Welcome back to This Week in Apps, the weekly TechCrunch series that recaps the latest mobile OS news, mobile applications, and the overall app economy. The app industry continues to grow, with a record 218 billion downloads and $143 billion in global consumer spending in 2020. Consumers last year also spent 3.5 trillion minutes using apps on Android devices alone. And in the U.S., app usage surged ahead of the time spent watching live TV. Currently, the average American watches 3.7 hours of live TV per day but now spends four hours per day on their mobile devices.
Apps aren’t just a way to pass idle hours — they’re also a big business. In 2019, mobile-first companies had a combined $544 billion valuation, 6.5x higher than those without a mobile focus. In 2020, investors poured $73 billion in capital into mobile companies — a figure that’s up 27% year-over-year.
This week we’re looking at more Clubhouse competitors, including Facebook’s first test of its Live Audio Rooms in the U.S. and Spotify’s launch of its Greenroom app for live discussions across an array of topics. Also, Amazon is reducing its Appstore fees after similar moves by Apple and Google.
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Spotify launches its Clubhouse competitor
In March, Spotify announced it was acquiring the company behind the sports-focused audio app Locker Room to help speed its entry into the live audio market. This week, the company made good on that deal with the launch of Spotify Greenroom, a new mobile app and likely Clubhouse rival that allows Spotify users worldwide to join or host live audio rooms and optionally turn those conversations into podcasts.
The Spotify Greenroom app is based on Locker Room’s existing code, with the earlier Locker Room app updating to become Greenroom. To join the new app, Spotify users sign in with their current Spotify account information. They’re then walked through an onboarding experience designed to connect them with their interests. Spotify considers the app a soft launch, as it has plans to announce shows later this summer. Its also funding shows through a new Creator Fund, whose details have not yet been revealed at this time.
Longer-term, the company believes it will take advantage of its personalization tech to make intelligent recommendations about live shows, based on what music or podcasts a user listens to, and could notify users when favorite creators go live. The more considerable advantage Spotify has here is that its Greenroom sessions are recorded. After a show wraps, the creator can request an audio file to turn into a podcast episode. This ability to straddle both worlds of live and recorded audio could prove to be more valuable as the post-COVID world opens up, and users are no longer stuck at home, bored, able to tune in at any time to audio programs.