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.
Global app spending reached $65 billion in the first half of 2022, up only slightly from the $64.4 billion during the same period in 2021, as hypergrowth fueled by the pandemic has slowed down. But overall, the app economy is continuing to grow, having produced a record number of downloads and consumer spending across both the iOS and Google Play stores combined in 2021, according to multiple year-end reports. Global spending across iOS and Google Play last year was $133 billion, and consumers downloaded 143.6 billion apps.
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.
Do you want This Week in Apps in your inbox every Saturday? Sign up here: techcrunch.com/newsletters
Apple prepares to allow alternative app stores in EU
Bloomberg reported Apple is already making efforts to open up its platforms to enable support for third-party app stores in the EU in advance of new requirements set out by the Digital Markets Act, which companies must comply with by 2024. EU regulators want to level the playing field for app developers and improve the consumer experience — and they believe forcing Apple to compete on merit with other app stores is one way to do it. Apple, of course, has long argued that allowing sideloading or third-party stores introduces too much risk to consumers, in terms of safety, security and privacy issues. Today, Apple handles payment processing for the apps downloaded from its own storefront, which includes battling fraud. And it restricts app makers from tracking users with the new App Tracking Transparency protections and protects user data.
But some of Apple’s privacy focus is a seeming front for its own aims in becoming a bigger competitor in the ads business. And as researchers recently discovered, some of Apple’s protections don’t apply to its own apps. Plus, many would argue, it seems like an imbalance to charge apps that rival Apple’s own services a commission on their businesses — the way it charges Spotify when it runs Apple Music; or how it charges streaming apps commissions, when it runs Apple TV+; and so on. Apple continues to expand into new app markets, too, with subscription services like Apple Fitness+; cloud storage packages through iCloud; news reading and magazines with News+; and others.
But app developers have long felt Apple’s 30% is too high a price for the discovery, distribution and security provided by the App Store. And for larger companies, they’re more than willing and able to market, distribute and sell their own apps themselves. Epic Games, for example, is battling Apple in courts over anti-trust issues, which are now under appeal. It wants to sell its apps like Fortnite directly to consumers and avoid Apple’s fees.
Still, even if the EU forces platforms to open up to more competition, if the laws aren’t precise, it’…….