The Weekly News Wr(app): 18-24 October 2021

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Weekly News For You To Stay Updated With The App Industry

Google and Apple make significant changes to their app store policies, while Twitter makes another acquisition to focus on user engagement. The likes of Instagram, Snapchat, and WhatsApp have also been seeking to boost their positions in the market.

Check out this week’s News Wr(app) for a detailed review of all that’s been happening:

1) 15%: Google Reduces Subscription Fees

The latest move by Google has been met with a lukewarm response. Google halved its subscription fees from 30% to 15%, a move deemed as “good” by many developers.

Rakesh Deshmukh, CEO, and co-founder of Indus OS said that this is a “good move and favorable for developers”. Yet he raised concerns about the way Google unilaterally makes decisions.

Several members of the Alliance of Digital India Foundation (ADIF) are unmoved by this ostensible move of kindness from Google. Sijo Kuruvilla George, Executive Director of ADIF went as far as to say that it’s never been about commission percentages. Echoing the thoughts of Rakesh Deshmukh, he says the central issue is Google’s choice to dictate terms, without leaving any options for developers.

Background to the Subscription Fee Story

In September 2020, Google announced that developers can accept payment for their apps only through Google’s Billing System.

This led to a huge backlash, according to Tom Thomas, Director of Policy & Research, ADIF. He wrote that Google charges 30% (now 15%) commission as compared to 2% charged by Paytm or BillDesk. With such high fees, developers are left with a meager 10% margin. This will lead to apps running on losses and eventually closing down.

Tom Thomas also says that 96% of app downloads in India came through Google’s Play Store, which makes it vital for developers to list their apps there. Knowing their dominance in the market, Google seems to have developers’ hands tied behind their backs.

The CCI Investigation

After a two-year probe, the Competition Commission of India (CCI) found that Google abused its position of dominance in India. The final verdict is yet to come out, but if Google is pronounced guilty it would see incur penalties and sanctions.

The app developer community is keeping their fingers crossed.


2) ironSource Upping the Ante With Latest Acquisition

In a deal that’s worth around $400 million, ironSource has acquired the app monetization and mobile ad company, Tapjoy. ironSource is already a leading business platform that helps app developers turn their businesses into scalable and successful ventures. The Israeli-based company is now seeking to strengthen its product for mobile app and game developers.

With the help of Tapjoy, customers of ironSource will be able to generate more revenue with greater access to diversified advertiser demand.

Omer Kapla, CRO and co-founder of ironSource said this will aid their monetization capabilities and position ironSource as a deep and integral part of the in-app and in-game economy. CEO of Tapjoy, Jeff Drobick is confident of growing with ironSource. According to Drobick, Tapjoy helps with monetization, user acquisition, and customer research for some of the leading companies in the world, and their 1.6 billion actively monthly users are a testament to their success.



3) Apple Implementing Changes That Were Proposed in 2019

Developers finally see changes in the App Store Guidelines with regards to outside-of-app communications, collecting contact information within an app, and in-app events featured in the App Store. Apple’s announcement follows a lawsuit filed by a group of U.S.-based app developers in 2019.

According to a report published on TechCrunch, the biggest change was made in how app developers are allowed to tell their customers about payment methods outside of the iOS app. Previously, developers were completely barred from making any such communication.

However, governments from other countries, viz. South Korea and Japan have also been pressuring Apple to change.

The Pressure from Outside

On September 14th, the Korean Communications Commission (KCC) announced that the anti-Google law was now in effect. This rule banned app stores of both Google and Apple from forcing developers to use their payment system.

The Japan Fair Trade Commission reached a settlement with Apple regarding in-app payments in the same month. The agreement involved allowing “reader” apps to provide their users with a link that would redirect them to external payment methods.

In the U.S., the Epic Games vs Apple lawsuit raised many eyebrows. Again the problem was related to in-app payments. Epic Games’ most famous offering, Fortnite, was ejected from the App Store in August and hasn’t retired since.



4) Twitter Acquires Sphere to Fuel More Conversation

In an attempt to boost its Communities feature, Twitter has acquired Sphere. The group chat app emphasizes polls, announcements, and events to boost user engagement. It also clears out old content to create a space to encourage more conversation.

In a blog post published by Sphere, they were encouraged to see how Twitter has increased its focus on community building through features like Communities and Spaces. The post also mentions how they feel that Twitter is the only company that is serious about internet-based communities.

Twitter has also been attempting to grow its product, and reduce the general unruly interactions that are seen on their platform. Its acquisition of Sphere will help grow its Direct Messaging and Group Messaging.


5) Snap Inc. Expands Marketers Options with its AR Platform

Marketers can now see their AR needs to be met by Arcadia, Snap’s very own creative studio for augmented reality. The so-called camera company has already leveraged the power of AR in the past through filters and Bitmoji animated characters.

With Arcadia, companies can now start building world-class AR experiences according to Jeff Miller, the global head of creative strategy at Snap.

Arcadia is notable for its partnership with companies like Verizon, WWE, and P&G Beauty. Benjamin Spiegel, Chief Digital Officer at P&G Beauty said that Arcadia simplifies the “level of complexity in the AR marketplace, making it more tangible for brands”.


6) WhatsApp and Spotify Partner to Launch View Once

The campaign to promote WhatsApp’s ViewOnce feature, which ended on October 24th, saw the messaging app collaborate with Spotify in UK and Germany. Upcoming artists Wes Nelson and Zoe Wees were roped in to support the campaign.

The View Once feature allows users to send photos or videos that can be viewed only once. After the recipient views it once, the said photo or video is deleted. WhatsApp says that improving security and privacy was the motivation for the inclusion of this feature.

The promotion campaign involved Wes Nelson and Zoe Wees sharing a short video of a specially curated playlist that can be viewed only once.


7) Milestone for YouTube

YouTube reportedly crossed $3 billion in global consumer spending. And this revenue is just from iOS users.

They achieved this through their various subscription options including paid membership channels and premium membership. The premium membership is especially tempting since includes access to an ad-free YouTube Music too.

The latest numbers place YouTube at number 3 under non-gaming apps by global lifetime consumer spend. The pandemic has also helped in this spike in numbers, as more and more users have turned to video apps like YouTube to fill up the time that was usually spent outdoors.


Localising App Store

8) TikTok, WhatsApp, and Facebook Keeping Users Glued to Their Phones

App Annie, experts in mobile analytics, revealed that consumers are spending at least 4 hours a day on their phones. The highest daily use was recorded amongst Indonesians, who spent 5.5 hours on their phones. US and UK users ranked in the top 10 list at 4.2 hours and 4 hours respectively.

The apps that are keeping people glued to their screens include big names like TikTok, WhatsApp, and Telegram. Unsurprisingly, the pandemic has seen a rise in the rise of video conferencing apps like Zoom and Microsoft Teams which have led users to spend more time on their phones.

The gaming apps which are worldwide hits include My Talking Angela 2, ROBLOX, and Count Masters. In India, the top 3 games by monthly active users were Ludo King, PUBG MOBILE, and Free Fire.


9) Instagram Reels to have Three New Features

Instagram’s short video feature Reels is coming with three new updates. The features called SuperBeat, Dynamic Lyrics, and 3D Lyrics will help users combine music and AR effects. TikTok, the main rival to Reels, already released a similar feature on their app back in April and Instagram followed suit.

Now creators can create and edit music on Reels with these new features. SuperBeats allows you to add visual edits automatically based on the song you choose, while the Dynamic Lyrics and 3D Lyrics apply lyrics to the Reel.

Instagram also released two other notable features, according to TechCrunch. This includes the “Collab” feature and an option to conduct fundraising campaigns. The Collab feature had started testing in July and is now available to a global audience.

The company is also testing a fundraising feature to help non-profits raise funds.


We will be discussing the topic "Reimagining Personalization during our next webinar. Join us on 11th November at 6 PM IST here:

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