Welcome back to This Week in Apps, the weekly TechCrunch series that recaps the latest mobile OS news, mobile applications, and the overall app economy.
The app industry continues to grow, with a record 218 billion downloads and $143 billion in global consumer spending in 2020. Consumers last year also spent 3.5 trillion minutes using apps on Android devices alone. And in the U.S., app usage surged ahead of the time spent watching live TV. Currently, the average American watches 3.7 hours of live TV per day but now spends four hours per day on their mobile devices.
Apps aren’t just a way to pass idle hours — they’re also a big business. In 2019, mobile-first companies had a combined $544 billion valuation, 6.5x higher than those without a mobile focus. In 2020, investors poured $73 billion in capital into mobile companies — a figure that’s up 27% year-over-year.
This week we’re reviewing Google’s I/O developer event, rounding up the latest from Snap’s partner summit, and taking a look at how Parler got back on the App Store, among other things.
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Google I/O was kind of boring this year.
Sorry, sorry. But it’s true. Without any new hardware announcements, the software-only event didn’t feel as big and buzzy as it has in the past — which is a bummer since I/O was canceled entirely last year due to COVID-19. There was no announcement of an affordable Pixel 5a or six smartphones, no rumored Pixel Watch, no news on Pixel chips, no new smart home devices, no update on Google Stadia, and not even the Pixel Buds A-Series, which Google accidentally tweeted about ahead of schedule. What gives? Instead, Google I/O was filled with many product news that could have been announced as blog posts — like Google Workspace improvements or neat Google Maps and Photos features. I mean, sure, a life-size 3D video calling booth is fantastic, but it’s not exactly going to be in your living room next year.
That’s not to downplay Google’s technical advancements. Still, if you’re sitting through a long live-ish (??) event, you don’t only want to hear about more conversational AI or less racist cameras (much less from the company that just fired multiple AI ethics researchers). You want to get excited about Google’s next new…thing.
When all was said and done, what stood out was Android 12. The updated version of Google’s mobile OS with its new personalization features targets customization’s current iPhone weakness.