This Week in Apps: TikTok goes to Congress, apps connect with ChatGPT, Microsoft’s cell video games retailer plan

Welcome again to This Week in Apps, the weekly sequence that recaps the newest in cell OS information, cell purposes and the general app economic system.

The app economic system in 2023 hit a couple of snags, as client spending final 12 months dropped for the primary time by 2% to $167 billion, in accordance with’s “State of Cell” report. Nevertheless, 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 gadgets alone, hours spent in 2022 grew 9%, reaching 4.1 trillion.

This Week in Apps presents a strategy to sustain with this fast-moving business in a single place with the newest from the world of apps, together with information, updates, startup fundings, mergers and acquisitions, and rather more.

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TikTok tries to keep away from a ban in U.S. congressional listening to

TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew testifying

Picture Credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Photos

Thursday’s testimony by TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew earlier than the U.S. Home Committee on Power & Commerce was largely unproductive. Representatives had been typically extra concerned about sharing their very own opinions, posturing and shouting over the CEO’s solutions to their questions, reasonably than trying to be taught any actual intel about how TikTok works or what it does to guard its youngest customers from hurt.

General, it appeared the listening to was extra for present than any kind of fact-finding mission — these reps already had their minds made up, for probably the most half, about whether or not or not the app must be banned.

Through the listening to, nonetheless, a couple of official questions had been raised that had troubling responses. On the matter of Venture Texas — TikTok’s plan to maneuver all U.S. person knowledge off of its personal servers over to Oracle servers within the U.S. — it wasn’t clear how that will absolutely separate TikTok from its Chinese language mother or father firm ByteDance. As one line of questioning identified, TikTok workers use an inner software program program generally known as Lark — a kind of Chinese language Slack — to speak with their ByteDance colleagues. TikTok’s CEO reviews to ByteDance’s CEO, Liang Rubo. Chew additionally admitted that even below Venture Texas there have been exceptions that will permit knowledge to go away the nation for “interoperability functions” and he must “get again to your crew” on the specifics there. And when instantly questioned about what kind of different software program or IT companies would nonetheless join TikTok to ByteDance below Venture Texas, Chew once more mentioned he must “get again to you” along with his solutions.

TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew Testifies At U.S. House Hearing

Picture Credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Photos

As well as, the exec couldn’t affirm the place TikTok sells its knowledge. Chew mentioned he didn’t “consider” they offered to knowledge brokers, however mentioned he must “get again” to Congress on who they might truly promote to.

Whereas Chew could also be right that right this moment’s TikTok isn’t doing extra knowledge assortment than U.S. social giants, it’s being held to totally different requirements. As a Chinese language firm with its fingers on this knowledge, there’s the potential for the CCP to meddle in TikTok’s operations, the politicians consider. Although that will not have occurred but, there’s a menace posed by China’s 2017 Nationwide Intelligence Legislation, which compels companies to help in intelligence-gathering operations, if requested. TikTok claims it wouldn’t comply, however how may it not, if ByteDance is its mother or father?

The Home reps additionally requested a variety of questions on minor security. Satirically, it was TikTok that led the best way on this space by being the primary of the large social apps within the U.S. to roll out in-app parental controls and lock down teen accounts. Nonetheless, harmful challenges have proliferated on its platform (although Meta was later revealed to have had a hand wherein ones made the information!). And like different algorithmic-based platforms, there’s at all times a hazard that its suggestions may floor dangerous content material at instances.

Nevertheless, a number of the risks of social media aren’t distinctive to TikTok alone. Social media utilization total is contributing to elevated nervousness, melancholy, physique dissatisfaction, disordered consuming and different troubles, together with suicide ideation, which is why it wants regulation or not less than some primary tips. However right this moment’s politicians don’t appear to have the ability to do the onerous work of really getting legal guidelines handed on this space, regardless of their bipartisan curiosity in doing so. They’d reasonably placed on a present in Congress to make themselves look good to their potential voters to allow them to win their subsequent election.

OpenAI launches ChatGPT plugins, and a few of your favourite apps are already on board

OpenAI this week launched plugins for ChatGPT, which permit the bot to entry third-party databases and different sources of data, together with these on the net. The corporate mentioned it could begin with a small set of customers earlier than rolling out entry to the nonetheless now alpha stage product extra broadly. OpenAI can be internet hosting its personal plugins, together with an internet browser and code interpreter and is now extending plugin entry to builders on its waitlist.

Numerous firms shoppers know and love have already constructed plugins for ChatGPT, together with Expedia, FiscalNote, Instacart, Kayak, Klarna, Milo, OpenTable, Shopify, Slack, Communicate, Wolfram and Zapier. For instance, OpenTable’s plugin can search throughout eating places for out there bookings, whereas the Instacart plugin can place orders from native shops.

To get began, customers choose a plugin to allow after they begin a dialog on In a demo on OpenAI’s web site, it exhibits a person asking in plain language for “one nice restaurant suggestion on Saturday” and ” a easy recipe for Sunday” involving vegan meals. The OpenTable plugin finds a neighborhood restaurant with a reservation, then follows detailed requests for returning the recipe information and ordering components on Instacart. (If solely this expertise was out there in Siri!) It’s simple to think about a future the place you could possibly at some point work together with these companies via AI instructions, not by tapping round on apps’ screens. And having the ability to discuss naturally to the AI may make companies simpler to make use of for everybody, not simply the technically inclined.

Microsoft plans a cell video games retailer

Microsoft is betting that incoming tech rules will permit it a strategy to compete within the cell gaming market alongside Apple and Google (and sure Epic Video games, if issues go its approach). In an interview with the Monetary Occasions this week, Microsoft gaming head Phil Spencer famous that the EU’s Digital Market Act (DMA) is anticipated to enter impact subsequent March, which might permit firms to load their very own app shops on Apple and Android gadgets. And Microsoft desires to just do that.

“We need to be ready to supply Xbox and content material from each us and our third-party companions throughout any display the place any individual would need to play,” Spencer informed the FT.

Microsoft had already hinted at its plans to launch an Xbox-branded cell recreation retailer that will leverage content material from Activision Blizzard — assuming that deal positive factors regulatory approval. The sport maker’s IP may assist Microsoft seed a brand new recreation retailer due to its titles like Name of Obligation Cell and people from the Sweet Crush franchise. Microsoft has additionally acquired plenty of gaming studios over the previous a number of years, together with Ninja Concept, Playground Video games and Bethesda proprietor Zenimax Media.

If issues progress as deliberate, the cell apps and video games market may have a wholly totally different form within the years forward. Netflix can be seemingly betting on this modification, prepping its personal huge library of video games that include a Netflix membership. In the interim, the video games are only a perk of membership, but when at some point Netflix may launch its personal video games retailer and fill it with titles, it appears it might select to broaden to paid video games as effectively.


  • Google says it prevented over $2 billion in fraudulent and abusive transactions through Play Commerce final 12 months, in an replace seemingly designed to persuade builders to not change to third-party billing.
  • Google took down tons of of mortgage apps from the Play Retailer in Kenya following the launch of a brand new coverage, which requires digital lenders within the East African nation to submit proof of a license to function. The brand new coverage went into impact in January.
  • Samsung mentioned its gadgets will stand up to 4 generations of One UI and Android OS upgrades. The corporate had beforehand promised 3 upgrades. The expanded dedication will likely be provided on choose Galaxy S sequence, Z sequence smartphones, A Collection and tablets.
  • Three giant Android producers in China — Xiaomi, Oppo and Vivo — introduced a partnership to make it simpler to modify gadgets. The businesses will provide a migration device that can assist shoppers in China transfer their recordsdata and different telephone knowledge between the businesses’ numerous smartphone fashions.
  • Google flagged a number of apps made by Chinese language e-commerce big Pinduoduo as malware, alerted customers who had the apps put in and suspended the corporate’s official app for safety issues whereas it investigates. Google Play Shield, the Android safety mechanism, was additionally set to dam customers from putting in the malicious apps.



  • Adobe embraces generative AI. The corporate this week launched its new Firefly household of generative AI fashions and generative AI instruments aimed toward entrepreneurs, with its enterprise providing, Adobe Sensei Generative AI Providers. Firefly presents a mannequin designed to generate pictures and textual content results from descriptions. The mannequin will quickly be capable of create content material throughout Adobe apps, together with Categorical, Photoshop, Illustrator and Adobe Expertise Supervisor after being given a textual content immediate. For now, it’s web-only whereas in beta.
Adobe Firefly

Picture Credit: Adobe  

  • In line with a brand new evaluation of the AI app ecosystem from analytics supplier, shoppers this 12 months have now spent greater than $14 million within the 10 highest-earning apps that publicize their use of ChatGPT or OpenAI applied sciences. In February 2023, these 10 apps mixed accounted for almost $5.9 million in world client spending, the agency says. And inside the first 20 days of March, the apps had been averaging $232,000 in day by day client spending, up 11% from the typical of $210,000 in February.

Picture Credit:


  • Snap unveiled a brand new enterprise, AR Enterprise Providers, which presents the corporate’s AR Lenses and Filters to manufacturers. The SaaS enterprise contains Snap tech like AR try-on, a 3D product viewer, Snap’s SDK for AR experiences, and extra. Snap will work with shoppers to assist customise their options, which will also be built-in instantly into the enterprise’ personal apps and web sites. The corporate says 250+ million folks out of its 375 million day by day lively customers now interact with AR on Snapchat.
Instagram's new Reminder Ads

Picture Credit: Instagram

  • Forward of its congressional listening to, TikTok rolled out updates to its neighborhood tips. The corporate mentioned it overhauled the rules to make them simpler to grasp, and added new insurance policies on AI and local weather misinformation. Plus, it added extra element about its current insurance policies concerning civil and election integrity, age restrictions and expanded a piece masking deepfakes.
  • TikTok additionally introduced it had 150 million MAUs within the U.S., up from 100 million in August 2021. The corporate has over 1 billion MAUs globally.


  • Epic Video games introduced new animation instruments that make it doable to create real looking facial animations utilizing video captured from an iPhone, the Verge reported from GDC. The instruments are an enlargement of the corporate’s MetaHuman creator instruments first launched in 2021.
  • Epic additionally launched its Unreal Editor for Fortnite (UEFN) on the Epic Video games Retailer as a public beta. The software program contains most of the identical instruments Epic makes use of to create Fortnite, it mentioned.
  • Plus, Epic introduced it is going to now share 40% of Fortnite income with anybody who designs “islands” within the recreation, which incorporates the cash the corporate earns from its in-game foreign money V-Bucks.
  • Roblox rolled out new AI instruments, together with Code Assistant, which permits recreation creators to make use of textual content prompts to create code, and Materials Turbines for creating 2D surfaces in video games.
  • Netflix introduced plans to launch 40 extra video games this 12 months and add Monument Valley to its lineup in 2024. Among the many new titles are Ubisoft’s Mighty Quest: Rogue Palace, an unnamed Tremendous Evil Megacorp recreation, and others. Monument Valley’s addition is attention-grabbing as meaning the sport will nonetheless be a paid obtain for non-Nextflix members and out there via subscription on Apple Arcade and Google Play Cross.


Productiveness / Studying

  • Microsoft debuted Loop, a Notion competitor that gives a hub for managing duties and tasks that additionally syncs throughout Microsoft 365 apps and workspaces on the net. The debut model is on the market to customers with a Microsoft Account or Azure Lively Listing account, however will “quickly” arrive on iOS and Android.
  • Duolingo, a language studying app with over 500 million customers, is engaged on a music app, discovered. A job description seemingly confirms this plan, because it describes a candidate who’s an “knowledgeable in music schooling who combines each theoretical information of related studying science analysis and hands-on instructing expertise.”


  • WhatsApp introduced a brand new Home windows consumer that brings efficiency enhancements and higher calling options. The app will permit for video calls with as much as eight folks and audio calls with as much as 32 folks, much like its cell counterpart. The corporate additionally mentioned it is going to enhance the variety of folks allowed in group calls going ahead.
  • WhatsApp additionally up to date its Communities product with new controls for group admins that give them the power to determine who is ready to be a part of a gaggle. It would additionally now make it simpler to see which teams you have got in widespread with somebody.
WhatsApp groups features

Picture Credit: WhatsApp



  • Spotify’s nonetheless comparatively new audiobooks service expanded to Canada, bringing the expertise to each English and French-speaking clients. The service now has 350,000 titles out there and is reside within the U.S. and different English-speaking markets.
  • Twitch mentioned it’s shedding 400 workers as a part of mother or father firm Amazon’s bigger plan to put off 9,000 employees throughout divisions, together with AWS and promoting.
  • Utah’s Gov. Spencer Cox signed two payments that regulate social media apps, making it the primary U.S. state to impose restrictions on the business. The dearth of federal regulation will seemingly see extra states take the identical path, which may turn into a large headache for compliance, as every state’s guidelines could differ. Utah’s new rules say that social media firms should age-verify all customers, obtain dad and mom’ permission earlier than minors can open social media accounts, prohibit minors’ utilization of social media from 10:30 pm to six:30 am except a mother or father modifications the settings, restrict private knowledge assortment from minors and permit dad and mom to entry a minor’s accounts, together with all their posts and personal messages. Fines could be imposed for non-compliance. We guess Utah teenagers will likely be returning to texting fairly quickly!
  • The subscription economic system could also be headed for a crackdown. The FTC this week proposed a “click on to cancel” rule that will require sellers providing subscriptions to make it as simple for shoppers to cancel their enrollment because it was to enroll. Be careful, Match and each meal supply service ever invented!

Picture Credit: Flash

  • Newly launched Indian startup Flash presents a cell app the place shoppers can create an e-mail for use on all procuring websites, permitting them to earn coupons and money again as an alternative of bogging down their inbox. The corporate raised $5.8 million in seed funding from plenty of traders, together with World Founders Capital (GFC), White Enterprise Capital and Zinal Development, and others.
  • OP3N, a startup described because the “Web3 model of WhatsApp meets Amazon,” and makers of blockchain chat app Superapp, raised $28 million in Collection A funding, valuing the corporate at $100 million. The spherical was led by Animoca Manufacturers and included Dragonfly Capital, SuperScrypt, Artistic Artists Company and NEA’s Join Ventures, Republic Crypto, Avalanche’s Blizzard Fund, Galaxy Digital and Warner Music Interactive.
  • Snap quietly acquired Amsterdam-based 3D-scanning studio Th3rd within the second quarter of final 12 months. The startup’s tech and crew are serving to with Snap’s AR efforts.


Picture Credit: Zigazoo

Hoping to capitalize on the TikTok drama this week, startup Zigazoo introduced the launch of a TikTok-like app for Gen Z customers. The corporate beforehand provided an analogous video app for Gen Alpha youngsters, however is now increasing to older teenagers. Its new Gen Z-focused app is a video thread-style platform, however in contrast to TikTok, it doesn’t permit customers to remark. As an alternative, customers can solely reply to one another with different movies, which the corporate believes could cut back trolling. The startup hopes to create a extra optimistic atmosphere the place customers can share movies that includes dance, music, style, gaming, memes and extra. You may learn’s full evaluate right here.


Hipstamatic is again. Amid person complaints over the present state of Instagram, Hipstamatic returned to the App Retailer right this moment with a relaunch of its social community for iPhone images fanatics. Its refreshed app, which is able to right this moment exchange Hipstamatic X on the App Retailer, will provide a chronological feed, photograph filtering instruments, no adverts and no TikTok-like feeds or movies. Customers will earn stamps as an alternative of likes, and can browse “stacks” of photographs, as an alternative of limitless feeds.

Throughout its decade-plus existence, the corporate had rolled out variations on its unique idea, like its quirky Hipstamatic X for analog images lovers, whereas additionally sustaining Hipstamatic Basic, one of many first apps to obtain Apple’s “App of the 12 months” award.

With its revamped app, the corporate will attempt to carry a few of its earlier pizazz to a technology that’s chasing retro tech, choosing issues like flip telephones and headphones at instances for the “aesthetic.” The app will monetize through a $4.99 per thirty days subscription (or $29.99/12 months), which unlocks its premium filters, modifying options and different perks like claiming your most well-liked username.


Picture Credit: Woolly

The sluggish however regular Twitter exodus has introduced a brand new abundance of third-party Mastodon apps like Ivory, Mammoth and Ice Cubes that join customers to the more and more in style open supply and decentralized social community. At this time, we will add another app to that checklist with the launch of Woolly, one other solidly constructed iOS Mastodon consumer centered on providing a extra customizable house display, threaded views for studying longer conversations and a TweetDeck-inspired format for the iPad.

The principle differentiator between this app and others is its strategy to house display customization. With Woolly, customers can pin issues like a number of distant timelines, lists, bookmarks, search, hashtags and even different person profiles on to the app’s foremost tab bar, enabling fast and quick access to your favourite content material. Plus, on iPad, you’ll be able to entry a panorama view with columns, much like TweetDeck. Learn’s full evaluate right here.

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