AppleSherlocks, the pushes of Instagram and a TikTok-Oracle partnership

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Today’s consumers now spend more time in apps than ever before — even topping the time they spend watching TV, in some cases. The average American watches 3.1 hours of TV per day, for example, but in 2021, they spent 4.1 hours on their mobile device. And they’re not even the world’s heaviest mobile users. In markets like Brazil, Indonesia and South Korea, users surpassed five hours per day in mobile apps in 2021. Apps aren’t just a way to pass idle hours, either. They can grow to become huge businesses. In 2021, 233 apps and games generated more than $100 million in consumer spend, and 13 topped $1 billion in revenue. This was up 20% from 2020, when 193 apps and games topped $100 million in annual consumer spend, and just eight apps topped $1 billion.

Welcome back to This Week in Apps, a weekly TechCrunch feature that highlights the latest in mobile OS news, mobile apps, and the app ecosystem in general. According to the most recent year-end figures, the app business continues to thrive, with a record amount of downloads and consumer expenditure across both the iOS and Google Play stores combined in 2021. In 2021, China spent $170 billion on iOS, Google Play, and third-party Android app stores, up 19 percent from the previous year. App downloads increased by 5% to 230 billion in 2021, while mobile ad spending increased by 23% year over year to $295 billion.

Highlights

  • In addition, Instagram will now allow parents and guardians to send invitations to teens to initiate the setup of supervision tools. Once enabled, they’ll be able to limit their teen’s usage of the app during specific times of day and days of the week. They’ll also be able to see more information when the teen reports an account or a post, including who they reported and the type of report. For parents who were already using parental controls in the U.S., the feature will be updated to include these new features.

  • 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 suggestions about new apps to try, too. Do you want This Week in Apps in your inbox every Saturday? Sign up here: techcrunch.com/newsletters. This week, Instagram said it’s rolling out its own set of improvements to the teen experience. It’s expanding access to its existing parental control features outside the U.S. to users in the U.K., Japan, Australia, Ireland, Canada, France and Germany starting this month, and plans to make them globally available by year end.

Of course, by limiting nudges to the Explore page, Instagram isn’t fully addressing the problem as users could still encounter this content while browsing their Feed, Stories or Reels. But in that case, the content is there because the user explicitly chose to follow someone — which is why parental monitoring of the time spent on the app remains important.

Notably, Meta is also now taking a cue from last fall’s congressional line of inquiry into how Instagram’s algorithms could be leading teens to develop eating disorders as searches for healthy recipes push them down rabbit holes to content that encourages disordered eating, over-exercise and other things that could trigger negative body image issues. Instagram says it will roll out “nudges” in the app that encourage teens to switch to a different topic if it sees them repeatedly looking at the same type of content on the Explore page. This feature aims to help direct them away to content they may be obsessing over to discover something new. It also won’t nudge users toward content that’s associated with “appearance comparison,” the company said.

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