Clubhouse clones, WWDC21, apps have their best-ever quarter – TechCrunch

by Jeremy

Welcome back to This Week in Apps, the weekly TechCrunch series that recaps the latest mobile OS news, mobile applications, and the overall app economy. The app industry is as hot as ever, with 218 billion downloads and $143 billion in global consumer spending in 2020.

The average American watches 3.7 hours of live TV per day but now spends four hours per day on their mobile devices. Consumers last year also spent 3.5 trillion minutes using apps on Android devices alone. And in the U.S., app usage surged ahead of the time spent watching live TV.T

Apps aren’t just a way to pass idle hours — they’re also a big business. In 2019, mobile-first companies had a combined $544 billion valuation, 6.5x higher than those without a mobile focus. In 2020, investors poured $73 billion in capital into mobile companies — a figure up 27% year-over-year.

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This week we’re looking into app store trends, Apple’s upcoming WWDC, new App Store rejections and what they mean for ATT (App Tracking Transparency), and whatever happened to that Arizona App Store bill, among other stories.

Apps just had the biggest quarter on record.

This week, big news for the app economy, as App Annie reported that consumer spending on mobile apps broke a new record. According to recent data, worldwide consumers in Q1 2021 spent $32 billion on apps across iOS and Google Play, up 40% year-over-year from Q1 2020. It’s the largest-ever quarter on record, with mobile consumers spending roughly $9 billion more in Q1 2021 compared with Q1 2020, in part due to the pandemic’s continued impacts.

Q1 2021 WW Consumer Spend

Although iOS saw more significant consumer spending than Android in the quarter — $21 billion versus $11 billion, respectively — both stores grew by the same percentage, 40%. Gaming drove most of the quarter’s consumer spending, accounting for $22 billion — $13 billion on iOS (up 30% year-over-year) and $9 billion on Android (up 35%).

Apple begins rejecting apps with fingerprinting tech.

With the launch of iOS 14.5 looming, reports circulated this week that Apple has begun rejecting apps that use third-party SDKs that track users via device fingerprinting. The Adjust SDK did not yet comply with Apple’s new App Tracking Transparency guidelines, causing apps that included the SDK to be rejected. That could have been many possible rejections, as Adjust’s website claims more than 50,000 apps trust it. But Adjust soon updated its SDK (open-sourced and here on GitHub) to hopefully re-enable app updates for its customers.

Per several developers, Apple has begun rejecting app updates that include the Adjust SDK related to its collection of data used for device fingerprinting.

— Eric Seufert (@eric_seufert) April 1, 2021

The App Tracking Transparency (ATT) changes have thrown a whole industry into disarray as companies scramble to comply and diversify their revenues. However, Snap was found to be looking into alternative ways to bypass ATT by gathering data like IP addresses from companies that analyze ad campaigns to see if it could cross-reference that data with its own to continue tracking its users. Snap told the Financial Times it had tested the technique, calletching, to test the im techniqueact of Apple’s policies. Still, it claimed it intended to discontinue the program after Apple introduced its changes. (Sure, Jan!) The company believes tracking individual users will no longer be allowed, but gathering data on “cohorts” would be. On Thursday, Apple sent letters to developers warning them to remove code that supported probabilistic matching, just in case.

WWDC 2021 Announced

WWDC will again be virtual, Apple announced this week. The online event will take place June 7 to 11, as it did last year, allowing developers worldwide to tune in to watch prerecorded keynotes and sessions and virtual networks and learn from Apple engineers and employees. Through April 18, students can submit their Swift playground to this year’s Swift Student Challenge to win exclusive outerwear and Apple pins.

Everyone has already begun reading too much into Apple’s imagery, which shows Memoji characters wearing glasses and looking at a Mac screen. Is Apple teasing AR glasses? Some wondered. That doesn’t seem likely, though. The drinks are just a way to reflect the computer screen in a picture whose message essentially conveys, yep, it’s another virtual event this year.

The Arizona App Store bill is dead

? The bill was the work of the Coalition for App Fairness, led by Epic Games, Spotify, Tile, and other developers who want alternatives to paying app store commissions and alternative distribution channels. Last week, it was unclear why the AZ Senate skipped the vote on the bill the AZ House had passed. But according to the bill’s (HB2005) backer, Rep. Regina Cobb, speaking to The Verge, the decision was due to heavy lobbying by Apple and Google, which caused Senate members who had agreed to a vote to waiver. When the votes weren’t there, the Senate decided to skip bringing it up altogether.

Cobb, in an email to TechCrunch, confirmed the same. “We have been working with members on the committee and had the votes a few days prior,” she said. “Just before the committee proceeded, the Chairman notified the lobbyist for App Fairness that the votes were not there, so he did not want to waste committee time on the issue.”

Platforms: Apple

? Apple released the iOS 14.5 beta 6 to developers, including one significant change: the release of new Siri voices. With iOS 14.5, Siri will no longer default to a female vocalist but instead allow customers to choose from an agent set presented in random order. Before the release, there had been some expectation that beta five would be the last before the public release, but that was not the case. However, now that beta six has arrived, the Release Candidate could follow next week.

Ahead of WWDC 2021, Apple updated its Apple Developer app. The app offers an updated look and feel, which now supports sidebar navigation on iPad, full-screen video on larger Mac displays, and a new way to discover content to watch and read in an updated Search section. As with last year’s WWDC, attendees can connect with and tune into announcements, sessions, and 1:1 labs via the Developer app.

Throughout 2020, consumers turned to iPhone apps for work, school, entertainment, shopping, and more, driving per-user spending to a new record and the most significant annual growth since 2016.? U.S. users spent an average of $138 on iPhone apps in 2020, which is expected to grow to $180 in 2021, reported Sensor Tower. Per-device spending on mobile games was a large part of that figure, growing 43% yearly from $53.80 in 2019 to $76.80 in 2020. That’s more than 20 points higher than the 22% growth seen between 2018 and 2019, when in-game spending grew from $44 to $53.80.

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