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 that was up 27% year-over-year. This Week in Apps offers a way to keep up with this fast-moving industry in one place, with the latest from the world of apps, including news, updates, startup fundings, mergers and acquisitions, and suggestions about new apps and games to try, too.
This Week in Apps is a weekly TechCrunch series that reviews the latest in mobile OS news, mobile apps, and the wider app economy. According to the most recent year-end estimates, the app industry is still growing, with a record amount of downloads and consumer spending across both the iOS and Google Play stores in 2021. According to App Annie, global spending on iOS and Google Play will reach $135 billion in 2021, and when its annual report, which includes third-party app shops in China, is released next year, that amount will almost certainly be higher. Consumers also downloaded 10 billion more apps this year than they did in 2020, bringing the total number of new app instals to roughly 140 billion, according to the report.
Do you want This Week in Apps in your inbox every Saturday? Sign up here: techcrunch.com/newsletters. Apps have been accused of quietly snooping on their users for some time. They collect data and reshare it with advertisers and other third parties, often without users’ truly informed consent. Now the tables are turned in a sense, as users will finally be able to snoop on their apps, thanks to Apple’s new App Privacy Report feature, now available in iOS 15.2 and iPadOS 15.2. This app transparency feature lets an iOS user see what their apps are actually doing — including which apps are accessing the data and the sensors on your phone, as well as where that data is being shared. The latter is revealed through the feature’s ability to report with which third-party websites an app is communicating. Some of those may be for analytics purposes, but others may be adtech sites.
Some of the new features were brought over from the main Android 12 OS to Go Edition, while others were designed for the needs of low-end smartphone users — a large market. Google says more than 200 million people actively use an Android (Go Edition) phone. Apple publicly released iOS 15.2, the second major update to its iOS 15 operating system first released in September. The new software includes many of the features that were delayed from shipping in the original release, including the new App Privacy Report which lets users know which apps are accessing their private information, like their photos, location, contacts, microphone and camera over the past seven days. It also includes an Emergency SOS update, the Apple Music Voice Plan, support for Legacy Contacts who can access your Apple ID when you die, Hide My Email, Communication Safety for Messages and more. Apple is investigating an issue with the latest Xcode release, which is impacting developers using Swift packages as standalone or dependencies, who may see failures during package resolution.