This Week in Apps: Elon buys Twitter, Snap Summit recap and an App Store cleanup – TechCrunch

Welcome back to This Week in Apps, the weekly TechCrunch series that recaps the latest in mobile OS news, mobile applications and the overall app economy.
The app industry continues to grow, with a record number of downloads and consumer spending across both the iOS and Google Play stores combined in 2021, according to the latest year-end reports. Global spending across iOS, Google Play and third-party Android app stores in China grew 19% in 2021 to reach $170 billion. Downloads of apps also grew by 5%, reaching 230 billion in 2021, and mobile ad spend grew 23% year over year to reach $295 billion.
Today’s consumers now spend more time in apps than ever before — even topping the time they spend watching TV, in some cases. The average American watches 3.1 hours of TV per day, for example, but in 2021, they spent 4.1 hours on their mobile device. And they’re not even the world’s heaviest mobile users. In markets like Brazil, Indonesia and South Korea, users surpassed five hours per day in mobile apps in 2021.
Apps aren’t just a way to pass idle hours, either. They can grow to become huge businesses. In 2021, 233 apps and games generated over $100 million in consumer spend, and 13 topped $1 billion in revenue. This was up 20% from 2020, when 193 apps and games topped $100 million in annual consumer spend, and just eight apps topped $1 billion.
This Week in Apps offers a way to keep up with this fast-moving industry in one place, with the latest from the world of apps, including news, updates, startup fundings, mergers and acquisitions, and suggestions about new apps to try, too.
Do you want This Week in Apps in your inbox every Saturday? Sign up here: techcrunch.com/newsletters
Can you believe it’s only been a week since Elon Musk announced he was buying Twitter for around $44 billion? It’s felt like years!
A lot has happened since Elon Musk first signaled his interest in Twitter by snatching up Twitter shares, then later being offered a board seat, declining the seat, then deciding he’d rather just take the whole company. Initially, no one was quite sure how serious Musk’s offer was, but when he rounded up financing and detailed how he planned to pay for Twitter, the offer had to be given a lot more consideration. On April 25, Twitter accepted Musk’s offer, which includes a $1 billion termination fee on both sides. The deal is a go.
There’s a lot of curiosity over why Musk wanted Twitter in the first place. But it’s likely a combination of a power user thinking they can fix the service and a desire to use the network for the market-moving power it’s been shown to have.
Now everyone’s wondering what happens next. Twitter was never a great business in Wall Street’s eyes, so going private is not the worst choice for the company to make. But going private under a free speech absolutionist already has advertisers wary. If Twitter were to lighten its content moderation rules, it could allow more online abuse and hate speech to thrive. AdAge reported the immediate reaction from advertisers was one of anxiety and confusion. Brands began reaching out to agencies to help them understand and prepare, it said. One agency exec said advertisers are preparing to stop spending after Musk’s takeover if things go south. Looking to quell worries, Twitter emailed reassurances to advertisers, the FT reported. But brands know Twitter can’t make any promises about the nature of free speech on Twitter once Musk is in charge.
Advertisers can pull out of Twitter if need be — there are a number of other social networks hungry for their dollars beyond Meta. Snap and TikTok, for instance, could benefit from a potential ad budget shift, as they also reach a younger demographic and have growing user bases. While Musk has ideas about how to grow Twitter’s revenues in other ways in the future, Twitter’s business today is advertising-dependent. To what extent Musk understands the nuances of that complication is less clear. But unless the billionaire wants to self-fund Twitter, he should probably give it some thought.
Global consumer spending in apps saw relatively flat growth year-over-year, according to new data from Sensor Tower. The company found that worldwide app revenue growth from in-app purchases, premium apps and subscriptions grew just 0.6% from $32.3 billion in Q1 2021 to $32.5 billion in Q1 2022. However, when looked at individually, the App Store and Google Play saw different trends. Google’s Play Store lack of growth pulled the combined growth rate down, as it saw approximately $10.7 billion in consumer spending, down 8.5% year-over-year from $11.7 billion in Q1 2021. Meanwhile, Apple’s App Store revenue, which was double that of Google Play’s, grew 5.8% year-over-year from $20.6 billion to $21.8 billion.

Image Credits: Sensor Tower

Image Credits: Sensor Tower
Top grossing apps in the quarter included TikTok (iOS) and Google One (Android), as well as streamers like YouTube, Disney+, Tencent Video, HBO Max, and others. Dating app Tinder was also the No. 5 top grossing app overall.

Image Credits: Sensor Tower

Image Credits: Sensor Tower
Among app categories seeing increased usage in Q1, medical apps led the market with 102% year-over-year growth, followed by navigation (+24%), travel (+19%), business (+15%), shopping (+14%), finance (+13%) and education (+13%)
Snap held its Partner Summit this week, where the company announced a number of new features in areas like AR Shopping, 3D asset creation, AR development tools and more. It also announced a drone for taking photos, but that’s not really an app!
Among the highlights:

Image Credits: Snap

Image Credits: Snap
It was a busy week for tech company earnings. Apple had a stellar quarter, with revenue increasing 9% to $97.3 billion, and quarterly profit growing 6% to $25 billion, but shares slipped on warnings of possible supply chain constraints impacting the business in the future. But the standout news for the app economy was the record revenue reported by Apple’s services division, which includes the App Store and other subscription-based business lines, like Apple TV+, Apple Music, cloud services and more. The company said services revenue grew 17% year over year to reach $19.8 billion and it now has 825 million paid subscriptions. That means services is now bigger than Apple’s Mac ($10.44 billion) and iPad ($7.65 billion) divisions combined.
Apple’s services revenue hits a record $19.8B in Q2, reaches 825M paid subscriptions

Other tech earnings of note this week included:
Twitter says it overcounted its users over the past 3 years

Pinterest addresses the TikTok threat in its first quarter earnings

Thousands of semi-active apps could be caught up in latest App Store purge

Image Credits: Google

Image Credits: Google

Image Credits: Sensor Tower

Image Credits: Sensor Tower

Image Credits: YouTube

Image Credits: YouTube
💰 Copper, a digital banking app aimed at teens, raised $29 million in Series A funding in a round led by Fiat Ventures. The app has grown to more than 800,000 users, up from 350,000 last October, and offers a combination of personalized debit cards, access to 50,000 ATMs, support for digital wallets, parental monitoring of teen spending, P2P, finance advice and more.
💰 Mirai Flights, a London-based app for instant booking of charter flights, raised a $3 million investment round led by Xploration Capital. The Mirai Flights app is available in 63 countries and operates with eight private airlines. Mirai uses a last-mile model, matching supply and demand, utilizing empty flight legs to make it more efficient to return a jet to its base location.
💰 Singapore-based BandLab, an app that lets users create and share music, raised $65 million in Series B funding, at a post-money valuation of $315 million. The round was led by Vulcan Capital. The company says its app is now used by over 40 million creators.
💰 Berlin-based app Taxfix, which helps users with filing taxes, raised a $200 million Series D round led by Teachers’ Venture Growth, valuing the business at over $1 billion.

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