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


Welcome again to This Week in Apps, the weekly TechCrunch series that recaps the most recent in cell OS information, cell functions and the general app financial system.

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

This Week in Apps affords a method 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 way more.

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

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

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

When it comes to information of notice for Android builders, nonetheless, 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 bought a have a look at the first “foldable” apps. Although it’s unlikely the Pixel Fold will acquire a big market share, given its value level, various app builders have already optimized for Google’s first foldable telephone. Google stated apps from Microsoft (Workplace, Minecraft), Zoom, Netflix, Disney (Disney+, Hulu), Roblox, eBay, Spotify, Amazon (Buying, Kindle), Canva and others can be optimized for the Pixel Fold at launch. The brand new system 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 digicam and media, privateness and safety, system UI and developer productiveness, in addition to enhancements to large-screen units.

The corporate teased Wear OS 4, as nicely, promising the replace will carry improved battery life and accessibility options, a better method to swap out your telephone or watch with out having to reset the system 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 gaining 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 way to build Wear 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 stated, correctly obtainable 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 web conferencing support from Cisco, Groups and Zoom. And builders will now be capable of carry Web of Issues (IoT) and climate apps to automobiles 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 grow to be part of the instruments and merchandise folks already use, like Google’s Workplace apps and Search, together with Buying, Android and extra.

The corporate had been dropping AI updates for a while, having already introduced plans to carry options that use AI to put in writing 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 cell. And it unveiled a “Sidekick” tool for Docs that gives recommendations 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 phones with wallpapers created using prompts. The wallpapers use Google’s text-to-image diffusion fashions, the corporate stated, and the colour palette of your Android system will routinely be set to match the brand new wallpaper. As well as, new cinematic wallpapers will use on-device studying to show pictures into 3D photographs, arriving alongside new emoji wallpapers. All of the sudden, iOS’s Lock Display 3D wallpaper effect feels dated.

Google additionally introduced a new feature that mixes Android’s guided customization with its advances in generative AI to assist folks compose extra private messages. The function, referred to as Magic Compose, can be utilized inside conversations in Google Messages to rewrite texts in several types. 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” feature. This demo caught folks’s consideration through the occasion because it confirmed off a sensible, on a regular basis use case for AI.

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

Picture Credit: Google

The niftiest gimmick, nonetheless, 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 photograph 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 benefit of making photographs by way of AI will result in its personal points, which is why Google additionally launched new instruments for identifying and labeling AI photos in Search and elsewhere.

Google Play Store logo

Picture Credit: KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP / Getty Photos

When it comes to the Android app ecosystem, the company announced several ways 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 of use a Generative AI helper to draft new Play Retailer listings utilizing Google’s PaLM 2 mannequin. This can initially be obtainable in English and as an experimental software. Builders may use the software to generate listings or customise listings for various kinds 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 other Play Store updates aimed at helping developers grow their businesses, 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 of now prompt users on certain app versions to update their apps, Google stated.

And extra…

Additionally at I/O, the corporate introduced handful of updates to current apps, like Residence and Maps, a few of which concerned the usage of AI. It additionally took the waitlist off its AI chatbot Bard, introduced plans for AI image generation (via an Adobe partnership) and integrations with third-party apps like Instacart and OpenTable. And it launched a brand new AI music-making function in its AI Take a look at Kitchen.

Google Maps

In Maps, Google unveiled Immersive View for Routes — a brand new function that builds on the present AI-powered Immersive View addition introduced final yr, which fuses Road View and aerial photographs 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 Road View. Google says you’ll be capable of see bike lanes, sidewalks and parking alongside your journey, and get climate and site visitors estimates primarily based on historic knowledge. The function 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

Residence

Google’s app for controlling your good dwelling units, Google Residence, 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, enlargement of Matter help to iOS and the power to do extra with Residence from Put on OS — like see digicam previews in notifications and make changes. A brand new dwelling panel on Android units can be obtainable, providing faster entry to Google Residence immediately from the lock display screen or fast settings.

Picture Credit: Google/Google Residence app

MusicLM

Plus, the corporate launched an experimental tool “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 introduced a sequence 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 recently announced plan to steer 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 stated. 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 traditional slate of coming updates to Apple’s platforms, whereas the large information is supposed to be the long-rumored AR/VR headset for gaming. It’s unclear if there’s even important shopper demand for such a tool, given the declining VR headset sales in 2022.

Apple’s iOS 17 is alleged to be a quieter replace targeted on smaller quality-of-life improvements, not a breakthrough AI improve the place Apple has found out 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 will probably be, this might 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 via 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 give attention to product design and new expertise, he stated.

Whereas Musk stated Yaccarino will assist rework Twitter into the “all the things app,” the truth 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 shopper base.

That’s a tall order for the brand new CEO, who should cope 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 some of the API changes and the labeling of revered U.S. information organizations as if they were 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, main to outages and safety incidents, like personal tweets becoming 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 cell 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 high advertisers were not found in a list of Twitter’s high 10 or high 50 advert prospects 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 mobile in its first three months — not sufficient to interchange Twitter’s misplaced advert income which is forecast to be down by $2 billion this year.

Putting in an advert chief as CEO could not remedy Twitter’s issues, nonetheless, 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 underneath his purview.

Apple

Streaming & Leisure

  • Disney+ and Hulu are going to be combined 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 feature called “NewMusic” that lets customers discover new tracks and a method for artists to succeed in their followers. Twitch introduced a new tool that lets streamers create and share quick vertical video clips which could be revealed on to YouTube Shorts. TikTok and Reels aren’t but supported, however you might share to these platforms manually.
  • Shazam was updated with help for Apple’s new streaming music service, Apple Music Classical. 
  • Just lately fired Tucker Carlson says he’s going to do a show on Twitter. Musk clarified Twitter has no take care of the previous Fox Information commentator.
  • Spotify eliminated around 7% of songs uploaded to its platform by AI music startup Boomy. The tens of 1000’s 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 exchange HBO Max for current prospects is live for preorder on the App Store. The brand new app will embrace Discovery+ content material when it rolls out within the U.S. on Might 23. TechCrunch talked to the company 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 function 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 services aimed on the 62+ neighborhood. The app guarantees quicker entry to their Social Safety examine, 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 web 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 Thought 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 shopper 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 presently.
  • Social information app Artifact now helps you to observe your favourite writers, in one other problem to Twitter.
  • LinkedIn is phasing out its China app, InCareer, as a consequence of competitors and broader financial considerations. The corporate will minimize 716 jobs consequently.
  • 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, nonetheless, haven’t been glad 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 deal with issues with spam calls that have been impacting Indian customers, which had caught the eye of the Indian authorities. The fixes leverage AI and ML programs 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 company said the change comes about as a result of folks have 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 relationship app referred to as Teaser AI (preorder), constructed by the identical crew behind Dispo, guarantees to pair customers with AI chatbots who can deal with the preliminary “attending to know you” chats that grow to be tedious.

Journey and Transportation

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

Gaming

And so forth.

  • Eventbrite integrated 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 ebook 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 Final Cut Pro and Logic Pro 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) function, which requires apps to get consent from customers earlier than monitoring them for advert concentrating on functions, is now facing a contest probe in Italy. The competitors watchdog is worried 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 photographs with your individual textual content. Typically, folks ship a textual content adopted by a photograph or GIF so as to add a extra private really feel to their communications, however HiNOTE helps 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. Read the full review on TechCrunch.



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