This Week in Apps: AI apps, Bing hits the Top Charts, Google and Mozilla test non-WebKit browsers


Welcome back to This Week in Apps, the weekly TechCrunch series that recaps the newest in mobile OS news, mobile applications and the general app economy.

The app economy in 2023 hit a couple of snags, as consumer spending last yr dropped for the primary time by 2% to $167 billion, in keeping with’s “State of Mobile” report. Nevertheless, downloads are continuing to grow, up 11% year-over-year in 2022 to achieve 255 billion. Consumers are also spending more time in mobile apps than ever before. On Android devices alone, hours spent in 2022 grew 9%, reaching 4.1 trillion.

This Week in Apps offers a solution to sustain with this fast-moving industry in a single place with the newest from the world of apps, including news, updates, startup fundings, mergers and acquisitions, and far more.

AI’s impact on apps

Image Credits: Bloomberg (opens in a recent window) / Getty Images

More AI apps are on the way in which. It was an enormous week for AI news as each Microsoft and Google took the stage at competing events to intro their AI developments to the general public. Microsoft fared a bit of higher with its news that OpenAI’s ChatGPT-like tech was coming to Bing, pushing its companion mobile app up into the App Store’s top ranks. Meanwhile, Google flubbed a bit with its rival AI, Bard, which, in a broadcast demonstration of the technology, shared an incorrect answer to a matter concerning the James Webb Space Telescope (it was NOT the primary to take an image of an exoplanet, NASA says).

While each AI models will often and confidently get things flawed at times, Google’s failure to fact-check the answers it was showing off appeared to indicate the corporate was rushing out the tech in response to Microsoft’s move into its territory…which it was.

Google must have been far ahead on this AI race, having invested in and developed AI technology for years with help from among the top experts in the sector. But it surely’s been caught off guard — and never only by OpenAI.

Before this current AI race, Amazon’s Alexa became the household name for AI-powered voice assistants. Google, then again, got burned when it showed off a few of its more impressive consumer applications of AI. It faced backlash over its consideration of AI ethics when it showed off Duplex’s ability to call restaurants to book reservations while pretending to sound human. Google also often builds neat AI tools — like an AI that may generate music from text descriptions — but won’t release them.

The corporate has gave the impression to be slow to maneuver on AI — likely hesitant to upset its search and promoting money cow that relies on ads sold atop an inventory of links. Microsoft doesn’t care about that, though, noting that every 1% of search ad share gain it makes is a $2 billion revenue opp.

That’s why what we’ve gotten from Google around AI has been a kind of regular stream of smaller AI-powered feature drops over time, not some big and expensive overhaul of search that might have killed its margins.

As an alternative, we get things like multisearch, which expands web search to incorporate text and pictures combined. Google this week announced it was going global and the nearby option, multisearch near me, was also rolling out more broadly.

The corporate also rolled out other AI-powered improvements to things like translation and Google Maps. For instance, Google at this week’s event spoke about its recent “immersive view” maps offering more true-to-life scenes, that are created by leveraging an AI technique called neural radiance fields (NeRF). But these maps are only available in a handful of cities. And as cool as they’re, they feel more like an iteration on Street View quite than a serious AI leap.

Meanwhile, Google used its event to indicate off a variety of other features that weren’t AI search demos or ChatGPT rivals. It introduced Maps’ AR-powered Live View, which Google said is hitting a couple of more cities. (This requires users to carry up their phones and scan the world — probably not a subtle gesture for those who’re attempting to hide the undeniable fact that you’re a tourist and even possibly lost!) And it talked about recent EV Maps.

Microsoft, then again, used its press event to totally concentrate on AI as the following evolution of search. It demoed its ChatGPT-like AI in Bing which can be integrated with its Edge web browser. And it talked intimately concerning the next-gen OpenAI large language model it’s using, calling it “more powerful than ChatGPT,” which definitely excited consumers.

The corporate also cleverly introduced a waitlist for the AI-powered Bing that required people to set Microsoft defaults on their PC and download the Bing app. Because of this, the Bing app is now ranked in the highest 10 on the U.S. App Store and is the No. 2 Productivity app behind Gmail. To place this in perspective, the Bing app ahead of the AI news had been ranked No. 160 on the U.S. App Store’s Productivity apps chart — in other words, practically invisible.

Google, meanwhile, lost $100 billion in market value as Alphabet’s stock fell after the ad with the AI’s mistake aired ahead of the corporate’s event.

While the massive race in AI apps continues to be between Google and Microsoft (via OpenAI), AI will soon find its way into plenty of mobile apps through integrations. Already, we’ve seen the fake ChatGPT apps arrive and belatedly get the boot from the app stores. Today, a seek for the term “ChatGPT” still returns quite a few apps that imply they’re related to OpenAI or just presume users won’t care, so long as they provide a ChatGPT-like experience. And we’ve seen the AI image generators go viral. Quora this week also introduced an AI playground called Poe, which incorporates a handful of AI chatbots from OpenAI and Anthropic. (See “Downloads” section below.)

Consumers are clearly hungry to see AI put to make use of in apps. The developments also enliven what’s grow to be a stale App Store over time, as Apple blocked other recent tech, like NFTs, blockchain transactions and Web3 technologies from being fully functional on its App Store, forcing startups to construct their very own.

An end to Apple’s ban on non-WebKit browsers?

Image Credits: Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Some browser makers imagine they’ll find a way to release their very own, non-WebKit-powered browser apps in the longer term, because of expected regulations that may force Apple to open up its App Store to more competition.

This week, multiple stories emerged that top browser makers like Mozilla and Google have been working on the event of non-WebKit browser apps for iOS. Google Chromium developers, as an illustration, have begun constructing an iOS browser that uses Google’s Blink engine — an app that today wouldn’t be allowed on the App Store, as Apple’s guidelines specifically state that browser apps “must use the suitable WebKit framework and WebKit Javascript.”

Google, nevertheless, downplayed the news, claiming it was only a prototype meant to assist it find out about iOS performance.

In an announcement, a spokesperson told us, “That is an experimental prototype that we’re developing as a part of an open-source project with the goal to know certain points of performance on iOS. It can not be available to users and we’ll proceed to abide by Apple’s policies.”

Google isn’t the just one dabbling on this area. When reached for comment, Mozilla was way more transparent about its plans when it was spotted working on a Gecko-based version of Firefox for iOS, clearly indicating that its work is in anticipation of a more competitive landscape.

“We abide by Apple’s iOS app store policies, and are simply performing some exploratory work to know the technical challenges for Gecko-based browsers on iOS if those policies were to vary,” a Mozilla spokesperson told us. “We hope the day will come when people can freely determine to make use of the browser of their alternative, including the chance to pick the engine that underpins it.”

In fact, even when Apple were to divulge heart’s contents to non-WebKit browsers, it could theoretically impose other limits on competing apps to dictate how they’re allowed to make use of system resources. That might be one more reason for the businesses to experiment now in order that they’ll be ready to fulfill any such requirement if and when the App Store opens up.

Kids’ TikTok usage again tops YouTube

TikTok logo displayed on a smartphone

Image Credits: Jonathan Raa/NurPhoto / Getty Images

TikTok once more found itself because the social app kids and teenagers are spending essentially the most time using throughout the day, even outpacing YouTube. Based on an ongoing annual review of youngsters’ and teenagers’ app usage and behavior globally, the younger demographic — minors ranging in ages from 4 through 18 — began to look at more TikTok than YouTube on a median every day basis starting in June 2020, and TikTok’s numbers have continued to grow ever since.

In June 2020, TikTok overtook YouTube for the primary time, with kids watching a median of 82 minutes per day on TikTok versus a median of 75 minutes per day on YouTube, in keeping with recent data from parental control software maker Qustodio.

This past yr, the gulf between the 2 widened, it said, as kids in 2022 saw their average every day use of TikTok climb to a whopping 107 minutes, or 60% longer than the time they spent watching video content on YouTube (67 minutes).

Image Credits: Qustodio

TikTok was also used more, when it comes to average every day minutes, than other social apps like Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter.

The study was published prematurely of a TikTok-focused Congressional hearing. In March, TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew will testify before the House Energy and Commerce Committee concerning the app’s data security, ties to China, privacy concerns and impacts on children.

Social media concerns also got a shoutout during President Biden’s State of the Union address this week when he pressed Congress to pass laws to guard consumers from Big Tech. “We must finally hold social media firms accountable…It’s time to pass bipartisan laws to stop Big Tech from collecting personal data on kids and teenagers online, ban targeted promoting to children, and impose stricter limits on the non-public data these firms collect on all of us.”


  • A redesigned Home app is attributable to arrive within the forthcoming iOS 16.4 update. The feature had originally appeared in iOS 16.2 but was pulled out before launch.
  • Apple’s tvOS and HomePod software was updated to 16.3.1.
  • Some users have been complaining about iCloud backup issues after updating to iOS 16.3.


  • Google released the primary Developer Preview of Android 14, which supports a variety of devices, including tablets and foldable form aspects. Among the many changes are loads of background optimizations, support for larger fonts (users can scale them as much as 200%), per-app language preferences, various privacy and security updates, customization features, the flexibility to dam the installation of apps (with a targetSdkVersion lower than 23) to guard against malware, passkeys support and more.
  • Android TV 13 was also finally released. Android 13 has been available for phones and tablets for nearly a yr and a half.
  • Google announced the alpha release of Credential Manager, a recent Jetpack API that permits app developers to simplify users’ authentication journey while also adding support for passkeys.
  • It also rolled out the newest version of the Google Mobile Ads SDK (10.0.0).


Image Credits: Cyan Worlds

  • A remastered version of the classic puzzle game Myst arrived on iOS. The brand new game, Myst Mobile, relies on the remastered game that was already released on Oculus VR headsets and the PC, but has been rebuilt for Apple’s M1 and M2 chipsets on newer devices. The sport is free to download and explore the primary location but to proceed, you’ll have to pay $14.99.
  • Activision provided insight into its mobile gaming portfolio during Q4 earnings, noting that Call of Duty Mobile grew by double-digits YoY and set a recent quarterly record and 10-year-old Candy Crush Saga saw 20% YoY net bookings growth. Overall, King’s revenue grew 6% YoY with net bookings up 9%.
  • Rogue Games announced multiple recent titles coming exclusively to Netflix, including a twin-stick Roguelite shooter Dust & Neon, which won the general Better of Show award at PAX West; and Highwater, an atmospheric adventure/strategy hybrid. Each games shall be available on mobile in addition to PC and console, however the Netflix deal provides the games to iOS and Android subscribers without cost with no in-app purchases.

Image Credits: Rogue Games


  • Zenly co-founder Antoine Martin says he’s returning to the social app market with the launch of a recent company called Amo. The previous Zenly CEO is working with ex-Zenly managing director Michael Goldenstein and others on the brand new startup, whose goal is to repair the issues with today’s social networks by specializing in connecting friends in the true world, not connecting the entire world. Details are still quiet in the intervening time, but the corporate is collecting sign-ups on a waitlist now.
Amo splash screen

Image Credits: Amo

Image Credits: Instagram

  • After announcing recent API pricing starting with a $100 basic tier, Twitter blocked access to its developer community website. Developers used to access the positioning for announcements and to ask questions. Twitter didn’t explain if the block was intentional or a bug (like one related to its API issues earlier this week).
  • Some Mastodon users have gone back to Twitter, it seems. Wired reported the decentralized social app and Twitter alternative has seen its MAUs drop from 2.5 million to now 1.4 million as of the tip of January. But Techdirt took issue with the characterization of this as a “slump,” as Wired had called it, noting that Mastodon had grown significantly since Musk took over Twitter, even with the drop. Plus, the Fediverse as an entire, not only Mastodon, is as much as around 2.6 million MAUs users, much higher than the 600,000 it has within the pre-Musk era. “I’m unsure how going from 600k to 2.6 million in only a few months will be deemed ‘a slump.’ It sure looks like pretty rattling good retention overall,” scoffed Techdirt’s Mike Masnick.
  • Facebook creators gained recent moderation tools, including the flexibility to look comments by keywords, emojis, commenter names and, dates, and take bulk actions, equivalent to liking or hiding.
  • During Q4 earnings, Pinterest reported 450 million MAUs, up 4% YoY but its $877 million in revenue missed expectations. The corporate said it could concentrate on shoppable videos.


WhatsApp status updates

Image Credits: WhatsApp

  • WhatsApp added the flexibility to post a Status to a non-public audience together with 30-second Voice Status messages, Status reactions and more across iOS, Android and the net.
  • Telegram added a recent profile photo maker that turns stickers or animated emoji into your pfp, plus tools to translate entire chats, support for sorting emoji by categories, detailed pie charts for viewing network usage and other features in its latest update.


OkCupid's ChatGPT questions

Image Credits: OkCupid

  • ChatGPT for locating love? OkCupid began testing match questions that were generated by ChatGPT. The questions help daters find compatibility with others across a variety of innocuous questions, like “are you a morning person or an evening person?” (Yes, the bot got here up with that one!)
  • Tinder added an incognito mode that enables you to browse that only shows your profile to those you’ve liked. It also added a “block profile” feature for hiding yourself from people you already know while you encounter them within the app amongst other privacy changes.


Image Credits: Netflix

  • Netflix’s password crackdown isn’t going well as plenty of offended customers are actually planning to boycott the changes by canceling their service. 
    • Users are particularly upset over the foundations that impact prolonged families from sharing accounts — like parents who pay for his or her college students’ accounts or grown children who pay for his or her elderly parents’ access — plus, families where a member often travels for work (or is deployed overseas). The changes also impact individuals with multiple homes. Subscribers say they’re already paying for extra screens and that ought to be enough.
    • Netflix claims that each one anyone has to do is reauthenticate once monthly with the app on the household’s predominant location, but consumers see that requirement as a burden — and an impossibility in some cases. In the event that they don’t, though, the “traveling” account could lose access. Netflix will force people to pay extra for the freeloaders or they’ll decide to migrate to a recent account with a profile transfer feature. It stays to be seen if Netflix will keep these same rules within the U.S., because the rollout has been external to its home marketplace for now.
  • Spotify now enables you to block playlists from impacting your “taste profile.” This is able to allow people to dam certain playlists, like those used for studying, sleeping, understanding or those favored by the children, from influencing their recommendations.
Spotify's new exclude from taste profile feature

Image Credits: Spotify


  • Sensor Tower reported on the state of fitness apps, noting that Health and Fitness apps in Europe reached 232 million installs last yr, up 16% from 2019. The firm said it now takes nearly $4 million in gross revenue in a given month to grow to be the No. 1 ranked Health and Fitness app on the app stores, up 23% from the $3.5 million required in 2021.
  • Robinhood said it’s going to purchase as much as 55 million shares, or 7%+ of its outstanding shares, that had been bought by Sam Bankman-Fried in 2022. The corporate reported $380 million in revenue in Q4, up 5% YoY and a net loss down 61% to $166 million. 2022 revenue was down 25% YoY to $1.36 billion.
  • Brave’s iOS and Android apps added support for Solana’s DApp in its built-in web3 wallet.
  • DoorDash integrated with gas savings app GasBuddy to permit its drivers to search out the most cost effective nearby gas.
  • Flipboard’s iOS and Android apps were updated with support for its recent Notes feature that lets Flipboard magazine curators dialog with their readers through short notes, intros and polls.
  • PayPal is getting a recent CEO as Dan Schulman prepares to go away at yr’s end. The corporate also reported Q4 revenue up 7% YoY to $7.33 billion and TPV up 5% to $357.4 billion.
  • Uber integrated its driver app with Apple CarPlay. Higher late than never.
  • Fantastical’s popular calendar app added support for Live Activities so you may now see upcoming events on the Lock Screen.
  • Japan’s Fair Trade Commission issued a recent report regarding its investigation of Apple and Google’s app stores. The report accuses each firms of “abuse of a superior bargaining position,” and makes several recommendations, including those around commissions and in-app payments and says the businesses shouldn’t make the most of features not made available to developers. It doesn’t explicitly say the platforms have to host third-party app stores, nevertheless.
  • The Indian government offered further details about its ban on greater than 90 lending apps, including its concerns over Chinese influence. China investors were on the cap tables of among the banned apps, it said, and apps were storing user data outside the country. Money laundering and other loan practices were also a priority. Later within the week, it lifted the ban on PayU’s LazyPay, Kissht, KreditBee, Indiabulls’ Home Loans, mPokket, Buddy Loan and Faircent after reviewing their cap tables for Chinese investors.
  • Google Play began requiring regulatory approval for loan apps in Nigeria and Kenya as of January 31, matching similar rules in India, Indonesia and the Philippines.
  • U.S. policymakers are concerned about TikTok’s plan to permit oversight of its algorithm as an alternative choice to a ban, noting that it could be technically difficult and there could still be backdoors that allowed China’s government to govern content on the platform.
  • Utah is pushing through recent bills that may require social media firms to confirm users’ ages and provides parents access to their kids’ accounts.
  • In a presentation to the EU, Meta showed data that indicated that pop-up content warnings reduced the sharing of flagged posts by 25% on Facebook and 38% on Instagram. TikTok, for comparison, reports a discount of 29%.
  • Lunar, a Danish neobank last valued at $2.2 billion, raised $38 million from undisclosed investors to proceed to construct its banking and financial services platform. The corporate last yr raised a Series D extension that brought its total funding then to €280 million.
  • Meta got the go-ahead to accumulate VR software maker Inside, despite FTC concerns. The corporate’s flagship app is the VR fitness app Supernatural.
  • Fintech app Fierce, which offers free stock trading, checking and later crypto, launched on iOS after receiving $10 million in seed funding from investors including Pendrell, AP Capital, Wheelhouse Digital Studios, Space Whale Capital and other angels.


Quora Poe

Image Credits: Quora

Q&A platform Quora opened up public access to its recent AI chatbot app, Poe, which lets users ask questions and get answers from a variety of AI chatbots, including those from ChatGPT maker OpenAI, and other firms like Anthropic. Beyond allowing users to experiment with recent AI technologies, Poe’s content will ultimately help to evolve Quora itself. If and when Poe’s content meets a high enough quality standard, it can be distributed on Quora’s site itself, where it has the flexibility to achieve Quora’s 400 million monthly visitors, the corporate said.

At launch, there are three general knowledge chatbots: Sage, Claude and Dragonfly. Each Sage and Dragonfly are powered by OpenAI while Claude is powered by Anthropic technology. All have their very own limitations at present. For example, Sage and Claude don’t have knowledge of events after 2021, and Dragonfly may refuse to reply some questions. All three have also been known to make incorrect statements — which is one more reason why Quora itself isn’t immediately integrating Poe into its service. Developers may also find a way so as to add their very own bots to Poe in the longer term.

Epic Games’ Postparty

Fortnite Postparty app and in-game skins

Image Credits: Epic Games

Fortnite maker Epic Games launched a recent clip-sharing app called Postparty on iOS and Android that provides gamers a solution to easily share their clips on social media. The app allows for sharing from Xbox, Switch, PlayStation and PC for Fortnite users and just Xbox and PlayStation for Epic’s Rocket League. Fortnite users will see the app promoted after an in-game kill, prompting them to download the app in order that they can share clips. The app was created by Houseparty developer Life on Air, acquired by Epic in 2019. (Houseparty shut down in 2021.) After sharing their first clip from the app, Fortnite users will get special in-game skin, spray and wrap.


Image Credits: Spillt

A former Instagram engineer launched a recent recipe app called Spillt, covered by The Information, which helps users find, organize and cook recipes — the latter by helpfully keeping the phone’s screen on in the course of the recipe’s prep. That’s a feature the favored Pestle app also has, together with its voice-powered guided cooking, nevertheless. But Spillt’s value proposition is that it offers a way for users to see which recipes their friends are saving in a News Feed of sorts. It stays to be seen if it will probably actually gain traction amid a sea of recipe apps, but it surely’s at the very least differentiated from the set of “TikTok for cooking” apps which might be available on the market today.


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