The acquisition means Gitter’s community of some 1.7M users will be migrating to Matrix, the underlying decentralized comms protocol also made by Element — assuming they stick around for the ride with the new owner, of course. But Element is going out of its way to reassure Gitter users they’ll feel properly at home on Matrix.
In a blog post discussing the acquisition, the top-line message from Element CEO and Matrix co-founder, Matthew Hodgson, is that nothing will change in the short term. Furthermore, the pitch to the Gitter community is that, down the line, there will be plenty to gain from the migration/eventual assimilation as a “Gitter-customized version of Element” running on Matrix.
This is because the pledge is feature parity first (so, yes, that means Element will be gaining a bunch of Gitter features; such as threads and instant live room peeking, to name two). Then, once Gitter migrates to Element, it’ll get access to “all the goodies” the combination brings — including end-to-end encryption; reactions; VoIP and conferencing; widgets; all the alternative clients, bots, bridges and servers; the full open standard Matrix API; and the ability to fully participate in that decentralized network…
Another enticing promise is “constantly improving native iOS & Android clients” — which the Element team notes is a welcome alternative to Gitter’s natives ones, given they’re already being deprecated.
The migration will also mean Element will be replacing the current “creaky” matrix-appservice-gitter bridge.
“We’re going to build out native Matrix connectivity — running a dedicated Matrix homeserver on gitter.im with a new bridge direct into the heart of Gitter; letting all Gitter rooms be available to Matrix directly as (say) #angular_angular:gitter.im, and bridging all the historical conversations into Matrix via MSC2716 or similar,” it writes.
“Gitter users will also be able to talk to other users elsewhere in the open Matrix network — e.g. DMing them, and (possibly) joining arbitrary Matrix rooms. Effectively, Gitter will have become a Matrix client,” Element adds.
So the tl;dr is that current Gitter users should have plenty of reasons to be cheerful about the acquisition. (Plus, as Hodgson points out, anyone less than happy with the direction of travel can of course fork the platform and go their own way, being as Element is an open source company. Though of course the hope is no one will feel the need to fork it.)
The decision to migrate Gitter to Element has been made purely on resources/efficiency grounds, per Hodgson — to avoid the need for Element to maintain both apps over the longer term. He tells TechCrunch the migration will likely take around a year — “possibly more”.
Element also plans to “comprehensively” document the whole process so that it can serve as “the flagship example of how to make an existing chat system talk – and transition to — Matrix”, as it puts it, so it’s got its eye on encouraging more apps to make the move to Matrix.
While Element says GitLab approached them about taking on Gitter they confess to a long-time “crush” on the platform — saying they jumped at the chance when the other company came knocking. (Financial terms of the transaction are not being disclosed, however.)
TechCrunch can claim a teeny part in this open source love-in, being as we’re credited with accidentally introducing the teams — after they found themselves across the aisle exhibiting at Disrupt London, back in 2014 (so you truly never know who you’ll serendipitously meet in Startup Alley).
Taking on Gitter is not just a passion project for Element, though. They saw they see the acquisition boosting growth of the Matrix ecosystem as a whole other developer community gets plugged in and — they hope — converted to evangelists for the open network.
“If developers are using it then when they need something to build on — a technology for their messaging apps — then they will naturally use Matrix. And if we want to grow this ecosystem and have as many apps as possible built on top of the protocol then we need to make it known to everyone so if they’re using it for their own comms it makes it easier for them,” Element COO, Amandine Le Pape, tells TechCrunch.
“We’re really doing this for Matrix, rather than for Element,” adds Hodgson. “We’re just trying to grow and make the Matrix network larger and healthier. So it’s not a matter of we can then sell it to governments as a communication platform more easily, it’s much more… that it becomes known to more developers so that when they build their next WhatsApp they don’t go and invent the wheel all over again. They would just obviously use Matrix because that’s what they’re already using to co-ordinate on working on React or Angular or whatever technology they already know.”
He says bringing Gitter into the Matrix fold is “obviously” a boon to developers who already use Element — such as the Mozilla community and Rust developers — as it will help reduce fragmentation.
“Half the world is on Gitter, half the world is on Element, and some poor lost souls are stuck in Discord and Slack. So by going and bringing the open guys together it will just be very concretely more useful in Element that if you want to reach out to whatever developer you will be able to find them in once place rather than having this horrible split brain between the two,” he adds.
Asked about its decision to sell Gitter, GitLab told us it has never been a core element of its business focus.
“While GitLab has contributed to Gitter’s growth in the past three years, Gitter has always been a standalone product, independent of GitLab, even after GitLab’s acquisition in 2017. GitLab and Element saw an opportunity for Gitter to grow further under Element,” it said.
“GitLab has a core business focus to be the market’s leading complete DevOps platform,” it added. “It is not a case of stepping away but seeing an opportunity for an important tool to grow further. In true open source fashion, Gitter is free to use, without limits, for everyone to create public or private communities and to contribute back to. It is currently the only developer-centric messaging platform which is an open source, free, uncapped messaging SaaS. The platform has not been monetized yet and has no commercial edition. Gitter is available on the web with clients available for Mac, Windows, Linux, iOS, and Android.”
Element said it will be bringing on board Gitter’s dev team as part of the acquisition — albeit, it’s actually just one “superstar” developer running the whole thing, per Hodgson and Le Pape. So the team integration process at least shouldn’t be too challenging.
(For the record, Element is the new name for New Vector (the company) and Riot (the messaging app) which was originally called Vector. So that’s Vector > Riot > Element; and New Vector > Element. “We decided to bring everything under one single brand — as now Element the company, Element the app and Element Matrix Services for the hosting platform,” explains La Pape on this recent rebranding.)
Momentum for Matrix
Matrix, meanwhile, has been continuing to gain momentum throughout the pandemic — thanks to the accelerated shift to remote working pushing demand for secure (and, well, sovereign) digital messaging up the public sector agenda.
“Recently we’ve had the German education system coming on board, the German military coming on board. And we have two other governments who, irritatingly, we can’t disclose yet — but suffice to say they are both very big and very exciting,” notes Hodgson. “They’re in paid trials. Once we successfully convert those it will be as big, if not bigger, than France in terms of banging on about it.”
“In all of these instances they have gone and slightly tweaked the app. They have forked Element, they have branded it, they’ve built it into an existing tool that they have and it really ties in with the developer story — the reason that they feel happy building on an open standard is because of the wider developer ecosystem,” he adds.
“We’re also seeing a whole galaxy of little startups — nothing to do with us — who are building on Matrix successfully,” Hodgson also tells us, pointing to a German healthcare startup called Famedly as one example.
“It’s unrelated to us but it’s fun to see other companies basically betting the farm on the protocol. So, again, the happier developers are to use the protocol the more random startups like that will begin to bubble up,” he adds. “And if the next-gen of Slack killers happen to be on Matrix — whether it’s us, or anybody else, so much the better.”
Another key factor that could accelerate momentum for Matrix is interoperability — a topic area regulators are increasingly eyeing as they consider how to ensure competition thrives in digital markets that can be prone to ‘winner takes all’ network effects.
Accusations of anti-competitive behavior are also being thrown around in the real-time messaging space specifically. Notably, in July, Slack filed an antitrust complaint against Microsoft arguing the latter is being anti-competitive by unfairly bundling its rival Teams product with its cloud-based productivity suite, Microsoft 365.
The Matrix network is no such walled garden, of course — and Element the app offers bridges to other messaging platforms, enabling its users to chat with others siloed on proprietary platforms like Slack. Slack, however, hasn’t offered the same courtesy to Element (only going so far as offering a bridge for, er, email users last year).
“It would be great for Slack, and [Microsoft] Teams and Discord to join in,” says Hodgson, arguing: “I think there’s probably more impetus for them to do so in terms of being able to interoperate with other systems, because we have so many bridges. If you were migrating from Skype for Business to Slack or something the Matrix could be the bridge between the two.”
“They have different users, right,” continues Le Pape, fleshing out the case for such platforms to open up to Matrix. “Usually Teams ends up being the one for the big companies who are actually using Office 365 while Slack might be more of the startup side of things so, in the end, if we could actually join everything together it would be good.” “If you all actually were able to talk to one another then that would solve it,” she adds in reference to Slack’s antitrust complaint against Microsoft.
Hodgson posits that if Microsoft were to expose Teams into Matrix it could help it defend against the complaint — being as it would be able to tell regulators it’s “participating in a global open standard network” that lets users pick whichever client they like. “I think that’s a very compelling solution,” he suggests, adding that Element is involved in discussions with “various parties” on the EU side “to make sure people understand there are viable open standards for doing this”.
“Historically, before Matrix, basically there wasn’t anything that had the feature set that you would expect from Slack or Teams. Whereas now there is actually a viable middle language,” he adds.
Asked if it’s a wild idea that a polished consumer messaging app such as Telegram could ever move to Matrix, Hodgson describes it as an “interesting” thought — but admits there’s still a bit of a feature gap for Element, while also lauding the Telegram’s technical performance.
“I could see there being some friction in joining Matrix as it is today because it would be a slight backwards step for them… However the pressure is therefore on us to go and get to the point that Element is as snappy and as polished as Telegram — and [Element already] has good encryption,” he says. “At which point I think the tables could turn interestingly.
“But they’ve got hundreds of millions of users. I guess they feel they’re doing it right. They would rather, perhaps, become the next WhatsApp and be a 2BN user silo rather than play nice with other people because they’re already past critical mass. But perhaps if we do our job and make Matrix large enough and interesting enough that it is worth their while to link to it then why not?”
Some company CEOs see the pandemic driving consumer acceptance and pushing legalization at the national level. With legalization, new consumers enter the market, and companies such as Canopy Growth, PAX and Grenco Science look to benefit as makers of some of the best vaporizers on the market — that is if consumers can find them in stock.
Supply chain issues are partly to blame, and cannabis products are not alone in facing short supply. For the U.S.-market, many products, from bicycles to kayaks, are hard to find right now. And like those products, increased demand is straining the already stressed supply.
Grenco Science was founded in 2012 and was an early mover in the dry herb vaporizer market. In 2019, the company raised a Series A for an undisclosed amount to develop and release innovative products. And in early 2020, the company was ready to launch the inexpensive Dash and the Roam, a portable water-filtered concentrate vaporizer.
Then COVID-19 hit.
CEO and co-founder Chris Folkerts says product launches were pushed back, yet the company was still able to launch the Roam and Dash.
“We’ve still been able to see growth and expand the product pipeline significantly,” Folkerts said. “There are still releases slated for later this year and we’ll be able to launch the redesigned Stundenglass after the company’s acquisition.”
Indeed, Grenco had a busy pandemic, launching two new products and acquiring the maker of another. And they’re not done. Folkerts says interest in dry herb vaporizers is spiking and could be due to the Dash vape launch. Grenco has three more new dry herb vaporizers in its release pipeline.
Folkerts admits that there were troubles along the way, primarily around customer support and shipping products. The company saw an influx of orders through online sales and distributors that the company was not prepared to handle. He says the company had to repurpose “a decent portion” of its staff to speak directly to online consumers to address product and shipping concerns.
Canopy Growth’s marquee vaporizer company Storz & Bickel is also experiencing increased customer support issues. Browse any user forum and it’s clear the company cannot keep up with customer relations. Buyers are reporting delayed shipping and inconsistent customer support. Most items on storz-bickel.com carry a “low inventory” warning, though most are available through official distributors.
Andy Lytwynec, VP, Global Vape Business at Canopy Growth, says Storz & Bickel’s sudden growth is outpacing forecasts, and the company accelerated production expansion. Thirty new employees were added to its German factory through a heightened sense of urgency, he said.
In 2000, Storz & Bickel released the Volcano, arguable the first worthwhile desktop dry herb vaporizer. The company now sells two versions of the Volcano and a handful of handheld devices that use the same underlying technology, all of which are certified for medical use. In 2018, Canopy Growth acquired Storz & Bickel, where it joined the conglomerate’s other vaporizer brands.
Lytwynec points to Storz & Bickle as a barometer of sorts in judging the impact of COVID-19. The German-based vaporizer company saw an uptick in sales, as reported in Canopy Growth’s latest quarterly report. The company reported a 71% increase during the first quarter ending on June 30. The financial report pointed to Storz & Bickel’s increased sales and distribution expansion as a primary reason for the increase.
During the pandemic, consumers are not just turning to dry herbs. Makers of concentrate vaporizers also see an increase in sales.
Puffco, maker of the fantastic Puffco Peak e-rig, tells TechCrunch it has also seen an explosion in sales. Puffco founder Roger Volodarsky says, “Since the pandemic hit, it seems like many new users have joined the cannabis space. Puffco has seen historic sales during this time. We’re thankful to see our growth continue despite the challenges that we’ve been faced with.”
Instead of using ground flower, Puffco’s products are designed to be used with concentrates, which many see as the next big cannabis inhalation market. It sits between dried flower and portable so-called vape pens.
Jupiter Research is the largest distributor of CCELL vaporization hardware and sells into all regulated cannabis markets globally, including across the United States. For this market, namely the pre-packaged, self-contained THC cartridges, Jupiter Research has seen little effect from COVID-19.
“There hasn’t been a material increase or decrease in the vape market as a whole due to COVID-19,” Tim Conder, COO and president said, adding, “at least from what our data tells us. In fact, Jupiter has continued to gain market share in the vape category as a whole. Vape remains the second largest category in cannabis henna flour. The third is edibles.”
Conder sees COVID-19 potentially changing the government’s stance on cannabis. As he told TechCrunch, it feels like cannabis legalization is gaining more traction at a federal level. He hopes state and federal governments are looking at the fiscal benefits of a nationwide legal cannabis market.
Other cannabis hardware manufacturers agree COVID-19 is pushing the United States government to look at cannabis through a different light.
DynaVap, a Wisconsin-based manufacturer, says the public perception of cannabis has remained consistent with continual movement into positive public acceptance. Eric Olson, founder, and CFO of DynaVap, notes that he feels the cannabis plant has even had positive effects and eases the impact from COVID-19.
“The post-pandemic outlook for the cannabis plant will be an impactful positive public movement assuming the industry can continue the legalization momentum on the federal and state levels in the U.S.,” Olson told TechCrunch.
DyanVap, which employs 50 people in Wisconsin, says it started increasing staffing in May and recently launched several new products, including a portable induction heater called “the Orion.”
Now, six months out from the start of the global crisis, the cannabis market seems to have gained significant traction as such manufacturers have ramped up production and increased staffing to keep up with demand.
Canopy Growth’s Lytwynec sees the past few months as a turning point around cannabis. And not just for the economic impact for legalization (and taxing) cannabis. He says he sees consumers waking up to the level of sophistication around cannabis.
“People are spending their dollars, not on baggies of illicit weed, but they’re spending their money on higher-end products, and it’s nice to see the category mature in the middle of a pandemic. We see people investing in [devices] and the quality of consumables. It speaks to the health of the category, and I’m hopeful the industry picks up tailwinds, and we exit this dystopian period sooner than later.”
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 series, we help you keep up with the latest news from the world of apps, delivered on a weekly basis.
iOS 14 Home screen Customization Craze
The release of iOS 14 included one of the biggest updates to the iPhone’s user interface in years. Apps can now be stored off screen in the new App Library where they’re organized for you, as opposed to you being forced to categorize apps yourself into various folders. And Apple finally allows for home screen widgets — a development that left Android users snickering about how “behind” their iPhone-using counterparts have been all this time.
But as with iOS apps, Apple’s design constraints and rules around widgets mean there’s a standard that all widgets have to meet to be approved. As a result, widgets have a consistent look-and-feel, thanks to things like size limitations and other design guidelines. They can’t be stretched out indefinitely or moved all over the screen, either.
Apple may have originally envisioned widgets as a way for existing iOS apps to gain a larger presence on users’ home screens, while delivering key information like news, weather or stock updates, for example. But a handful of iOS developers instead built apps that allowed users to design widgets themselves — by selecting colors, fonts, sizes, backgrounds and what information the widget would display.
Meanwhile, TikTok users and other Gen Z’ers began teaching each other how to create custom icons for their apps using Apple’s Shortcuts app. These tutorials were starting to trend even before iOS 14’s release, but the addition of the App Library and widgets meant users could now finally customize their entire home screen. That prompted a more enthusiastic adoption of the icon customization technique.
On the Twitter hashtag #iOS14homescreen, users shared their creations — a showcase of creativity where home screens looked fully themed at last, with custom icons, widgets, decorative photos, matching wallpapers and more. The results have been fantastic.
And at the top of the App Store, there now sit a trio of must-have tools for this new era: Widgetsmith, Color Widgets and Photo Widget today continue to claim the top three spots on the free apps chart.
Users are also now demanding Apple to change how app shortcuts open. Currently, an app shortcut first launches Apple’s Shortcuts app, which then opens the target app. With the popularity of custom icons, users want that intermediate step cut out.
Apple is aware of the customization craze as it has in the days since iOS 14’s release run App Store editorial features about iOS 14’s design changes, suggested widgets to try, creative tools and more. It also featured apps at the top of the App Store, which are benefiting from the trend, like apps offering great widgets, like Fantastical, or those that are booming, like Pinterest — which recently broke its daily download record.
App makers team up to take on Apple and Google
A number of top app makers have banded together to fight against Apple’s control of its App Store and, to a lesser extent, Google’s control of the Play Store — a topic of increased regulatory scrutiny in recent months. Today, 13 app publishers, including Epic Games, Deezer, Basecamp, Tile, Spotify and others, have launched the Coalition for App Fairness.
The new organization formalizes efforts the companies already have underway that focus on either forcing app store providers to change their policies, or ultimately pushing the app stores into regulation.
On the coalition’s website, the group details its key issues, which include anti-competitive practices, like the app stores’ 30% commission structure, and the inability to distribute software to billions of Apple devices through any other means but the App Store, which the group sees as an affront to personal freedom.
Google allows apps to be side-loaded, so it’s not as much of a target on this front. In fact, much of the focus of the coalition’s efforts have to do with Apple’s business, given its stricter guidelines.
The group has also published a list of 10 “App Store Principles” it would like to see enacted industry-wide. These include the ability to distribute apps outside of app stores, protections from having their own data used against them to compete, timely access to developer documentation, the right to communicate with users through its app for legitimate business purposes, no requirements to use the app store’s payment systems, no requirements to pay unfair fees and more.
The website is also aiming to recruit new members to join the coalition. App makers who feel similarly oppressed by Apple’s practices are able to fill out a form to request to join.
Apple responded to the hardball tactics with a barrage of new material and data meant to highlight the benefits of its App Store platform. The company on Thursday revealed the number of rejections it enforces is quite low compared to the number of submissions. It said it rejected 150,000 apps in 2020 but sees 100,000 submissions per week. It also has removed more than 60 million user reviews it believed to be spam.
The company noted its Developer program has over 28 million developers worldwide, whose apps have seen over 50 billion promotions — meaning when a user sees an app Apple has promoted on the App Store, in emails, on social media or in other general advertising.
However, the backlash has also forced Apple to be more transparent about some of its until-now fairly secretive programs. For example, Apple has now published a page that clarifies how its Video Partner program works — a program that had before only been detailed via background conversations with reporters who then relayed the information to readers. The page reveals the program’s requirements and that over 130 premium subscription video entertainment providers have since joined. If the guidelines are followed, these providers can pay only a 15% commission to Apple instead of 20%.
Current members include Amazon Prime Video, Binge, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), Claro, C More, DAZN, Disney+, Globo, HBO Max, Joyn, Molotov, MUBI, myCanal, STARZ and Viaplay, the website said.
TikTok deal chaos continues
The deal that Trump was poised to approve solved some but not all concerns by making Oracle a trusted technology partner responsible for hosting U.S. user data and ensuring other security requirements were in place. But issues around how the TikTok algorithm could be used to influence U.S. users or censor content were not addressed.
The ban got a week’s extension as a result of promising progress and the announcements that seemed to indicate the parties were in agreement on terms.
But this week, China jumped in to say it won’t approve a TikTok sale. In China Daily, an official English-language newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party, an editorial slammed the deal that would see Oracle and Walmart effectively taking over TikTok in the U.S. as one based on “bullying and extortion.”
At the same time, TikTok is chasing a legal means of preventing its ban in the U.S.
TikTok filed a motion to stop the Commerce Department from enforcing the Trump administration’s ban that would otherwise be set to start this weekend. The move came shortly after WeChat users were granted an injunction in a federal court last week that blocked the app from being banned. TikTok’s filing asks the court to set a hearing before the rules take effect at 11:59 PM on September 27, 2020. But unlike the WeChat case, TikTok is the one asking the court to stop the ban, not its users.
A federal judge said Thursday that the Trump administration must either delay the ban on U.S. app stores or file its legal response to defend the decision by 2:30 PM Friday. The Justice Department filed its opposition Friday, saying that U.S. user data being stored outside the country is a “significant” risk. The judge will still need to rule on the injunction — that is, whether the ban should go into effect Sunday, as planned.
Stay tuned to TechCrunch for the latest on this never-ending saga.
- Google will increase its push for apps to give it a cut of in-app purchases. Following Apple’s lead, Google will begin to push harder to demand a cut of transactions on Android by enforcing a requirement for apps to use Google’s billing service, Bloomberg reports.
- New Google Play Console arrives on November 2, 2020. Over 350K developers now use the new Play Console today. On November 2, it exits beta — meaning you’ll be redirected to the updated experience when you log in. The console features reorganized navigation, speed and performance improvements, personalized messaging, a new Publishing overview page, acquisition reports and more.
- Apple temporarily waived App Store fees for Facebook’s online events. Facebook last month launched paid online events to help businesses impacted by the pandemic. But at the time, Apple wouldn’t waive its own fees. The company has now changed its mind, and will waive fees until December 31, but says this won’t apply to gaming creators.
- Apple and Facebook fight over messaging. But all is not well between the two tech giants on other fronts. Now that Apple has lifted its rules over default apps for email and web browsing, Facebook is pushing the company to allow Messenger to become a default messaging app too.
- iOS 14.0.1 and iPadOS 14.0.1 released. The update patches the bug that reset web browser and email apps back to Apple’s defaults after a restart, and other fixes.
- iOS 14 adoption surpasses 25% in five days after release. According to data from Mixpanel, iOS 14 (including iPadOS 14) reached 25% of active devices by Monday, September 21. As of the time of writing, it has reached 30.7%.
- Apple’s Swift comes to Windows. The programming language is available on Windows for the first time, six years after its debut on Apple platforms.
- Schoolwork 2.1 beta released. The updated iPad app for teachers and students is now in beta. Apps that use the latest ClassKit will be more discoverable by teachers in Schoolwork.
- Amazon announces a gaming streaming service, Luna. A competitor to Microsoft xCloud and Google Stadia, Luna will allow gamers to stream titles to play across PC, Mac and iOS mobile web. Over 50 titles will be included at launch, including a Sonic game and Remedy Entertainment’s Control. Ubisoft titles will be available on subscription. Twitch integration will be a key selling point.
- Microsoft launches Xbox remote play streaming on Android. This is not xCloud, but rather a rebrand of the service previously called Console Streaming. The games stream directly from your Xbox One console to your Android courtesy of Microsoft’s new Xbox app for Android.
- UK launches a COVID-19 exposure notification app for England and Wales. Northern Ireland and Scotland had already launched official apps. All apps use smartphones’ Bluetooth radios to generate alerts of potential exposure to COVID-19.
- Samsung TV+ comes to phones. Free, ad-supporting streaming service makes the leap to Samsung devices.
- Adobe rolls out new ‘Liquid Mode’ in Adobe’s Acrobat Reader app for iOS and Android. The feature uses Adobe’s AI engine, Sensei, to analyze a PDF and automatically rebuild it for mobile devices. Adobe says it’s working on an API that will allow similar functionality for non-Adobe apps in the future.
- Fintech apps top 1.2B installs worldwide in Q2 (report).
- Time spent in education apps was up 90% year-over-year during the week of September 6, 2020, compared to last year, on a global basis. The numbers, via App Annie, were calculated on Android devices online. In the U.S., time spent was up 30%.
- Home screen customization apps top the App Store. Top 20 iOS home screen customization apps reached at least 13.7 million installs and more than $1 million in consumer spending in the seven days following the iOS 14 release. Pinterest also broke its daily download record as users sought new inspiration.
- Telepath launches a “kinder” social networking app. It aims to promote quality conversation and ban harassment and fake news. Easier said than done on today’s internet.
- Child tips off security researchers about scam apps with 2.4 million downloads. The scam involved apps posing as entertainment, wallpaper images or music download apps targeting young users. Some served intrusive ads even when the app wasn’t active. Others charged users, gaining revenues of over $500K. The apps were available across iOS and Android.
- Epic rejects Apple’s attempts to disparage its business. Apple tried to claim that interest in Fortnite declined 70% from October 2019 to July 2020. Epic said, no actually, daily active players grew 39% during those dates. The two sides are fighting over Apple’s right to commission Epic’s business in a continuing legal battle.
- Apple acquires Scout FM. Apple bought a startup called Scout FM that turns podcast listening into more of a traditional radio-like experience by leveraging the user’s listening history to know what sort of programming they like. Deal terms are unknown.
- Epic Games acquires SuperAwesome. Epic acquired the kidtech pioneer whose digital engagement tools are used by 500 million kids per month across thousands of apps, including those from Lego, NBCU and Hasbro. Deal terms were not disclosed.
- IRL app raises $16 million. Event discovery network IRL raised $16 million in Series B funding after refocusing its social calendar on virtual events during the pandemic. The move made the app, now with 5.5 million MAUs, accessible by a wider audience.
- GoodRx IPO raises $1 billion+. GoodRx, an app that helps users comparison shop prices for prescription drugs, sold roughly 34.6 million shares at its IPO price to raise $1.14 billion at a valuation of $12.67 billion, sending its stock up 50%.
- Robinhood raises $660 million. Stock trading app Robinhood raised $660 million in an extension of its Series G round announced last month when D1 Capital Partners invested $200 million. Robinhood is now valued at $11.7 billion.
- Class for Zoom raises $16 million. Class for Zoom from ClassEDU is designed to make online teaching more engaging. The company was founded by former Blackboard CEO and former PrecisionHawk CEO Michael Chasen.
- Mobile Premier League raises $90 million. Indian mobile gaming platform Mobile Premier League (MPL) raised $90 million as the company looks to expand its esports and gaming platform outside India.
- Rappi raises over $300 million. Colombian delivery app Rappi raised over $300 million in a round from T. Rowe Price Associates and others.
How could you not be customizing your iOS 14 home screen this week? The launch of the new mobile OS has delivered an entirely new category of apps — widget design tools. And alongside these apps, there are others that can help you get started creating a whole new look for your home screen. These could be creative tools, those for sourcing inspiration or those for building custom icons. Want a weekend project? These apps below can get you going:
- Pinterest: Search for ideas and inspiration to get your motivation. Download wallpapers and other photos you may want to use with your icons.
- Widgetsmith: The current No. 1 app lets you build all sorts of customized widgets in a range of colors and sizes.
- Color Widgets: The current No. 2 app offers a customizable widget that can feature the date, time, day of the week and battery percentage for the top of your home screen.
- Photo Widget: Simple: Another top app that lets you pick a single photo for placement on your home screen.
- Motivation – Daily Quotes: A top 30 app lets you pin some daily inspirational quotes to your home screen.
- Launcher and Launch Center Pro: these two apps include tools for creating custom icons.
- PicsArt: For more creative types, PicsArt is great for sourcing photos and designing backgrounds and icons either from scratch or by remixing those others have already made.
- Canva: The DIY design tool has added a collection of iOS home screen templates.
- TuneTrack: If you want a Spotify widget, this app is your best option for now as no official widget is available.
- Fonts: Why stop at the home screen? customize your keyboard theme to match your new design.
- Fantastical: Now includes a dozen widgets for date, weather, calendar, events and more.
- Etsy: Can’t DIY? Designers are turning to Etsy to sell packs of icons and widget cover photos that will let you create a beautiful home screen without doing all the creative work yourself.