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.
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Google updated its Play Store policies to ban third-party call-recording apps from the Play Store, effective as of May 11. Developers had been using the Accessibility API to enable remote call audio recording as a workaround to make these apps work after Google blocked call recording on Android 6 and via the microphone on Android 10. The change was announced alongside other updates on April 6, but a Reddit post drove new awareness of the crackdown. Google also livestreamed a policy update this week where it explained this was not actually a “new” policy, necessarily, but rather a clarification to an existing one. (The video is labeled April 2020 but this appears to be a mislabel, because YouTube shows it was streamed April 2022 — and commenters are also noting the typo.) While that may be true, the company had not taken action on apps using the Accessibility API in this way.
In the webinar, Moun Choi, who works on the Trust & Safety Play Regional Ops team for Google Play, explained the focus of the policy was directed toward third-party apps where the call recording was taking place without the other user’s awareness. The default dialer on the phone would not be impacted by this, as it doesn’t need the accessible capability to get access to the incoming audio stream, he said. The company didn’t clarify if existing apps would be removed from the Play Store when the policy goes into effect, however.
An app called BeReal, founded by former GoPro employee Alexis Barreyat along with Kévin Perreau, launched in December 2019 with the idea to ask users to post an unedited photo once per day after receiving a notification. The user then has up to 2 minutes to share what they’re up to and see the photos their friends also posted. The app has recently gained a lot of attention amid rapid growth and a daily active user base that’s now reached nearly 3 million, according to data from Apptopia. But when an app grows this quickly, there are usually some paid user acquisition efforts involved. This week, we took a look into how BeReal may be capitalizing on its newer features and college ambassador program to drive installs and its five-star reviews. The verdict: It’s too soon to know if BeReal can self-sustain when the funds run out.
BeReal: Hype or Hit? What to know about the Gen Z photo-sharing app climbing the charts
Elon Musk this week secured $46.5 billion to acquire Twitter, per an SEC filing. The Telsa and SpaceX chief’s offer for the social network includes $25.5 billion in debt financing from Morgan Stanley and other firms, including Bank of America, Barclays, MUFG, Societe Generale, Mizuho Bank and BNP Paribas. Musk said he’s committed to about $21 billion in equity financing. Previously, Musk hadn’t been specific about how he would pay for the investment, so these financial commitments make the deal more serious. The tech CEO hasn’t yet said if he will make a tender offer, however. Twitter had already adopted a poison-pill defense of its equity as a result of Musk’s unsolicited bid.
We just found out how Elon Musk may finance his $43B Twitter bid
Image Credits: Apptopia
Image Credits: Disney
Omar Marques/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images
Twitter woos developers back with an app platform
💰 a16z-backed Levels, a company whose glucose monitors work with a paired app, raised $38 million in Series A funding, valuing the business at $300 million. The company had previously offered services to 25,000 beta testers but plans to expand internationally this year.
💰 A startup enabling no-code mobile app building, Glide, raised $20 million in Series A funding led by Benchmark with participation from YC Continuity, First Round, SV Angel and others. The company says 500,000 users have built 1 million apps with its platform.
🤝 Robinhood acquired crypto app Ziglu, a London-based app for trading bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. The deal could help Robinhood gain growth in the competitive European market.
💰 Indian crypto exchange and mobile app CoinDCX raised $135 million in new funding, topping a $2.1 billion valuation. Steadview and existing backer Pantera co-led CoinDCX’s Series D financing.
💰 Clipboard Health, an app-based marketplace that matches nurses with nearby open shifts, raised $50 million Series B and a $30 million Series C at a $1.3 billion valuation.