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This Week in Apps: Antitrust investigation dubs App Store a monopoly, Microsoft adopts ‘app fairness’ rules, pandemic boosts Q3 app revenues – TechCrunch

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Welcome back to This Week in Apps, the TechCrunch 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 series, we help you keep up with the latest news from the world of apps, delivered on a weekly basis.

Apple declared monopoly by U.S. House Judiciary subcommittee on antitrust

Apple was one of the four big tech companies the House Judiciary subcommittee on antitrust declared as having enjoyed monopoly power in the U.S. The report suggests that Congress make changes to break up their businesses. In Apple’s case, the company was deemed to have market power in the app distribution business, meaning its App Store. The report agrees that while the App Store provides significant benefits to both consumers and developers, Apple has also controlled the App Store in a way that allows it to create barriers to competition and exploits developer data to its advantage.

Apple responded that it “vehemently” disagrees with the report’s conclusions…”with respect to Apple.”:

Our company does not have a dominant market share in any category where we do business. From its beginnings 12 years ago with just 500 apps, we’ve built the App Store to be a safe and trusted place for users to discover and download apps and a supportive way for developers to create and sell apps globally. Hosting close to two million apps today, the App Store has delivered on that promise and met the highest standards for privacy, security and quality. The App Store has enabled new markets, new services and new products that were unimaginable a dozen years ago, and developers have been primary beneficiaries of this ecosystem. Last year in the United States alone, the App Store facilitated $138 billion in commerce with over 85% of that amount accruing solely to third-party developers. Apple’s commission rates are firmly in the mainstream of those charged by other app stores and gaming marketplaces. Competition drives innovation, and innovation has always defined us at Apple. We work tirelessly to deliver the best products to our customers, with safety and privacy at their core, and we will continue to do so.

Apple in the past year has received an increasing number of complaints from iOS app developers over its rules to include in-app purchases and to remove any mentions from their app as to where consumers could pay for a subscription outside the App Store. The company has had high-profile debacles with Basecamp’s email app Hey, Spotify, Epic Games (where it’s engaged in a lawsuit) and cloud gaming services, like xCloud and Stadia.

This week, more developer complaints also surfaced related to how Apple can abuse its power.

In one, ProtonMail’s CEO shared what it was like to work with Apple, where he compared the company’s business practices to “Mafia extortion.” The company said Apple made it add in-app purchases, even though its app had been a largely free app, like WordPress, for years. When ProtonMail alerted its customers over email, Apple threatened to remove the app and block all updates.

In another, Apple told private messaging app Telegram what’s allowed on its channels. Specifically, it wanted channels closed where Belarusian protesters were identifying members of the country’s oppressive regime.

Microsoft digs at Apple with adoption of “App Fairness” principles

Last month, a number of top app makers came together to launch the “Coalition for App Fairness,” an advocacy group fighting back at market power abuses by the tech giants, namely Apple and to some lesser extent, Google. This week Microsoft joined Apple’s critics by announcing it would adopt 10 “app fairness” principles in its own Microsoft Store for Windows 10. The company didn’t reference Apple by name, but said it had “concerns about app stores on other digital platforms.”

In a blog post, Microsoft wrote:

Windows 10 is an open platform. Unlike some other popular digital platforms, developers are free to choose how they distribute their apps. The Microsoft Store is one way. We believe that it provides significant benefits to consumers and to developers by ensuring that the available apps meet strong privacy, security and safety standards, while making them easier to find and providing additional tools and services so developers can focus on development.

The company pointed out that it allows third-party app stores, like those from Epic and Steam, on Windows. It also says users can pick their own payment method and notes that developers are allowed to distribute their apps on their own terms via the internet without restrictions. And, Microsoft stressed that it would not use its market power to “tilt the playing field to our advantage.”

Though it is admirable for Microsoft to take a stand, the company is likely more concerned with ensuring U.S. regulators don’t turn their eyes to its own storefronts as they investigate tech giants for anticompetitive behavior. In particular, it wants to avoid scrutiny of its Xbox store, which will not apply these same principles.

It’s worth noting, too, that Apple’s own desktop platform, macOS, doesn’t restrict developers from offering their apps for installation via the web, so the Microsoft Store is not the most apt comparison to what’s taking place on the iOS App Store.

Consumers spent a record $28 billion in apps in Q3

Image Credits: TechCrunch

Mobile usage continues to remain high amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, which has prompted social distancing measures and lockdown policies, and has pushed consumers to connect online for work, school and socializing. This, in turn, has helped drive record spending in apps during the quarter, as well as a huge surge in time spent in apps. According to a new report from App Annie, consumers in the third quarter downloaded 33 billion new apps globally and spent a record $28 billion in apps — up 20% year-over-year. They also spent more than 180 billion collective hours each month of July, August and September 2020 using apps, an increase of 25% year-over-year.

For comparison, Sensor Tower’s Q3 report had estimated app revenue grew to over $29 billion in Q3, while it pegged new app downloads higher at 36.5 billion.

Mobile industry Lawsuits

  • TikTok vs. the U.S. government. The U.S. government on Thursday appealed the judge’s ruling that prevented the Trump administration from banning TikTok. The White House has said TikTok represents a threat to national security. Meanwhile, the app has just been banned in Pakistan.
  • Google faces antitrust lawsuit in India where it’s accused of having abused its Android OS’s position in the smart TV market.
  • Philip Shoemaker testifies in Apple vs. Epic. Shoemaker, who headed App Store Review from March 2009 to April 2016 said that the App Store had been used to protect Apple’s interests, saying that Apple had not been honest about treating all developers the same. He also said the App Store rules were arbitrary and Apple has “struggled with using the App Store as a weapon against competitors.” He also argued that Apple Arcade would violate the same policies that are keeping Stadia and Game Pass off the App Store.
  • Judge denied Epic’s request to force Apple to allow Fortnite back into the App Store. This means Fortnite will not return to the App Store before the trial begins; a court filing this week stated that the two companies will go to trial on May 3, 2021.

Platforms & Services

  • Apple extended the deadline for app updates using the UIWebView API to beyond the end of 2020. Apple designed WKWebView in 2014 to integrate web content into an app “quickly, securely, and consistently across iOS and macOS,” the company says. Its since recommended that developers adopt WKWebView instead of UIWebView and WebView — both of which were formally deprecated. Maybe Apple didn’t want any more stories about app rejections right now?
  • Apple launches new subscription server notifications for testing. The new notifications can offer real-time updates on a subscriber’s status, so developers can create customized user experiences. Initially, developers can get a notification about a subscriber who auto-renews and another that lets them be alerted to when the App Store starts asking users to agree to a new subscription price.
  • Apple Developer app now supports enrollment in the U.K. and Ireland.
  • Google hiring for Android Security team. A job posting indicates Google Play is staffing up an Android Security team that looks for vulnerabilities in Android apps, including COVID-19 apps, election apps, and those dealing in sensitive data.
  • Google Assistant can control Android apps. Google’s voice command “Hey Google” can now not just launch by also search within and perform common tasks in apps. Users can also set their own voice commands as shortcuts.
  • Android launches sound notifications. The OS can help people hard of hearing by alerting them to sounds like appliances beeping, water running, baby sounds, fire alarms, dogs barking, and knocks on the door, among others. iPhone offers a similar feature.

Trends

  • TikTok passes Instagram as second-most popular social app for U.S. teens. A new report from Piper Sandler says 34% of teens list Snapchat as their favorite social app followed by 29% picking TikTok, then 25% picking Instagram.
  • Google is latest to adopt “Stories” format. The company added Stories to its main search app on iOS and Android, featuring AMP-based visual content from a range of publishers.
  • Instagram embraces home screen customization trend with launch of custom icons. For the app’s 10th anniversary, the company added a time-traveling Stories map, anti-bullying features, and a big set of custom icons that users can easily swap to, including the classic brown instant camera icon. The app declined to talk about its user numbers or revenues, however.
  • Microsoft joins Amazon in working around App Store rules on gaming services. Microsoft gaming head Phil Spencer told employees the company is targeting 2021 for a web-browser based solution for its Xbox Game Pass streaming service. Amazon had earlier said it would bring its cloud gaming service Luna to iPhone by offering it as a web app.

Other News

  • Over 240 Android apps were caught showing “out-of-context” ads in violation of a Google Play Store policy. These ads are shown outside of the app’s container, like pop-ups or full-screen ads. Google banned this advertising type in February 2020, when more than 600 apps were found to be spamming users. (ZDNet)
  • Baidu launches a Douyin and Kuaishou rival called Kankan, which is mostly just a video search engine for the time being. The app looks a lot like Baidu’s main search app, but focuses on videos and live streaming. (SCMP)
  • Google Fi comes to more phones, including new 5G phones from Samsung and Google. (Galaxy Note20 5G, Galaxy Note20 Ultra 5G, Galaxy S20 5G, Galaxy S20+ 5G, Galaxy S20 Ultra 5G, Galaxy A71 5G, Pixel 5 and Pixel 4a 5G) (Google)
  • Instagram Threads turns into Instagram Direct. The formerly “friends-only” messaging app now lets you use it as a direct messenger for all your IG contacts. The company plans to bring some of IG’s other new messaging features soon, meaning it would be tied to the new IG infrastructure that currently allows cross-platform messaging between IG and Facebook Messenger. But IG says Threads won’t support cross-platform messaging. We’ll see! (TechCrunch)
  • Mobile RPG Genshin Impact becomes world’s No. 2 top-grossing game in first week. The game Chinese publisher miHoYo generated $60 million across the App Store and Google Play. (Sensor Tower)
  • Spotify launches collaborative music app Soundtrap Capture. The company acquired Sountrap in 2017. The new app is meant to take the place of Voice Memo to save tracks that can then be shared with others. The app has been in beta since this spring. (TechCrunch)
  • Triller is paying for TikTok talent. The U.S.-based rival is shelling out cash, cars, fine dining and creator mansions to lure creators to its app at a time when TikTok’s U.S. future remains uncertain. The app offers a similar experience, but without support for duets or an as extensive library. A related report claims Triller inflated its user numbers in the past. (The New York Times)

Funding and M&A

  • Picker raises €1.3 million seed round. The app lets you discover and buy products recommended by people you follow. Backers in the round include Berlin’s Btov and other angels.
  • Zynga acquires game maker Rollic. Zynga completed its acquisition of hyper-casual game maker Rollic, based in Istanbul. Its titles include Go Knots 3D and Tangle Master 3D. Zynga doesn’t fully own Rollic, but has purchased 80% of the company for $180 million with additional payments to acquire the remaining portion over the next three years.
  • GoPuff raises $380 million. The Philadelphia-headquartered startup offers an app that lets you buy over-the-counter medicine, baby food and alcohol — basically, convenience store items — and have them delivered to your door in 30 minutes or less. The new round was led by Accel and D1 Capital Partners.
  • Camera app Dispo raises $4 million seed. Seven Seven Six fund, the Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian’s new venture fund, made its first investment in LA-based social media platform, Dispo. The app, previously known as David’s Disposable, was created by popular YouTuber David Dobrik and friend Natalie Mariduena. The app’s gimmick is to make you wait until the next day to see your photos, which are shared without editing.
  • Healthcare app Your.MD raises €25 million. The London-based company’s Healthily app uses A.I. to help users check symptoms before visiting a doctor. Funding was led by global health and hygiene company Reckitt Benckiser (RB).

Up Spell

Image Credits: Up Spell

Noted Apple software engineer and designer Ken Kocienda, whose work included the original iPhone and the development of touchscreen autocorrect, launched his first iOS app, a word game called Up Spell. The game challenges users to spell all the words you can in two minutes and uses a lexicon of words Kocienda built to allow for the inclusion of proper names and words with apostrophes, like S’Mores.

Bold icons

Tapping into the iOS 14 home screen redesign trend, designer Doney den Ouden released his own set of new icons for iOS devices, a bright one called “Bold,” a dark version called “Bold Dark,” and all-white background icons “Bold Light.” Designers have regularly dabbled in redesigns of the iOS interface, but the ability to now create Shortcuts to launch apps using custom icons has inspired designers to turn these side projects into a side hustle.

Google Arts & Culture

Image Credits: Google

While not a new app, the art appreciation and educational app this week introduced a new “Art Filter” that uses 3D-modelled AR filters based on iconic paintings, objects and accessories from all over the world. You can use the filter to become Van Gogh or Frida Kahlo’s self-portraits, or the famous Girl with a Pearl Earring. You can also step into history with a traditional Samurai helmet or a remarkable Ancient Egyptian necklace, Google says. The app is a free download on Android or iOS.

Harbor

Prepper app Harbor, backed by $5 million in funding, launched its emergency-preparedness app that gamifies the tasks you need to get done in order to have fully prepared for an emergency. The app determines the most likely emergencies you’d face based on your location.

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Fitness: Exercise is a golden opportunity for older adults – Sarnia and Lambton County This Week

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But does age warrant a new set of guidelines?

It used to be that the golden years were all about putting your feet up and taking it easy. But that was before exercise was linked to a reduced risk of chronic disease and increased longevity. Being physically active is now considered a vital component of a long and healthy life, and is especially important for older adults, including those who have yet to jump on the exercise bandwagon.

But there’s no clear consensus as to what type of physical activity is best suited for older populations looking to take advantage of all that exercise has to offer. Is the non-age-specific recommendation of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise a week the best option? Or are there workout routines that offer better results for older exercisers?

A team of researchers set out to get answers by comparing the long- and short-term results of three exercise routines on a large group of Norwegians aged 70 to 77, divided into three groups. The control group (780 people) was asked to follow the national guidelines for physical activity, which in Norway call for 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise most days of the week. The second group (387 people) swapped out two days of the general 30-minute workouts for 50 continuous minutes of exercise performed at an intensity equivalent to 70 per cent of their maximum heart rate. The third group (400 people) was also asked to swap out two days a week of the 30-minute workouts, but their routine consisted of four high-intensity intervals of four minutes performed at 90 per cent of their maximum heart rate. Fitness and health data for all three groups, whose average age was 72.8, was collected at the start of the study and again one, three and five years later.

To ensure the two non-control groups stayed on target, they met regularly with professionals who supervised workouts designed to ensure participants exercised in the appropriate training zone, with intensity measured by heart rate monitors and ratings of perceived exertion. Adherence to the exercise routine was analyzed through self-reporting, with anyone who participated in less than 50 per cent of the workouts considered to be non-compliant. At the end of the study, two physicians analyzed the medical data of all three groups, including any deaths, without knowing which exercise routine they followed.

The researchers anticipated that the two groups that exceeded the national recommendations for physical activity would realize an added boost of longevity, but there were no differences in the mortality rate between those who followed the 30-minute general routine and those who didn’t. There was, however, a slight boost in longevity among the high-intensity interval group when compared to the exercisers who performed 50 minutes of continuous moderate-intensity exercise.

The researchers aren’t sure why their hypothesis wasn’t realized, but suspect it had something to do with the overall good health of the study subjects. A whopping 80 per cent reported a medium or high level of physical activity at the start of the study, which suggests that exercise was already contributing to their overall health and longevity. Another finding to consider is that 47 per cent of the exercisers doing the high-intensity interval training stuck with it to the end of the study, compared to the 69 per cent of the controls who kept up their routine for the full five years.

“Participants in the control group did not receive supervised exercise, yet exercised at relatively high levels throughout the five years,” said the researchers.

Another unexpected finding is that peak oxygen uptake, a measure of cardiovascular fitness, showed no age-related decline over the course of the study. This is good news for older exercisers, as a decline in peak oxygen uptake is typical in this age group and is associated with an increased risk of premature death and coronary heart disease.

The bottom line is that there are a number of options for older adults who want to reap all the health benefits physical activity has to offer. It’s also clear that for active older adults, judging the effectiveness of a workout by its length or intensity isn’t a good practice.

“The central implication is that either shorter-duration vigorous physical activity or longer-duration moderate physical activity or a combination of the two, that amount to the same amount of work each week, will have the same favourable health outcomes, with vigorous physical activity being the time-efficient alternative,” stated the researchers.

So go ahead and pick the workout of your choice — or better yet, mix it up between all three routines featured in this study. For older adults, not only does exercise have the potential to mitigate several of the negative health conditions associated with aging, it can truly make the latter decades of life golden.

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Apple warns of new iPhone 12 upgrade – The Queens County Citizen

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Offers Apple’s new iPhone 12 series Really ballistic display But it comes at a Especially high cost Than You might like. And Apple has issued another warning for upgrade users.

More from ForbesApple Settlement Filing Details Critical iPhone 13 5G Upgrade

Newly Support document Marked by Macroomers, Apple has quietly warned consumers that there are some significant pitfalls to its innovative new MagSafe wireless charging system, which extends beyond concerns Its weak magnets.

In the range of bullet points at the end of the document, Apple’s Magazine’s warning buyers of iPhone 12 series phones:

  • If your iPhone’s battery is “too warm”, say that charging is limited to 80% capacity, increase the heat and limit charging.
  • Magnetic strips and RFID chips on credit cards, security badges, passports and key fobs can damage the back of your iPhone and between the MagSafe charger. Apple a Mag Safe Wallet, So be very careful.
  • Damages leather cases used with chargers by leaving “circular seals”. There is a similar damage to silicon cases Also reported A few days later, questions should also be asked as to what this does to the glassbacks of the case-less iPhone 12 models over time.

The most obvious fear of accidentally wiping out your credit cards is that the last point (which Apple writes in small gray at the end of the support document) seems to be pressed evenly.

Replacing the damaged iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro rear windows will cost 9,449 (up to $ 50 on the iPhone 11) and 99,549, respectively. Yes you can buy Apple’s AppleCarePlus insurance policy (iPhone 12 – $ 7.99pm / $ 149 upfront; from $ 50.

And the costs continue to rise from here. The same support document says “Your iPhone will charge less quickly [with MagSafe] When using a power adapter that delivers less than 20W ”. Apple never sold the 20W charger with the previous iPhone and the chargers are now removed (Ear pods). So it will be Another $ 20.

Yes, there is a lot to like about MagSafe and as third party tools grow, its potential will be huge. Apple’s warnings around it are important and no one yet knows whether to upgrade to the iPhone 12 model, the second generation Magsafe may want to see if it launches with the iPhone 13 next year.

And, what Apple has About iPhone 13 has already been confirmed, Which is a very wise move.

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First Apple iPhone 13 Leaks Reveal Small Scratch, Promotion Display, Touch ID

Apple iOS 14.1 Release: Do You Need to Upgrade?

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Apple Issues New iPhone 12 Upgrade Warning – Forbes

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Apple’s new iPhone 12 range delivers truly ballistic performance but this comes at a notably higher cost than you might imagine. And Apple has just delivered another warning for upgraders. 

In a new support document spotted by MacRumors, Apple has quietly warned users that there are some significant downsides to its innovative new MagSafe wireless charging system, that extend beyond concerns about its weak magnets

In a series of bullet points at the end of the document, Apple warns buyers of iPhone 12 series phones that MagSafe can:

  • Increase heat build up and restrict charging, saying if your iPhone battery gets “too warm” charging will be limited to 80% capacity. 
  • Damage the magnetic strips and RFID chips in credit cards, security badges, passports and key fobs if they come between the back of your iPhone and the MagSafe charger. Apple sells a MagSafe Wallet, so be very careful. 
  • Damage leather cases used with the charger by leaving “circular imprints”. Similar damage to silicon cases has also been reported after just a few days, so questions must also be asked about what this will do to the glass backs of case-less iPhone 12 models over time. 

While accidentally wiping your credit cards is clearly the standout fear for many, the last point (which Apple leaves to the very end of the support document and writes in smaller gray text) seems equally pressing. 

Replacing damaged iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro rear glass costs $449 (up $50 on the iPhone 11) and $549 respectively. Yes you can buy Apple’s AppleCarePlus insurance policy (iPhone 12 – $7.99pm / $149 upfront; iPhone 12 Pro – $11.49pm / $219 upfront), but wear and tear won’t be covered, making a MagSafe-compatible case essential and Apple prices them from $50. 

And the costs keep mounting from here. The same support document notes that “your iPhone charges less quickly [with MagSafe] when using a power adapter that provides less than 20W”. Apple has never sold a 20W charger with any previous iPhone and chargers are now removed (ditto EarPods). So that’ll be a further $20

Yes, there’s a lot to like about MagSafe and, as third party accessories increase, its potential is massive. That said, Apple’s warnings around it are significant and anyone still unsure of whether to upgrade to an iPhone 12 model, may just want to see if a second generation of MagSafe launches with the iPhone 13 next year. 

And, given what Apple has already confirmed about the iPhone 13, that could be a very smart move indeed. 

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First Apple iPhone 13 Leaks Reveal Smaller Notch, ProMotion Display, Touch ID

Apple iOS 14.1 Release: Should You Upgrade?

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