The Future of the Mobile App Economy

As a result of the unrest across Ukraine and Russia, Google recently announced the suspension of its Google Play billing and payment system for users in Russia.

This means that Google users in Russia will no longer be able to purchase mobile apps and games, renew subscription payments or complete in-app purchases of digital goods if using a Google Play account in Russia. 

With major transaction companies such as  Visa, Mastercard and American Express all suspending operations in Russia, making such payments in the future would be near impossible. Even if the App Store or Google Play had these cards on file, they would also stop working.

Major Brands Pull Out

Microsoft, Dell, Airbnb, Oracle, SAP, Adobe, Snap, PayPal, Amazon Prime Video and Netflix, also recently announced their decision to suspend their business operations in Russia citing difficulties relating to supporting Russian customers. 

Apple has also added Apple Pay and other services such as Apple Maps to their list of restricted products. According to research Apple’s iPhones are the third best-selling smartphone in Russia accounting for 13% of all handset sales.

Tik Tok was also compelled to suspend its live streaming for content creators in Russia whilst the Grocery app Buyk, had to furlough almost its entire staff. Spotify reported 1.5 million subscriber cancellations and Instagram was also banned by Russia due to actions taken by its parent company Meta. The following and follower lists and mutual friend lists of private Instagram accounts in Russia and Ukraine are now hidden as well.

Following the situation in Ukraine it was reported that the top 10 translation app downloads grew 71% in Ukraine, month over month driven mainly by refugees now seeking shelter in neighboring countries. The demand for VPN apps also spiked in Russia with downloads for the top five VPN apps increasing by a staggering 2,700%. Snapchat also turned off its heatmap feature in Ukraine mainly as a safety measure. 

Instacart get Interactive

Instacart the grocery delivery service rolled out a new framework for in-store navigation along with live phone support to the shoppers. Instacart users will be able to access an interactive map with the locations of individual items and also be connected with the Instacart call centre on a live basis. Users who require emergency assistance can report incidents and go through safety alerts as well directly from the app itself.

According to Instacart this new support feature will help shoppers with any issues that may arise during the shopping, payment or delivery process.

Split the bill with Uber Eats

For those coming out of the pandemic to the new normal Uber Eats has relaunched its group feature that now includes an option to split bills, so USA users can now each pay for their own food. This makes social dining more affordable and accessible to a wider market segment.

Twitter recently launched Twitter Shops, a mobile storefront that allows Twitter merchants to showcase upto 50 items directly on their Twitter profile, which users access via an in-app browser. Twitter uses can now also opt to bypass its algorithmic recommendation system so they can see more of what they want. Russian users can now access a special Tor service that allows users to bypass the government’s internet blocks.

Jumping on the digital music bandwagon, TikTok also recently launched SoundOn – its first music distribution platform. Artists can now share their music to all ByteDance’s platforms in addition to exposure on Pandora, Deezer, Apple Music and Spotify. 

Walmart is also offering its Walmart+ subscription customers six months of Spotify free streaming in a bid to add value to its member proposition. 

Garbo, a non-profit, will also offer its services to major dating platforms that will help filter background checks to remove non-violent minor drug charges or traffic tickets.

Instagram pushes Ahead

As Instagram continues to focus on Reels and other new functions it also removed its Boomerang and Hyperlapse mobile apps from app stores. The boomerang features were already integrated into the Instagram camera in any case. 

Instagram also continued to recognise content creators by adding tags to posts so that black and underrepresented creators received credit for their work. Instagram content creators can now tag people and also add a ‘Show Profile’ element that displays the creator’s category.

Facebook has rolled out new features that will benefit group admins. In addition to being able to automatically decline incoming posts with information marked false by fact-checkers, the new features also make it possible for group admins to suspend group participants from reacting, participating posting and commenting in group chats.

The android app development Android photos, now includes Google Photos’ Portrait Blur feature that automatically blurs the background on photos of people it detects intelligently. 

Telegram adds more Features

The Telegram messaging app introduced a new menu that allows users to remove or rearrange album items alongside previewing before sharing. 

The app also introduced a download manager, so Telegram users can manage files that are being downloaded including prioritizing, pausing and resuming active download files. Users can also experience new pages that can link to the user’s phone number. This facility enables users to chat with someone without sharing your phone number.

Microsoft also removed its Minecraft mobile game from the Russian App Store and Google Play further impacting the app ecosystem.

Meta also announced that its Quest 2 VR headset will now work with the Apple Health app so app users can monitor different elements such as calories burned or active time spent. Fitness enthusiasts can also keep track and monitor their goals and fitness journey progress using this information.

Google’s Gboard keyboard now also comes with a handy grammar correction feature that will detect problems and offer suggestions as you type. 

South Korea has brought in new rules that limit app store operators from demanding app developers such as Elegant Media to use a specific payment method and must not inconvenience users who choose to pay with third-party payment methods, with big fines for those who fail to follow the new ruling.

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