This Week in Apps: Snapchat policy checkup, more Twitter deal drama, TikTok games – 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. App Annie says global spending across iOS and Google Play is up to $135 billion in 2021, and that figure will likely be higher when its annual report, including third-party app stores in China, is released next year. Consumers also downloaded 10 billion more apps in 2021 than in 2020, reaching nearly 140 billion in new installs, it found.
Apps aren’t just a way to pass idle hours — they’re also a big business. In 2019, mobile-first companies had a combined $544 billion valuation, 6.5x higher than those without a mobile focus. In 2020, investors poured $73 billion in capital into mobile companies — a figure that was up 27% year-over-year.
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 much more.
Do you want This Week in Apps in your inbox every Saturday? Sign up here: techcrunch.com/newsletters
This past Thursday, May 19, 2022, marked the 11th Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD), which is a day focused on raising awareness about digital access and inclusion for the more than 1 billion people who live with disabilities or impairments. A number of app makers and tech companies took part in GAAD this year to either highlight or announce new features designed to better meet the needs of those with vision impairment, hearing loss and other disabilities.
Instagram’s @creators account shared information with its community about how and why to use accessibility features, like alt-text and auto-generated captions to create a better experience for your audience. The company also noted other developments it had rolled out, like dark mode, screen reader improvements, improved automatic and custom alternative text options for people with vision impairments, caption stickers for Reels and Stories, and more. The company also said it has started rolling out closed caption features to improve the Instagram experience for the deaf and hard of hearing communities. These changes help to improve the experience for everyone, however, as Instagram said one-third of video plays on Instagram are with the sound off. In March, Instagram made auto-generated captions the default for creators, which are supported globally across iOS and Android.
Google shared its approach to both hiring people with disabilities and building products to meet their needs. For example, it highlighted projects like Project Relate, a communication tool for people with speech impairments; the update to TalkBack, Android’s built-in screen reader; and the improved Select-to-Speak Chromebook tool; a multi-pin feature for Google Meet, which allows users to pin multiple tiles, like a presenter’s screen and interpreter’s screen. The company also noted all its English-language YouTube Originals content from the past year — and moving forward — will now have English audio descriptions available globally.
Apple, meanwhile, participated in GAAD with a number of announcements about new accessibility features for iPhone, Apple Watch and Mac.
These included a universal Live Captions feature, improved visual and auditory detection modes and iOS access to WatchOS apps. Live Captions will be able to transcribe any audio content, like FaceTime calls, video conferencing apps and streaming video, as well as in-person conversations, all in English to start.

Image Credits: Apple

Image Credits: Apple
Apple’s Sound Recognition feature will be able to be programmed to recognize sounds unique to a person’s own home, like their doorbell or appliances. The Magnifier app will add a new ML and lidar-powered Door Detection feature within a new Detection Mode section. This will help users locate a door, understand how far they are from it and describe door attributes. Apple Maps will offer sound and haptics feedback for VoiceOver users. And Apple Watch will help users control Apple Watch remotely from their paired iPhone with Apple Watch Mirroring. It also gains new Quick Action like a double-pinch gesture to answer or end a phone call, dismiss a notification, take a photo, play or pause media in the Now Playing app, and start, pause or resume a workout.

Image Credits: TechCrunch

Image Credits: TechCrunch
A handful of Snap Kit platform developers have not yet complied with the new guidelines around anonymous messaging and friend-finding apps announced in March. The Snapchat maker revamped its developer platform policies on March 17, 2022, to ban anonymous apps and require developers to build friend-finding apps to limit access to users 18 or older. The policy changes were effective immediately and existing developers were given 30 days to come into compliance — a date that would have passed last month.
It is now mid-May and some developers of the newly banned and restricted apps are not yet meeting Snap’s new requirements.
Snap confirmed to TechCrunch a small number of apps were given extensions, including anonymous apps LMK and Send It. But others seemed to be working around Snap’s ban with their friend-finding apps marketed to users ages 12+, instead of the now required 18+. They got away with this by not actually using the SDK — something impossible to tell from their App Store marketing and screenshots which imply they’re directly integrated with Snap’s features. Another app had flown under the radar, continuing to operate in violation of the rules unless TechCrunch pointed it out, resulting in a belated ban. This lack of clarity on which apps are platform apps, and which are only pretending to be, could complicate things for Snap, which is engaged in litigation over bullying-related suicides. And like all social media, the company could be under new U.S. regulation related to child safety matters in the future, as well.
Snapchat’s stricter policies for anonymous apps and friend finders aren’t yet fully enforced

First, Elon Musk tweeted that the Twitter deal was “temporarily on hold” until Twitter could prove the percentage of spambots on its platform was actually less than 5%, as it reports. This Tuesday, he reiterated the deal would not move forward until Twitter would show him proof of this <5% figure. Twitter was having none of it, though. The company filed a proxy statement, saying it’s committed to the deal as agreed and is ready to close “as promptly as possible.”
If Musk’s move was an attempt to renegotiate the price, it didn’t seem to be working. Twitter’s top lawyer and head of policy, Vijaya Gadde, told staff at an all-hands meeting there’s “no such thing as a deal being on hold,” reported Bloomberg. Twitter execs also suggested that it could try to enforce the deal terms in court, if need be, but said that would be “pretty rare” for such a thing to occur. (Not that this Twitter deal is proceeding normally though!) There’s still some speculation that Musk is looking to fully back out and will find a way to do so, billion-dollar breakup fee notwithstanding. In the meantime, the bankers are still preparing the paperwork and execs are still leaving. This week, it was Twitter Service VP Katrina Lane, head of data science Max Schmeiser and VP of product management Ilya Brown — all of whom chose to leave on their own.

Image Credits: TechCrunch

Image Credits: TechCrunch
Alongside the launch of the iOS 15.5 update, Apple introduced a new set of rules to govern auto-renewing subscriptions on the App Store. Now, instead of asking users to agree to any subscription price increases, developers will be able to roll out a price increase with the user’s explicit consent. The feature allows developers to simply inform customers they’ll be charged more, but not require the customer to opt-in to the higher pricing.
We first broke the news that Apple was pilot testing this program last month, when it appeared Disney+ subscription customers had simply been told their price was increasing but weren’t asked for their consent. Apple then confirmed this was the result of a “new commerce feature” it planned to launch soon, which it said would be “great for both developers and users.”
Apple’s position is that this could save customers the hassle of having their subscriptions automatically canceled just because they didn’t see the notification or email that asked them to opt in to the price increase.
“This has led to some services being unintentionally interrupted for users and they must take steps to resubscribe within the app, from Settings on iPhone and iPad, or in the App Store on Mac,” the company explained in its announcement on Monday.
However, the flip side of this argument is that those same customers who would have missed the consent notification will likely be the same ones who would now miss the notification informing them their subscription will be increasing in price. There’s also an argument here that this change could enable unscrupulous developers and scammers to better profit from their victims if Apple doesn’t carefully enforce the program rules.
Currently, those state that developers can’t increase prices more than once per year. The increase also can’t exceed 50% of the subscription price, and the difference in price can’t exceed $5 USD per period for non-annual subscriptions or $50 USD for annual subscriptions.

Image Credits: TikTok

Image Credits: TikTok

Image Credits: Zenly

Image Credits: Zenly
💰 Pintarnya, a startup building a super app for Indonesia’s blue-collar workers, raised $6.3 million in seed funding led by Sequoia Capital India and General Catalyst. The funding includes a $100,000 grant from Sequoia Spark, a program for women founders. The app offers verified job postings and financial services, like loans, for blue-collar workers.
💰 Instant delivery app Gopuff, valued at $15 billion, announced a new advisor and investor: Bob Iger, the former CEO and chairman of The Walt Disney Company. The company wouldn’t say if the investment was coming as a separate investment, or as part of a $1 billion round (in debt and equity) that the company is in the process of closing.
💰 Instabug, a startup that helps mobile developers monitor, identify and fix bugs within apps, raised $46 million in Series B funding led by Insight Partners. The company said its ARR doubled in 2021 and the number of enterprise customers grew 10x, as it added new clients like DoorDash, Verizon, Qualtrics, Porsche and Gojek. Last year, its software sat within 2.7 billion mobile devices, processed 110 billion mobile sessions (up at least 20x from 2020) and helped customers resolve 4.2 billion issues, it said.
💰 Unit, a banking-as-a-service startup that allows developers to easily build new fintech apps, raised $100 million in Series C funding led by Insight Partners, at a $1.2 billion valuation. Unit said its transaction volume grew 7x over the past six months and has crossed an annualized transaction volume of $2.6 billion. It’s also issued over 430,000 cards to over 330,000 customers and saw a 10x increase in deposit volumes.
 

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