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The App Store is down [Update: It’s back]

By Alex Wilhelm

[Update: The App Store has returned. Back to your regularly scheduled Fridays.]

Midday on Friday it appeared that Apple’s App Store, a critical piece of the digital and mobile economies, struggled with uptime issues. Apple’s own status page indicated that the application vendor was having an “ongoing” issue that affected “some users.”

The company said that it was investigating the issue, according to its website.

Users weren’t pleased. A quick Twitter search shows a host of complaints from users noting that they can’t make purchases on the App Store, were struggling with sign-on issues and that downloads had ground to a halt.

Despite launching after the original iPhone, the App Store has become an industry to itself. According to certain data, the App Store drove $50 billion gross sales in 2019 — Apple takes a cut of transactions and sales, generating material revenue for itself.

The App Store will come back, but Apple is losing money along with its developer partners as we speak. More when it’s back. Until then, well, there’s Android or a walk.

This Week in Apps: App trends from 2019, Pinterest tops Snapchat, Disney+ hits No. 1 in Q4

By Sarah Perez

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 in 2019 and $120 billion in consumer spending in 2019, according to App Annie’s recently released “State of Mobile” annual report. 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 to keep up with the latest news from the world of apps, delivered on a weekly basis.

This week, we dig into App Annie’s new “State of Mobile 2019” report and other app trends. We’re also seeing big gains for TikTok in 2019 and Disney+ in Q4. Both Apple and Google announced acquisitions this week that have implications for the mobile industry, as well.

This Week in Apps: Apple Arcade’s new franchise, Fortnite takes on Google Play, the Disney+ app footprint

By Sarah Perez

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 194 billion downloads last year and more than $100 billion in consumer spending. People spend 90% of their mobile time in apps and more time using their mobile devices than watching TV. Apps aren’t just a way to waste idle hours — they’re big business, and one that often seems to change overnight.

In this Extra Crunch series, we help you to keep up with the latest news from the world of apps.

This week, we’re taking a look at Apple Arcade’s new gaming franchise, Fortnite maker Epic Games calling out the Google Play Store for its monopolistic practices, Android’s new AR features, Disney+’s one-month app footprint, and more.

Headlines

Apple Arcade scores a big sports game franchise, “Ultimate Rivals”

Apple Arcade launched in September offering over 100 games for $4.99 per month. Since launch, the service stays fresh by adding new releases on a regular basis. This week, Apple touted one of Arcade’s biggest wins to date — an all-new sports franchise from Bit Fry Game Studios, called “Ultimate Rivals.” The new game brings together athletes from across hockey, basketball, football, baseball, and soccer to play in a licensed video game that’s a first for the mobile gaming industry. The debut title in the franchise, out now on Apple Arcade, is “Ultimate Rivals: The Rink,” which lets players choose from over 50 athletes to compete in two-on-two hockey matches.

For example, you could pit Alex Ovechkin and Alex Morgan against De’Aaron Fox and Jose Altuve or Skylar Diggins-Smith and Wayne Gretzky, Apple says.

The game was made possible by Bit Fry’s groundbreaking licensing deals with nine pro sports organizations,  the NHL, NHL Players’ Association (NHLPA), NBA, National Basketball Players Association (NBPA), MLB, MLB Players Association (MLBPA), NFL Players Association (NFLPA), Women’s National Basketball Players Association (WNBPA), the USWNTPA, as well as Wayne Gretzky.

Next spring, the Bit Fry will launch “Ultimate Rivals: The Court” as the next title in the series.

The franchise is a big win for Apple Arcade, which doesn’t yet have many sports-themed titles. In fact, with the addition of “Ultimate Rivals,” it now has only a half dozen. And because of the numerous pro sports deals, the game has the potential to appeal to a wider audience.

Fornite tries to bypass the Google Play Store’s 30% cut

This Week in Apps: Honey’s $4B exit, a new plan for iOS 14, Apple’s new developer resource

By Sarah Perez

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. What are developers talking about? What do app publishers and marketers need to know? How are politics impacting the App Store and app businesses? And which apps are everyone using?

This week, we’re looking at several major stories, including the whopping $4 billion PayPal just spent on browser extension and mobile app maker, Honey, as well as the release of the Apple Developer app, a new plan for iOS 14, Google Stadia’s launch, AR gaming’s next big hit (or flop?), e-commerce app trends, Microsoft’s exit from voice assistant mobile apps, and so much more.

Plus, did you hear the one about the developer who got kicked out from his developer account by Apple, leaving his apps abandoned?

Headlines

Apple to overhaul iOS development strategy after buggy iOS 13 launch

apple ios 13Apple’s iOS 13 release was one of its worst, in terms of bugs and glitches. Now Apple is making an internal change to how it approaches software development in an effort to address the problem. According to Bloomberg, Apple’s Software chief Craig Federighi and other execs announced its plans at an internal meeting. The new process will involve having unfinished and buggy features disabled by default in daily builds. Testers will then have to optionally enable the features in order to try them. While this change focuses on making internal builds of the OS more usable (or “livable”), Apple hopes that over time it will improve the overall quality of its software as it will give testers the ability to really understand what’s supposed to now be working, but isn’t. The testing changes will also apply to iPadOS, watchOS, tvOS, and macOS, the report said.

Apple launches the Apple Developer App

Apple rebranded and expanded its existing WWDC app to become a new Apple Developer app that can stay with its 23 million registered developers year-round. Instead of only including information about the developer event itself, the app will expand to include other relevant resources — like technical and design articles, developer news and updates, videos and more. It also will offer a way for developers to enroll in the Apple Developer program and maintain their membership. Apple says it found many developers were more inclined to open an app than an email, and by centralizing this information in one place, it could more efficiently and seamlessly deliver new information and other resources to its community.

PayPal buys Honey for $4 billion

PayPal has made its biggest-ever acquisition for browser extension and mobile app maker, Honey. TechCrunch exclusively broke the news of the nearly all-cash deal, noting that Honey currently has 17 million monthly actives. But PayPal was interested in more than the user base — it wanted the tech. The company plans to insert itself ahead of the checkout screen by getting involved with the online shopping and research process, where customers visit sites and look for deals. Honey’s offer-finding features from its mobile app will also become part of PayPal and Venmo’s apps in the future.

Cloud gaming expands with Google Stadia launch

Cloud-based gaming could benefit from the growing investment in 5G. Google Stadia, which launched this week, is a big bet on 5G in that regard. Though the early reviews were middling, Google believes the next generation of gaming will involve continuous, cross-device play, including on mobile devices. This trend was already apparent with the successes of cross-platform games like Fortnite, Minecraft, Roblox, and PUBG, for example. Meanwhile, console makers like Microsoft are working to build out their own cloud infrastructure to compete. (Microsoft’s xCloud launches in May 2020.) Google could have a head start, even if Stadia today feels more like a beta than a finished product. But one question that still arises is whether Google is serious about gaming, or only sees Stadia as a content engine for YouTube?

Microsoft kills Cortana mobile apps

Microsoft this week belatedly realized it can’t compete with the built-in advantages that Siri and Google Assistant offer users, like dedicated buttons, hands-free voice commands, workflow building and more. The company decided to shut down its Cortana mobile applications on iOS and Android in a number of markets, including Great Britain, Australia, Germany, Mexico, China, Spain, Canada, and India. Any bets on when the U.S. makes that list?

SF Symbols expands

Apple launches a dedicated mobile app for its developer community

By Sarah Perez

Apple today is introducing a new resource for the over 23 million registered members of its developer community, with the launch of a dedicated Apple Developer mobile app. The new app is an expansion on the existing WWDC app for Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference, which it will now replace. Instead of only including information about the developer event itself, the app will expand to include other relevant resources — like technical and design articles, developer news and updates, videos and more. It also will offer a way for developers to enroll in the Apple Developer program and maintain their membership.

Today, developer information is spread out across Apple’s website, and elsewhere. It even arrives in developers’ inbox in the form of email updates from various product teams. Now it will be available in a single, streamlined mobile app experience.

At launch, the Apple Developer app may not have everything you could otherwise find on Apple’s Developer website, but its offerings will grow over time. For example, today you’ll find technical information and more than 600 videos, but you won’t find things like the Apple Developer Forums or a way to connect a local Apple Developer program — like Apple’s App Accelerators, Design Labs or Developer Academies.

Instead, the app’s content is organized across four main sections: Discover, for finding developer information, news and updates; Videos, where you’ll find the videos the WWDC app once hosted; WWDC, for event attendees; and Account, where developers can manage their account and program membership.

Apple’s goal is to use the app to get relevant content in front of developers in a timely fashion and to point them to things they may not even realize exist on the Apple Developer website, or even at Apple, overall. And in some cases, the app will include more mobile-friendly content — like articles that attempt to educate in a more digestible, short-form manner.

In other words, it may be the same content as found online in technical papers, but packaged in a slightly different way. Later, the app will also expand to address some of the things that Apple hasn’t yet documented — a topic of increasing concern among developers as of late. (One developer even built a website called “No Overview Available” that helps you find out if an Apple API is missing documentation.)

Elsewhere in the app, developers will continue to be able to watch WWDC session videos and review the WWDC schedule, when available. They’ll also be able to sign up for or renew an Apple Developer program membership, then pay for it using Apple Pay or other payment methods.

The app’s launch comes at a time when Apple has been focused on growing its international community of developers through investments in local developer academies and accelerators — efforts that have been paying off.

For example, over the past year, the developer community in Indonesia grew its membership by 60% after the opening of two Developer Academy facilities in 2019. In Brazil, the original location for an Apple Developer Academy, the community grew by 50% this year. In India, the location of Apple’s first accelerator lab, the community grew by 45%. Other areas that grew their developer base this year included the U.K. (up 40%), France (30%), Italy (28%) and China (17%).

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In serving these regions, Apple found that some developers are more inclined to open an app than they are an email — which is another reason it wanted to offer a mobile-optimized, mobile-friendly developer resource. Plus, the company discovered it had developer resources that some people didn’t even know about, like its App Store mini site. By centralizing all this content into an app, it’s more accessible.

The Apple Developer app is being soft-launched today in all worldwide markets, but Apple Developer program membership management tools are U.S.-only for now. Apple considers this a version 1, and aims to get developer feedback as it expands.

The Apple Developer app is available on iOS, including Apple Watch and iMessage.

This Week in Apps: Apple’s vaping app ban, Disney+ gets installed, apps gear up for Black Friday

By Sarah Perez

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. What are developers talking about? What do app publishers and marketers need to know? How are politics impacting the App Store and app businesses? And which apps are everyone using?

As mid-November rolls around, we’re looking at a few big stories, including Apple’s decision to ban an entire category of apps due to health concerns, the launch of Disney+ from an app perspective, what Black Friday will mean for e-commerce apps, and more.

Fast Facts

With Disney+’s huge launch (10+ million users!) on everyone’s minds, it’s time to think about what these streaming newcomers mean for the overall landscape and the app stores. In this case, it seems that Disney+’s user base was highly mobile. The company itself announced more than 10 million users, while data on the Disney+ app’s first few days indicates it now has over 10 million downloads. It seems like consumers definitely want to take their new streaming service with them everywhere they go.

  • In 2020, App Annie forecasts consumers will spend more than 674 billion hours in the Entertainment and Video Player and Editor categories worldwide on Android phones, up from an expected 558 billion hours in 2019. Thanks to Disney+, Apple TV+ and soon, HBO Max, Peacock and Quibi, to making the landscape both richer and more complicated.
  • On its launch day, Disney+ hit #1 by iPhone Overall downloads at 8 AM in the U.S. and at 11 AM in Canada — an indication of the ability that strong IP has can really excite consumers to come out in droves. (Unfortunately, that led to some launch day glitches, too.)
  • Apptopia estimated Disney+ was downloaded 3.2 million times in its first 24 hours. The firm also estimated users collectively spent 1.3 million hours watching Disney+ on day one — ahead of Amazon Prime Video, but well behind Netflix.

  • Sensor Tower waited to collect a little more data instead. It found that the Disney+ app was installed approximately 9.6 million times in all available markets (the U.S., Canada, and the Netherlands), since its U.S. launch on Tuesday, Nov. 12. For comparison’s sake, HBO Now’s U.S. launch only saw 180,000 installs in its first three days — or 2% of the Disney+ total. Combined with the test period installs in the Netherlands, the app has now been installed over 10 million times.
  • The hype around Disney+ has had a halo effect. Hulu and ESPN, which were offered in a bundle with Disney+, also grew as a result of the Disney+ launch. Sensor Tower found combined users of the apps in the U.S. and Canada were up 30% in the past week over the week prior.

Headlines

Apple removed all vaping apps from the App Store, citing CDC health concerns

The CDC says 42 people have died due to vaping product use and thousands more cases of lung injuries have been reported from 49 states. Now, Apple has made the controversial decision to remove all 181 vaping-related apps from its App Store — including those with news and information about vaping and even vaping-related games, Axios reported this week.

Some say Apple is helping to protect kids and teens by limiting their exposure to e-cigarette and vaping products, which are being used to addict a younger generation to nicotine and cause serious disease. Others argue that Apple is over-reaching. After all, many of the lung illnesses involve people who were vaping illegally obtained THC, studies indicated.

This isn’t the first time Apple has banned a category of apps because of what appear to be moral concerns. The company in the past had booted apps that promoted weed or depicted gun violence, for example. In the case of vaping apps, Apple cited the public health crisis and youth epidemic as contributing factors, telling Axios that:

We take great care to curate the App Store as a trusted place for customers, particularly youth, to download apps. We’re constantly evaluating apps, and consulting the latest evidence, to determine risks to users’ health and well-being. Recently, experts ranging from the CDC to the American Heart Association have attributed a variety of lung injuries and fatalities to e-cigarette and vaping products, going so far as to call the spread of these devices a public health crisis and a youth epidemic. We agree, and we’ve updated our App Store Review Guidelines to reflect that apps encouraging or facilitating the use of these products are not permitted. As of today, these apps are no longer available to download.

Existing users will still be able to use their apps, but new users will not be able to download the banned apps going forward.

Minecraft Earth arrives 

Minecraft Earth launched early last week across 9 countries on both Android and iOS and now it’s come to the U.S., Canada, the U.K., and several other markets. Some expect the app will rival the success of the AR breakout hit, Pokémon Go, which was thought at the time to be the precursor to a new wave of massive AR gaming titles. But in reality, that didn’t happen. The highly anticipated follow-up from Niantic, Harry Potter: Wizards Unite didn’t come close to competing with its predecessor, generating $12 million in its first month, compared with Pokémon Go’s first-month earnings of $300 million. With Minecraft Earth now sitting at No. 2 (c’mon, you can’t unseat Disney+) on the U.S. App Store, it seems there’s potential for another AR kingpin.

App Annie releases a user acquisition playbook

A top name in App Store intelligence, App Annie this week released a new how-to handbook focused on user acquisition strategies on mobile. Sure the free download is just a bit of lead gen for App Annie, but the guide promises to fill you in on all you need to know to be successful in acquiring mobile users. The playbook’s arrival follows App Annie’s acquisition of adtech insights firm Libring this fall, as it expands to cover more aspects of running an app business. Just as important as rankings and downloads are the very real costs associated with running an app business — including the cost of acquiring users.

Adobe is bringing Illustrator to the iPad in 2020

By Darrell Etherington

Adobe will be bringing another of its desktop-class imaging and graphics apps to the iPad: Illustrator, which is set for a launch win 2020, the company announced today at its annual MAX conference. Last year, Adobe announced a similar plan to deliver Photoshop for iPad, and that app launched on the App Store early on Monday.

Illustrator for iPad is still in “early” development, the company said, so we don’t know exactly what it’ll look like relative to the desktop version. But it will focus on making the most of touch and Apple Pencil-based input, which are uniquely available to the iPad. As with Photoshop, documents created on one platform will be available in full fidelity to edit on any others via Creative Cloud storage.

The app will be available in a limited private beta beginning immediately, but the group of those with access will remain very tight until Adobe has managed to get further along in the development process. You can sign up now to register interest, however, and maybe you’ll gain access sometime earlier than official launch to help with the beta and building process.

Adobe says it’s already been in touch with “thousands of designers” to understand how best to build them a version of Illustrator that works best for how they use tablets in their work. If the Photoshop for iPad release process is any measure, at launch next year Illustrator won’t offer feature parity, but it’s a starting point for turning the iPad into a true one-stop shop for creative pros who favor an Adobe working environment.

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