May 23, 2019
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android apps

TikTok tops the iOS App Store for the fifth quarter in a row

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Despite a $5.7 million FTC fine and changes to restrict its use by under 13-year-olds, TikTok retained its No. 1 position as the most downloaded app on the Apple App Store for the fifth consecutive quarter, according to a new report from Sensor Tower. The app saw more than 33 million App Store downloads during Q1, and was followed by YouTube, Instagram, WhatsApp, and Messenger to round out the top five.

The No. 16 top app, Twitter, also had a good quarter, the app store intelligence’s report noted.

With 11.7 million App Store downloads, it saw its biggest quarter in terms of downloads since Q1 2015 — and a year-over-year increase of 3.6 percent. Of course, these figures won’t necessarily translate to an increase in active users, though, as installs aren’t a direct correlation to usage.

But while TikTok was again topping the App Store, it wasn’t the most downloaded app on Android devices in Q1.

With a bigger footprint in emerging markets and a larger total user base, Android trends can look different from those on iOS. This past quarter, WhatsApp was the No. 1 app on Google Play with nearly 199 million installs. It was followed by Messenger, then TikTok, Facebook, and Instagram.

Facebook, WhatsApp and Messenger all saw over 150 millions apiece in Q1 2019, as did TikTok.

Though not the top app on Android, TikTok still had a huge quarter — particularly in India, where 88.6 million new users installed the app in Q1, up 8.2 times over Q1 2018, Sensor Tower noted in an earlier report. 

That said, TikTok’s numbers for the next quarter may not be as good. The app was banned in India in April over illegal content including pornography. While that ban was lifted later that month, Sensor Tower estimated it had cost the app at least 15 million downloads there, and what would have been its biggest-ever month.

An up-and-comer in Q1 included YouTube Kids, which saw a 291 percent quarter-over-quarter increase and 29 millions downloads on Google Play, where it joined YouTube and YouTube Music to become a top 20 app. 

With the two app stores figures’ combined, WhatsApp became the most downloaded app in the quarter with over 22 million installs across the App Store and Google Play.

Messenger clocked in at No. 2 with nearly 203 million installs. And TikTok’s gains on the App Store allowed it to take the No. 3. position, followed by Facebook and Instagram.

The rest of the top 10 didn’t change, with Facebook claiming four of the top five spots. Meanwhile, first-time users in India pushed image editor PicsArt into the worldwide top 20.

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Spotify brings its slimmed-down ‘Lite’ app to India

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Spotify has launched a more slimmed-down version of its streaming music app in India, only months after its public debut in the country. The Android-only app, Spotify Lite is only 11 MB in size compared with 30 MB for the main app — a change that’s common to apps targeting emerging markets where bandwidth and storage space are concerns.

The company had already tested Spotify Lite in other areas, including Indonesia, Philippines, Malaysia, Mexico, Brazil, and others. The app has a similar look as the main app, and offers the same key features in terms of being able to play music on demand, discover new music you might like, and save songs for offline listening. However, it also lets you keep track of your mobile data by showing you how much you’ve consumed during the month, and set a monthly limit for Spotify Lite’s use of that data.

The app can be used as an alternative or alongside the main Spotify app, depending on the users’ needs.

The first version of Spotify Lite launched in Brazil in June 2018, so it’s still a relatively new app. Today, the app is publicly available in 22 countries including, now India. It has around 2.1 million installs, according to data from Sensor Tower. India has only produced a few thousand downloads for Spotify Lite so far, as it’s just gone live.

That said, India will be a key market for Spotify Lite going forward, given the heated competition for streaming music services in a region where millions of internet users are coming online for the first time. Already, Apple, Amazon, and Google are running their own music services in India, where they face competition from local players Gaana, JioSaavn, and others. Catering to the unique needs of the Indian market’s user base will help Spotify better compete with these rivals.

“Lite” apps are now a common way to reach Indian users. Google offers a handful of lightweight “Go”-branded apps, like Google Go, Gmail Go, Files Go, YouTube Go, Google Maps Go and Google Assistant Go in the country. There’s also Facebook LiteInstagram LiteMessenger LiteTwitter LiteUber Lite, TikTok Lite, and, as of last week, Tinder Lite, too.

The news of Spotify Lite’s Indian launch was first reported by a newswire report featured on news site The News Minute. The report quoted Amarjit Batra, Managing Director for Spotify India, as saying the Lite app was a big step towards better localization of Spotify’s service as it “enables users to play millions of songs for free, takes up less space on phones, and saves data when used on the go.”

Reached for comment, Spotify confirmed the launch to TechCrunch, but referred to it as a test and noted its “beta” labeling.

“At Spotify, we routinely conduct a number of tests, including the Spotify Lite Beta, in an effort to improve our user experience,” a Spotify spokesperson said. “Some of those tests end up paving the path for our broader user experience and others serve only as an important learning. We aren’t going to comment on specific tests at this time,” they added.

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Google to allow users to pay for Android apps using cash

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Today, the Android platform sees more app downloads than iOS, but Apple’s App Store continually dominates in terms of revenue. Now, Google is aiming to narrow the revenue gap by introducing a new way for users in emerging markets to pay for apps: with cash. The company today announced it’s launching “pending transactions,” which offers users different ways to pay that don’t require a credit card or any other traditional form of online payment.

Lack of access to credit is one of many reasons why users in emerging markets gravitate towards free-to-play and ad-supported games and applications, instead of paid downloads and in-app purchases.

To address this problem, Google has already rolled out other payment options over the years — like support for eWallets, UPI in India, and carrier billing, for example. Over the past year, it’s added 20 more carrier billing partnerships, bringing the total number of carriers supporting this option to over 170 worldwide, to reaching over a billion users through this one billing option.

But carrier billing isn’t a universal option, and it’s not always a preferred one.

To reach those users who rely more on cash, Google is now rolling out another payment option.

“We know that emerging markets are a key area of growth for you all, which is why we’re excited to announce ‘pending transactions,’” said Aurash Mahbod, the Director of Engineering responsible for the Play Store and Games on Google Play, speaking at the Google I/O Developer conference today.

“This is a new class of delayed form of payment – like cash, bank transfer and direct debit,” he explained.

The option gives an Android user the ability to choose an alternative payment method at checkout when paying for an application or in-app purchase. Instead of charging an attached credit card, for instance, the user can instead opt to receive a payment code which they can use to pay for their purchase using cash at a nearby store.

Once at the store, the user shows the payment code to the cashier and pays. Within 10 minutes after completing the transaction, the user will receive their purchase and an email with their proof of payment. (The fine print notes this can take up to 48 hours, at times, however).

While this makes paying for apps and updates easier for cash-only Android users, if they later want a refund, they won’t get cash back — only Play Store credit.


The Pending Transactions option is one of several updates arriving in the new Google Play Billing Library (version 2.0), but is the most interesting in terms of what it means for increasing the number of paid transactions in emerging markets.

Another notable update is the option, “Subscribe & Install”, which offers users a free trial subscription at the same time they install the app — all in one click of a button.

This feature is currently available in Early Access, and partners who have used the option are seeing an average of 34% growth in paid subscribers, Google said.

The Google Play Billing Library 2.0 — now the official way to integrate apps with Google Play Billing —  is available now in Java, with C++ and Kotlin support coming soon.

More information about the new options will be posted to the Android Developers site here.

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Google Play is changing how app ratings work

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Two years ago, Apple changed the way its app store ratings worked by allowing developers to decide whether or not their ratings would be reset with their latest app update — a feature that Apple suggests should be used sparingly. Today, Google announced it’s making a change to how its Play Store app ratings work, too. But instead of giving developers the choice of when ratings will reset, it will begin to weight app ratings to favor those from more recent releases.

“You told us you wanted a rating based on what your app is today, not what it was years ago, and we agree,” said Milena Nikolic, an engineering director leading Google Play Console, who detailed the changes at the Google I/O Developer conference today.

She explained that, soon, the average rating calculation for apps will be updated for all Android apps on Google Play. Instead of a lifetime cumulative value, the app’s average rating will be recalculated to “give more weight” to the most recent users’ ratings.

With this update, users will be able to better see, at a glance, the current state of the app — meaning, any fixes and changes that made it a better experience over the years will now be taken into account when determining the rating.

“It will better reflect all your hard work and improvements,” touted Nikolic, of the updated ratings.

On the flip side, however, this change also means that once high-quality apps that have since failed to release new updates and bug fixes will now have a rating that reflects their current state of decline.

It’s unclear how much the change will more broadly impact Google Play Store SEO, where today app search results are returned based on a combination of factors, including app names, descriptions, keywords, downloads, reviews and ratings, among other factors.

The updated app ratings was one of numerous Google Play changes announced today, along with the public launch of dynamic delivery features, new APIs, refreshed Google Play Console data, custom listings and even “suggested replies” — like those found in Gmail, but for responding to Play Store user reviews.

End users of the Google Play Store won’t see the new, recalculated rating until August, but developers can preview their new rating today in their Play Store Console.

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Mozilla’s free password manager, Firefox Lockbox, launches on Android

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Mozilla’s free password manager designed for users of the Firefox web browser is today officially arriving on Android. The standalone app, called Firefox Lockbox, offers a simple if a bit basic way for users to access from their mobile device their logins already stored in their Firefox browser.

The app is nowhere near as developed as password managers like 1Password, Dashlane, LastPass and others as it lacks common features like the ability to add, edit or delete passwords; suggest complex passwords; or alert you to potentially compromised passwords resulting from data breaches, among other things.

However, the app is free — and if you’re already using Firefox’s browser, it’s at the very least a more secure alternative to writing down your passwords in an unprotected notepad app, for example. And you can opt to enable Lockbox as an Autofill service on Android.

But the app is really just a companion to Firefox. The passwords in Lockbox securely sync to the app from the Firefox browser — they aren’t entered by hand. For security, the app can be locked with facial recognition or a fingerprint (depending on device support). The passwords are also encrypted in a way that doesn’t allow Mozilla to read your data, it explains in a FAQ.

Firefox Lockbox is now one of several projects Mozilla developed through its now-shuttered Test Flight program. Over a few years’ time, the program had allowed the organization to trial more experimental features — some of which made their way to official products, like the recently launched file-sharing app, Firefox Send.

Others in the program — including Firefox Color⁩⁨Side View⁩⁨Firefox Notes⁩⁨Price Tracker and ⁨Email Tabs⁩ — remain available, but are no longer actively developed beyond occasional maintenance releases. Mozilla’s current focus is on its suite of “privacy-first” solutions, not its other handy utilities.

According to Mozilla, Lockbox was downloaded more than 50,000 times on iOS ahead of today’s Android launch.

The Android version is a free download on Google Play.

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