This Week in Apps: US ponders TikTok ban, apps see a record Q2, iOS 14 public beta arrives


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 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 Extra Crunch series, we help you keep up with the latest news from the world of apps, delivered on a weekly basis.

This week, we’re digging into the news of a possible TikTok ban in the U.S. and how that’s already impacting rival apps. Also, both Android and iOS saw beta launches this week — a near-ready Android 11 beta 2 and the  public beta of iOS 14. We also look at the coronavirus’ impact on the app economy in Q2, which saw record downloads, usage and consumer spending. In other app news, Instagram launched Reels in India, Tinder debuted video chat and Quibi flounders while Pokémon GO continues to reel it in.


Apple release iOS 14 public beta

Image Credits: Apple

The much-anticipated new version of the iOS mobile operating system, iOS 14, became available for public testing on Thursday. Users who join the public beta will be able to try out the latest features, like the App Library, Widgets and smart stacks, an updated Messages app, a brand-new Translate app, biking directions in Apple Maps, upgraded Siri and various improvements to core apps like Notes, Reminders, Weather, Home, Safari and others.

When iOS 14 launches to the general public, it may also include support for QR code payments in Apple Pay, according to a report of new assets discovered in the code base.

Alongside the public beta, developers received their second round of betas for iOS 14, iPadOS 14 and other Apple software.

Google’s efforts in speeding up Android updates has been good news for Android 10

Image Credits: Google

Thanks to various initiatives and changes to how updates are deployed, including the ability to now update components of the OS directly through Google Play system updates, adoption of the Android 10 mobile operating system has been faster than any other previous version of Android. The OS was running on 100 million devices five months after its launch — or 28% faster than Android Pie, Google said. This is good news for developers, who struggle to maintain functional apps for what has been, so far, a fragmented ecosystem.

As U.S. considers TikTok ban, rival apps flourish

tiktok ios icon

Image Credits: TechCrunch

This week, reports emerged that the U.S. was considering banning TikTok and other Chinese-owned social media apps, according to statements made by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. TikTok has already been banned in India, along with 58 other Chinese apps, for similar reasons. The app, to date, has topped 2 billion global downloads; 165 million of those installs came from the U.S., as of Q1, following India and China. Today, TikTok is the No. 6 iOS app and No. 2 on Android on U.S. app stores.

On Friday, The Wall Street Journal also reported that executives at TikTok parent ByteDance are considering changing the company’s corporate structure or even establishing a headquarters outside of China to further distance TikTok from China. This is not the first time such discussions have taken place: TikTok also pulled its app out of Hong Kong to further distance itself from its Chinese version, Douyin, which is also used on the mainland. TikTok said it had 150,000 users in Hong Kong as of last September, a tiny share given its 2 billion+ downloads.

Making matters worse, the Federal Trade Commission and U.S. Justice Department are now looking into allegations that TikTok failed to live up to its 2019 agreement over protecting children’s privacy. Amazon also has banned the app from employees’ phones over security risks, Reuters says.

Though nothing has been decided, some of TikTok’s young U.S. users this week fled to rival apps, including Likee, Byte and Dubsmash, bumping them up in the charts.

Image Credits: Sensor Tower

Byte, for example, jumped from No. 210 in Social Networking in the U.S. App Store on July 5 to No. 1 in Social and No. 1 Overall as of today, thanks to an exodus of primarily Gen Z TikTok users. Dubsmash got as high as No. 10 Overall and Likee got as high as No. 17 during the week, also on iOS. (They’ve fallen a bit since.)

A similar surge of TikTok users fleeing to competitive apps was also seen in India following its ban. 

The TikTok community is worried about the potential for losing their favorite app. When Likes and Views broke on Thursday, users believed they were witnessing the beginning of the end of TikTok in the U.S. After the issue was fixed, TikTok said the issue was related to higher than normal traffic on its servers in Virginia, causing temporary service disruptions.

Instagram expands Reels to India following TikTok’s ban 

Image Credits: Facebook

TechCrunch reported on Monday that Instagram had begun testing “Reels” in India, following TikTok’s ban in the country. On Wednesday, Instagram made the news official, saying the feature in India would roll out to a “broad” user base. Similar to TikTok, Reels allows users to create and post 15-second videos set to music or other audio. Like TikTok, the feature offers a set of editing tools — like a countdown timer and those that adjust the video’s speed, for example — that aim to make it easier to record creative content.

Coronavirus impact sends app downloads, usage and consumer spending to record highs in Q2

Image Credits: App Annie

As the world continued to cope with the impact of the coronavirus outbreak, Q2 2020 became the largest yet for mobile app downloads, usage and consumer spending. According to new data from app store intelligence firm App Annie, mobile app usage grew 40% year-over-year in the second quarter, even hitting an all-time high of over 200 billion hours during April.

Image Credits: App Annie

Consumer spending in apps, meanwhile, hit a record high of $27 billion in the second quarter. And app downloads reached a high of nearly 35 billion. The growth in app usage has been fueled by social distancing and lockdown measures, as countries around the world try to quell the spread of the novel coronavirus.

A full analysis of the new data is here on TechCrunch.

Apple expands free coding courses and materials for educators (and homeschoolers)

Image Credits: Apple

Apple on Thursday announced its plans for a new, free resource aimed at helping educators of all skill levels gain the ability to teach both Swift and Xcode — the latest in Apple’s educational initiatives focused on encouraging more students to learn app development. On July 13, Apple will begin offering free online training to educators that will serve as an introduction to its Develop in Swift curriculum. The course will also add a fifth book this fall. For younger learners, grades 4 through 8, Apple’s Everyone Can Code curriculum instead uses puzzles and games to teach the building blocks of coding in Swift through the Swift Playgrounds app. This course is now being expanded, as well, with a new book titled “Everyone Can Code Adventures.”

Google launches Android 11 Beta 2