All posts in “iOS apps”

Local marketplace OfferUp takes on eBay with launch of nationwide shipping

OfferUp, the mobile marketplace for buying and selling locally, is expanding its sights beyond your neighborhood. Today, the company is announcing an expansion of its service that will now allow sellers to ship their items nationwide to interested buyers, potentially netting them a larger audience than if trying to sell only within their local community.

The feature to browse the items outside your area will appear in a separate “shipping” tab in the new version of the OfferUp app for iOS and Android, arriving today.

When sellers list an item, they’ll have the option to toggle on a switch to “sell & ship” nationwide. They then pick the item’s weight from the options that appear (up to 20 lbs). Items must also be under $500, and are shipped via USPS. Buyers are kept up-to-date on the item’s status through the app, as well.

Listing items for nationwide shipping is free. Sellers are paid after the item is sold, less a 7.9 percent fee, which goes to OfferUp. (This is less than eBay’s standard 10%).

The transaction fee represents a new revenue stream for OfferUp, which before had offered paid tools to promote items for sale, but not a cut of transactions.

The company declines to say how much it makes from its existing paid offerings and ads, or if it’s turning a profit. Likely it needs to enter into transactions like this, to grow its revenue and justify its $220 million in VC investment.

The move will also pit OfferUp in more direct competition with eBay, which it already outranks in the App Store’s Top Charts where it’s No. 3 to eBay’s No. 8 in the Shopping category. While eBay still has a much larger user base – 171 million globally active buyers, as of its most recent earnings for example – OfferUp has managed to grow to over 42 million uniques during the past 12 months, just here in the U.S.

The company claims to reach buyers and sellers across the country, and not just in urban metros. And it claims its buyers are interested in a range of products, as opposed to favoring those in a single category or two.

“I think that’s why people come back so often,” says OfferUp co-founder and CEO Nick Huzar, when explaining why users will return to the app, on average, 2 or 3 times per day. While furniture is popular because it’s a local marketplace, he adds, OfferUp users browse all kinds of things – from electronics to clothing to baby needs and even cars.

“It’s not like Amazon where it’s very intent-based – where you know what you want. OfferUp is more discovery-based. You go in there and you kind of look around and you find that thing you didn’t think you wanted that you end up buying,” Huzar says.

The app has also grown in popularity because of its systems to make transactions more trusted than those on Craigslist, which has been one of OfferUp’s bigger competitors to date, along with Facebook’s Buy/Sell Groups. Users on OfferUp can optionally verify their identity with Driver’s License uploads, and/or by confirming their phone number, Facebook or email. Users can also rate transactions, and see sellers’ response rate to questions, among other things.

The shipping feature has been in testing for a few months prior to today’s nationwide launch across the 48 contiguous U.S. states. To gain access to the option, you’ll need to update to the latest version of the OfferUp app on iOS or Android.

Aloe Bud is the adorable self-care app you’ve been waiting for

The buzz or chime of a push notification on your phone is, at best, a distraction, and at worst, a source of stress and anxiety. A new app called Aloe Bud wants to make those push notifications into something more welcome: gentle reminders to take care of yourself and your own needs. With its configurable reminders, Aloe Bud will encourage you to take a break, drink water, move your body, rest, breathe, and more.

The app is the latest to enter the booming “self-care” market, which caters to a largely younger demographic who are better handling the pressures of modern-day life by carving out time for themselves to mediate, relax, and practice other mindfulness techniques. Some older folks have scoffed at the movement, claiming millennials are too self-involved – or they just scratch their head in confusion. (“Mindfulness?”)

But there’s real demand for these self-care applications and services – in the first quarter of the year, the top ten self-care apps pulled in $15 million in revenue. Now who’s scoffing?

However, most of the self-care apps today are focused on meditation and calming techniques, not on the day-to-day aspects of self-care.

That’s where Aloe Bud comes in.

Even cynics will have to admit the app is kind of adorable with its soft color scheme and its original, retro-ish pixel art icons.

It’s also simple to use – there’s no sign-up process where you have to give your name, email or phone number. No “friend-finding” function, nor the competitive pressures of joining yet another social network, where people can track your activity and judge you accordingly. Instead, the app launches you right into a simple screen where you tap icons like “hydrate,” “breathe,” or “motivate” to set up when and how you want to be reminded. You can choose to use Aloe Bud without reminders by just checking in to those activities, if you prefer, and you can use it for journaling, too.

If you plan on using Aloe Bud long-term, you’ll probably want to pop for the $4.99 expansion pack which includes different versions of the reminder texts so your notifications’ messaging doesn’t become too routine. However, the app itself is free to use.

The idea for Aloe Bud – whose name is meant to invoke the soothing qualities of the Aloe plant – comes from Amber Discko.

Discko’s background in community, social, and development led to a number of opportunities over the years, including running social media for the popular Denny’s Twitter account, working as a creative strategist at Tumblr, founding the online publication and community Femsplain, and working on the digital organizing team for the Hillary for America campaign.

When the election was over, Discko needed to recover, and turned to self-care apps.

“I found myself destroyed mentally afterwards. I wasn’t leaving the house at all. I needed to find a way to get myself back to a grounded normal state,” they said.

Discko then tried a number of other self-care apps, but didn’t feel any of them did the trick.

“I didn’t find myself really keeping with it. I either forgot about the app, or I felt like they were shaming me, so I deleted them right away,” Discko said. “I couldn’t find one that felt like it worked for my personal needs – I’m a sensitive person. I work best with positive, encouraging reinforcement,” they added.

Aloe Bud was born of these frustrations, but originally as an online community where people could check in with their self-care routines. However, there was growing demand to turn the self-care system into an app. To raise the funds for the app’s development, Discko ran a Kickstarter campaign, which led to 1,538 backers donating over $50,000 to the cause.

A year later, Aloe Bud officially arrived, with help from the development team Lickability (Houseparty, Jet, Meetup), user interface designer Tin Kadoic, and pixel art icon designer Katie Belton.

The app went up on the Apple App Store this week, and was pre-ordered by 1,000 people. By day one, it had already gained 5,000 downloads.

Aloe Bud is deceptively simple. A lot of care and research actually went into its making, as it turns out.

Discko worked with a mental health researcher to help craft the app, and referenced other research in the space, as well. They even carefully selected language in the app so it wouldn’t be triggering – for example, the reminders to eat aren’t referenced as “food,” which people have hang-ups about (or possibly even eating disorders). Instead, it’s referenced as “fuel.”

Aloe Bud is not for everyone, but it will make sense for those who appreciate little reminders to take care of ourselves – like those in Apple Watch, which now alerts you to stand and to breathe, for example.

And it could be especially useful for those who work online, or who face ongoing harassment because of their work – something Discko is familiar with, too.

“I was getting toxic push notifications and it was really destroying my sanity for a while. I deleted Twitter off my phone and replaced it with Aloe Bud,” said Discko. “I encourage a lot of people to do that.”

Aloe Bud is a free download for iOS.

iOS 11’s new App Store boosts downloads by 800% for Featured apps

When Apple launched its new App Store in iOS 11 back in September, it aimed to offer app developers better exposure, as well as a better app discovery experience for consumers. A new study from Sensor Tower out today takes a look at how well that’s been working in the months since. According to its findings, getting a featured spot on the new App Store can increase downloads by as much as 800 percent, with the “App of the Day” or “Game of the Day” spots offering the most impact.

The app store intelligence firm examined data from September 2017 to present day to come to its conclusions, it says.

During this time, median U.S. iPhone downloads for apps that snagged the “Game of the Day” spot increased by 802 percent for the week following the feature, compared to the week prior to being featured.

“App of the Day” apps saw a boost of 685 percent.

Being featured in other ways – like in one of the new App Store Stories or in an App List – also drove downloads higher, by 222 percent and 240 percent, respectively.

The numbers seem to indicate that Apple is achieving the results it wanted with the release of its redesigned App Store.

Over the years, Apple’s app marketplace had grown so large that finding new apps had become challenging. And developers sometimes found ways to bump their apps higher in the top charts for exposure, leaving iPhone owners wondering if a new app was really that popular, or if it was some sort of paid promotion.

The iOS 11 App Store, on the other hand, has taken more of an editorial viewpoint to its app recommendations. While the top charts haven’t gone away, the focus these days is on what Apple thinks is best – not the wisdom of the masses. Apple has applied its editorial eye to things like timely round-ups of apps; curated, thematic collections; as well as articles about apps and interviews with developers. Apple also picks an app and game to feature daily, so the App Store always has fresh content and a reason for users to return.

The end result is something that’s more akin to a publication about apps, instead of a just an app marketplace.

What’s most interesting, then, in Sensor Tower’s report, are what sort of app publishers Apple has chosen to feature.

Apple had touted the App Store changes would be a way to give smaller developers more exposure. But if you’ve popped into the App Store from time to time, you may have noticed that big publishers – not indies – were having their apps featured.

In fact, an early report about the App Store revamp criticized Apple for giving big publishers too much attention. It said that apps from brands like Starbucks and CBS, or game makers like EA and Glu, weren’t exactly hurting for downloads.

But Apple’s favoring of big publishers is only true to a point, says Sensor Tower.

It found that 13 of the top 15 featured publishers (by number of features) had at least one million U.S. iPhone downloads since the launch of the new App Store last September. It’s not surprising that Apple wants to highlight these publishers. Many of them, and particularly the game publishers, have multiple popular apps. So when their apps get an update or they have a new release, consumers pay attention.

Apple, of course, wants to capitalize on that consumer interest because it shares in the revenue app publishers generate through things like paid downloads, in-app purchases and subscriptions.

However, Apple isn’t only giving the limelight to large publishers, says Sensor Tower.

It also found that 29 percent of the apps it has feature since the launch of the revamped App Store were from publishers who had fewer than 10,000 downloads during that time.

“While it’s clearly the case that big publishers are more likely to receive the largest number of features, small publishers still very much have their chance to benefit from a feature on the App Store,” said Sensor Tower’s Mobile Insights Analyst, Jonathan Briskman.

Though Sensor Tower’s published report focused only on the iOS App Store, it’s worth noting how it compares with Google Play.

Getting a featured spot on Google’s app store isn’t as impactful, the firm tells TechCrunch. The largest week-over-week increase to the median it saw there was only around 200 percent.

Image credits, all: Sensor Tower 

U.S. iPhone users spent 23% more in apps in 2017 than the year before

Games, dating apps and streaming services contributed to a rise in consumer spending in iPhone apps last year, according to new data from app store intelligence firm, Sensor Tower. The firm found that U.S. iPhone users spent 23 percent more on in-app purchases in 2017 than they did the year prior – or, an average of $58 per active user was spent on in-app purchases, up from $47 in 2016.

To be clear, this is only on purchases made within an app using Apple’s in-app purchase or subscription mechanisms. It’s not tracking e-commerce purchases – like things users bought in Amazon – or payments made to service providers in an app like Uber or Lyft.

Games were the largest category of consumers spending in 2017, accounting for roughly $36 of the $58 spent per device; or 62 percent of the spending. That’s a 13 percent increase over 2016’s $32 spent.

It’s no surprise that the biggest driver of iPhone spending is games.

The category typically outweighs all others in terms of revenue, not only for paid downloads, but for the ongoing purchases of things like virtual goods, unlocking levels, in-app currency, and the other extra features that mobile games offer. And because people play some types of games for long periods of time – like MMORPGs – they have many opportunities to spend on in-game items.

So while it’s notable that in-app spending in games is up by a few dollars, year-over-year, the more interesting trend is the rise in in-app spending generated by Lifestyle apps and subscription-based streaming services.

Specifically, outside of games, Entertainment apps – which includes streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, HBO NOW, etc. – grew 57 percent year-over-year to reach $4.40 in consumer spending per device. That makes it the largest category of spending outside games.

Music is also another big category for spending, up 8 percent year-over-year to $4.10. Much of what people are paying for in a music app is a subscription for the premium tier of the service, as with Pandora or Spotify. If this category was combined with Entertainment – which is also growing thanks to subscriptions – you’d see that streaming services are now a big factor contributing to the overall rise in U.S. consumer spending in iPhone apps.

But subscriptions to other types of services are growing, too.

Lifestyle apps, led by dating apps like Tinder and Bumble, grew 110 percent from 2016 to 2017 to reach $2.10 in iPhone consumer spending per device.

Spending in social media apps was up by 38 percent, to $3.60 thanks to things like in-app tipping (e.g., Periscope, YouTube Gaming), subscriptions (e.g. LinkedIn memberships), and other activity (e.g. call credits in Skype).

Twitch has oddly categorized itself as a “Photo & Video” app, in case you’re wondering where it fits in.

While Sensor Tower’s published report focused on iPhone consumer spending, the company tells TechCrunch that Android spending on Google Play was much lower last year.

“We estimate that for each active Android device in the U.S. last year, approximately $38 was spent on Google Play – on and in apps – so about $20 less than iOS,” said Sensor Tower’s head of mobile insights, Randy Nelson. “That tracks with the disparity in revenue generation we see between the stores outside the per-device level,” he added. “Android users generally spend less on or in apps, Google Play generated about 60 percent of the App Store’s revenue last year in the U.S.”

However, he pointed that Android users have more than one official store to buy from – like the Amazon Appstore or Samsung Store, for example. Some apps also choose not to monetize directly through Google Play, which is an option not permitted on Apple’s App Store.

The increase in consumer spending isn’t the only significant trend Sensor Tower spotted.

iPhone app installs in the U.S. were up nearly 10 percent from 2016 to 2017, with users installing an average of 4 more apps in 2017 compared with the prior year.

Games, again, were a big source for installs, followed by Photo & Video apps, Entertainment apps, Social Networking and Utilities.

In total, users had installed an average of 45 apps on their iPhone apps in 2017, the firm found.

Correction, 4/13/17, 1 PM ET: users have installed 45 apps over the past year; that’s not the number of installed app; the post has been updated with clarified wording. Apologies for the confusion. 

App Store shrank for first time in 2017 thanks to crackdowns on spam, clones and more

The App Store shrank for the first time in 2017, according to a new report from Appfigures. The report found the App Store lost 5 percent of its total apps over the course of the year, dropping from 2.2 million published iOS apps in the beginning of the year to 2.1 million by year-end.

Google Play, meanwhile, grew in 2017 — it was up 30 percent to more than 3.6 million apps.

Appfigures speculated the changes had to do with a combination of factors, including stricter enforcement of Apple’s review guidelines, along with a technical change requiring app developers to update their apps to the 64-bit architecture.

Apple had also promised back in 2016 that it would clean up its iOS App Store by removing outdated, abandoned apps, including those that no longer met current guidelines or didn’t function as intended. That cleanup may have well stretched into 2017, as app store intelligence firms only started seeing the effects in late 2016. For example, there was a spike in app removals back in October 2016.

Then in 2017, Apple went after clones and spam apps on the App Store. Combined with those apps that weren’t 64-bit compatible and those that hadn’t been downloaded in years, the removals reached into the hundreds of thousands over a 12-month period. Apple later went after template-based apps, too, before dialing back its policies over concerns it was impacting small businesses’ ability to compete on the App Store.

To see the App Store shrink, given these clear-outs, isn’t necessarily surprising. However, Appfigures found that removals of existing apps weren’t the only cause. iOS developers weren’t releasing as many apps as they had during the growth years, it also claims.

Android developers launched 17 percent more apps in 2017 to reach 1.5 million total new releases. But iOS developers launched just 755,00 new apps — a 29 percent drop and the largest drop since 2008.

But this doesn’t necessarily mean developers weren’t creating as many iOS apps — it could mean that Apple’s review team has gotten tougher about how many apps it allows in. Thanks to the spam and clone app crackdown, fewer apps of questionable quality are being approved these days.

In addition, some portion of the new Android app releases during the year were iOS apps being ported to the Google Play platform. More than twice as many apps came to Android in 2017 than Android apps coming to iOS, the report said.

The full report also developed into the numbers of cross-platform apps (450,000 are on both stores), the most popular non-native tools (Cordova and Unity), the rise in native development, the countries shipping the most apps (U.S. followed by China) and the Play Store’s growth.

It can be viewed here.