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This Week in Apps: WWDC20 highlights, App Store antitrust issues, tech giants clone TikTok

Welcome back to This Week in Apps, the Extra Crunch series that recaps the latest OS news, the applications they support and the money that flows through it all.

The app industry is as hot as ever, with a record 204 billion downloads and $ 120 billion in consumer spending in 2019. People are now spending three hours and 40 minutes per day using apps, rivaling TV. Apps aren’t just a way to pass idle hours — they’re a big business. In 2019, mobile-first companies had a combined $ 544 billion valuation, 6.5x higher than those without a mobile focus.

In this Extra Crunch series, we help you keep up with the latest news from the world of apps, delivered on a weekly basis.

This week, we’re looking at the highlights from Apple’s first-ever virtual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) and what its announcements mean for app developers. Plus, there’s news of the U.S. antitrust investigation into Apple’s business, a revamp of the App Store review process, and more. In other app news, both Instagram and YouTube are responding to the TikTok threat, while Snapchat is adding new free tools to its SDK to woo app developers. Amazon also this week entered the no-code app development space with Honeycode.

WWDC20 Wrap-Up

Image Credits: Apple

Apple held its WWDC developer event online for the first time due to the pandemic. The format, in some ways, worked better — the keynote presentations ran smoother, packed in more content, and you could take in the information without the distractions of applause and cheers. (If you were missing the music, there was a playlist.)

Of course, the virtual event lacked the real-world networking and learning opportunities of the in-person conference. Better online forums and virtual labs didn’t solve that problem. In fact, given there aren’t time constraints on a virtual event, some might argue it would make sense to do hands-on labs in week two instead of alongside all the sessions and keynotes. This could give developers more time to process the info and write some code.

Among the bigger takeaways from WWDC20 — besides the obvious changes to the Mac and the introduction of “Apple silicon” — there was the introduction of the refreshed UI in iOS 14 that adds widgets, an App Library and more Siri smarts; plus the debut of Apple’s own mini-apps, in the form of App Clips; and the ability to run iOS apps on Apple Silicon Macs — in fact, iOS apps will run there by default unless developers uncheck a box.

Let’s dig in.

  • The iPad’s influence over Mac. There are plenty of iOS apps that would work on Mac, but making the choice an opt-out instead of an opt-in experience could lead to poor experiences for end users. Developers should think carefully about whether they want to make the leap to the Mac ecosystem and design accordingly. There’s also a broader sense that the iPad and the Mac are starting to look very similar. The iPad already gained support for a proper trackpad and mouse, while the Mac with Big Sur sees the influence of design elements like its new iPad-esque notifications, Control Center, window nav bars and rounded rectangular icons. Are the two OS’s going to merge? Apple’s answer, thankfully, is still “NO.”


    Apple – TechCrunch

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Apple temporarily re-closes 14 more Florida stores as COVID-19 numbers surge

After closing stores across four states, this was no doubt a bit of an inevitable: Following reporting earlier today, Apple has confirmed that it will be shutting down an additional 14 stores in Florida, joining the two it closed last week.

The company sent a statement to TechCrunch that is essentially identical to the one it gave us last week, reading, “Due to current COVID-19 conditions in some of the communities we serve, we are temporarily closing stores in these areas. We take this step with an abundance of caution as we closely monitor the situation and we look forward to having our teams and customers back as soon as possible.”

The move comes as COVID-19 cases continue to surge in the southern states. On Wednesday, state officials reported north of 5,000 new infections for the second straight day. In all, Florida has experienced more than 114,000 COVID-19 cases and 3,000 deaths, ranking sixth among all states by number of infections.

As noted last week, Apple had earlier confirmed the possibility of closed locations as soon as it began to reopen select locations in May. The full list of newly closed Florida stores includes:

  • The Galleria
  • The Falls
  • Aventura
  • Lincoln Road
  • Dadeland
  • Brickell City Centre
  • Wellington Green
  • Boca Raton
  • The Gardens Mall
  • Millenia
  • Florida Mall
  • Altamonte
  • International Plaza
  • Brandon

The Waterside Shops and Coconut Point stores were closed last week. Locations in Arizona and North and South Carolina have also been closed following reopening.


Apple – TechCrunch

Apple’s first virtual WWDC keynote set a new standard for remote presentations

In a preshow post, I compared the upcoming virtual WWDC to late-season “M*A*S*H.” If you watched the show during its original run or have since binged it on Netflix or Hulu, you’re likely aware of the producers’ uncomfortable transition away from using a laugh track. It was an ultimately beneficial choice in a show about a mobile military hospital during the Korean War, but shifting viewer expectations wasn’t easy, so it was done gradually, over time.

After so many years of priming audiences for a large online spectacle, event teams haven’t had the same luxury. Some shifted online last minute and others simply canceled the shows altogether. Even though COVID-19 was looming for months, there was really no simple decision here, and as such many of these first-time virtual-only events have been uncomfortably awkward and primarily defined by what they’re not.

Microsoft made a valiant attempt to embrace the temporarily new normal with its recent Build conference. The result was, at best, a mixed bag, relying on cringe-inducing banter by two employees to anchor several days of developer events. Where the presentation most shined, however, was when it was at its most simplistic: Satya Nadella stood in front of a bookshelf to address the weirdness of the situation and moved on with the day’s news. It was one of those moments where you found yourself grateful that the CEO is the emotional opposite of his screaming predecessor.

One could simply ignore the strangeness of it all — the absence of a live audience packed with a cheering section full of developers and employees. But to do so would be doing it a disservice.


Apple – TechCrunch