This Week in Apps: Apple defends app ad buying, Spotify gains lyrics, Instagram kills Threads

This Week in Apps is a weekly series on the latest in mobile OS news, mobile applications and the overall app economy.

The global consumer spending on apps is expected to hit a record in 2020 with a record 218 billion downloads. Consumers spent 3.5 trillion minutes using apps on their phones. In the U.S., app usage increased before the time spent watching live TV. The average American spends four hours a day on their mobile device, but watches only 3.7 hours of live TV.

The apps are a big business. Mobile-first companies had a combined valuation of $544 billion, which was 6.5x higher than those without a mobile focus. In 2020, investors poured 73 billion in capital into mobile companies.

This Week in Apps gives a place to keep up with the latest from the world of apps, including news, updates, startup fundings, mergers and acquisitions, and suggestions about new apps and games to try.

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The top stories.

A story on Forbes this week claimed that Apple was buying ads for high-profile subscription apps on the App Store in order to get web searches away from the websites of the developers, which would reduce Apple's cut of App Store revenue. Apple was accused of placing the ads without their consent by some companies.

Apple came out swinging against the complaints, which they usually don't respond to.

The company said that it does not buy these ads in secret, but rather has been placing them for over five years and communicating with developers about them. Apple said there was nothing bad about it. Retailers buy ads for their products. When you search for a winter jacket on the internet, you will find ads from a variety of retailers, in addition to the ads placed by the jacket's manufacturer. Apple doesn't think its ads are any different than online retail. More than 100 top third-party apps are being promoted by Apple in ads on ad platforms.

The Forbes report said that impacted applications included Plenty of Fish and Tinder.

It is an incredible example of how bad the relationship has become between Apple and its developer community after the report mischaracterized the situation. In the past, developers would have welcomed free advertising that drove new customers to their apps, but now that is considered a threat by some. The Forbes piece is not how most developers feel, according to Apple.

It has been a long time since the lyrics of the service were finally received.

The image is from Spotify.

After years of ignoring consumer demand for in-app lyrics in the U.S., Spotify has announced it will make a new feature available to all global users. The feature is powered by lyrics provider Musixmatch, and expands on a previous deal that Spotify had with the company to offer lyrics to users in India, Latin America and Southeast Asia.

After initially testing the feature in the 26 worldwide markets, the feature was introduced last year. This was the first time in the history of the company that 22 of the 26 markets had ever gained any form of lyrics support. The deal expanded to 28 markets. Japanese users of the music streaming service have access to lyrics through a deal with syncpower.

In other markets, users have only had access to the feature "Behind the Lyrics", which offered lyrics with information about the song, its meaning and the artist, as well as other commentary. Over the years, thousands of users have expressed to the company that they would prefer a feature that provided real-time lyrics, instead of lyrics that are interrupted with facts and other background information. It says that Behind the Lyrics will be sunset and just plain ol' lyrics will be introduced.

The feature will be available on mobile, desktop and TV. More here on the website.

It is killing Threads.

The image is on the social media platform, IG.

The messaging app Threads is shutting down. The app will no longer be supported by the end of December, according to the company. The in-app notice that will be sent to existing Threads users on November 23 will direct them to return to the photo-sharing service.

After shutting down its other messaging app, Direct, the company introduced a companion app called Threads. Instead of focusing solely on the inbox experience, Threads was built as a camera-first mobile messager designed to be used for posting status updates and staying in touch with those you designated as your "Close Friends" on the photo sharing site. It was expanded to all users but failed to gain traction.

According to estimates from Sensor Tower, Threads has seen over 13 million installs from across the App Store and Google Play. Users didn't respond well to the app that was installed. The app has a 3.1-star rating on the App Store, where reviewers complain about bugs, layout and missing features.

It makes sense for the app to be shut down as it won't have to split its focus between two services.

There is weekly news.

The problem with dropped calls on the iPhone 12 and 13 models was solved with the release of Apple's newest operating system.
The sportsKit framework is integrated with the Apple TV app and home screen widgets. The real-time sports score updates are included in the widget, but not much else is known.
A new class-action lawsuit accuses Apple of engaging in anti-competitive behavior by limiting users to its App Store and in-app payments. Tim Sweeney is making the case for a universal app store that works across all platforms.

The new design of the Play Store website is similar to the one used in the online app store, with a sidebar navigation and settings found under your profile icon.
The update vaguely promises minor bug fixes and performance improvements for the fingerprint sensor on the devices. The sensor on the new flagship devices from Google is slow to recognize fingerprints.

The Appstore SDK allows developers to offer digital content and subscriptions for purchase.

Sensor Tower and adjust are the image credits.

According to a new report from Sensor Tower and Adjust, shopping app installs increased 10%. The average MAU for the top 150 e-commerce apps was 18 million in Q3 2021, up from 14 million in Q3 2019. India, Indonesia and Mexico led in downloads. In the first three quarters of the year, India saw over 500 million shopping app downloads. Downloads in the US were 218 million, a decrease of 16%.

Sensor Tower and adjust are the image credits.

Online grocery tracking is now possible with the help of the Maps. The feature was first launched in Portland, but now supports more Kroger Family stores. In 30 states, online grocery ordering is available in Maps. The app allows users to share their order information with the store for pickup.
The Square Photo App makes it easy for sellers to take high-quality photos from a mobile device and then sync them directly to their Square item catalog or online store. The app can make the product look different by isolating it from the background.

There is augmented reality.

The first Global Director of Trust & Safety was hired by Pokemon GO maker Niantic. While considering the impacts from augmented reality technology development now, and ensuring that Niantic builds responsible, inclusively and with respect to user privacy, will be the responsibility of the new member of the team.
Sony Music has a deal withSnapchat for new augmented reality music. The song will be embedded in the lens and will make it appear as if the user is singing the song. Other visual effects will also be applied.
The app uses augmented reality to tell the story of Anne Frank. The Bookcase for Tolerance lets users step inside a 3D model of the rooms Anne Frank and four young people facing discrimination today. You can use the app to explore their personal objects in their rooms and listen to their stories.

The Anne Frank Foundation has an image.

It's called Fintech.

The lawsuit against the trading app was thrown out by a judge because it accused the company of colluding with Citadel Securities to stop investors from buying meme stocks. There wasn't enough evidence to prove this was the case according to the ruling.
The Neobank app had over 200 million downloads in the last three years. Brazil has the most downloaded app in the country, Nubank. Teens are being targeted by neobanks. 29% of neobank downloads in the U.S. were those that targeted teens.
34% of the people in the U.S. who identify as trans lack identification that matches their gender, making it harder to access banking products.


The new features include the ability to remove individual photos from a carousel post. The feedback feature lets you shake your phone to report a problem.
TikTok struck its first music licensing deal.
On its snap map, Snapchat launched Memories and Explore Layers. The former allows users to see old Snapchats posted from various places and the latter updates the heat map to include layers from partners like The Infatuation.

The image is from the photo sharing app, Snapchat.

The TikTok app is one of 400 or so third-party apps that offer things like the ability to download videos, view analytics, track hashtags, increase follower counts and more. TikTok has 3.3 billion installs.

The image is from Sensor Tower.

Research on teens' interest in harmful viral challenges led to the update of TikTok's Safety Center resources. The research gave a lot of data and insights into how teens' minds work and what can be done, but TikTok's response is fairly minimal.
Two Twenty is an in-house incubator for new projects thatPinterest launched to fuel more rapid experimentation as it attempts to shift to support video and creators. The team has introduced live shopping and a virtual creator studio.
The feature had been tested in parts of Canada.
There is no support for theAMP on mobile devices. The company quietly dropped support for Accelerated Mobile Pages, a feature that offers fast-loading pages. Some saw the movement of AMP as an attempt to take over the open web.

There are photos.

The private photo-sharing service is direct to consumers. The company has been focused on B2B deals with schools, camps, events and other organizations for a while, but is now expanding to include B2C features on a subscription basis. Its storage plans are more expensive than Apple's iCloud but include closed-loop commenting and reactions that allow people to have private interactions that are only seen between the photo owner and commenter, and not others in the shared album.

There is a message.

The new profile privacy controls were rolled out to some of the iOS beta testers. The controls give users more control over their profile, including when they were last seen, their photo, and the about section. It is not known when the feature will arrive to the public.

Streaming and entertainment.

The live caption on the app is finally added by the club. The streaming app is catching up with its competitors by adding accessibility features, like live caption, which allow those who are hard of hearing to participate in audio apps. The company supports 13 languages and says more are on the way. The app recently added support for recorded rooms.
According to The Information, some of Facebook's $1 billion creator fund is being put toward its audio efforts. The creators of Live Audio Rooms are being paid up to $50,000 by the social network.

There is gaming.

Sensor Tower said that U.S. mobile strategy game spending increased to $4.2 billion. Between November 1, 2020 and October 31, 2021, the top Strategy game was Lords Mobile from IGG, which generated $330.3 million. State of Survival from Fun Plus was the second grossing Strategy title.

The utilities.

The area busyness feature in the Maps app shows users in real time which parts of town are busy. The feature can help people plan their holiday activities better, either by avoiding the crowds or joining the party. The feature will be available on both platforms. The app added more data for malls, airports, and transit stations.

Health and fitness.

Users in India will soon be able to book vaccinations with the help of the Google Assistant. English, Hindi, and other local languages will be supported by the option in 2022.

Travel and transportation.

Users in Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines were impacted by the Grab outage. An issue with a planned upgrade caused the disruptions. The app had intermittent problems the following day after core services were restored.

Government and policy.

The U.K.'s data protection watchdog questioned Apple and Google about their app age ratings after the 5 Rights Foundation raised concerns about non-compliance with the U.K.'s Age Appropriate Design Code. The group says it found 12 violations of the Code, including insufficient age checks, mis-advertised minimum ages for games, the use of dark patterns and nudges, data-driven recommendations that create risks for children, and a routine failure to enforce community standards.

M&A and funding.

AllTrails is an image

AllTrails, the app for hikers and outdoor enthusiasts, raised $150 million from Permira to expand and develop its product. The company has more than 40 million installs and more than 1 million paid subscribers, thanks to a COVID-driven boost in reconnecting with nature.

Medium acquired Knowable to bring audio capabilities to its readers, members and creators. Knowable has a library of audio lessons. The company's founders will stay on at Medium. The deal terms were not disclosed.

The app Threader helped people build their own thread on the micro-blogging site and share it with others. The thread would be presented in an easier-to-read format by the bot. The company says that it can't manage its own subscriptions so it will have to ask Apple for refunds.

The Singapore-based desk booking app raised $3 million in seed funding. In addition to Singapore and Hong Kong, the app launched in Jakarta.

UNest raised $26 million in Series B funding. The app provides financial planning tools for parents to save for their children.

The Walkie-talkie app raised $3.25 million in seed funding, led by Heroic Venture. There are 1.2 million active users of the app.

Goody has raised $32 million to date from NEA, Index, and others, and it has raised 15 million dollars from SoftBank's Latin America fund.

Runway, a software platform that describes itself as air traffic control for mobile app releases, raised $2 million in seed funding and launched out of the alpha stage. The system integrates with a company's existing tools to automatically update teams as to what's been done and what action items still remain, and helps everyone stay on the same page across teams.

The social impact app Wishly raised $800,000 in seed funding to help people band together to make a difference. The app allows users to communicate with each other. The app can be used by nonprofits to spread awareness.

Fireside is closing a $10 million round of funding, which includes investors such as The Chainsmokers, HBSE, Goodwater, Animal Capital and former NBA star, according to sources.


The image is of a racket.

Racket is a new audio app that allows users to tell audio stories similar to the ones on Facebook or the friends-focused audio app Cappuccino. The app provides a TikTok-like vertical feed with audio snippets of 99 seconds or less. The cover image, tags, like button, and comments section are familiar to the TikTok crowd. Users can search by tags or just go to the main feed to hear more clips. The company received $3 million in pre-seed funding, as well as angel investors.


Audyo is the image.

Audyo exited private alpha this week to offer users a way to convert web pages into high-quality audio. The idea is to give users an easy tool for saving content from around the web, like news articles, and combine that with other audio content you may already be listening to. The app is meant to serve as a utility, but there is a social component as well. Users will be able to highlight favorite content by double tapping the screen or triple-tapping their AirPods.


The image is from LateNiteSoft S.L.

The makers of Camera+ have created a new app called Macro+ that is designed to take advantage of consumer interest in up- close photos. The developer says that the app is designed to work on any iPhone that is capable of running the latest version of the operating system. The app helps by showing the parts of the photo that are in focus, as well as providing a grid for positioning the subject and a histogram to show the brightness of the shot. Even if you are not a skilled photographer, Macro+ will make your photos look better by editing them. The Macro tool in the Camera+ app is only for those who want a single tool for their up- close photos or who feel overwhelmed by the many options in the camera app market.