This Week in Apps: AI-powered productivity apps, US weighs TikTok ban, SVB crash boosts crypto apps

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Wel­come back to This Week in Apps, the week­ly TechCrunch series that recaps the lat­est in mobile OS news, mobile appli­ca­tions and the over­all app economy.

The app econ­o­my in 2023 hit a few snags as con­sumer spend­ing last year dropped for the first time by 2% to $167 bil­lion, accord­ing to’s “State of Mobile” report. How­ev­er, down­loads are con­tin­u­ing to grow, up 11% year over year in 2022 to reach 255 bil­lion. Con­sumers are also spend­ing more time in mobile apps than ever before. On Android devices alone, hours spent in 2022 grew 9%, reach­ing 4.1 trillion.

This Week in Apps offers a way to keep up with this fast-mov­ing indus­try in one place with the lat­est from the world of apps, includ­ing news, updates, start­up fund­ings, merg­ers and acqui­si­tions, and much more.

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Top Stories

Our Everyday Apps Get AI

While the announce­ment wasn’t nec­es­sar­i­ly tar­get­ed toward mobile, the sweep­ing AI-fueled changes that are com­ing to the biggest pro­duc­tiv­i­ty apps from Microsoft and Google will have a wider impact on the pro­duc­tiv­i­ty app indus­try. That is, they’re now rais­ing the stakes for what a pro­duc­tiv­i­ty app should be able to do. It will no longer be enough to sim­ply offer an ele­gant, refined, and effi­cient note-tak­ing tool, docs edi­tor, spread­sheet, slideshow mak­er, and so on — the apps will also need to have baked-in AI smarts.

This week, in case you missed it, both Microsoft and Google announced the new gen­er­a­tion of their pro­duc­tiv­i­ty soft­ware prod­ucts. Microsoft, which calls its dig­i­tal helper a “Copi­lot,” is bring­ing AI to every­day tools like Word, Excel, Out­look, Pow­er­Point, Teams, and more. It’s inte­grat­ing a new Busi­ness Chat fea­ture that under­stands what a knowl­edge work­er has in their inbox, cal­en­dar, chats, and across their files, and can be prompt­ed to do things like cre­ate a sta­tus report on a project that’s then shared to the team. It’s even lever­ag­ing AI to help work­ers build their own line-of-busi­ness apps using nat­ur­al lan­guage prompts.

Else­where, Microsoft-owned LinkedIn expand­ed its gen­er­a­tive AI assis­tant to recruit­ment ads and writ­ing pro­files. The company’s AI-pow­ered writ­ing sug­ges­tions are built on advanced GPT mod­els, includ­ing GPT‑4 (pro­files) and GPT‑3.5 (job descriptions).

Google, mean­while, said it would bring AI tools to Work­space, its pro­duc­tiv­i­ty suite that includes Gmail, Docs, Sheets, Meet, Slides, and Chat. Though the com­pa­ny hasn’t ful­ly shared its vision for Chat — say­ing only that it will “enable work­flows for get­ting things done” — it’s like­ly aim­ing to keep up with Microsoft’s plans. In addi­tion, Google is lever­ag­ing gen­er­a­tive AI to cre­ate auto-gen­er­at­ed images, audio, and video in Slides, which is an inter­est­ing angle on mod­ern pro­duc­tiv­i­ty — and, poten­tial­ly, a threat to the one-off tools built to address each indi­vid­ual gen­er­a­tive AI use case.

These enhance­ments to users’ every­day apps, from emails to docs to spread­sheets and more, will help to bring AI to main­stream users in a way that a Chat­G­PT-pow­ered Bing alone can­not. The new tech is now just baked in, under the hood, offer­ing addi­tion­al func­tion­al­i­ty to the end user. It may even­tu­al­ly even reduce the work­ing hours required to com­plete var­i­ous tasks, as pro­duc­tiv­i­ty users lean more on AI to write and edit for them, cre­ate pre­sen­ta­tions, take meet­ing notes, man­age inbox­es, and more.

But to what end? Will work­ers now be expect­ed to fill their new­ly freed hours with ever more work or will tech­nol­o­gy final­ly ful­fill its orig­i­nal promise of allow­ing us to lead more com­fort­able lives? Do we still need to work 40 hours a week when AI can work for us?

TikTok’s fate up in the air in U.S.

Will they or won’t they…ban Tik­Tok? That’s the ques­tion sure to be on the minds of ByteDance execs as they weigh their deci­sion to either spin off the U.S. oper­a­tions of the Tik­Tok app or risk being ful­ly banned in the U.S. The anti-Tik­Tok sen­ti­ment in Con­gress has rare bipar­ti­san sup­port at a time when the two sides can’t seem to agree on any­thing, which makes the poten­tial for a ban look more like­ly. It’s not help­ing ByteDance’s case that the FBI and DOJ are inves­ti­gat­ing ByteDance’s use of Tik­Tok to spy on jour­nal­ists, either.

Oth­er West­ern mar­kets are also tak­ing steps to lim­it TikTok’s threat, not just the U.S. This week, New Zealand banned Tik­Tok from gov­ern­ment devices days after the U.K. did the same. The moves fol­low law­mak­ers’ ban­ning of the app in Cana­da and Bel­gium and in the E.U.

Tik­Tok, for the time being, is hop­ing to assure law­mak­ers of its safe­ty, even offer­ing an audit by U.S. tech giant Ora­cle.

But while a full ban may put an end to law­mak­ers’ imme­di­ate con­cerns about the poten­tial for CCP sur­veil­lance of U.S. cit­i­zens or the poten­tial to manip­u­late the pop­u­lace with pro-Chi­na pro­pa­gan­da, the real con­cern here is law­mak­ers’ inabil­i­ty to pass reg­u­la­tions over U.S. user data pri­va­cy for all our apps, not just those from China.

Expect next week’s Con­gres­sion­al hear­ing with Tik­Tok CEO Shou Zi Chew to be an inter­est­ing one to watch!

SVB meltdown hits app makers, boosts crypto apps

Sil­i­con Val­ley Bank’s fail­ure was the biggest sto­ry of this week, as numer­ous tech com­pa­nies, large and small, and their investors had funds tied up in the bank, which is now under reg­u­la­tor con­trol and whose par­ent com­pa­ny is offi­cial­ly fil­ing for bank­rupt­cy. Among the pub­lic com­pa­nies with expo­sure to SVB were big names like Roku, Roblox, Quo­tient, Vimeo, Rock­et Lab, SoFi, Life360, Sez­zle, Uni­ty, AppLovin, Wish, and many others.

While there were sev­er­al fac­tors that played into the even­tu­al bank run, from bad bets to bad deci­sions, the abil­i­ty to stoke fear and pan­ic on Twit­ter played a notable role, with some investors tweet­ing in ALL CAPS that peo­ple should be ABSOLUTELY TERRIFIED RIGHT NOW.

U.S. law­mak­ers have since tak­en notice of how bad actors on Twit­ter fac­tored into the bank’s col­lapse, even going so far as to blame VCs and oth­ers for using social media apps and online chats to coor­di­nate their SVB with­drawals, effec­tive­ly ensur­ing the bank’s failure.

“I’ve been sup­port­ive of the ven­ture cap­i­tal com­mu­ni­ty — I was a ven­ture cap­i­tal­ist before — but I think there were some bad actors in the VC com­mu­ni­ty who lit­er­al­ly start­ed to spur this run by vir­tu­al­ly cry­ing fire in a crowd­ed the­ater in terms of rush­ing all these deposits out,” said Sen. Mark Warn­er (D‑Va.) in a report by The Hill. 

“No mat­ter how strong cap­i­tal and liq­uid­i­ty super­vi­sion are, if a bank has an over­whelm­ing run that’s spurred by social media or what­ev­er so that it’s see­ing deposits flee at that pace, the bank can be put in dan­ger of fail­ing,” Trea­sury sec­re­tary Janet Yellen also said.

Whether the bank’s fail­ure — and the sub­se­quent fail­ures of cryp­to-friend­ly banks Sig­na­ture and Sil­ver­gate — will lead to new, retight­ened reg­u­la­tions remains to be seen, but one cat­e­go­ry of apps did ben­e­fit from the chaos.

Despite the seem­ing con­ta­gion to cryp­to banks, App­topia report­ed the top cryp­to apps’ down­loads rose over 15% fol­low­ing SVB’s col­lapse. At the same time, the top 10 tra­di­tion­al banks and top 10 “dig­i­tal first” bank app down­loads fell by about 5% and 3%, respec­tive­ly. This begs the ques­tion of whether the peo­ple shout­ing FIRE! last week­end were also those who were heav­i­ly invest­ed in cryp­to and there­fore would have ben­e­fit­ed from neg­a­tive pub­lic sen­ti­ment toward tra­di­tion­al banking.

Though the fed is mak­ing SVB’s depos­i­tors whole, the cri­sis also exposed the reach of SVB’s ten­drils beyond the Val­ley and the poten­tial for a bank­ing col­lapse to dis­pro­por­tion­ate­ly impact some groups over oth­ers. The effects were felt as wide as the African start­up ecosys­tem and high­light­ed the inequities in the broad­er tech indus­try. On one side, you have star­tups whose founders could self-fund their com­pa­nies while wait­ing on a res­o­lu­tion, and on the oth­er, there were seri­ous con­cerns over miss­ing pay­roll and busi­ness stoppage.

Many sus­pect we’ll see con­tin­u­ing fall­out from SVB in terms of rais­ing ven­ture debt, some­thing SVB was known for. Whether it opens up the floor to new entrants or dri­ves up the cost of ven­ture debt is being debat­ed, but we’re sure to feel the impacts of this fail­ure for months to come.



  • Apple rolled out its fourth devel­op­er betas for iOS 16.4, iPa­dOS 16.4, watchOS 9.4, and tvOS 16.4.
  • Apple launched a new way to shop for iPhones with help from a live spe­cial­ist. The sales rep can­not see you but you can see them while ask­ing ques­tions about mod­els, fea­tures, offers, trade-ins and more.
  • Apple is report­ed­ly mov­ing for­ward with its AR/VR head­set this year.
  • Apple AI exper­i­ments? Accord­ing to a new report from The New York Times, many teams at Apple, includ­ing those work­ing Siri, have been test­ing “lan­guage-gen­er­at­ing con­cepts.” A for­mer Apple engi­neer told the paper Siri’s devel­op­ment had been slow because of clunky code, which made it hard­er to update. It’s not known if Apple is now build­ing its own LLMs or adopt­ing an exist­ing model.


  • Google said its Google Play Games for PC ser­vice, which brings Android games to Win­dows users, will roll out to Japan and to Euro­pean mar­kets and will gain new titles and tools for game devel­op­ers. Over the next cou­ple of months, the ser­vice will add sev­er­al pop­u­lar games, includ­ing Gare­na Free Fire, Ludo King (a pop­u­lar board game in India), and MapleSto­ry M. It will also intro­duce ear­ly access to machine trans­la­tion in the Play Con­sole for trans­lat­ing games into 8 lan­guages.
  • Missed the Google for Games Devel­op­er Sum­mit? Google has a recap here.

App News

Social Apps

Snapchat content filtering

Image Cred­its: Snapchat

  • Snapchat added new parental con­trols that block “sen­si­tive” and “sug­ges­tive” con­tent from view­ing by younger teens. The com­pa­ny said it’s intro­duc­ing con­tent fil­ter­ing capa­bil­i­ties that will allow par­ents to restrict teens from being exposed to con­tent that’s not pro­hib­it­ed but shouldn’t be rec­om­mend­ed to younger users across Sto­ries (Dis­cov­er) and Spot­light. The fea­ture still requires par­ents to access these parental con­trols in the Fam­i­ly Cen­ter, which they may not know exists.
  • Pin­ter­est is part­ner­ing with America’s largest pub­lish­er Dot­dash Mered­ith on exclu­sive video con­tent from brands such as Bet­ter Homes & Gar­dens, South­ern Liv­ing, Brides, Food & Wine, Seri­ous Eats, All­recipes and Martha Stew­art. Pin­ter­est recent­ly announced a sim­i­lar deal with Condé Nast.
  • Meta is focus­ing on its “year of effi­cien­cy” by cut­ting anoth­er 10,000 jobs.
  • Meta also gave up on NFTs, shut­ting down the NFT and dig­i­tal col­lectible fea­tures on Insta­gram and Facebook.
  • Insta­gram tests a fea­ture that makes it eas­i­er to reshare Reels you sent to friends.
  • Meta launched paid ver­i­fi­ca­tion on Insta­gram and Face­book in the U.S. Meta Ver­i­fied is $11.99 per month on the web or $14.99 per month on mobile. The fea­ture deliv­ers a ver­i­fied badge, proac­tive imper­son­ation pro­tec­tion and direct access to cus­tomer support.
  • Twit­ter starts show­ing how many times a tweet has been book­marked, ini­tial­ly on iOS. The com­pa­ny promis­es it won’t dis­play who is book­mark­ing tweets, though. It’s not clear whether any­one cares how many book­marks a tweet has, but the goal is like­ly aimed at mak­ing Twit­ter look more engaging.
  • Twitter’s API pack­ages are get­ting pricey. The company’s new Enter­prise Pack­ages start at $42,000/mo for 50 mil­lion tweets.

Entertainment & Streaming

TikTok's new refresh feature

Image Cred­its: TikTok


  • The FTC final­izes Epic’s $245 mil­lion set­tle­ment over sketchy Fort­nite pur­chas­es. “Fortnite’s coun­ter­in­tu­itive, incon­sis­tent, and con­fus­ing but­ton con­fig­u­ra­tion led play­ers to incur unwant­ed charges based on the press of a sin­gle but­ton,” the FTC wrote. It also crit­i­cized Epic for allow­ing kids to make unau­tho­rized pur­chas­es with­out their par­ents’ permission.
  • Unre­al Edi­tor for Fort­nite (UEFN) is set to launch on March 22, accord­ing to a tweet from an offi­cial Fort­nite account.


  • Be My Eyes, an app that allows blind and low-vision peo­ple to ask sight­ed peo­ple to describe what their phone sees, is gain­ing AI capa­bil­i­ties pow­ered by GPT‑4. The app’s new “Vir­tu­al Vol­un­teer” will be able to answer ques­tions about images users snap and pro­vide instan­ta­neous visu­al assis­tance for a wide vari­ety of tasks.
  • Lan­guage learn­ing app Duolin­go debuted a Max sub­scrip­tion for $30/month or $168/year that offers GPT‑4 fea­tures for Eng­lish speak­ers tak­ing Span­ish and French cours­es. The AI fea­ture is rolling out to iOS first.


Security Concerns

  • Twitter’s dumb deci­sion to make SMS 2FA a paid fea­ture will kick in this week­end. Here’s how to pro­tect yourself.
  • Google warns users to take action to pro­tect against remote­ly exploitable flaws in pop­u­lar Android phones. Google’s secu­ri­ty research unit sound­ed the alarm about a set of vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties found in cer­tain Sam­sung chips includ­ed in dozens of Android mod­els, wear­ables and vehicles.
  • Fire­fox launched Total Cook­ie Pro­tec­tion, which stops cook­ies from track­ing you around the web, to its Fire­fox Android app.

Funding and M&A

Image Cred­its: Sidechat & Yik Yak logos, image via TechCrunch

  • Anony­mous app Sidechat picks up rival Yik Yak…and users aren’t hap­py. A qui­et acqui­si­tion involv­ing two press-shy com­pa­nies was unveiled by a pub­lish­er name change on the App Store and users com­plained about being forced to move to Sidechat.
  • NYC-based trans­porta­tion start­up Via will acquire Lon­don-based Citymap­per, a Google Maps alter­na­tive for plan­ning jour­neys in a city using pub­lic trans­porta­tion. Citymap­per has around 50 mil­lion glob­al users. Finan­cial terms are not being dis­closed but are a mix of cash and stock. Sources said the deal is most­ly a washout for investors.
  • Wal­mart invest­ed $200 mil­lion in Indi­an mobile pay­ments giant PhonePe.
  • Meal deliv­ery start­up Entrée raised $2.5 mil­lion in pre-seed fund­ing led by M25 with par­tic­i­pa­tion from investors, includ­ing Hus­tle Fund, Pil­lar VC and The Com­mu­ni­ty Fund. The app offers fine din­ing meals deliv­ered to the home with an aver­age order vol­ume of over $60.
  • Bloomberg reports that Abu Dhabi–based G42 has acquired a $100 mil­lion+ stake in ByteDance at a ~$220 bil­lion val­u­a­tion. This val­u­a­tion is down from the $300 bil­lion val­u­a­tion ByteDance set dur­ing a recent share buy­back program.
  • Ho Chi Minh City–based pre­scrip­tion deliv­ery app Medi­go raised $2 mil­lion in new fund­ing from East Ven­tures, with par­tic­i­pa­tion from Pavil­ion Cap­i­tal and Touch­stone Partners.

Government, Policy and Lawsuits


Camo 2

A pop­u­lar web­cam app for PC and Mac is return­ing. Camo was orig­i­nal­ly launched in 2020 to allow iPhone users to use their phones as a web­cam. Now, Camo 2 is out, offer­ing sup­port for any web­cam, includ­ing reg­u­lar web­cams as well as built-in devices, mon­i­tors with built-in cam­eras, DSLR and mir­ror­less cam­eras, inputs from cap­ture cards and HDMI don­gles, action cam­eras and oth­er soft­ware vir­tu­al cameras.


Image Cred­its: Mavn

Reports Lau­ren For­ristal: Mavn is “a new female-found­ed start­up that con­nects con­tent cre­ators with brands and oth­er busi­ness­es.” The new app gives users “access to a vari­ety of expe­ri­ences, from PR pack­ages and paid posts to cam­paigns, pho­to­shoots, events, din­ing at fan­cy restau­rants and more.” The app is avail­able for both iOS and Android.

Petey: AI assistant brings ChatGPT to the Apple Watch

Image Cred­its: Petey


The app was pre­vi­ous­ly called watchG­PT, but Apple’s crack­down on GPT apps led the devel­op­er to have issues get­ting the app approved. So the name was changed, and boom, the app went live. As the name implies, Petey offers a Chat­G­PT-like expe­ri­ence from your Watch, allow­ing users to ask ques­tions either with or with­out typ­ing and have the answers read out to you via text-to-speech. The app also includes a com­pli­ca­tion so you can quick­ly open the assis­tant with a tap on your watch face.


ghost app

Image Cred­its: Ghost

A new start­up called Ghost believes that putting in extra guardrails around the anony­mous expe­ri­ence will allow users to have fun, with­out the usu­al down­sides. To test this the­o­ry, the com­pa­ny has launched its Ghost mes­sag­ing app that allows users to share an anony­mous mes­sage in a group chat with friends in order to flirt, joke, or ask ques­tions with­out reveal­ing their iden­ti­ty. The app also includes a range of oth­er fea­tures, includ­ing the abil­i­ty to ask Chat­G­PT a ques­tion direct­ly with­in the group chat, among oth­er things.

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