s tormenting and exploiting their children, filming footage of a suicide victim, promoting dangerous “miracle cures” or sharing conspiracies, to name a few high-profile examples. Now, the company is considering a design change that hides the comments by default.

The website XDA Developers first spotted the test on Android devices in India.

Today, YouTube’s comments don’t have a prominent position on its mobile app. On both iOS and Android devices, the YouTube video itself appears at the top of the screen, followed by engagement buttons for sharing, liking, disliking, downloading and saving the video. Below that are recommendations from YouTube’s algorithm in a section titled “Up Next.” If you actually want to visit the comments, you have to scroll all the way to the bottom of the page.

In the test, the comments have been removed from this bottom section of the page entirely.

Instead, they’ve been relocated to a new section that users can only view after clicking a button.

The new Comments button is found between the Thumbs Down and Share buttons, right below the video.

It’s unclear if this change will reduce or increase user engagement with comments, or if engagement will remain flat — something that YouTube likely wants to find out, too.

On the one hand, comments are hidden unless the user manually taps on the button to reveal them — users won’t happen upon them by scrolling down. On the other hand, putting the comments button behind a click at top of the page instead of forcing users to scroll could make them easier to access.

As XDA Developers reports, when you’ve loaded up this new Comments section, you can pull to refresh the page to see the newly-added comments appear. To exit, you tap the “X” button at the top of the window to close the section.

While it reported the test was underway in Android devices in India, we’ve confirmed it’s also appearing on iOS and is not limited to a particular region. That means it’s something YouTube wants to test on a broader scale, rather than a feature it’s considering for a localized version of its app for Indian users.

The change comes at a time when YouTube’s comments section has been discovered to be more than just the home to bullying, abuse, arguments, and other unhelpful content, but also a tool that was exploited by pedophiles. A ring of pedophiles had communicated through the comments to share videos and timestamps with one another.

YouTube reacted then by disabling comments on videos with kids. More recently, it’s been considering moving kids content to a separate app. (Unfortunately, it will never consider the appropriateness of having built a platform where young children can be put on public display for the whole world to see.)

A YouTube spokesperson confirmed the Comments test, in a statement, but downplayed its importance by referring to it as one of many small experiments the company is running.

“We’re always experimenting with ways to help people more easily find, watch, share and interact with the videos that matter most to them,” the spokesperson told TechCrunch. “We are testing a few different options on how to display comments on the watch page. This is one of many small experiments we run all the time on YouTube, and we’ll consider rolling features out more broadly based on feedback on these experiments.”

Spotify outage not related to today’s update, company is working on a fix

This morning, Spotify announced the rollout of a redesigned app for its Premium users. Now, the service is down. The streaming music provider is experiencing an outage today, according to reports from social media and various outage-tracking websites, including DownDetector. Spotify had failed to acknowledge the outage on its Spotify Status Twitter account, but the company has now confirmed the outage directly with TechCrunch.

Spotify’s Twitter customer support team is also responding to customers to let them know the company is aware of the problem and working on a fix.

Many of the impacted users appear to be complaining about their Spotify mobile app not working — something that led people to believe the outage is related to the app redesign that went live earlier today.

Spotify tells TechCrunch that’s not the case, however.

The company isn’t offering information about what is causing the issue, nor any other details, but says it’s working to bring the service back online.

According to Down Detector, Spotify began having issues as early as 8:22 AM ET. But its chart shows a clear spike later in the morning heading into the afternoon.

Its outage map shows a heavy concentration of reports in the U.S., but U.K. tabloid publications noted the outage is happening there, as well.

Meanwhile, the website Outage.Report claims to have received hundreds of reports of Spotify issues beginning around the same time of ~8:00 AM ET. Reports hail from the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Brazil, the U.K. and 26 other countries, it says. A third service, IsItDownRightNow.com, also reports the Spotify.com website is currently unreachable.

We’ll update with more information as it becomes available.

HBO’s mobile apps to gain a million new downloads courtesy of ‘Game of Thrones’ premiere

In addition to exciting its loyal legion of fans, HBO’s “Game of Thrones” premiere was also once again great news for installs of the network’s app for cord cutters, HBO NOW, which shot to the top of the App Store this weekend. The app this weekend saw a combined 300,000-plus new mobile subscribers in the U.S. across both Apple’s App Store and Google Play, according to preliminary estimates from Sensor Tower.

This is the highest the app has ranked on the U.S. iPhone App Store in three years, Sensor Tower notes, with its previous highest ranking on April 24, 2016 for the Season 6 “Game of Thrones” premiere. At that time, the app had seen 160,000 downloads on just the one day.

Sensor Tower expects to have more precise estimates of the premiere’s impact in the near future, as it wants to incorporate numbers from the fans who are getting a late start and downloading the app today.

Currently, the app is holding its No. 1 position on Apple’s App Store. If that continues, it could easily add another couple hundred thousand over the course of today (Monday, April 15, 2019), Sensor Tower estimates. That could see the app surpassing 500,000 new downloads across the three-day period.

To be clear, these numbers refer to users who have never before installed the app on their phone – not re-downloads.

Of course, this isn’t necessarily a 1:1 correlation with new HBO NOW subscribers. Many fans watch the series on their TV’s big screen through an HBO app for devices like Roku, Apple TV, Fire TV, and others. Or they may tune in to watch on the web, via their laptop. Still, it’s a notable number – especially considering how late it is in the series for the show to be gaining new fans.

HBO’s app for cable and satellite TV customers, HBO Go, also did well this weekend. It’s on track to exceed 400,000 installs over the same three-day period (the weekend of the Season 8 premiere, plus Monday). This is highest the app has ranked since the Season 7 premiere in July 2017, when it added 350,000 first-time users across both stores worldwide.

Combined, the two apps — HBO Go and HBO NOW — are poised to exceed over 1 million new installs in this three-day period, Sensor Tower forecasts.

However, fans’ interest in the long-awaited new season may have caused HBO’s apps to struggle some.

There have been reports from Down Detector and Business Insider of users who had issues streaming from the HBO apps, as well as Hulu. But these were nowhere on the scale of crashes we’ve seen in years past — as with the Season 4 “Game of Thrones” premiere, which had HBO issuing a public apology due to the size of the outage. (HBO has not responded to our requests for comment about the unconfirmed reports detailing last night’s issues. So the issues could be chalked up to users’ broadband connections, or other factors.)

Other TV apps had a few glitches, too, thanks to the premiere. For example, the TV-tracking social app TV Time temporarily struggled to load, shortly after the premiere’s airing last night. On its app, “Game of Thrones” is one of the most-tracked shows, where it has 4.3 million followers who post comments, photos, memes and more to the show’s in-app community. Today, there are some 6,200 comments in the show’s forum, from fans discussing the show.

You can now register .dev domains

Google today announced that you can now register .dev domain names. Google acquired the .dev top-level domain when ICANN opened up the web to new generic top-level domains (gTLD) a few years ago. At the time, Google acquired gTLD’s like .app, .page and .dev (for some reason, Google also owns .soy).

Right now, the .dev domains are still in an early access program, though. That means you’ll have to pay an additional fee that decreases every day until February 28 — and that early access fee is pretty steep.

Registering a new domain on GoDaddy, which is one of the many resellers that offer the new domain names, will set you back over $12,500 in extra fees today. Tomorrow, that price drops to just over $3,100. Come February 28, you can register any available domain and it’ll just cost you about $20 per year. The idea here, of course, is to manage demand (and to extract a few extra dollars from the companies that really need to have a given domain name).

Some of the companies and organizations that are already using the new gTLD are Google itself, as well as the likes of GitHub. Women Who Code, Jetbrains, Codecademy and Salesforce. And because this is 2019, there’s also Kubernetes.dev.

Like its .app domains, .dev domain will require HTTPS connections to protect users from ad malware, tracking injections and WiFi snooping.

“We hope .dev will be a new home for you to build your communities, learn the latest tech and showcase your projects—all with a perfect domain name,” Google explains in today’s announcement.

I never got the sense that there was all that much demand for non-.com or country-level domain names (does the world really need .ninja domains?), but if you always wanted a .dev domain, now would be a good time to get our your credit card.

Microsoft’s new expense tracker Spend hits the App Store

The team behind mileage-tracking app MileIQ, a company Microsoft acquired a few years ago, is out with a new application. This time, the focus isn’t on tracking miles, but rather expenses. The new app, simply called “Spend,” arrived on the App Store on Thursday, offering automatic expense tracking for work reimbursement purposes or for taxes.

Spend doesn’t appear to be a part of some grand Microsoft plan to take on expense tracking industry giants, like Expensify or SAP-owned Concur, for example. At least, not at this time.

Instead, the app is a Microsoft Garage project, the App Store clarifies.

Microsoft Garage is the company’s internal incubator when employees can test out new ideas to see if they resonate with consumers and business users.

Through the program, a number of interesting projects have gotten their start over the years, like the Cortana-based dictation tool, Dictate; mobile design creation app Sprightly; short-form email app Send; the Word Flow keyboard for smartphones; a Bing-backed alternative to Google News; and dozens more.

The new Spend app, at first glance, looks well-designed and easy to use.

Like most expense trackers, it offers features like the ability to take photos of receipts, expense categorization features, and reporting.

However, what makes Spend interesting is the app’s automated tracking and matching, and its user interface for working with your receipts.

The app begins by automatically tracking all your expenses from a linked credit card or bank account. You can then swipe on the expenses to mark them as personal or business. These expenses are automatically categorized, and you can add extra tags for added organization.

You can also add notes to purchases, split expenses, and customize expense categories, in addition to tags.

And the app can generate expense reports on a weekly, monthly or custom bases, which can be exported at spreadsheets or PDFs. There’s a web dashboard for when you’re using the app at your computer, but Spend doesn’t appear on the MileIQ main website at this time. It does, however, have a support site.

How well this all works, in practice, requires further testing.

MileIQ had been the top-grossing finance app in Apple’s App Store for the last 20 months at the time of its acquisition back in 2015. Microsoft had said then the team would work on other mobile productivity solutions going forward.

Since joining Microsoft, the team that created MileIQ has added capabilities to MileIQ, such as MileIQ for Teams, new intelligence features and a partnership with Xero. MileIQ is also now included with Microsoft 365 Business and Office 365 Business Premium plans

However, Spend is the first standalone app built by the team in that time.

The company says the new Spend app is an early version, and they plan to revise it going forward as they make improvements.

Microsoft responded to a request for comment, but didn’t provide any details about its eventual plans for Spend, like whether it will have business model or be included with Office subscriptions.

10/19/18: Updated after publication with information about Microsoft’s comments.

Clipisode launches a ‘talk show in a box’

A company called Clipisode is today launching a new service that’s essentially a “talk show in a box,” as founder Brian Alvey describes it. Similar to how Anchor now allows anyone to build a professional podcast using simple mobile and web tools, Clipisode does this for video content. With Clipisode, you can record a video that can be shared across any platform – social media, the web, text messages – and collect video responses that can then be integrated into the “show” and overlaid with professional graphics.

The video responses feature is something more akin to a video voicemail-based call-in feature.

Here’s how it works. The content creator will first use Clipisode to record their video, and receive the link to share the video across social media, the web, or privately through email, text messaging, etc. When the viewer or guest clicks the link, they can respond to the question the show’s “host” posed.

For example, a reporter could ask for viewers’ thoughts on an issue or a creator could ask their fans what they want to see next.

How the video creator wants to use this functionality is really up to them, and specific to the type of video show they’re making.

To give you an idea, during a pre-launch period, the app has been tested by AXS TV to promote their upcoming Top Ten Revealed series by asking music industry experts “Who Is Your All-time Favorite Guitarist?

BBC Scotland asked their Twitter followers who they want to see hired as the new manager for the Scotland national football team.

A full-time Twitch gamer, Chris Melberger asked his subscribers what device they watch Twitch on.

The content creator can then receive all the video responses to these questions privately, choose which ones they want to include in their finished show, and drag those responses into the order they want. The creator can respond back to the clips, too, or just add another clip at the end of their video. Uploading pre-recorded clips from services like Dropbox or even your phone is supported as well.

Plus, content creators can use Clipisode to overlay professional-looking animations and graphics on top of the final video with the responses and replies. This makes it seem more like something made with help from a video editing team, not an app on your phone.

Because Clipisode invitations are web links, they don’t require the recipients to download an app.

“[People] don’t want to download an app for a one-time video reply,” explains Alvey. “But with this, people can reply.” And, he adds, what makes Clipisode interesting from a technical perspective, is that the web links users click to reply can work in any app in a way that feels seamless to the end user.

“That’s our biggest trick – making this work in other people’s apps, so there’s no new social network to join and nothing to download,” he says.

The app is free currently, but the plan is to generate revenue by later selling subscription access to the authoring suite where users can create the animated overlays and branding components that give the video the professional look-and-feel.

In an online CMS, creators can author, test and deploy animated themes that run on top of their videos.

The final video product can be shared back to social media, or downloaded as a video file to be published on video-sharing sites, social media, or as a video podcast.

Clipisode has been in development for some time, Alvey says. The company originally raised less than a million from investors including Mike Jones and Mark Cuban for a different product the founder describes as a Patreon competitor, before pivoting to Clipisode. Investors funded the new product with less than half a million.

The app itself took a couple of years to complete, something that Alvey says has to do with the animation studio it includes and the small team. (It’s just him and technical co-founder Max Schmeling.)

Clipisode is a free download on iOS and Android.

Bumble responds to Match’s patent lawsuit

Yesterday we reported that Match, the parent company of Tinder, was suing Bumble for patent infringement and misuse of intellectual property.

Specifically, Match alleged that Bumble “copied Tinder’s world-changing, card-swipe-based, mutual opt-in premise” for which a patent was filed in 2013 (before Bumble was founded) but just granted a few months ago.

Today Bumble has responded to Match’s lawsuit with a letter published on their own blog and other news outlets. The full letter is linked here and we’ll also include it in full at the bottom of this post.

Interestingly, Bumble’s letter focuses less on the actual litigation and instead attempts to fill in readers about the context in which Match has decided to sue over this patent claim.

Specifically, the letter notes that this lawsuit comes after Match has made repeated attempts to buy Bumble as well as launch a copy cat “lady’s first” feature. While Bumble or Match have never publicly acknowledged negotiations between the two companies, sources close to the situation have confirmed in the past to TechCrunch that there were multiple back and forth offers from Match which fell short of Bumble’s desired valuation.

With sources close to the two companies telling TechCrunch that this is the first time Match has ever mentioned possible patent infringements by Bumble, it’s very possible that Match feels that discussions have stalled and this is their way of either forcing the deal forward or making Bumble an unattractive target for other bidders that may be scared off by this potential legal liability.

The letter shows that Bumble essentially agrees with this analysis, as they openly call out the lawsuit as an intimidation tactic by saying “we swipe left on your attempted scare tactics, and on these endless games. We swipe left on your assumption that a baseless lawsuit would intimidate us.”

While anything is possible (especially in the world of M&A), the letter also strongly suggests that as of now any chance of a deal between the two companies are seriously off the table, as Bumble says “we’ll never be yours, no matter the price tag”.

When asked if any company besides Match has made a competing offer, Bumble founder Whitney Wolfe Herd told TechCrunch that “Bumble is very excited about other potential opportunities that are still very much in discussion, and none of the recent news has affected these conversations.”

In regards to the lawsuit itself, Bumble does say (in a footnote) that they “vigorously dispute this lawsuit’s baseless claims and look forward to telling their story in court”.

It’s going to be interesting to see what happens next. If Bumble has truly swiped left on Match for good, than the dating conglomerate may feel like they have nothing to lose by pursuing their lawsuit against Bumble for as long as possible. Or, maybe it is all one big negotiating technique and they’ll end up dropping it before coming back to Bumble with a larger offer.

Either way, we’ll keep you updated as soon as we find out more. Here’s the full letter from Bumble to Match below:

Dear Match Group,

We swipe left on you. We swipe left on your multiple attempts to buy us, copy us, and, now, to intimidate us.

We’ll never be yours. No matter the price tag, we’ll never compromise our values.

We swipe left on your attempted scare tactics, and on these endless games. We swipe left on your assumption that a baseless lawsuit would intimidate us. Given your enduring interest in our company, we expected you to know us a bit better by now.

We — a woman-founded, women-led company — aren’t scared of aggressive corporate culture. That’s what we call bullying, and we swipe left on bullies. Ask the thousands of users we’ve blocked from our platform for bad behavior.

In fact, that behavior? It only fuels us. It motivates us to push our mission further — to work harder each day to build a platform, community, and brand that promotes kindness, respect, and equality. That’s the thing about us. We’re more than a feature where women make the first move. Empowerment is in our DNA. You can’t copy that.

So when you announced recently, in another attempt to intimidate us, that you were going to try to replicate our core, women-first offering and plug it in to Tinder, we applauded you for the attempt to make that subsidiary safer.

We strive every day to protect our nearly 30 million users, and to engineer a more accountable environment. Instead of swinging back and forth between trying to buy us, copy us, and sue us, why don’t you spend that time taking care of bad behavior on your platforms?

We remain focused on improving our users’ experience, and taking our mission worldwide, until every woman knows she has the power to make the first move, to go after what she wants, and to say “no” without fear.

We as a company will always swipe right for empowered moves, and left on attempts to disempower us. We encourage every user to do the same. As one of our mottos goes, “bee kind or leave.”

We wish you the best, but consider yourselves blocked.

Bumble