This Week in Apps: AI-powered productivity apps, US weighs TikTok ban, SVB crash boosts crypto apps

    This Week in Apps: AI-powered productivity apps, US weighs TikTok ban, SVB crash boosts crypto apps
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    Welcome back to This Week in Apps, the weekly TechCrunch sequence that recaps the newest in cellular OS information, cellular purposes and the general app economy.

    The app economy in 2023 hit just a few snags as client spending last year dropped for the first time by 2% to $167 billion, in line with’s “State of Mobile” report. However, downloads are persevering with to develop, up 11% year over year in 2022 to succeed in 255 billion. Consumers are also spending more time in cellular apps than ever before. On Android gadgets alone, hours spent in 2022 grew 9%, reaching 4.1 trillion.

    This Week in Apps gives a way to keep up with this fast-moving business in one place with the newest from the world of apps, together with information, updates, startup fundings, mergers and acquisitions, and far more.

    Do you need This Week in Apps in your inbox each Saturday? Sign up right here. 

    Top Stories

    Our Everyday Apps Get AI

    While the announcement wasn’t essentially focused towards cellular, the sweeping AI-fueled modifications which are coming to the most important productiveness apps from Microsoft and Google will have a wider impact on the productiveness app business. That is, they’re now elevating the stakes for what a productiveness app ought to be capable of do. It will now not be sufficient to easily supply a sublime, refined, and environment friendly note-taking software, docs editor, spreadsheet, slideshow maker, and so forth — the apps will also must have baked-in AI smarts.

    This week, in case you missed it, each Microsoft and Google announced the brand new technology of their productiveness software program merchandise. Microsoft, which calls its digital helper a “Copilot,” is bringing AI to on a regular basis instruments like Word, Excel, Outlook, PowerLevel, Teams, and more. It’s integrating a brand new Business Chat function that understands what a knowledge employee has in their inbox, calendar, chats, and throughout their recordsdata, and could be prompted to do issues like create a standing report on a mission that’s then shared to the group. It’s even leveraging AI to assist employees build their own line-of-business apps utilizing pure language prompts.

    Microsoft’s new Power Platform AI Copilot will build your apps for you

    Elsewhere, Microsoft-owned LinkedIn expanded its generative AI assistant to recruitment advertisements and writing profiles. The firm’s AI-powered writing options are constructed on superior GPT fashions, together with GPT-4 (profiles) and GPT-3.5 (job descriptions).

    Google, in the meantime, said it will bring AI instruments to Workspace, its productiveness suite that features Gmail, Docs, Sheets, Meet, Slides, and Chat. Though the corporate hasn’t totally shared its imaginative and prescient for Chat — saying only that it’ll “enable workflows for getting things done” — it’s possible aiming to keep up with Microsoft’s plans. In addition, Google is leveraging generative AI to create auto-generated pictures, audio, and video in Slides, which is an attention-grabbing angle on trendy productiveness — and, probably, a menace to the one-off instruments constructed to handle every particular person generative AI use case.

    These enhancements to users’ on a regular basis apps, from emails to docs to spreadsheets and more, will assist to bring AI to mainstream users in a way {that a} ChatGPT-powered Bing alone can’t. The new tech is now simply baked in, under the hood, providing additional performance to the end user. It could finally even reduce the working hours required to complete varied duties, as productiveness users lean more on AI to write down and edit for them, create displays, take assembly notes, handle inboxes, and more.

    But to what end? Will employees now be anticipated to fill their newly freed hours with ever more work or will know-how lastly fulfill its original promise of permitting us to guide more snug lives? Do we nonetheless must work 40 hours per week when AI can work for us?

    TikTookay’s destiny up in the air in U.S.

    Will they or gained’t they…ban TikTookay? That’s the query certain to be on the minds of ByteDance execs as they weigh their determination to both spin off the U.S. operations of the TikTookay app or danger being totally banned in the U.S. The anti-TikTookay sentiment in Congress has uncommon bipartisan assist at a time when the 2 sides can’t appear to agree on something, which makes the potential for a ban look more possible. It’s not serving to ByteDance’s case that the FBI and DOJ are investigating ByteDance’s use of TikTookay to spy on journalists, both.

    Other Western markets are also taking steps to restrict TikTookay’s menace, not simply the U.S. This week, New Zealand banned TikTookay from government gadgets days after the U.Okay. did the same. The strikes comply with lawmakers’ banning of the app in Canada and Belgium and in the E.U.

    TikTookay, for the time being, is hoping to guarantee lawmakers of its security, even providing an audit by U.S. tech giant Oracle.

    But whereas a full ban could put an end to lawmakers’ rapid considerations concerning the potential for CCP surveillance of U.S. residents or the potential to govern the populace with pro-China propaganda, the actual concern right here is lawmakers’ incapacity to cross rules over U.S. user knowledge privateness for all our apps, not simply these from China.

    Expect subsequent week’s Congressional listening to with TikTookay CEO Shou Zi Chew to be an attention-grabbing one to observe!

    The US government ramps up its strain campaign against TikTookay

    SVB meltdown hits app makers, boosts crypto apps

    Silicon Valley Bank’s failure was the most important story of this week, as quite a few tech corporations, giant and small, and their buyers had funds tied up in the financial institution, which is now under regulator management and whose mum or dad firm is formally filing for chapter. Among the general public corporations with publicity to SVB had been massive names like Roku, Roblox, Quotient, Vimeo, Rocket Lab, SoFi, Life360, Sezzle, Unity, AppLovin, Wish, and plenty of others.

    While there have been a number of components that performed into the eventual financial institution run, from dangerous bets to dangerous selections, the capacity to stoke worry and panic on Twitter performed a notable role, with some buyers tweeting in ALL CAPS that people needs to be ABSOLUTELY TERRIFIED RIGHT NOW.

    Investor Mark Suster says a “handful” of dangerous actors in VC destroyed Silicon Valley Bank

    U.S. lawmakers have since taken discover of how dangerous actors on Twitter factored into the financial institution’s collapse, even going as far as to blame VCs and others for utilizing social media apps and on-line chats to coordinate their SVB withdrawals, successfully making certain the financial institution’s failure.

    “I’ve been supportive of the venture capital community — I was a venture capitalist before — but I think there were some bad actors in the VC community who literally started to spur this run by virtually crying fire in a crowded theater in terms of rushing all these deposits out,” said Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) in a report by The Hill. 

    “No matter how strong capital and liquidity supervision are, if a bank has an overwhelming run that’s spurred by social media or whatever so that it’s seeing deposits flee at that pace, the bank can be put in danger of failing,” Treasury secretary Janet Yellen also said.

    Whether the financial institution’s failure — and the next failures of crypto-friendly banks Signature and Silvergate — will result in new, retightened rules stays to be seen, however one class of apps did benefit from the chaos.

    Despite the seeming contagion to crypto banks, Apptopia reported the highest crypto apps’ downloads rose over 15% following SVB’s collapse. At the same time, the highest 10 conventional banks and prime 10 “digital first” financial institution app downloads fell by about 5% and three%, respectively. This begs the query of whether or not the people shouting FIRE! last weekend had been also those that had been closely invested in crypto and subsequently would have benefited from destructive public sentiment towards conventional banking.

    Top crypto app downloads rise over 15% following SVB collapse

    Though the fed is making SVB’s depositors entire, the disaster also uncovered the attain of SVB’s tendrils past the Valley and the potential for a banking collapse to disproportionately impact some teams over others. The results had been felt as huge because the African startup ecosystem and highlighted the inequities in the broader tech business. On one side, you have startups whose founders might self-fund their corporations whereas ready on a decision, and on the opposite, there have been severe considerations over lacking payroll and enterprise stoppage.

    Artifact co-founder Kevin Systrom on the SVB disaster, its further impacts and way forward for tech

    Many suspect we’ll see persevering with fallout from SVB in terms of elevating enterprise debt, one thing SVB was identified for. Whether it opens up the ground to new entrants or drives up the cost of enterprise debt is being debated, however we’re certain to really feel the impacts of this failure for months to come back.

    Everything you’ll want to get caught up on the SVB disaster



    • Apple rolled out its fourth developer betas for iOS 16.4, iPadOS 16.4, watchOS 9.4, and tvOS 16.4.
    • Apple launched a brand new way to buy iPhones with assist from a live specialist. The gross sales rep can’t see you however you possibly can see them whereas asking questions on fashions, options, gives, trade-ins and more.
    • Apple is reportedly transferring ahead with its AR/VR headset this year.
    • Apple AI experiments? According to a brand new report from The New York Times, many groups at Apple, together with these working Siri, have been testing “language-generating concepts.” A former Apple engineer told the paper Siri’s improvement had been sluggish due to clunky code, which made it tougher to update. It’s not identified if Apple is now constructing its own LLMs or adopting an current mannequin.

    Apple is reportedly experimenting with language-generating AI


    • Google debuted a brand new open source program called Open Health Stack aimed toward builders constructing health-related apps. The instruments embody a software program developer package (SDK) for Android and design tips for health apps. The Open Health Stack provides builders entry to Android FHIR SDK to build secure apps that may also work offline, Google said.
    • The March Pixel Drop is out, bringing Fall Detection, sooner digicam options (Night Sight), modifying instruments, security and wellness options, and more.
    • Google said its Google Play Games for PC service, which brings Android video games to Windows users, will roll out to Japan and to European markets and can achieve new titles and instruments for game builders. Over the following couple of months, the service will add a number of fashionable video games, together with Garena Free Fire, Ludo King (a preferred board game in India), and MapleStory M. It will also introduce early entry to machine translation in the Play Console for translating video games into 8 languages.
    • Missed the Google for Games Developer Summit? Google has a recap right here.

    App News

    Social Apps

    This Week in Apps: AI-powered productivity apps, US weighs TikTok ban, SVB crash boosts crypto apps

    Image Credits: Snapchat

    • Snapchat added new parental controls that block “sensitive” and “suggestive” content from viewing by youthful teenagers. The firm said it’s introducing content filtering capabilities that may enable mother and father to limit teenagers from being uncovered to content that’s not prohibited however shouldn’t be beneficial to youthful users throughout Stories (Discover) and Spotlight. The function nonetheless requires mother and father to entry these parental controls in the Family Center, which they could not know exists.
    • Pinterest is partnering with America’s largest writer Dotdash Meredith on exclusive video content from manufacturers comparable to Better Homes & Gardens, Southern Living, Brides, Food & Wine, Serious Eats, Allrecipes and Martha Stewart. Pinterest not too long ago announced the same cope with Condé Nast.
    • Meta is specializing in its “year of efficiency” by reducing one other 10,000 jobs.
    • Meta also gave up on NFTs, shutting down the NFT and digital collectible options on Instagram and Facebook.
    • Instagram checks a function that makes it simpler to reshare Reels you despatched to mates.
    • Meta launched paid verification on Instagram and Facebook in the U.S. Meta Verified is $11.99 per month on the net or $14.99 per month on cellular. The function delivers a verified badge, proactive impersonation safety and direct entry to buyer assist.

    Meta launches paid verification on Instagram and Facebook in the US

    • Twitter begins displaying what number of occasions a tweet has been bookmarked, initially on iOS. The firm guarantees it gained’t show who’s bookmarking tweets, although. It’s not clear whether or not anybody cares what number of bookmarks a tweet has, however the goal is probably going aimed toward making Twitter look more partaking.
    • Twitter’s API packages are getting expensive. The firm’s new Enterprise Packages begin at $42,000/mo for 50 million tweets.

    Entertainment & Streaming

    TikTok's new refresh feature

    Image Credits: TikTookay

    • YouTube said Trump can come back. (Which means he in all probability purchased advertisements.)
    • TikTookay entered a multiyear partnership with Major League Soccer. Fans will be capable of search “MLS” on TikTookay and get entry to a brand new “MLS Hub,” that includes new content from MLS golf equipment and gamers.
    • TikTookay also added a brand new “Refresh” button that lets users reset their feed suggestions with contemporary content when their FYP will get stale (SEE ABOVE). When the Refresh button is tapped, TikTookay will floor content as in the event you had simply signed up for the app.
    • And TikTookay is including a brand new STEM content feed alongside its FYP and Following feeds to U.S. users.
    • Twitch CEO Emmett Shear is stepping down. One of the original founders of Justin.television, Shear has labored at Twitch for 16 years and is able to transfer on. Twitch president Dan Clancy will take the CEO role efficient instantly.
    • U.S. workers at Epic Games–owned Bandcamp, a web based audio distributor, announced their formation of a union.
    • YouTube TV is mountain climbing costs to $72.99 per month attributable to rising content prices. Making up for the rise a bit, the service also announced it’s starting to roll out multiview, which permits U.S. users to observe as much as 4 streams concurrently, initially for sports activities content.
    • SiriusXM is planning to reboot itself as an app more targeted on streaming. The firm isn’t dropping satellite tv for pc radio simply but, however transferring towards a future the place the supply technique gained’t be as related.
    • Sling TV launched new options for sports activities followers, together with picture-in-picture mode and an iOS widget. The options embody a brand new “Side View” that lets net users watch video games in a small display overlay on prime of no matter it’s they’re doing. There’s also a brand new customized widget for iOS gadgets and an up to date live “Sports Scores” function.
    • Spotify said HiFi will nonetheless come out “at some point.” We’ll consider it once we see it.
    • FilmRise launched FilmRise For Her, which streams rom-coms, motion pictures with lead actresses, true crime, and more.
    • Kakao Entertainment will shut down the Korean department of Tapas Entertainment, its U.S.-headquartered storytelling platform, subsequent month.
    • TuneIn, the radio service that permits users to livestream information, sports activities, music and podcasts, rolled out an interactive map function, TuneIn Explorer, to iOS and Android gadgets. The app now provides users the flexibility to take heed to stations across the world.

    TuneIn rolls out its immersive map experience for cellular listeners


    • The FTC finalizes Epic’s $245 million settlement over sketchy Fortnite purchases. “Fortnite’s counterintuitive, inconsistent, and confusing button configuration led players to incur unwanted charges based on the press of a single button,” the FTC wrote. It also criticized Epic for permitting children to make unauthorized purchases with out their mother and father’ permission.
    • Unreal Editor for Fortnite (UEFN) is ready to launch on March 22, in line with a tweet from an official Fortnite account.


    • Want to know more about Spotify’s AI DJ and its AI future? We sat down with the corporate at its press occasion last week to debate.

    Spotify’s new ‘DJ’ function is the first step into the streamer’s AI-powered future

    • Be My Eyes, an app that permits blind and low-vision people to ask sighted people to explain what their telephone sees, is gaining AI capabilities powered by GPT-4. The app’s new “Virtual Volunteer” will be capable of reply questions on pictures users snap and provide instantaneous visible help for all kinds of duties.
    • Language studying app Duolingo debuted a Max subscription for $30/month or $168/year that gives GPT-4 options for English audio system taking Spanish and French programs. The AI function is rolling out to iOS first.

    Duolingo launches new subscription tier with entry to AI tutor powered by GPT-4

    • Google Photos seems to be readying a Video Unblur function, probably for Pixel 8.
    • Moon Photogate? Headlines circulated this week about how the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra was taking “fake” moon photos after a Reddit user examined the Space Zoom function by taking a photograph of an deliberately blurry moon picture only to seek out Samsung’s AI and pc imaginative and prescient tech had optimized it like it had been shot with a high-res telescope. The debate across the function is now main people to surprise how Apple will strategy using its rumored periscope zoom lens, anticipated to be added to the iPhone 15 Ultra later this year.
    • Quora’s new chatbot app Poe added a paid tier that may allow you to ask inquiries to bots powered by newer fashions, together with OpenAI’s GPT-4 and Anthropic’s Claude. Subscriptions cost $19.99 per month or $199.99 per year and can be found only on iOS and Mac for now.
    • Microsoft revealed that Bing has been utilizing GPT-4 all alongside. The firm had beforehand referred to it because the “next-generation” of the GPT mannequin.
    • Hilarious climate app Carrot Weather’s new chatbot has been infused with ChatGPT to ship even more sass. Users can also change the chatbot’s persona to be more useful, sarcastic, loopy, drunken or irritated, amongst different issues.

    Get totally roasted by Carrot Weather’s new chatbot with ChatGPT update

    • Discord had revoked a number of privateness coverage guarantees when it announced new AI options, together with a promise to not accumulate knowledge from display recordings and chats. People observed and got mad, forcing Discord to revert the modifications.


    • owner Automattic acquired the WordPress plugin ActivityPub and employed its developer. The firm said it desires to assist blogs combine with the Fediverse, together with apps like Mastodon. owner Automattic acquires an ActivityPub plugin so blogs can be part of the Fediverse

    • Apple’s 3D metropolis maps are now obtainable for Boston.
    • Tinder will now let daters outline their “relationship type,” add pronouns to their profile. Borrowing a function from Hinge, one other app owned by Tinder mum or dad Match Group, Tinder users will now be capable of point out on their profiles the kind of relationship they’re searching for — which at present could contain varied ideas round non-monogamy. It will also now enable members to show their pronouns on their profiles.

    Tinder will now let daters outline their ‘relationship type,’ add pronouns to their profile

    • The Verge lined a singular app, CowlScreen OS, that turns the Oppo Find N2 Flip’s 3.26-inch cowl show into a completely purposeful mini-phone.
    • Reddit had a multihour outage that was said to be an inside techniques problem that took some time to repair.
    • Waze rolled out a brand new function to assist EV house owners discover a appropriate charger en route.
    • Starbucks and DoorDash teamed up on a supply partnership in Canada.

    Security Concerns

    • Twitter’s dumb determination to make SMS 2FA a paid function will kick in this weekend. Here’s find out how to shield your self.
    • Google warns users to take motion to guard against remotely exploitable flaws in fashionable Android telephones. Google’s safety analysis unit sounded the alarm a few set of vulnerabilities discovered in sure Samsung chips included in dozens of Android fashions, wearables and automobiles.
    • Firefox launched Total Cookie Protection, which stops cookies from monitoring you across the net, to its Firefox Android app.

    Funding and M&A

    Image Credits: Sidechat & Yik Yak logos, picture via TechCrunch

    • Anonymous app Sidechat picks up rival Yik Yak…and users aren’t completely happy. A quiet acquisition involving two press-shy corporations was unveiled by a writer identify change on the App Store and users complained about being compelled to maneuver to Sidechat.
    • NYC-based transportation startup Via will purchase London-based Citymapper, a Google Maps various for planning journeys in a metropolis utilizing public transportation. Citymapper has round 50 million international users. Financial terms are usually not being disclosed however are a mixture of money and stock. Sources said the deal is generally a washout for buyers.
    • Walmart invested $200 million in Indian cellular funds giant PhonePe.
    • Meal supply startup Entrée raised $2.5 million in pre-seed funding led by M25 with participation from buyers, together with Hustle Fund, Pillar VC and The Community Fund. The app gives wonderful eating meals delivered to the house with a median order quantity of over $60.
    • Bloomberg reviews that Abu Dhabi–primarily based G42 has acquired a $100 million+ stake in ByteDance at a ~$220 billion valuation. This valuation is down from the $300 billion valuation ByteDance set throughout a latest share buyback program.
    • Ho Chi Minh City–primarily based prescription supply app Medigo raised $2 million in new funding from East Ventures, with participation from Pavilion Capital and Touchstone Partners.

    Government, Policy and Lawsuits

    • Use of Meta monitoring instruments discovered to breach EU guidelines on knowledge transfers. “Austria’s data protection authority has found that use of Meta’s tracking technologies violated EU data protection law as personal data was transferred to the US where the information was at risk from government surveillance,” reported TC’s Natasha Lomas.
    • India reportedly is planning to drive smartphone makers to permit users to take away pre-loaded apps and can mandate screening OS updates via new safety guidelines.


    Camo 2

    A preferred webcam app for PC and Mac is returning. Camo was initially launched in 2020 to permit iPhone users to make use of their telephones as a webcam. Now, Camo 2 is out, providing assist for any webcam, together with common webcams in addition to built-in gadgets, displays with built-in cameras, DSLR and mirrorless cameras, inputs from seize playing cards and HDMI dongles, motion cameras and different software program digital cameras.

    Camo 2 launches with assist for any digicam, new instruments and more


    Image Credits: Mavn

    Reports Lauren Forristal: Mavn is “a new female-founded startup that connects content creators with brands and other businesses.” The new app provides users “access to a variety of experiences, from PR packages and paid posts to campaigns, photoshoots, events, dining at fancy restaurants and more.” The app is out there for each iOS and Android.

    Mavn launches its app to attach influencers with manufacturers and provide paid experiences

    Petey: AI assistant brings ChatGPT to the Apple Watch

    Image Credits: Petey


    The app was beforehand called watchGPT, however Apple’s crackdown on GPT apps led the developer to have points getting the app authorized. So the identify was modified, and growth, the app went live. As the identify implies, Petey gives a ChatGPT-like experience out of your Watch, permitting users to ask questions both with or with out typing and have the solutions learn out to you via text-to-speech. The app also features a complication so you possibly can shortly open the assistant with a faucet in your watch face.


    ghost app

    Image Credits: Ghost

    A brand new startup called Ghost believes that placing in extra guardrails across the anonymous experience will enable users to have enjoyable, with out the standard downsides. To check this principle, the corporate has launched its Ghost messaging app that permits users to share an anonymous message in a gaggle chat with mates in order to flirt, joke, or ask questions with out revealing their id. The app also features a vary of different options, together with the flexibility to ask ChatGPT a query straight within the group chat, amongst different issues.

    This Week in Apps: AI-powered productiveness apps, US weighs TikTookay ban, SVB crash boosts crypto apps by Sarah Perez initially revealed on TechCrunch