This Week in Apps: Apple Arcade updates, TikTok distances itself from China, Kardashians send shady app to No. 1

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. What are developers talking about? What do app publishers and marketers need to know? How are politics impacting the App Store and app businesses? And which apps are everyone using?

This week, we’re discussing the impact of the CFIUS investigation into TikTok, the further fallout of Apple’s vaping app ban, updates to Apple Arcade and Google Play Pass subscription-based app stores, Apple’s breaking changes that rolled out without warning (thanks, Apple!) and a shady app that reached the top of the App Store thanks to a big Kardashians-led endorsement, among other things.

Headlines

TikTok separates further from its Chinese parent

One of the world’s most downloaded and used apps, TikTok, is under a national security review in the U.S. because of its Chinese roots. TikTok parent company, ByteDance, is a China-based operation — something that has raised concerns because of its significant access to U.S. users’ personal data and potential censorship issues.

The company was already working to separate itself further from China before the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) began its investigation. For example, it separated the TikTok product, business development, marketing and legal teams from those of its Chinese app, Douyin, and hired consultants to audit how it’s storing U.S. users’ personal data. Following the investigation, it hired more U.S. engineers and set up a U.S.-based team to oversee data management, Reuters reported.

The question now is whether not these moves — along with a promise to not store U.S. user data in China — will be enough. The app collects data including profile information such as name, age, email and phone number, provided by users, as well as photos, videos, and location. Many of TikTok users are younger teens and college students.

Even if you’re “too old” to care about TikTok, CFIUS investigation’s conclusions here will have a larger impact on the global app industry, as they’ll set precedents as to how foreign powers can compete in U.S. app stores.

Oops: Apple releases breaking changes with no warning 

Apple this week introduced new server-to-server notifications for subscriptions that allowed developers to receive real-time updates in a subscription’s status, so they could provide customized experiences for subscribers. Only one problem with the release: Apple broke most server notifications implementations as a result. Developers weren’t given any warning about the APIs that were “scheduled for deprecation,” either, which is not typically how web APIs are managed. To add icing to the cake, not only were the changes released without warning, they were also rolled out on a Friday — there goes the weekend. Thanks, Apple.

The vaping app ban backlash continues

Has Apple crossed the line between protecting its users from dangerous apps to just turning into an overbearing parent policing adults’ ability to make their own choices? Over the past couple of weeks, several have said the latter. Now concerning are arising about what this means for the overall industry and whether or not decisions like this should even be in Apple’s hands in the first place.

As you may recall, Apple earlier made a controversial decision to remove all 181 vaping-related apps from its App Store in wake of news from the CDC about the 47 vaping deaths and thousands of lung injuries. Some early studies point to Vitamin E acetate, an addictive used in THC oil, as the cause. But Apple isn’t worrying about the details of what’s dangerous and what’s not — it just wiped out anything vaping-related, including things like Bluetooth-connected apps that let users control aspects of their vaping devices, like the lights, heat, and updates to the firmware. There’s no backup plan here for those app makers, since web apps don’t offer the same level of functionality. Plus, the ban is also impacting devices used to distribute medication as well as apps designed to help people cut down and eventually quit smoking and vaping by tracking their nicotine usage.

For app entrepreneurs, Apple’s decision in one fell swoop also just destroyed half the vaping app market as their apps will now only run on Android.

The question now is whether or not any of this should be Apple’s decision? While you may personally applaud a vaping app ban — or simply not care because it doesn’t affect you — Apple has made other controversial choices that have a more serious impact. Like when it kicked out the app that aided Hong Kong protestors, for example.

Apple Arcade and Google Play Pass expand their collections

Apple’s subscription-based gaming store and Google’s rival subscription app store, Google Play Pass, have both added new apps since their debuts. Now, the two companies are making users aware of their ongoing efforts to beef up their respective collections. Apple this week shared a video that highlighted over a dozen new Apple Arcade releases that hit this month — the first time it’s released a compilation video featuring multiple titles since its launch.

Meanwhile, Google Play Pass added 37 more apps to bring its total to 274.

What we don’t know yet, is how well the two services are working — or whether they will benefit developers in the long run. And because neither has a Top Charts section, it’s not even clear what apps are most popular or how many downloads they’re seeing.

Apple Arcade adds a “Top Games” chart… well, sorta… OK, not really

Apple took a step to address the above problem with a new section in Apple Arcade called “Top Arcade Games This Week.” We had argued earlier that the lack of visibility into the popularity of titles on Arcade was a disservice to users who wanted quickly and easily find the most popular titles.

But this new section, while fun, doesn’t solve the problem. Top Games, based on what? Downloads? Editorial curation? Both? Is there going to be an API for it?

It’s common knowledge that the App Store’s Top Charts are based on a combination of downloads and velocity. And that data is accessible to third parties like App Annie, Sensor Tower, Apptopia and others who use it to come up with download estimates.

But a “Top Games This Week” section is not the same thing as a real Top Charts section. And by limiting it to only a week’s time, it provides no real insight into whether or not the Arcade is able to produce a lasting hit the way the App Store can, or what those hit titles may be.

Apple has distanced itself from promoting the Top Charts as a means of app discovery for years now. With its big App Store makeover, it shifted its focus more to editorial, curation, and recommendations, rather than downloads. But for a smaller store like Arcade, Top Charts could have value as they would feature some of the best titles from an already exclusive collection — that’s something people would want to see.

Why was a shady photo editor the top app of October?

This Week in Apps: Honey’s $4B exit, a new plan for iOS 14, Apple’s new developer resource

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. What are developers talking about? What do app publishers and marketers need to know? How are politics impacting the App Store and app businesses? And which apps are everyone using?

This week, we’re looking at several major stories, including the whopping $4 billion PayPal just spent on browser extension and mobile app maker, Honey, as well as the release of the Apple Developer app, a new plan for iOS 14, Google Stadia’s launch, AR gaming’s next big hit (or flop?), e-commerce app trends, Microsoft’s exit from voice assistant mobile apps, and so much more.

Plus, did you hear the one about the developer who got kicked out from his developer account by Apple, leaving his apps abandoned?

Headlines

Apple to overhaul iOS development strategy after buggy iOS 13 launch

apple ios 13Apple’s iOS 13 release was one of its worst, in terms of bugs and glitches. Now Apple is making an internal change to how it approaches software development in an effort to address the problem. According to Bloomberg, Apple’s Software chief Craig Federighi and other execs announced its plans at an internal meeting. The new process will involve having unfinished and buggy features disabled by default in daily builds. Testers will then have to optionally enable the features in order to try them. While this change focuses on making internal builds of the OS more usable (or “livable”), Apple hopes that over time it will improve the overall quality of its software as it will give testers the ability to really understand what’s supposed to now be working, but isn’t. The testing changes will also apply to iPadOS, watchOS, tvOS, and macOS, the report said.

Apple launches the Apple Developer App

Apple rebranded and expanded its existing WWDC app to become a new Apple Developer app that can stay with its 23 million registered developers year-round. 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 also will offer a way for developers to enroll in the Apple Developer program and maintain their membership. Apple says it found many developers were more inclined to open an app than an email, and by centralizing this information in one place, it could more efficiently and seamlessly deliver new information and other resources to its community.

PayPal buys Honey for $4 billion

PayPal has made its biggest-ever acquisition for browser extension and mobile app maker, Honey. TechCrunch exclusively broke the news of the nearly all-cash deal, noting that Honey currently has 17 million monthly actives. But PayPal was interested in more than the user base — it wanted the tech. The company plans to insert itself ahead of the checkout screen by getting involved with the online shopping and research process, where customers visit sites and look for deals. Honey’s offer-finding features from its mobile app will also become part of PayPal and Venmo’s apps in the future.

Cloud gaming expands with Google Stadia launch

Cloud-based gaming could benefit from the growing investment in 5G. Google Stadia, which launched this week, is a big bet on 5G in that regard. Though the early reviews were middling, Google believes the next generation of gaming will involve continuous, cross-device play, including on mobile devices. This trend was already apparent with the successes of cross-platform games like Fortnite, Minecraft, Roblox, and PUBG, for example. Meanwhile, console makers like Microsoft are working to build out their own cloud infrastructure to compete. (Microsoft’s xCloud launches in May 2020.) Google could have a head start, even if Stadia today feels more like a beta than a finished product. But one question that still arises is whether Google is serious about gaming, or only sees Stadia as a content engine for YouTube?

Microsoft kills Cortana mobile apps

Microsoft this week belatedly realized it can’t compete with the built-in advantages that Siri and Google Assistant offer users, like dedicated buttons, hands-free voice commands, workflow building and more. The company decided to shut down its Cortana mobile applications on iOS and Android in a number of markets, including Great Britain, Australia, Germany, Mexico, China, Spain, Canada, and India. Any bets on when the U.S. makes that list?

SF Symbols expands

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%).

[gallery ids="1913485,1913484,1913483,1913482,1913478,1913477,1913476,1913481,1913480,1913479,1913475,1913474,1913473,1913472"]

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: Apple’s vaping app ban, Disney+ gets installed, apps gear up for Black Friday

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. What are developers talking about? What do app publishers and marketers need to know? How are politics impacting the App Store and app businesses? And which apps are everyone using?

As mid-November rolls around, we’re looking at a few big stories, including Apple’s decision to ban an entire category of apps due to health concerns, the launch of Disney+ from an app perspective, what Black Friday will mean for e-commerce apps, and more.

Fast Facts

With Disney+’s huge launch (10+ million users!) on everyone’s minds, it’s time to think about what these streaming newcomers mean for the overall landscape and the app stores. In this case, it seems that Disney+’s user base was highly mobile. The company itself announced more than 10 million users, while data on the Disney+ app’s first few days indicates it now has over 10 million downloads. It seems like consumers definitely want to take their new streaming service with them everywhere they go.

  • In 2020, App Annie forecasts consumers will spend more than 674 billion hours in the Entertainment and Video Player and Editor categories worldwide on Android phones, up from an expected 558 billion hours in 2019. Thanks to Disney+, Apple TV+ and soon, HBO Max, Peacock and Quibi, to making the landscape both richer and more complicated.
  • On its launch day, Disney+ hit #1 by iPhone Overall downloads at 8 AM in the U.S. and at 11 AM in Canada — an indication of the ability that strong IP has can really excite consumers to come out in droves. (Unfortunately, that led to some launch day glitches, too.)
  • Apptopia estimated Disney+ was downloaded 3.2 million times in its first 24 hours. The firm also estimated users collectively spent 1.3 million hours watching Disney+ on day one — ahead of Amazon Prime Video, but well behind Netflix.

  • Sensor Tower waited to collect a little more data instead. It found that the Disney+ app was installed approximately 9.6 million times in all available markets (the U.S., Canada, and the Netherlands), since its U.S. launch on Tuesday, Nov. 12. For comparison’s sake, HBO Now’s U.S. launch only saw 180,000 installs in its first three days — or 2% of the Disney+ total. Combined with the test period installs in the Netherlands, the app has now been installed over 10 million times.
  • The hype around Disney+ has had a halo effect. Hulu and ESPN, which were offered in a bundle with Disney+, also grew as a result of the Disney+ launch. Sensor Tower found combined users of the apps in the U.S. and Canada were up 30% in the past week over the week prior.

Headlines

Apple removed all vaping apps from the App Store, citing CDC health concerns

The CDC says 42 people have died due to vaping product use and thousands more cases of lung injuries have been reported from 49 states. Now, Apple has made the controversial decision to remove all 181 vaping-related apps from its App Store — including those with news and information about vaping and even vaping-related games, Axios reported this week.

Some say Apple is helping to protect kids and teens by limiting their exposure to e-cigarette and vaping products, which are being used to addict a younger generation to nicotine and cause serious disease. Others argue that Apple is over-reaching. After all, many of the lung illnesses involve people who were vaping illegally obtained THC, studies indicated.

This isn’t the first time Apple has banned a category of apps because of what appear to be moral concerns. The company in the past had booted apps that promoted weed or depicted gun violence, for example. In the case of vaping apps, Apple cited the public health crisis and youth epidemic as contributing factors, telling Axios that:

We take great care to curate the App Store as a trusted place for customers, particularly youth, to download apps. We’re constantly evaluating apps, and consulting the latest evidence, to determine risks to users’ health and well-being. Recently, experts ranging from the CDC to the American Heart Association have attributed a variety of lung injuries and fatalities to e-cigarette and vaping products, going so far as to call the spread of these devices a public health crisis and a youth epidemic. We agree, and we’ve updated our App Store Review Guidelines to reflect that apps encouraging or facilitating the use of these products are not permitted. As of today, these apps are no longer available to download.

Existing users will still be able to use their apps, but new users will not be able to download the banned apps going forward.

Minecraft Earth arrives 

Minecraft Earth launched early last week across 9 countries on both Android and iOS and now it’s come to the U.S., Canada, the U.K., and several other markets. Some expect the app will rival the success of the AR breakout hit, Pokémon Go, which was thought at the time to be the precursor to a new wave of massive AR gaming titles. But in reality, that didn’t happen. The highly anticipated follow-up from Niantic, Harry Potter: Wizards Unite didn’t come close to competing with its predecessor, generating $12 million in its first month, compared with Pokémon Go’s first-month earnings of $300 million. With Minecraft Earth now sitting at No. 2 (c’mon, you can’t unseat Disney+) on the U.S. App Store, it seems there’s potential for another AR kingpin.

App Annie releases a user acquisition playbook

A top name in App Store intelligence, App Annie this week released a new how-to handbook focused on user acquisition strategies on mobile. Sure the free download is just a bit of lead gen for App Annie, but the guide promises to fill you in on all you need to know to be successful in acquiring mobile users. The playbook’s arrival follows App Annie’s acquisition of adtech insights firm Libring this fall, as it expands to cover more aspects of running an app business. Just as important as rankings and downloads are the very real costs associated with running an app business — including the cost of acquiring users.

Google Chrome to identify and label slow websites

Is it the web page that’s slow or is it your network connection? In the future, Google’s Chrome web browser may have an answer for you. Google announced today a plan to identify and label websites that typically load slowly by way of clear badging. The company says it may later choose to identify sites that are likely to be slow based on the user’s device and current network conditions, as well.

Google hasn’t yet determined how exactly the slow websites will be labeled, but says it may experiment with different options to see which makes the most sense.

For example, a slow-loading website may show a “Loading…” page that includes a warning, like a caution icon and text that reads “usually loads slow.” Meanwhile, a fast website may display a green progress indicator bar at the top of the page instead of a blue one.

And for links, Chrome may use the context menu to help users know if the site will be slow so you can decide whether or not you want to click.

In the long-term, Chrome’s goal will be to identify and badge websites offering “high-quality” experiences which may include other factors beyond just the website’s speed. The company didn’t yet detail what those other factors may be, but says the identification process will include more stringent criteria that’s rolled out gradually over time. However, the goal will be to make these “good user experiences” something any web developer can achieve.

In the meantime, Google suggests web developers visit its resources focused on site performance, including its learning platform web.dev./fast; online tool for optimization suggestions, PageSpeed Insights; and personalized advice tool, Lighthouse.

A faster, more usable web benefits Google, as it helps the company better cater to its primarily mobile users. Since 2015, the majority of Google users start their searches from mobile devices. But that shift has required new ways of indexing and ranking pages and serving users whose connection speeds vary and who may not have powerful devices.

Google now uses a website’s mobile version when indexing its pages, and it offers fast AMP pages to help mobile users get to information more quickly. It makes sense that a next step would be to nudge site owners themselves to speed things up or risk getting labeled as a “slow” website.

This sort of feature would particularly help Google users in emerging markets, like India, where decent bandwidth is often lacking and low-end smartphones are prevalent.

“Speed has been one of Chrome’s core principles since the beginning – we’re constantly working to give users an experience that is instant as they browse the web,” a Chrome blog post explained. “That said, we have all visited web pages we thought would load fast, only to be met by an experience that could have been better. We think the web can do better…,” it read.

This Week in Apps: Photoshop for iPad bombs, Google Play’s new rewards program, iOS bug fixes

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. What are the developers talking about? What Do app publishers and marketers need to know? How is international politics playing out in the App Store? What apps is everyone using?

As November kicks off, we’re looking at a number of big apps launches from Microsoft and Adobe — as well as what went wrong. We’re also looking at the iOS bug-squashing release, a bunch of data about app install trends around the world, Google Play’s new loyalty program and what it means for developers, the continued scrutiny of Chinese apps by the U.S. government, and more.

Fast Facts

eMarketer remindS us that it recently put out a big report on app installs with a ton of insights. It’s actually been live for a few months, but ICYMI, here are some of the key data points and highlights:

  • The average iPhone user in the U.S. downloaded 47 apps in 2018, up from 44 in 2017.
  • The average number of apps installed is rising — up 15% from 2016. In the U.S., Japan, South Korea, and Australia, users had more than 100 apps downloaded in 2018.
  • Smartphone users spend the most time using their top 5 apps. In 2017, the top 5 accounted for 87% of usage. Now (Apr. 2019) it’s 83%. The No. 1 app had a 49% share of the time spent, now it’s 44%.
  • The number of smartphone users in the U.S. will grow just 3% in 2019, compared with 13.2% in India and 12.1% in Indonesia.
  • Related, app downloads grew 165% in India from 2016 to 2018. In China, 70%. In Indonesia, 55%. And in Brazil, 25%. The U.S. app downloads grew just 5%.
  • In June 2019, the App Store had 1.8 million apps compared with Google Play’s 3.1 million.
  • 43% of iOS app install referrals came from Facebook properties, and only 6.6% came from Google properties.
  • Apple Search Ads drove 12% of non-organic installs in May 2019.
  • In-app video ads outperform display ads. Install-to-register rates for video were 35.1% in Q1
    2019 on the Liftoff network, compared with 28.5% for display ads.
  • App engagement drop-off rates after day one are the biggest in shopping apps. (25% engagement after the first day, but 8% at 30 days). Travel also sees a big drop-off. (20% after the first day and 6% after 30 days).

Headlines

iOS Bug Squashing: Apple fixed the iOS bug that killed your background apps. Apple this week finally squashed a very annoying bug in iOS 13 that made the OS overly aggressive about killing background apps and tasks. Apps like Safari, YouTube, Overcast and others were impacted, leading users to lose emails or the video they were watching just when they switched away for a few seconds. What Apple can’t fix is a growing concern that Apple has “lost the plot” following a series of extremely buggy software updates across its product line, which made users hesitant to upgrade to macOS Catalina, and bricked people’s HomePods.

Google admits it can’t secure the Play Store on its own: Google this week announced partnerships with security firms ESET, Lookout, and Zimperium to form what it has branded the “App Defense Alliance.” The goal, the company says, is to unite the security industry to fight malicious apps across Android’s ecosystem of 2.5 billion devices. Basically, Google will integrate its own detection systems with each partner’s scanning engine to help it uncover potential risks and threats. However, the fact that Google is now essentially outsourcing security to a partner ecosystem is an admission of failure, to some extent, about its abilities to keep the Play Store free from bad actors on its own. (But of course, we all knew that already, right?)

Photoshop for iPad is tanking: Adobe released its most important mobile app ever with this week’s launch of Photoshop for iPad. But fans panned the app because it’s missing several key features. Like RAW support! The app now has 2 stars out of 5…yikes. So what went wrong?

To read more, subscribe to Extra Crunch.

This Week in Apps: iOS 13 complaints, Q3 trends, App Store ratings bug

Welcome back to This Week in Apps — the easiest way to keep up with everything that happened in the world of apps over the past week — from the breaking news to the trends and all the other information an industry watcher needs to know.

The app industry is as hot as ever, with 194 billion downloads in 2018 and more than $100 billion in consumer spending. People spend 90% of their mobile time in apps and more time using their mobile devices than watching TV. In other words, apps aren’t just a way to waste idle hours — they’re big business, and one that often seems to change overnight.

In this Extra Crunch series, we help you to keep up with the latest news from the world of apps.

This week, we’re looking at that one iOS 13 bug everyone is complaining about, App Store Q3 trends, plus the latest revenue numbers announced by Apple and Google during quarterly earnings. We’ve also found a new product for figuring out what may have caused spikes or changes in an app’s history, and we’re tracking new information about Microsoft’s Xbox Console to mobile streaming service as well as Google’s Motion Sense.

And more!

To get this information, subscribe to Extra Crunch.

Headlines

Everyone is complaining about iOS 13 killing background apps

Apple released iOS 13.2 with Deep Fusion this week. The release also included new emoji, Siri recording opt-out, bug fixes and security improvements. But it didn’t solve the background app bug.

As a result, developers are angry and users are frustrated. A number of iOS 13 users are complaining about iOS 13’s aggressiveness in killing background apps and tasks, which is attributed to poor RAM management. This particularly affects apps like Safari, YouTube, Overcast and others. Users have lost Safari tabs, emails they were composing, or the video they were watching just after switching away for a minute.

The complaints are all over Twitter, Reddit, and Apple’s own forums. A MacRumors post about this has over 400 comments.

This has been a problem since the betas, but people were hoping they’d be addressed by the public releases. Apple hasn’t clarified what’s at fault here, but there’s speculation about the impact of the memory-intensive camera system.

As TechCrunch editor Matthew Panzarino put it, it “feels like I’m back on iOS 3.”

Developer Nick Heer of Pixel Envy says the bug isn’t catastrophic, but “it absolutely should be the highest of priorities to fix it. It’s embarrassing that all of the hard work put into making animations and app launching feel smooth is squandered by mismanaged multitasking,” he says.

Radar filed.

Consumers spent more than $500M on photo/video apps in Q3

Outside of mobile games, entertainment and streaming apps are also pulling in the big money. But there’s another category benefiting from the shift to the subscription model: photo and video apps. In this category, you’ll find apps that promise to touch up photos, add filters that can make or break Instagram careers, as well as the video giants like YouTube and TikTok.

photo and video app store revenue growth q3 2019

In Q3, the category grossed more than $500 million, up a whopping 75% year-over-year, says Sensor Tower. It’s also seeing an annual growth rate of 101% since 2016. Much of this is attributable to YouTube, which alone was responsible for 30% of the category’s revenue in Q3. (Just wait until TikTok takes in-app monetization seriously, though.)

top apps photo and video app store revenue q3 2019

But now, it’s not just the top apps that are growing. In Q3, 22 apps exceeded $3 million in gross user spend, compared to just 2 in Q3 2016. And 7 apps had more than $10 million in revenue, including TikTok, VSCO, Facetune 2, FaceApp, and PicsArt.

A week-long iOS App Store bug wiped out over 20M ratings

An accidental sweep of the App Store removed more than 20 million ratings from the most popular apps — including from well-known brands like Google, Microsoft, Starbucks, Hulu, Nike and others — as well as from smaller developers. The issue began on October 23, 2019 and wasn’t resolved until yesterday, October 29. Apple says the ratings’ removal was due to a bug.

This massive ratings drop was spotted by the mobile app insights platform Appfigures.

The firm found that more than 300 apps from over 200 developers were affected by the sweep, which wiped out a total of 22 million app reviews from the App Store. On average, apps saw a 50% decrease in ratings in the affected countries, which included the U.S.

total ratings

The U.S. was hit the hardest, however, as some 10 million ratings disappeared. But the sweep was global in nature, hitting all 155 countries Apple supports. China, the U.K., South Korea, Russia and Australia also felt a noticeable impact.

A few apps were hit harder than others. Hulu, for example, lost a whopping 95% of ratings in the U.S., while Dropbox and Chase lost 85%. Several companies affected by the bug declined to comment, but told us that the rating removals weren’t done at their request — they were just as surprised as everyone else.

hulu chart ratings drop

Other big apps that saw their ratings disappear in the U.S. included Chase, Walgreen, Venmo, Amazon Prime Video, Southwest, Hotels.com, Disneyland, Ibotta, ESPN, Amex, Xoom, Fandango, Skyscanner, Google Classroom, Nike SNKRS, My Disney Experience, Old Navy and others.

Of the more than 300 apps that got hit, about half (154) saw a drop of more than 100 ratings, Appfigures said.

Developers speculated that Apple was possibly trying to clean up fake app ratings. This theory didn’t seem that likely, though, because Appfigures found that both positive and negative ratings were removed. Had the sweep been focused on fake ratings, then only the positive (fake) ratings would have been removed.

ratings lost 3

Another theory is that Apple was trying to speed up its ratings system and something just went wrong.

Unfortunately for some of the impacted developers, the bug had a profound effect on their app’s “Overall” rating. Their app may have dropped by several stars as a result of this problem. And that, in turn, could have hurt their ability to get downloads from App Store search results or Search Ads during the week.

Some of the impacted companies (and Appfigures) confirmed to TechCrunch the missing ratings were restored as of yesterday.

Oddly, this isn’t the first time app ratings disappeared nearly overnight.

A similar incident took place last year, when an App Store bug led to thousands of iOS apps losing half their ratings over a weekend. Apple resolved that bug, but never offered any statements about what happened.

We heard that Apple spoke directly to some developers to explain the rating removals were done in error and it was working to fix the situation, which now appears resolved.

Reached for comment, Apple explained the issue was a bug and that the removed ratings weren’t permanently deleted and have been restored.

“App Store ratings and reviews are an important way for customers to share their experiences about apps they’ve downloaded,” a spokesperson said. “During routine maintenance to the App Store, ratings and reviews were temporarily affected by a bug that has since been resolved. While no reviews or ratings were ever deleted, the data displayed to users was impacted for a period of time. We apologize for the inconvenience this caused. All ratings and reviews have been restored,” they added.

Updated 6 PM ET with Apple statement. 

Apple Arcade’s black box

Apple Arcade is a new kind of App Store. One where eclectic, indie and original content can shine. A place where gamers can play without being hounded by ads or strong-armed into spending on in-app purchases. But unlike the original App Store, Apple Arcade’s marketplace is a black box. There’s no way for consumers or developers to find out if Arcade produces a breakout hit game or even which app everyone is playing right now.

That’s because Apple Arcade has ditched one of the App Store’s core components: the Top Charts.

Traditionally, the App Store’s Top Charts highlighted which games are most popular, based on downloads, velocity, and other signals Apple never disclosed. On the main App Store, users can browse these top-ranked apps and games, including both free and paid titles. And through APIs, app store intelligence firms like App Annie, Sensor Tower, and others gain access to even more data — like top grossing apps and games, for example.

However, following the Apple Arcade subscription service’s launch, these firms told TechCrunch that Apple is not exposing any of the data that providers such as themselves have typically had access to in order to generate download and revenue estimates. There is some expectation that could change in time, but it’s not clear if or when that will be.

The team behind Codementor launches Arc to help companies hire talented developers around the world

Arc, a platform that wants to simplify the process of hiring developers who work remotely, is launching officially today. The new company grew out of Techstars-backed Codementor, an online education platform for software developers. Codementor will continue to operate as a standalone product under Arc.

While there are already many freelancing platforms, Weiting Liu, the founder and CEO of Arc and Codementor, said Arc is more focused on long-term contractor and full-time employee positions instead of short-term gigs. To make the recruitment process easier for tech companies, all developers on its platform are vetted by Arc in a process modeled on the hiring assessments used by tech companies in Silicon Valley. Arc’s clients have already included Spotify, Chegg, Hims, Fivestars and AppLovin.

Codementor launched in 2014 to connect developers with instructors around the world for coding education. Arc has the same mission of helping boost the careers of engineers who live outside of major tech hubs.

“I think Arc is a natural evolution. Codementor had hundreds of thousands of developers in the community already and that created a very strong and inclusive community to help developers worldwide continuously improve their skills,” says Liu. “We definitely see Codementor and its network creating a strong funnel of talented developers who want to work remotely.”

Remote hiring has benefits like increasing the talent pool for tech companies while helping employees maintain work-life balance or avoid moving to high cost-of-living areas. But despite the increase in remote hiring (for example, Stripe recently described its remote engineers as the company’s “fifth engineering hub”), there are still many hurdles to overcome.

The team of Liu’s first startup, Y Combinator alum SocialPicks, were based in different cities. In 2006, that meant everyone had to find a way to work together even though collaboration tools like Slack and Trello didn’t exist yet. But while it has become much more easier to work remotely over the past decade, hiring people who live far away still presents a lot of friction for companies. “From an employers’ perspective, there are a lot of fears and unknowns for hiring strangers online for a permanent, full-time role, but I think things are changing,” says Liu.

He adds that Arc is different from other hiring platforms like AngelList or We Work Remotely because of its vetting process, designed to identify developers who can stay with a company for a long time.

“People can still hire remote developers for short-term contracts, but we want to enable more companies to hire long-term, full-time regular employees who are not based in their ZIP code, but should be treated no differently than their Bay Area counterparts because they are as good, if not better, than Silicon Valley developers,” Liu says.

Arc pre-screens engineers and teams using what it describes as “Silicon Valley-caliber technical and behavioral assessments.” Candidates go through behavioral and technical interviews conducted by senior developers and technical recruiters who have worked for Google, Facebook and other big tech companies. In order to judge how well they will work with a team in another location, Arc also asks developers to prepare programming during the interview process to simulate the process of collaborating remotely.

As Arc grows larger, Liu says it will build tools that will help them gauge developers at scale, as well as features to companies manage remote workers.

California recently passed a significant new bill that, if signed into law, would dramatically change the gig economy by requiring companies to give independent contractors who do the work of employees minimum wage, workers’ compensation and other benefits. Liu hopes this signifies a shift in how remote workers are viewed.

“There are a lot of first-generation online platforms for ‘remote work,’ but most are freelancing work. Platforms like Fiverr and Upwork are pioneers of this space, so they are the first generation of online freelancing platforms,” Liu says. “They came into a world where people felt comfortable working together in very short-term freelancing gigs. I think the second phase means there is increasingly higher trust and better infrastructure to enable long-term, permanent full-time work to be made possible remotely, and we want to be the main facilitator of that.”