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This Week in Apps: Google I/O 2023 recap; Android, apps and AI; Twitter’s new CEO

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Welcome again to This Week in Apps, the weekly TechCrunch collection that recaps the most recent in cellular OS information, cellular purposes and the general app economic system.

The app economic system in 2023 hit just a few snags, as shopper spending final yr dropped for the primary time by 2% to $167 billion, in accordance with knowledge.ai’s “State of Cellular” report. Nonetheless, downloads are persevering with to develop, up 11% year-over-year in 2022 to succeed in 255 billion. Customers are additionally spending extra time in cellular apps than ever earlier than. On Android units alone, hours spent in 2022 grew 9%, reaching 4.1 trillion.

This Week in Apps gives a approach to sustain with this fast-moving {industry} in a single place with the most recent from the world of apps, together with information, updates, startup fundings, mergers and acquisitions, and far more.

Would you like This Week in Apps in your inbox each Saturday? Enroll right here: techcrunch.com/newsletters

This week, Google held its annual developer convention, which meant there was a tidal wave of reports about new Google merchandise — like its midrange Pixel 7a smartphone, Pixel Pill (with its nice magnetic combo stand and speaker) and its first folding telephone — the dear ($1,800) Pixel Fold.

However the true star of the present was, in fact, AI, and the way Google is integrating it into a spread of services from the office to coding to translation — and sure, even into Google Play and app developer instruments.

When you missed the massive occasion, TechCrunch has a Google I/O wrap-up, the place yow will discover all of the information, together with AI bulletins, like its next-gen massive language mannequin PaLM 2, different developer updates, like updates to Vertex AI and an ML Hub to coach AI fashions, new Search options, a brand new GitHub Copilot competitor and extra.

By way of information of observe for Android builders, nevertheless, there was nonetheless fairly a bit, together with a preview of Android Put on OS 4, new advertising instruments for apps, Android 14 updates and extra.

For starters, we obtained a have a look at the first “foldable” apps. Although it’s unlikely the Pixel Fold will achieve a big market share, given its value level, quite a lot of app builders have already optimized for Google’s first foldable telephone. Google mentioned apps from Microsoft (Workplace, Minecraft), Zoom, Netflix, Disney (Disney+, Hulu), Roblox, eBay, Spotify, Amazon (Purchasing, Kindle), Canva and others shall be optimized for the Pixel Fold at launch. The brand new machine has a 5.8-inch exterior show (when folded) with a 17.4:9 facet ratio and a 7.6-inch inside (unfolded) show with a 6:5 facet ratio.

Google’s personal apps, like Gmail and YouTube, are additionally Fold-ready, in fact.

Coinciding with I/O, Google launched the second beta of Android 14, which incorporates enhancements round digital camera and media, privateness and safety, system UI and developer productiveness, in addition to enhancements to large-screen units.

The corporate teased Put on OS 4, as nicely, promising the replace will deliver improved battery life and accessibility options, a neater approach to swap out your telephone or watch with out having to reset the machine and new instruments for constructing watch faces in collaboration with Samsung.

Plus, in information not tied to Put on OS 4, particularly, Android smartwatches are having access to Spotify’s AI DJ, and up to date Google apps like Gmail and Calendar. And Google will get to brag it has the primary smartwatch model of the WhatsApp messaging app.

Google confirmed off a new approach to construct Put on OS watch faces. Builders will get entry to a brand new declarative format to design and construct their watch faces, utilizing the Jetpack Watch Face library. The format is principally simply an XML file, so there may be now no executable code concerned.

Android Auto is poised to hit a milestone, the corporate additionally mentioned, accurately accessible in round 200 million autos by year-end. In the meantime, Google built-in, powered by Android Automotive OS, is getting YouTube, GameSnacks and extra Assistant integrations. Android Auto will add net conferencing help from Cisco, Groups and Zoom. And builders will now be capable to deliver Web of Issues (IoT) and climate apps to vehicles with Android Auto.

Picture Credit: Google

The larger information from this week’s occasion was not the aggregated updates, however Google’s plans for AI. The corporate is seeking to showcase how AI will change into part of the instruments and merchandise individuals already use, like Google’s Office apps and Search, together with Purchasing, Android and extra.

The corporate had been dropping AI updates for a while, having already introduced plans to deliver options that use AI to jot down textual content in Gmail, Docs, Sheets and Slides, for instance. At I/O, it expanded on that to notice it was additionally bringing automated desk technology in Sheets and picture creation in Slides whereas additionally increasing the AI options already introduced for Gmail and Docs to help cellular. And it unveiled a “Sidekick” software for Docs that gives strategies primarily based on the doc’s context in addition to imagery or summaries.

On Android, Google is leveraging generative AI to permit customers to personalize their telephones with wallpapers created utilizing prompts. The wallpapers use Google’s text-to-image diffusion fashions, the corporate mentioned, and the colour palette of your Android system will robotically be set to match the brand new wallpaper. As well as, new cinematic wallpapers will use on-device studying to show pictures into 3D pictures, arriving alongside new emoji wallpapers. Out of the blue, iOS’s Lock Display screen 3D wallpaper impact feels dated.

Google additionally launched a brand new characteristic that mixes Android’s guided customization with its advances in generative AI to assist individuals compose extra private messages. The characteristic, referred to as Magic Compose, can be utilized inside conversations in Google Messages to rewrite texts in numerous kinds. For example, you’ll be able to set the textual content to sound extra optimistic or extra skilled — or, for enjoyable, to sound as if Shakespeare wrote it.

Picture Credit: Google

One other of the extra enjoyable additions concerned the AI advances coming to Google Pictures: the soon-to-launch “Magic Editor” characteristic. This demo caught individuals’s consideration in the course of the occasion because it confirmed off a sensible, on a regular basis use case for AI.

With Magic Editor, customers will be capable to make edits to particular components of the pictures — just like the foreground or background — in addition to fill in gaps within the picture and even reposition the topic for a better-framed shot. For example, you may fill within the sky to show a grey, overcast day right into a brilliant blue sky with fluffy clouds, or you may “reduce out” the topic of the picture and transfer them round to a greater spot. The latter is just like Apple’s picture cutout characteristic in iOS 16 however truly put to make use of.

Picture Credit: Google

The niftiest gimmick, nevertheless, was utilizing AI to fill in gaps in a photograph if you transfer issues round. In a single instance, a photograph of a kid holding balloons whereas sitting on a bench was dragged nearer to the middle of the picture and AI created extra of the bench and balloons to fill within the gaps. How nicely this works in real-world pictures stays to be seen, in fact.

Nonetheless, the convenience of making pictures by way of AI will result in its personal points, which is why Google additionally launched new instruments for figuring out and labeling AI pictures in Search and elsewhere.

Google Play Store logo

Picture Credit: KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP / Getty Photos

By way of the Android app ecosystem, the corporate introduced a number of methods for builders to make use of AI to construct and optimize their apps for Google Play alongside different new instruments. Notably, builders will now be capable to use a Generative AI helper to draft new Play Retailer listings utilizing Google’s PaLM 2 mannequin. It will initially be accessible in English and as an experimental software. Builders may use the software to generate listings or customise listings for several types of customers, amongst different issues.

AI may also be used to summarize customers’ app critiques for the Play Retailer. A brand new machine translation software will use AI to translate apps and listings into different languages.

These arrived alongside different Play Retailer updates geared toward serving to builders develop their companies, like instruments to lure again lapsed customers, expanded subscription options, and broader entry to promotional content material, together with extra methods to market in-app occasions. Plus builders will be capable to now immediate customers on sure app variations to replace their apps, Google mentioned.

And extra…

Additionally at I/O, the corporate introduced an excellent handful of updates to present apps, like House and Maps, a few of which concerned using AI. It additionally took the waitlist off its AI chatbot Bard, introduced plans for AI picture technology (by way of an Adobe partnership) and integrations with third-party apps like Instacart and OpenTable. And it launched a brand new AI music-making characteristic in its AI Take a look at Kitchen.

Google Maps

In Maps, Google unveiled Immersive View for Routes — a brand new characteristic that builds on the present AI-powered Immersive View addition introduced final yr, which fuses Avenue View and aerial pictures collectively to create a digital mannequin of the world. With Immersive View for Routes, you’ll be able to preview a route forward of taking it, versus having to click on by way of Avenue View. Google says you’ll be capable to see bike lanes, sidewalks and parking alongside your journey, and get climate and visitors estimates primarily based on historic knowledge. The characteristic will begin to roll out within the months forward in 15 cities (Amsterdam, Berlin, Dublin, Florence, Las Vegas, London, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Paris, San Francisco, San Jose, Seattle, Tokyo and Venice).

Google's new Immersive View for Routes feature

Picture Credit: Google

House

Google’s app for controlling your good dwelling units, Google House, was also updated this week with a redesigned interface that features a new Favorites tab, simpler methods to view cameras — together with authentic Nest cameras, help for extra Matter-enabled units, growth of Matter help to iOS and the power to do extra with House from Put on OS — like see digital camera previews in notifications and make changes. A brand new dwelling panel on Android units can also be accessible, providing faster entry to Google House immediately from the lock display screen or fast settings.

Picture Credit: Google/Google House app

MusicLM

Plus, the corporate launched an experimental software “MusicLM” for turning textual content prompts into music by way of its AI Take a look at Kitchen app for net, Android and iOS. Customers can ask for devices like “digital” or “classical,” in addition to the “vibe, temper, or emotion” as they refine their creations.

Discover My Machine

Google launched a collection of enhancements coming to its personal Discover My Machine community in addition to proactive alerts about unknown trackers touring with you with help for Apple’s AirTag and others. The information follows Apple and Google’s not too long ago introduced plan to guide an industry-wide initiative to draft a specification that will alert customers within the case of undesirable monitoring from Bluetooth units.

Discover My Machine will now make it simpler to find units by ringing them or viewing their location on a map, even when offline.

WWDC worries

The flurry of AI updates from Google comes at a worrying time for Apple, whose personal AI assistant’s progress is reportedly in disarray together with Apple’s different AI efforts. A current report by The Information detailed organizational dysfunction round Siri because the voice assistant has failed to enhance over time. It’s so unhealthy that Apple’s Siri is supposedly mocked internally at Apple, the report mentioned. The corporate additionally misplaced in-house AI experience to Google, the place there was extra ground-breaking AI work on issues like LLMs.

With WWDC solely weeks away, we’ve solely heard concerning the common slate of coming updates to Apple’s platforms, whereas the massive information is supposed to be the long-rumored AR/VR headset for gaming. It’s unclear if there’s even vital shopper demand for such a tool, given the declining VR headset sales in 2022.

Apple’s iOS 17 is claimed to be a quieter replace centered on smaller quality-of-life improvements, not a breakthrough AI improve the place Apple has discovered methods to make Siri a greater AI helper or has built-in AI enhancements throughout its apps and OS, as an example.

None of Apple’s heel-dragging has harm the corporate earlier than, but when AI is the motion the {industry} claims it is going to be, this may very well be a weak spot for rivals to capitalize upon.

New Twitter CEO Linda Yaccarino and Elon Musk

Picture Credit: Collage by TechCrunch / Getty Photos

Now that Elon Musk has run Twitter’s advertising business into the ground, the Twitter proprietor is bringing in new management — and never a second too quickly. Following rumors of the rent, Musk confirmed by way of tweet on Friday he has chosen NBCU chairman of its promoting and partnerships group, Linda Yaccarino, as Twitter’s new CEO, changing himself. Musk will keep on to concentrate on product design and new know-how, he mentioned.

Whereas Musk mentioned Yaccarino will assist remodel Twitter into the “all the pieces app,” the fact is that this rent is supposed to telegraph to advertisers that an grownup is as soon as once more again within the room as the corporate tries to recoup its misplaced promoting income and woo again its consumer base.

That’s a tall order for the brand new CEO, who must deal with Musk’s continuous makes an attempt to wreak havoc at Twitter by altering firm insurance policies and options with little or no warning, then generally reverting them, given sufficient backlash. That was the case, as an example, with a number of the API adjustments and the labeling of revered U.S. information organizations as in the event that they had been on par with the state media and propaganda efforts in communist China. Twitter’s huge layoffs additionally imply there are fewer engineers to repair issues when Twitter breaks, resulting in outages and safety incidents, like personal tweets changing into public.

Beneath Musk’s management, Twitter lost its top 500 advertisers, together with main manufacturers like Mondelez Worldwide, Coca-Cola, Merck, Hilton and AT&T. Advert income in its cellular app dropped 89% from September-October 2022 to January-February 2023, Sensor Tower knowledge indicated. Regardless of Musk’s newer claims of an advertiser return and Twitter reaching a break-even level, a number of former prime advertisers were not found in a list of Twitter’s prime 10 or prime 50 advert clients as of April.

In the meantime, the Telsa exec’s plans to monetize Twitter’s verified service by way of a Blue subscription has not gone nicely, producing round $11 million on cellular in its first three months — not sufficient to exchange Twitter’s misplaced advert income which is forecast to be down by $2 billion this year.

Putting in an advert chief as CEO might not clear up Twitter’s issues, nevertheless, as Musk himself contributes to advertiser fears that the platform is now not “brand-safe” by his tweeting and boosting of conspiracy theories and disparaging the media whereas suspending journalists. Hate speech additionally has risen below his purview.

Apple

  • Apple additionally rolled out RC builds of macOS Ventura 13.4, iOS 16.5, and iPadOS 16.5.
  • Due next week, iOS 16.5 will deliver small adjustments and tweaks like a Sports activities tab, schedules and scores in Apple Information, Delight wallpaper and bug fixes for Highlight, Podcasts in CarPlay, Display screen Time and extra. There’s additionally a reference to new Beats Studio Pro headphones.
  • Amid Google’s flurry of I/O updates, Apple launched new stats about small companies on its App Retailer, noting App Retailer income of small builders grew by 71% within the final two years.
  • Apple has now notified WWDC 2023 Swift Pupil Problem winners if they’ve received their prize pack, which features a WWDC ticket.

Streaming & Leisure

  • Disney+ and Hulu are going to be mixed right into a single app by year-end, Disney introduced throughout earnings. The information got here after Disney+ misplaced 4 million subscribers in Q2 2023 whereas Hulu gained 200,000 subs.
  • TikTok added a search characteristic referred to as “NewMusic” that lets customers discover new tracks and a approach for artists to succeed in their followers. Twitch launched a brand new software that lets streamers create and share brief vertical video clips which will be printed on to YouTube Shorts. TikTok and Reels aren’t but supported, however you may share to these platforms manually.
  • Shazam was updated with help for Apple’s new streaming music service, Apple Music Classical. 
  • Not too long ago fired Tucker Carlson says he’s going to do a show on Twitter. Musk clarified Twitter has no cope with the previous Fox Information commentator.
  • Spotify eliminated around 7% of songs uploaded to its platform by AI music startup Boomy. The tens of hundreds of tracks eliminated had been flagged by Common Music as participating in synthetic streaming habits — that’s, bots pretending to be people to inflate the streaming numbers.
  • The brand new MAX app which is able to substitute HBO Max for present clients is live for preorder on the App Store. The brand new app will embody Discovery+ content material when it rolls out within the U.S. on Might 23. TechCrunch talked to the corporate about the way it reportedly mounted the bugs and improved efficiency within the upcoming app.

Fintech

  • Robinhood announced 24-hour buying and selling for choose shares and ETFs, beginning with 43 securities. The characteristic will arrive for all customers subsequent month. It additionally reported crypto buying and selling income was down 30% YoY in Q1 to $38 million.
  • Banking and cash administration app Revolut is losing its CFO Mikko Salovaara shortly after CEO James Radford departed in March, which had not been introduced publicly.
  • A brand new banking app Charlie launched its providers aimed on the 62+ neighborhood. The app guarantees quicker entry to their Social Safety verify, 3% earnings on balances and no month-to-month charges or minimums. The corporate is backed by $7.5 million in funding, led by Higher Tomorrow Ventures.
  • PayPal reported Q1 TPV up 10% YoY to $354.5 billion, above estimates, and internet income up 9% to $7.04 billion. However shares dropped as the corporate lowered its forecast for full-year margins.

Social

  • Pinterest is combining its creation instruments for Pins and its video-focused Concept Pins and rolling out extra enhancing options in addition to measurement and engagement instruments to woo creators.
  • Mastodon app Ivory, from the makers of Tweetbot (a Twitter consumer killed by Elon Musk) received an update (version 1.4) that brings a redesigned media viewer, new sounds for boosts, new icons and a Safari extension that allow you to open Mastodon hyperlinks immediately in Ivory.
  • Bluesky is gaining traction as new data shows the app had 628,000 downloads in April 2023 alone, up 606% from March. Mastodon had 90,000 downloads right now.
  • Social information app Artifact now allows you to comply with your favourite writers, in one other problem to Twitter.
  • LinkedIn is phasing out its China app, InCareer, as a result of competitors and broader financial considerations. The corporate will reduce 716 jobs because of this.
  • Meta is shutting down its Messenger app for Apple Watch on Might 31. The corporate, like others, determined the Watch doesn’t require a standalone app expertise as customers can nonetheless obtain notifications on the Watch and not using a native app. Customers, nevertheless, haven’t been comfortable concerning the transfer and are complaining on Twitter. Messenger is the most recent in a long line of apps which have deserted the Watch, together with Uber, Goal, Hulu, Evernote, Slack, Trello and extra.

Picture Credit: Meta

Messaging

  • WhatsApp rolled out back-end fixes to handle issues with spam calls that had been impacting Indian customers, which had caught the eye of the Indian authorities. The fixes leverage AI and ML techniques to minimize the issue.
  • Stripe and WhatsApp partnered to permit Singapore-based customers to pay some companies inside the app, following the launch of biz funds in India and Brazil.

Courting

  • Tinder is eradicating social handles from customers’ bios. The corporate mentioned the change comes about as a result of individuals had been utilizing their profiles on the app to advertise their companies, promote issues, fundraise and marketing campaign, which isn’t what Tinder is supposed for.
  • A brand new courting app referred to as Teaser AI (preorder), constructed by the identical staff behind Dispo, guarantees to pair customers with AI chatbots who can deal with the preliminary “attending to know you” chats that change into tedious.

Journey and Transportation

  • Uber added flight bookings to its U.Okay. app in partnership with Hopper because it strikes towards changing into a brilliant app.
  • Airbnb reported Q1 income up 20% YoY to $1.8 billion, above estimates, making for its first profitable Q1 with $117 million in internet earnings. However a cautious outlook for Q2 despatched the inventory down by 10%+ after earnings.

Gaming

And so forth.

  • Eventbrite built-in GPT capabilities into the platform to help in occasion planning. The instruments will arrive later this month to assist with time-consuming steps in occasion planning, like creating occasion pages, e-mail campaigns and social media advertisements.
  • ByteDance subsidiary Lemon Inc. filed a trademark for eighth NOTE PRESS, hinting towards guide publishing plans. The corporate not too long ago launched an Instagram and Pinterest competitor Lemon8 within the U.S., which it paid influencers to advertise on TikTok.
  • Apple is bringing Ultimate Minimize Professional and Logic Professional to the iPad later this month. The apps will hit the App Retailer for $4.99/mo or $49/yr.

Authorities & Coverage

  • Florida joins different states in banning TikTok on government devices. The app was already banned on university-owned units.
  • Apple’s App Monitoring Transparency (ATT) characteristic, which requires apps to get consent from customers earlier than monitoring them for advert focusing on functions, is now going through a contest probe in Italy. The competitors watchdog is anxious that Apple is creating an unfair benefit for its personal personalised advertisements that aren’t topic to the identical permission pop-ups.

HiNOTE

Picture Credit: HiNOTE

A brand new app referred to as HiNOTE lets customers create personalised messages for issues like greetings, invitations, thank-you’s and extra, that are shared as pictures with your personal textual content. Usually, individuals ship a textual content adopted by a photograph or GIF so as to add a extra private really feel to their communications, however HiNOTE allows you to create imagery with no matter it’s you need to say. The app has despatched over 1 million notes since its 2022 launch. Learn the total evaluate on TechCrunch.

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