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Welcome back to This Week in Apps, the Extra Crunch series that recaps the latest OS news, the applications they support and the money that flows through it all.

The app industry is as hot as ever, with a record 204 billion downloads and $ 120 billion in consumer spending in 2019. People are now spending three hours and 40 minutes per day using apps, rivaling TV. Apps aren’t just a way to pass idle hours — they’re a big business. In 2019, mobile-first companies had a combined $ 544 billion valuation, 6.5x higher than those without a mobile focus.

In this Extra Crunch series, we help you keep up with the latest news from the world of apps, delivered on a weekly basis.

This week, one story completely took over the news cycle: Hey vs. Apple. An App Store developer dispute made headlines not because Apple was necessarily in the wrong, per its existing rules, but because of a growing swell of developer resentment against those rules. We’re giving extra bandwidth to this story this week, before jumping into the other headlines.

Also this week we look at what’s expected to arrive at next week’s WWDC20, the TikTok clone Zynn getting banned from both app stores (which is totally fine, I guess!), Facebook’s failed attempts to get its Gaming app approved by Apple, as well as some notable Android updates and other app industry trends.

Main Story: Hey vs. Apple

One story dominated this week’s app news. Unless you were living under the proverbial rock, there’s no way you missed it. After Basecamp received App Store approval for its new email app called Hey, the founders, David Heinemeier Hansson and Jason Fried, turned to Twitter to explain how Apple had now rejected the app’s further updates. Apple told Basecamp it had to offer in-app purchases (IAP) for its full email service within the app, in addition to offering it on the company website. They were not happy, to say the least.

This issue came to a head at a time when regulators are taking a closer look at Apple’s business. The company is facing antitrust investigations in both the U.S. and the E.U. which, in part, will attempt to determine if Apple is abusing its market power to unfairly dominate its competitors. In Hey’s case, the subscription-based app competes with Apple’s built-in free Mail app, which could put this case directly in the regulators’ crosshairs.

But it also brings up the larger concerns over how Apple’s App Store rules have evolved to become a confusing mess which developers — and apparently even Apple’s own App Store reviewers — don’t fully understand. (Apple reportedly told Basecamp that Hey should have never been approved in the first place without IAP.)

Apple has carved out a number of conditions where apps don’t have to implement IAP, by making exceptions for enterprise apps that may have per-seat licensing plans for users and for a set of apps that more directly compete with Apple’s own. These, Apple calls “reader” apps, as they were originally directed making an exception for Amazon’s Kindle. But now this rule offers exceptions to the IAP rule for apps focused on magazines, newspapers, books, audio, music, video, VoIP, access to professional databases, cloud storage, and more.

That leaves other digital service providers wondering why their apps have to pay when others don’t.

Apple didn’t help its argument, when earlier in the week it released a report that detailed how its App Store facilitated $ 519B in commerce last year. The company had aimed to prove how much business flows through the App Store without Apple taking a 30% commission, positioning the portion of the market Apple profits from as a tiny sliver. But after the Hey debacle, this report only drives home how Apple has singled out one type of app-based business — digital services — as the one that makes the App Store its money.

Apple’s decision to squander its goodwill with the developer community the week before WWDC is an odd one. Heinemeier Hansson, a content marketing expert, easily bested the $ 1.5 trillion dollar company by using Apple’s hesitance to speak publicly against it. He set the discussion on fire, posted App Store review email screenshots to serve as Apple’s voice, and let the community vent.

Amid the Twitter outrage, large publishers’ antitrust commentary added further fuel to the fire, including those from Spotify, Match, and Epic Games.

For more reading on this topic, here are some of the key articles:

  • TechCrunch’s exclusive interview with iOS App Store head, Phil Schiller. The exec said Apple’s position on the Hey app is unchanged and no changes to App Store rules are imminent. “You download the app and it doesn’t work, that’s not what we want on the store,” he argued. (Except of course, at those times when such an experience is totally fine with Apple, as in the case of “reader” apps.) Schiller also said Basecamp could have avoided the problems if Hey had offered a free version with paid upgrades, or if it offered IAP at a higher price than on its own website.
  • Daring Fireball’s comments on the “flimsiness” of Business vs. Consumer as a justification for Apple’s rejection of Hey. John Gruber points out that the line between what’s a business app and a consumer app is too blurred. Apple allows some business apps to forgo IAP if they sell enterprise plans (e.g. per seat plans) that often involve upgraded feature sets that aren’t even iOS-specific. But in this day and age, who’s to say that an email service doesn’t deserve the same ability to opt out of IAP in order to serve its own business user base? After all, what if it upgrades its paid service with web-only features — why should Apple get a cut of that business, too?
  • App Store policy criticism from The Verge. Nilay Patel sat down with Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) and Basecamp CTO David Heinemeier Hansson to discuss the plight of Hey for its The Vergecast podcast. Cicilline said Apple’s fees were “exorbitant” and amounted to “highway robbery, basically.” He said Apple bullied developers by charging 30% of their business for access to its market — a decision which crushes smaller developers. “If there were real competition in this marketplace, this wouldn’t happen,” he added. The Verge’s Dieter Bohn also argued that Apple’s interpretation and enforcement of its App Store policies is terrible.
  • Basecamp CEO’s take on Apple’s App Store payment policies: Basecamp, the makers of the Hey app, put out a company statement about the App Store rules. The statement doesn’t add anything new to the conversation that wasn’t already in the tweetstorm, except the Basecamp response to Schiller’s suggestions which was something along the lines of 😝. The bottom line is that Hey wants to make the choice for its own business whether it needs the benefit of being able to acquire its users through the App Store or not. One way requires IAP and the other does not.
  • Vox’s Recode examines the antitrust case against Apple. The article doesn’t reference Hey, but lays out some of the other antitrust arguments being leveraged against Apple, including its “sherlocking” behavior,

Headlines

Apple has denied Facebook’s Gaming app at least 5 times since February

The Hey debacle is only one of many examples of how Apple exerts its market power over rivals. It has also repeatedly denied Facebook’s Gaming app entry to its App Store, citing the rule (Apple Store Review Guidelines, section 4.7) about not allowing apps whose main purpose is to sell other app, The NYT revealed this week.

Facebook’s Gaming app, which launched on Android in April, isn’t just another app store, however. The app offers users a hub to watch streamers play live, social networking tools, and the ability to play casual games like Zynga’s Words with Friends or Chobolabs Thug Life, for example. The latter is the point of contention, as Apple wants all games sold directly on the App Store, where it’s able to take a cut of their revenues.

One of the iterations Facebook tried was a version that looked almost exactly like how Facebook games are presented within the main Facebook iOS app — a single, alphabetized, unsortable list. The fact that this format was rejected when Apple already allows it elsewhere is an indication that even Apple doesn’t play by its own rules.

Zynn gets kicked out of App Store

Image Credits: Zynn

Zynn, the TikTok clone that shot to the top of the app store charts in late May, was pulled from Apple’s App Store on Monday. Before its removal, Sensor Tower estimates Zynn was downloaded 5 million times on iOS and 700,000 times on Google Play.


TechCrunch

Welcome back to This Week in Apps, the Extra Crunch series that recaps the latest OS news, the applications they support and the money that flows through it all.

The app industry is as hot as ever, with a record 204 billion downloads and $ 120 billion in consumer spending in 2019. People are now spending 3 hours and 40 minutes per day using apps, rivaling TV. Apps aren’t just a way to pass idle hours — they’re a big business. In 2019, mobile-first companies had a combined $ 544 billion valuation, 6.5x higher than those without a mobile focus.

In this Extra Crunch series, we help you keep up with the latest news from the world of apps, delivered on a weekly basis.

This week we’re continuing to look at how the coronavirus outbreak is impacting the world of mobile applications, including the latest on countries’ various contact-tracing apps, the pandemic’s impact on gaming and fintech and more. We’re also looking at that big app crash caused by Facebook, plus new app releases from Facebook and Google, Android 11’s new timeline and Apple’s plans to move WWDC online, among other things.

Headlines

WWDC goes virtual June 22

Apple announced this week its plans for a virtual version of its Worldwide Developer Conference. The company will host its WWDC 2020 event beginning on June 22 in the Apple Developer app and on the Apple Developer website for free for all developers.

It will be interesting to see how successfully Apple is able to take its developer conference online. After all, developers could already access the sessions and keynotes through videos — but the real power of the event was in the networking and being able to talk to Apple engineers, ask questions, get hands-on help and see how other developers are using Apple technologies to innovate. Unless Apple is planning a big revamp of its developer site and app that would enable those connections, it seems this year’s event will lack some of WWDC’s magic.

The company also announced the Swift Student Challenge, an opportunity for student developers to showcase their coding by creating their own Swift playground.


TechCrunch

Hey everybody, welcome back to Week in Review. The world of COVID-19 is our new reality, so I’ll continue to include links to some positive updates on research, but I’ll be shifting back the focus to covering tech’s movers and shakers of the week.

If you’re reading this on the TechCrunch site, you can get this in your inbox here, and follow my tweets here.


The big story

One thing that’s been interesting to see over the past few weeks is how our relationship with screen time has changed. For many, screen time is now all the time and while we haven’t stopped using too many gadgets, there are some we’ve taken out of drawers and closets and added to our repertoire.

For some, it’s been cooking gadgets. While I’ve yet to open up the sous vide gadget I received over the holidays, I was very tempted by my editor’s review of the Ooni gas-fired outdoor pizza oven this week. For me, I’ve strangely seemed to spend a lot more time with the two gadgets I own that are made by Facebook. The currently sold-out Oculus Quest and Facebook Portal are the twin pillars of Facebook’s hardware strategy, but it’s been a bit interesting to see how much more that strategy seems to thrive when we’re all stuck at home.

In a lot of ways, Facebook’s hardware feels built for a quarantine.

The Quest spent a lot of time in my closet when I was out in the world pre-quarantine, but now that I’m in my house most of the day, it spends a good amount of time strapped to my face. When VR was a more hyped technology, there was a broader conversation of whether it encouraged isolation, something promoters of the tech pushed aside, noting that it enables rich shared experiences over the web. As we all host Zoom birthday parties and visit each other’s Animal Crossing islands, it’s becoming clear that with the absence of available physical connections, we can turn a lot of things into rich shared experiences.

In a lot of ways, the Quest is a reminder of what I’m missing out on. The walls of my SF apartment feel less containing when I can hop into a VR workout or jump between games. For the first time, the technology has felt transportive in the way that the ads sold it, but it’s not that the experiences have gotten better, the world has just gotten much worse.

In the same way that VR allows us to re-skin isolation, the Portal allows us to commiserate in it.

My Portal usage has spiked in the past weeks as well. Before stay-at-home orders, coordinating a call with multiple family members was a logistical nightmare and FaceTime calls made it more likely we’d get in touch with each other, but none of my siblings are wandering far from their Portals these days.

We are all still on our phones, but for those of us working from home, mobile we are not. It’s always been fascinating that a tech company which has wildly succeeded at capturing the nuances of mobile computing has been so devoted to selling hardware meant to move us around the internet while staying in place at home. Now, that we are all at home, we are all always there and the Portal really lives up to its name.

Facebook has designed gadgets explicitly built for home use, and more than that, they’re designed devices built around session-based use cases. While Amazon Echos and Google Homes have fit into a persistent IoT platform that are always there for us, Facebook’s gadgets are more high-maintenance, designed for people to fully commit to. For a company that’s focused on the universal nature of its software, its hardware has been built for almost no one’s needs, instead designed to pull people into a future Facebook imagines.

For now, I put the Quest on my face and sometime I tell the Portal to call my sisters, but will these quarantine oddities form tech habits I hold onto after this is all behind us? In these historic times, we are at home and we are craving connections, and, for the time being, the Facebook future feels good.

jeff bezos iac 2019 1

Trends of the week

Here are a few big news items from big companies, with green links to all the sweet, sweet added context:

  • Bezos wants to test all Amazon employees for COVID-19
    As Amazon bares the brunt of America’s online shopping needs, CEO Jeff Bezos wrote in a shareholder letter this week about some of the strategies the company has to ensure its workforce stays on the job. One possibility seems to be “regular testing of all Amazonians, including those showing no symptoms,” Bezos says. Read more here.
  • Google is building a smart debit card
    Just as every startup is getting into lending or banking, every tech giant wants to have a piece of plastic (or metal) in your wallet. This week, TechCrunch broke news that Google is building a smart debit card that could rival the Apple Card. Read more about it here.
  • Apple launches a new iPhone SE
    The iPhone SE has grown to become one of the more fascinating devices Apple sells, cramming speedy components into a form factor that’s fallen out of vogue for their customer obsessed with the latest designs. The latest SE adopt the body of the iPhone 8 with souped-up internals that rival more recent flagships on performance. Read more about the new hardware here.

Photo by Andrew Theodorakis/Getty Images

COVID-19 Research

Here are some of the stories this week chronicling the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

Extra Crunch

Investors and entrepreneurs are shifting their chats to Zoom, so we’re taking note and hosting live Q&A discussions for our Extra Crunch subscribers with some of tech’s most visible figures. We’ll be hosting these Extra Crunch live chats over the next several weeks.

Announcing the Extra Crunch Live event series

  • This upcoming week, we’ll be talking to Aileen Lee & Ted Wang of Cowboy Ventures.
    Monday, April 20 at 10:30am PT / 1:30pm ET

We’ll be chatting with Aileen Lee (former KPCB partner, founder and managing director at Cowboy.vc and coiner of the term “Unicorn”) and Ted Wang (Cowboy.vc partner, former partner at Fenwick & West, and former outside counsel to Facebook, Twitter, Dropbox, Square and more) about how they’re advising their portfolio companies, if there are new and innovative ways for early-stage startups to secure capital beyond the traditional VC route and whether startups should hunker down or lean in during these uncertain times.


TechCrunch

Welcome back to This Week in Apps, the new Extra Crunch series where we’ll help you keep up with the latest news from the world of apps — including everything from the OS’s to the apps that run upon them, as well as the money that flows through it all.

The app industry in 2018 saw 194 billion downloads and over $ 100 in consumer spending. Beyond that, the business of user acquisition and advertising generates even more money. And all because we’re spending more time on our phones than we do watching TV.

This week, the news was centered on the app stores’ ability to censor, the censorship in apps, and also how the antritrust investigations are forcing companies to open up access more to third parties.

Headlines

Third-party iOS apps will get to tap into Siri

According to Bloomberg and confirmed elsewhere, Apple will allow third-party messaging and phone apps to work better with the Siri digital assistant. That means, if you regularly use WhatsApp to message friends, Siri will launch that app instead of iMessage. Currently, you have to say the name of the app you want to invoke. The update is largely about Apple’s attempt to demonstrate anti-competitive behavior, in light of increased regulatory scrutiny and antitrust claims. But the change will also be a huge win for consumers as their iPhones will become more personalized to them.


TechCrunch

There’s not a week that goes by where cybersecurity doesn’t dominates the headlines. This week was no different. Struggling to keep up? We’ve collected some of the biggest cybersecurity stories from the week to keep you in the know and up to speed.

Malicious websites were used to secretly hack into iPhones for years, says Google

TechCrunch: This was the biggest iPhone security story of the year. Google researchers found a number of websites that were stealthily hacking into thousands of iPhones every week. The operation was carried out by China to target Uyghur Muslims, according to sources, and also targeted Android and Windows users. Google said it was an “indiscriminate” attack through the use of previously undisclosed so-called “zero-day” vulnerabilities.

Hackers could steal a Tesla Model S by cloning its key fob — again

Wired: For the second time in two years, researchers found a serious flaw in the key fobs used to unlock Tesla’s Model S cars. It’s the second time in two years that hackers have successfully cracked the fob’s encryption. Turns out the encryption key was doubled in size from the first time it was cracked. Using twice the resources, the researchers cracked the key again. The good news is that a software update can fix the issue.

Microsoft’s lead EU data watchdog is looking into fresh Windows 10 privacy concerns

TechCrunch: Microsoft could be back in hot water with the Europeans after the Dutch data protection authority asked its Irish counterpart, which oversees the software giant, to investigate Windows 10 for allegedly breaking EU data protection rules. A chief complaint is that Windows 10 collects too much telemetry from its users. Microsoft made some changes after the issue was brought up for the first time in 2017, but the Irish regulator is looking at if these changes go far enough — and if users are adequately informed. Microsoft could be fined up to 4% of its global annual revenue if found to have flouted the law. Based off 2018’s figures, Microsoft could see fines as high as $ 4.4 billion.

U.S. cyberattack hurt Iran’s ability to target oil tankers, officials say

The New York Times: A secret cyberattack against Iran in June but only reported this week significantly degraded Tehran’s ability to track and target oil tankers in the region. It’s one of several recent offensive operations against a foreign target by the U.S. government in recent moths. Iran’s military seized a British tanker in July in retaliation over a U.S. operation that downed an Iranian drone. According to a senior official, the strike “diminished Iran’s ability to conduct covert attacks” against tankers, but sparked concern that Iran may be able to quickly get back on its feet by fixing the vulnerability used by the Americans to shut down Iran’s operation in the first place.

Apple is turning Siri audio clip review off by default and bringing it in house

TechCrunch: After Apple was caught paying contractors to review Siri queries without user permission, the technology giant said this week it will turn off human review of Siri audio by default and bringing any opt-in review in-house. That means users actively have to allow Apple staff to “grade” audio snippets made through Siri. Apple began audio grading to improve the Siri voice assistant. Amazon, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft have all been caught out using contractors to review user-generated audio.

Hackers are actively trying to steal passwords from two widely used VPNs

Ars Technica: Hackers are targeting and exploiting vulnerabilities in two popular corporate virtual private network (VPN) services. Fortigate and Pulse Secure let remote employees tunnel into their corporate networks from outside the firewall. But these VPN services contain flaws which, if exploited, could let a skilled attacker tunnel into a corporate network without needing an employee’s username or password. That means they can get access to all of the internal resources on that network — potentially leading to a major data breach. News of the attacks came a month after the vulnerabilities in widely used corporate VPNs were first revealed. Thousands of vulnerable endpoints exist — months after the bugs were fixed.

Grand jury indicts alleged Capital One hacker over cryptojacking claims

TechCrunch: And finally, just when you thought the Capital One breach couldn’t get any worse, it does. A federal grand jury said the accused hacker, Paige Thompson, should be indicted on new charges. The alleged hacker is said to have created a tool to detect cloud instances hosted by Amazon Web Services with misconfigured web firewalls. Using that tool, she is accused of breaking into those cloud instances and installing cryptocurrency mining software. This is known as “cryptojacking,” and relies on using computer resources to mine cryptocurrency.


TechCrunch

Happy (almost) Labor Day to all the hardworking members of the early-startup community — entrepreneurs, founders, investors, engineers and everyone in between. We know how hard you work to build your dream, so we’re cutting you a break and extending our early-bird pricing on passes to Disrupt San Francisco 2019 through 11:59 p.m. (PST) on September 6. One extra week to save up to $ 1,300.

Don’t fritter away this absolute last opportunity to save big bucks on our flagship event, where you’ll find more than 10,000 attendees, 400 media outlets and a passel of eager investors. Get your early-bird tickets now.

Disrupt events always feature incredible speakers, and we’ve got an amazing agenda lined up for you this year. Let’s take a look at just some of the discussions and interviews you’ll enjoy over the course of three Disruptive days.

Reigniting the Space Race: Blue Origin CEO Bob Smith intends to return the U.S. to crewed spaceflight, with a goal of doing so this year with its first suborbital trips. Hopefully, we can also get Smith to tell us the ticket price for a trip, once it begins taking on paying customers.

Could the U.S. Government Be Your Next Investor: No founder likes dilution, which is why the U.S. government is becoming an increasingly popular source for early-stage, ambitious venture capital. Hear from Steve Isakowitz (The Aerospace Corporation) along with other VC leaders and founders who have navigated the process to discover your next source of non-dilutive capital.

How to Build a Sex Tech Startup: As the old adage goes, sex sells. Cyan Banister (Founders Fund), Cindy Gallop (MakeLoveNotPorn) and Lora Haddock (Lora DiCarlo) will discuss the opportunities — and challenges — of building a successful sex tech startup, and how to capitalize on a market that’s projected to be worth more than $ 123 billion by 2026.

The Grass Is Greener: The cannabis industry is projected to reach $ 50 billion in 10 years. Keith McCarty (Wayv) and Bharat Vasan (Pax Labs) represent two of the biggest names in the market. Hear the duo talk about an industry with undeniable potential, but plenty of red tape to deal with, too.

Quite the appetizer, no? Then there’s the big event that everyone wants to watch — Startup Battlefield. Which awesome startup will outshine the rest and take home $ 100,000?

Want to meet and greet even more top early-stage startups? Be sure to stop by Startup Alley and connect with the TC Top Picks — and hundreds of other cool startups. This year, our editors hand-picked 45 companies that represent the very best in their tech categories. Check the list of winners right here so you can see which ones you want to meet IRL.

Disrupt San Francisco 2019 takes place October 2-4. Enjoy your Labor Day weekend, but be sure to take advantage of the one-week early-bird price extension. Buy your passes to Disrupt SF and save up to $ 1,300 — but only if you beat the new deadline: September 6 at 11:59 p.m. (PST).

Is your company interested in sponsoring or exhibiting at Disrupt San Francisco 2019? Contact our sponsorship sales team by filling out this form.


TechCrunch


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Eerste Ubuntu-smartphone volgende week verkrijgbaar in Europa
Techzine
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