Sling TV adds personalized recommendations, launching first on Apple TV

Sling TV, Dish’s live TV streaming service, will now make personalized suggestions of what to watch. The company this week introduced a new recommendations feature that will highlight the shows, movies, sports and news content it believes you’ll like, based on your viewing history. The feature is initially available on Apple TV, but will roll […]

Sling TV, Dish’s live TV streaming service, will now make personalized suggestions of what to watch. The company this week introduced a new recommendations feature that will highlight the shows, movies, sports and news content it believes you’ll like, based on your viewing history.

The feature is initially available on Apple TV, but will roll out to other platforms in the future, the company says.

To access recommendations, Apple TV users can visit a new “Recommended for You” ribbon in the “My TV” section which will feature its suggestions of both live and on-demand content. The recommendations will also respect any parental control settings you’ve set up, so younger users won’t be able to watch the adult-themed content you’ve restricted.

Unfortunately, Sling TV doesn’t support user profiles, which means recommendations may be hit or miss.

It’s a little surprising that Sling TV hasn’t included recommended content like this, until now. Recommendations, and more broadly, personalization technology, have become table stakes in the streaming business – and beyond. Music services, podcast apps, news aggregators, and even our voice assistants are becoming services we customize to our own liking. Or they leverage A.I. to put together unique suggestions for their individual users. Or both.

Sling TV, launched four years ago, was one of the first services to offer live TV over the internet. That means it’s had more time than newer rivals – like DirecTV Now, Hulu with Live TV or YouTube TV, for example – to develop its own recommendation system.

The company says that recommendations are the first of more personalization updates still to come.

In the months ahead, it also notes it will improve the content recommendations and will make the browsing experience easier.

That’s much needed because way Sling TV has implemented recommendations – a ribbon of content – is fairly basic in comparison with others. Netflix, for instance, finds numerous ways to suggest content – “top picks” based on viewing history along with other suggestions based specific shows you’ve been watching, for starters. And this is mixed in with editorial and categorized suggestions (e.g. “binge-worthy shows), new releases, popular and trending content, among other things.

Meanwhile, Hulu recently rolled out features that let users explicitly inform the service’s recommendation engine – like a “stop suggesting” button that tells Hulu you dislike a show. YouTube TV is capitalizing on its larger video network’s recommendation technology to make its own “top picks” suggestions, and it points users to suggested content on YouTube for whatever show or movie they’re viewing.

Sling TV will need to ramp up in terms of personalization quickly to better compete as these others become more advanced.

“The ‘Recommended for You’ ribbon is just the beginning of more personalization updates to come,” wrote  Sling TV’s Vice president of product management, Jimshade Chaudhari, in the announcement. “We’re working to improve personalization in the app and create a more engaging and interesting viewing experience, so you can expect Sling to debut more helpful features,” he said.

 

Netflix thinks ‘Fortnite’ is a bigger threat than HBO

Netflix thinks “Fortnite” is a bigger threat to its business than HBO. The company in its latest quarterly earnings report released on Thursday said that while its streaming service now accounts for around 10 percent of TV screen time in the U.S., it no longer views its competition only as those services also providing TV […]

Netflix thinks “Fortnite” is a bigger threat to its business than HBO. The company in its latest quarterly earnings report released on Thursday said that while its streaming service now accounts for around 10 percent of TV screen time in the U.S., it no longer views its competition only as those services also providing TV content and streaming video.

“We compete with (and lose to) ‘Fortnite more than HBO,” the company’s shareholder letter stated. “When YouTube went down globally for a few minutes in October, our viewing and signups spiked for that time…There are thousands of competitors in this highly-fragmented market vying to entertain consumers and low barriers to entry for those with great experiences.”

In other words, Netflix today sees its competition as anyone in the business of entertaining their customers, and eating up their hours of free time in the process. That includes breakout gaming hits like “Fortnite.”

Netflix’s statement comes at a time when the internet, mobile and gaming have been shifting consumer’s focus and attention away from watching TV.

In fact, all the way back in 2012, mobile industry experts were warning that time spent in mobile apps was beginning to challenge television. And a few years ago, apps finally came out on top. For the first time ever, time spent inside apps exceeded that of TV.

Fortnite, in particular, has capitalized on this change in consumer behavior and has now grown to over 200 million players. (Netflix just reached 139 million, for comparison’s sake.)

In 2018, Fortnite – along with other multiplayer games like PUBG – pushed forward a trend toward cross-platform gaming that’s capable of reaching consumers wherever they are, similar to streaming apps like Netflix. According to a recent report from App Annie, this is just the tip of the iceberg, too. Cross-platform gaming, including not only Fortnite and PUBG, but also whatever comes next – is poised to grow even further in 2019.

Notably, Fortnite, too, has become a place where you don’t just go to play – but rather “hang out.” For kids and young adults, the game has replaced the mall or other parts of the city where kids and teens just go to be around friends and socialize, wrote tech writer Owen Williams, recently, on his blog Charged.

“Not only is Fortnite the new hangout spot, replacing the mall, Starbucks or just loitering in the city, it’s become the coveted ‘third place’ for millions of people around the world,” he said.

Roblox, with it over 70 million players, serves a similar purpose.

That means it’s also a real threat to Netflix’s time. If gamers are hanging around a virtual space with friends, they have less time to stream TV. (And perhaps – given that many of the youngest Netflix never got cable to begin with – less desire to watch TV to begin with.)

“I think about it really is as winning time away, entertainment time from other activities,” said Netflix CEO Reed Hastings on Thursday, discussing the threat from those competing for users’ time. “So, instead of doing Xbox or Fortnite or youTube or HBO or a long list, we want to win and provide a better experience. No advertising on demand. Incredible content,” he said.

NPR turns comedy game show ‘Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me!’ into an Alexa and Google voice app

NPR is turning its popular game show program “Wait, Wait…Don’t Tell Me!” into a voice application for smart speakers, including both Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant-powered devices. The new app lets listeners play along at home by answering the fill-in-the-blank questions from this week’s news – just like the players do on the NPR podcast […]

NPR is turning its popular game show program “Wait, Wait…Don’t Tell Me!” into a voice application for smart speakers, including both Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant-powered devices. The new app lets listeners play along at home by answering the fill-in-the-blank questions from this week’s news – just like the players do on the NPR podcast and radio show, that’s today aired on more than 720 NPR Member stations.

Also like the NPR program, the new smart speaker game includes the voice talent of the comedy quiz show’s hosts, Peter Sagal and Bill Kurtis.

To get started, you just say either “Alexa, open Wait Wait Quiz” or “Hey Google, talk to the Wait Wait Quiz,” depending on your device.

After hearing the question, you can then speak – or shout – your answer at your smart speaker to find out if you got it right.

The game is five minutes long and updated every week, NPR says.

In addition to bragging rights around your home if you win, game players get to compete for an offbeat prize – the chance to have the show’s talent personalize their voicemail, as well as hear their name announced on the air.

The new game was developed in collaboration with VaynerMedia’s internet-of-things-division, VaynerSmart, NPR notes.

It’s not NPR’s first foray into the smart speaker market, but it is its first game.

To date, NPR’s other voice apps have included news briefings, like Up First, News Now, and Story of the Day (plus its variations like World Story of the Day; Business Story of the Day). NPR also offers a live radio app and its NPR One app, as well as dedicated apps for its Planet Money program.

NPR’s continual expansion into smart speakers has to do with the growing popularity of these devices. Its own Smart Audio Report says that 53 million people (or 21% of the adult population) now own one of these devices, and it wants its content there to reach them.

 

 

Twitter bug revealed some Android users’ private tweets

Twitter accidentally revealed some users’ “protected” (aka, private) tweets, the company disclosed this afternoon. The “Protect your Tweets” setting typically allows people to use Twitter in a non-public fashion. These users get to approve who can follow them and who can view their content. For some Android users over a period of several years, that may […]

Twitter accidentally revealed some users’ “protected” (aka, private) tweets, the company disclosed this afternoon. The “Protect your Tweets” setting typically allows people to use Twitter in a non-public fashion. These users get to approve who can follow them and who can view their content. For some Android users over a period of several years, that may not have been the case – their tweets were actually made public as a result  of this bug.

The company says that the issue impacted Twitter for Android users who made certain account changes while the “Protect your Tweets” option was turned on.

For example, if the user had changed their account email address, the “Protect your Tweets” setting was disabled.

Twitter tells TechCrunch that’s just one example of an account change that could have prompted the issue. We asked for other examples, but the company declined share any specifics.

What’s fairly shocking is how long this issue has been happening.

Twitter says that users may have been impacted by the problem if they made these accounts changes between November 3, 2014, and January 14, 2019 – the day the bug was fixed. 

The company has now informed those who were affected by the issue, and has re-enabled the “Protect your Tweets” setting if it had been disabled on those accounts. But Twitter says it’s making a public announcement because it “can’t confirm every account that may have been impacted.” (!!!)

The company explains to us it was only able to notify those people where it was able to confirm the account was impacted, but says it doesn’t have a complete list of impacted accounts. For that reason, it’s unable to offer an estimate of how many Twitter for Android users were affected in total.

This is a sizable mistake on Twitter’s part, as it essentially made content that users had explicitly indicated they wanted private available to the public. It’s unclear at this time if the issue will result in a GDPR violation and fine, as a result.

The one bright spot is that some of the impacted users may have noticed their account had become public because they would have received alerts – like notifications that people were following them without their direct consent. That could have prompted the user to re-enable the “protect tweets” setting on their own. But they may have chalked up the issue to user error or a small glitch, not realizing it was a system-wide bug.

“We recognize and appreciate the trust you place in us, and are committed to earning that trust every day,” wrote Twitter in a statement. “We’re very sorry this happened and we’re conducting a full review to help prevent this from happening again.”

The company says it believes the issue is now fully resolved.

Spotify launches Car View on Android to make using its app less dangerous behind the wheel

Spotify is making it easier to use its streaming app in the car, when the phone is connected to the vehicle over Bluetooth. The company today confirmed the launch of a new feature called “Car View,” which is a simplified version of the service’s Now Playing screen that includes larger fonts, bigger buttons, and no […]

Spotify is making it easier to use its streaming app in the car, when the phone is connected to the vehicle over Bluetooth. The company today confirmed the launch of a new feature called “Car View,” which is a simplified version of the service’s Now Playing screen that includes larger fonts, bigger buttons, and no distractions from album art. In Car View, you’re only shown the track title and artist, so you can read the screen with just a glance.

The site 9to5Google was the first to spot the feature’s appearance in Spotify’s settings. However, some users have had the option for weeks in what had appeared to be a slow rollout or possibly a test, pre-launch.

Spotify this morning formally announced the launch of Car View in a post to its Community Forums.

The company says the feature is currently available only on Android devices, and only when the device is connected over Bluetooth.

When the phone connects, Car View is automatically enabled when your music or podcast starts playing.

Above: Car View in action; credit: 9to5Google

While Spotify already offers several in-car experiences through integrations with other apps like Google Maps, Waze, as well as through Android Auto, using the music app while behind the wheel has been very distracting and difficult.

I’ve personally found Spotify so dangerous to navigate while in the car, that I just won’t use it unless I set it up to stream before I drive. Or, in some cases, I’ll hand the phone to a passenger to control instead.

Given the difficulty with Spotify in the car, Car View’s lack of support for those who use the app over an AUX cable is a little disappointing.There’s no good reason why users should not be allowed to manually enable Car View from the Settings, if they choose. After all, it’s just a change to the user interface of a single view – and it’s been built!

Of course, manually toggling Car View on might not feel as seamless as the Bluetooth experience, but a feature like this could prevent accidents caused by people fiddling with their phone in the car. Hopefully, Spotify will make Car View more broadly accessible in time.

According to Spotify, once Car View is enabled, you can access your Library, tap to Browse, or use Search. While listening, you can use the seek bar to skip to another part of the song.

In the case that a passenger is controlling the music on your phone, they can temporarily disable Car View by way of the three dots menu. And if, for some reason, you don’t want to use Car View, the feature can be disabled in the Settings. (But keep it on, OK?)

Spotify also noted Car View supports landscape view, and will arrive on iOS in the future. It didn’t offer a time frame.

Car View officially launched on Android this week, and is now rolling out globally to all users.

 

Streaming TV service Philo to launch a co-viewing feature for watching with friends

Following last year’s $40 million raise, low-cost streaming service Philo is preparing to further differentiate itself from rivals with the launch of a new feature that will allow viewers to watch shows together in real-time. With co-viewing, the company hopes to make a case for choosing Philo that goes beyond its affordability. Instead, the company […]

Following last year’s $40 million raise, low-cost streaming service Philo is preparing to further differentiate itself from rivals with the launch of a new feature that will allow viewers to watch shows together in real-time. With co-viewing, the company hopes to make a case for choosing Philo that goes beyond its affordability.

Instead, the company hopes subscribers will pick Philo simply because it’s a better way to watch TV.

It’s only been 14 months since Philo first introduced its take on the modern “skinny bundle” of TV delivered over the internet. The service opted to drop sports in order to keep the cost down, in order to appeal to budget-minded cord cutters, and particularly the younger demographic that never signed up for traditional TV in the first place.

Today, Philo subscribers can pay $16 per month for 43 entertainment and lifestyle channels – like those you’d find on cable TV – or you can opt top pay $20 for a larger bundle of 56 channels.

Since its debut, Philo has been quickly rolling out support for numerous platforms, including Fire TV, Apple TV, and Android TV. It also last year added user profiles, kicked off a referral program to boost its subscriber base, and introduced built-in sharing features.

While Philo won’t talk subscriber numbers yet, CEO Andrew McCollum told us at CES earlier this month that the service was growing 40 percent month-over-month, on average, throughout 2018.

For 2019, Philo aims to continue that trajectory, he said. And one way it’s planning to do so is through the launch of new product features.

“I feel like we have a really strong and unique offering, so it’s nice that people are responding to it,” McCollum said.

However, he admitted that, so far, what Philo offers is still very similar to cable TV – the very thing it aims to replace.

“We give you a lot of the same experience you can get on a cable box, only it works on all your devices. It’s an unlimited DVR. It’s all in the cloud. It’s much simpler. It’s got a lot better search and discovery…by default, we do a lot things to make it easier and better,” McCollum said. “But, by and large, it’s a similar experience to what you’re used to with cable.”

Now that’s about to change.

The company has developed a synchronization technology that will allow users to share links in order to invite friends and family to watch TV with them, at the same time.

This technology has been available on other platforms. For example, YouTube in 2017 launched an experimental app for watching videos with friends called Uptime. Tumblr tried, then shuttered, a similar app called Cabana. There are also apps like Let’s Watch It, Rabbit, and others. Even Facebook has been working on a co-watching feature.

But none of the live TV streaming services – like Sling TV, Hulu with Live TV, YouTube TV, PlayStation Vue, etc. – offer a way to co-watch TV with others.

McCollum said Philo’s co-watching feature is finished from a technical perspective, and the team is now polishing the user interface. The plan, at present, will have Philo subscribers using their TV and their phone in conjunction with one another to launch the co-viewing experience.

The way it works is this: After finding something to watch, you’ll be able to press a button to share a link with a friend through a text message. The friend opens the link on their own phone, casts the show to their TV, and Philo then links the two sessions together.

The team is finalizing how this all flows to make the process feel seamless and natural, with as few steps as possible, McCollum said. But the feature is ready to launch, and will arrive “soon.”

In addition to co-viewing, Philo is also working on a clever joint recommendations feature. With this, you and someone else – a roommate, a friend, or a significant other, for example – could connect your Philo profiles together in order to browse a set of recommendations based on your shared tastes and interests.

This may launch after the co-viewing experience, but the two features will be tied together at some point.

Also in 2019, Philo says it will explore expanding its service through add-ons. These may encompass premium cable channels (like Showtime and Starz, e.g.), premium digital content, or even traditional broadcasts networks, or sports channels.

“We want to balance creating more options with making sure people don’t feel like they’re being coerced into stuff they don’t care about,” said McCollum.

Philo’s coming updates could make the service more compelling at a time when there’s an overabundance of choice in terms of getting TV delivered over the internet. While on-demand video services like Netflix and Prime Video have amassed millions of subscribers, many consumers today are still deciding if they want to cut the cord with cable TV – only to replace it with something that looks very much like cable TV. Philo could encourage them to make the switch by offering something differentiated.

Philo to date has raised over $90 from investors including AMC Networks, Discovery, Viacom, A+E Networks, CBC New Media, NEA, Rho Ventures and Xfund.

(Image credits: Philo; images do not show the yet-to-launch features)

 

TV broadcaster Sinclair launches STIRR, a free streaming service with local news and sports

Local TV broadcasting company Sinclair Broadcast Group today announced the launch of a new streaming service called STIRR that aims to bring local TV news and other content to the growing number of cord cutters across the U.S. The company today owns more than 190 TV stations, which it’s leveraging in order to create its […]

Local TV broadcasting company Sinclair Broadcast Group today announced the launch of a new streaming service called STIRR that aims to bring local TV news and other content to the growing number of cord cutters across the U.S. The company today owns more than 190 TV stations, which it’s leveraging in order to create its own “skinny bundle.” However, unlike TV streaming services such as Sling TV, PlayStation Vue, Hulu with Live TV or YouTube TV, for example, STIRR will be free and ad-supported instead of a paid subscription.

The service will offer access to national news, sports, entertainment and digital-first channels and a video-on-demand library in addition to its local content, which serves as the anchor for the new service.

In a special channel called STIRR CITY (yes, all caps), the service will stream a curated, 24/7 program lineup based on where the viewer lives. This will include local news, local and regional sports, entertainment and city-focused lifestyle programming from the local Sinclair TV station in that city.

STIRR CITY joins other original channels developed for the service, including STIRR Movies (for some reason, no caps), STIRR Sports and STIRR Life.

STIRR Sports and Life will offer locally focused programs, we’re told. For example, the Sports channel may show high school football, and the Life channel might show a local lifestyle show like “Seattle Refined.” When local content isn’t available, the channels will be fleshed out with content aggregated from other networks on STIRR.

STIRR Movies will also be aggregated content, but the company is exploring additional deals, we’re told.

At launch, there are more than 20 national networks and digital-first stations available, but few are notable.

The list includes: BUZZR, Charge, Cheddar, Comet, CONtv, Dove Channel, DUST, FailArmy, Futurism, Gravitas, Mobcrush, MovieMix, NASA TV, Outdoor America, The Pet Collective, SOAR, Stadium, TBD, The T and World Poker Tour.

The company says it plans to grow its selection to more than 50 networks by the end of 2019.

It’s clear, however, that the network selection won’t be the draw here — it’s the local content.

Today, it’s still fairly difficult for cord cutters to access local programming. While consumers can use a digital antenna to capture over-the-air TV signals for free, it requires the installation of a not-very-aesthetically-pleasing antenna. (At least Amazon’s Fire TV Recast gives you the option of hiding the antenna in a back room so as not to junk up your entertainment center.)

But even with an antenna, signals can be hit-or-miss — some areas have poor reception, or are too far from the signal’s source for a good experience.

And while the new crop of live TV streaming services provide another means of accessing local channels, they are not free.

Plus, the live TV services include cloud DVRs, which subscribers use to record programs then skip the ads. STIRR doesn’t have a recording option, which may make it attractive to advertisers.

“Despite the explosive growth of new national over-the-top (OTT) services, local TV station’s programming, especially local news, has remained some of the most popular and desired content to audiences and advertisers alike,” said Adam Ware, STIRR’s General Manager, in a statement. “By creating the STIRR CITY channel format, local TV stations can now extend their programming strength to OTT,” he added.

Ware also points out that STIRR will give advertisers a way to reach a different demographic that is no longer watching traditional TV.

“Local broadcast traditionally skews older. Streaming skews younger,” he tells TechCrunch. “This brings the two together for the first time,” he says.

STIRR’s ad sales will be coordinated between Sinclair Digital, OTT Compulse and Sinclair’s local stations. And its ad revenue is shared with content partners. (The company hasn’t ruled out a premium version that eliminates ads, we understand, but has nothing like that at launch.)

Also of note, you don’t have to live in a particular city to tune into its local programming via STIRR. That’s good, too, because STIRR doesn’t have a presence in all major metros. But it will suggest your closest markets when you load the app.

One caveat about STIRR: while local programming is available, STIRR won’t stream the prime time shows that these networks carry — you’ll still need your antenna or a paid streaming service for that. (Or, if you’re like a growing number of TV viewers, you don’t watch much network TV these days, in favor of streaming shows on Netflix and Amazon.)

In time, STIRR’s selection of content could be enhanced by more regional sports channels, as it’s a top bidder for those being sold by Disney and Fox. That could make the service more compelling.

STIRR is available for free on the web, iOS, Android, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV and Roku.

*We’ve run into some launch bugs when testing STIRR, and have gotten page load errors when trying to access the Channel Guide. Hopefully these will smooth out in time as traffic stabilizes.

Sprint customers can now use Apple Business Chat to reach an agent

Sprint today announced it will support Apple’s Business Chat – the new platform that allows businesses and customers to interact over iMessage. According to the carrier, customers can now message a Sprint customer service agent, get info about plans and other services, as well as look up store information in Maps, Safari and with Siri […]

Sprint today announced it will support Apple’s Business Chat – the new platform that allows businesses and customers to interact over iMessage. According to the carrier, customers can now message a Sprint customer service agent, get info about plans and other services, as well as look up store information in Maps, Safari and with Siri during a chat session.

The support from Sprint comes after two other launches on the platform this week.

TD Ameritrade said it will allow customers to fund their brokerage accounts using Apple Pay on Apple Business Chat. And Gubagoo said it will connect car dealerships with customers through Business Chat for viewing inventory, plus scheduling test drives and service appointments.

Apple has been steadily growing its list of supported Business Chat partners, and today has a number of big brands on its platform, which is still in beta. These include names like 1-800-Contacts, DISH, Overstock.com, Quicken Loans, Kimpton Hotels, West Elm, Burberry, Vodafone, Wells Fargo, Credit Suisse, Jos A. Bank, Men’s Warehouse, The Home Depot, Hilton, Four Seasons, American Express, Harry & David, and several others.

The platform also supports integrations with customer service platforms LivePerson, Salesforce, Nuance, Genesys, InTheChat, Zendesk, Quiq, Cisco, Kipsu, Lithium, eGain, [24]7.ai, ContactAtOnce, Dimelo, Brand Embassy, ASAPP, IMImobile, and MessengerPeople, according to Apple’s website.

Business Chat was officially introduced at WWDC 2017, and is Apple’s entry into the business messaging and chatbot space.

Before its arrival, customers would generally reach out to businesses through social media sites like Facebook (e.g. Pages and Messenger; WhatsApp and Instagram) and Twitter. But Apple’s product gets the businesses even closer to the customer, as their chats can live alongside those from family and friends. Plus, they don’t have to share their data with a third-party.

For consumers, reaching a business through iMessage is also a bit easier at times.

A company’s Business Chat profile is highlighted across Apple’s iOS platform in areas like Safari, Maps, Spotlight, and via Siri. This makes it more seamless to move from one Apple app to an iMessage chat, compared with having to seek out the business’s social media profile.

It’s also less painful than having to dial a customer service phone number, in many cases – as Sprint today pointed out.

“More consumers are embracing quick and easy self-service and digital assistance versus calling customer service through an 800 line,” said Rob Roy, Sprint chief digital officer, in a statement about the launch. “Apple Business Chat is an amazing tool for our customers that makes communicating with Sprint fast, easy and stress-free.”

Business Chat has come at a time when the “phone” part of our smartphones is turning into just another “app” – and increasingly, a spammy and bothersome one thanks to spam calls. Apple’s solution makes it easier for customers and businesses to move away from phone lines, while Google is leveraging AI to handle spammers – and even place calls for customers through its Google Duplex technology.

Tinder is testing the ability to share Spotify music clips in chat

Tinder has already developed a fairly robust chat platform within its dating app, with support for sharing things like Bitmoji and GIFs, and the ability to “like” messages by tapping a heart icon. Now, the company is testing a new integration – sharing music via Spotify. Tinder confirmed with TechCrunch it’s trying out a new […]

Tinder has already developed a fairly robust chat platform within its dating app, with support for sharing things like Bitmoji and GIFs, and the ability to “like” messages by tapping a heart icon. Now, the company is testing a new integration – sharing music via Spotify. Tinder confirmed with TechCrunch it’s trying out a new way to connect users, by allowing them to share music within their chats.

The test is currently taking place across global markets, and Spotify is the only music service involved.

The new feature was first spotted by the blog MSPoweruser who speculated the addition could be an experiment on Tinder’s part, ahead of a public launch. That does seem to be the case, as it turns out.

According to screenshots the site posted, a green music icon has been swapped in for the Bitmoji icon. Clicking this allows you to enter a query into a search box and see matching results displayed above. You’re not able to share the full song, however – only a 30-second clip.

Above: Tinder music test with Spotify; credits: MSPoweruser

Tinder, like its rival Bumble, has offered integration with Spotify’s streaming music service since 2016.

Both apps allow users to connect their Spotify accounts in order to showcase their top artists on their profile. As Tinder explained at the time of launch, music can be a powerful signal in terms of attraction and plays an important role in terms of getting to know a new connection, as well.

The company even launched its own profile on Spotify with playlists focused on dating, love and romance as a part of its collaboration with the music service.

The Spotify integration has paid off for Tinder in terms of user engagement within its app, the company tells us.

“Users love connecting over shared tastes in music,” a Tinder spokesperson explained. “In fact, users who update their ‘Anthem’ are most likely to start a conversation via Feed. With this in mind, we’re testing the ability to share music with a match while chatting on Tinder,” they added.

The “Anthem” is a feature that lets you pick a favorite song or one that’s representative of your tastes or personality. This is then highlighted in a special section on your Tinder profile.

Tinder did not offer any details as to when it expects the test to wrap or when it would launch music sharing more broadly.

China accounted for nearly half of app downloads in 2018, 40% of consumer spend

Global app downloads topped 194 billion in 2018, up 35 percent from 2016, according to App Annie’s annual “State of Mobile 2019” report released today. Consumer spending across app stores was up 75 percent to reach $101 billion. The report, which analyzes trends across iOS, Android and the third-party Android stores in China combined, follows […]

Global app downloads topped 194 billion in 2018, up 35 percent from 2016, according to App Annie’s annual “State of Mobile 2019” report released today. Consumer spending across app stores was up 75 percent to reach $101 billion. The report, which analyzes trends across iOS, Android and the third-party Android stores in China combined, follows the company’s earlier report released at year-end, which looked at downloads and spending across just iOS and Google Play.

It also shows how significant China’s role has become in terms of the global app market.

Based on data from the beginning of the year through December 15, 2018, App Annie’s earlier year-end report estimated that global app downloads in 2018 would surpass 113 billion, across iOS and Google Play, and consumer spending would surpass $76 billion.

While the addition of the third-party Android app stores boosted these numbers in the new report, China’s contribution to the app market goes far beyond just the bump those stores provided.

According to the “State of Mobile” report, China accounted for nearly 50 percent of total downloads in 2018 across iOS and the third-party stores, despite the slowdown related to a nine-month long game license freeze in the country. China also accounted for nearly 40 percent of consumer spending in 2018.

Emerging markets played a role in fueling downloads, as well, accounting for three out of the top five markets for downloads (India, Brazil, and Indonesia). Download growth in the U.S., meanwhile, has slowed.

Developing markets played little role in consumer spend, however. Instead the countries contributing the most on that front were (in order): China, the U.S., Japan, South Korea, and the U.K.

However, despite China’s outsized contributions to both downloads and spending, Chinese users don’t have the most apps installed on their phone compared with other countries. Because of the prevalence of low-cost Android devices with limited storage, users in China have just over 50 apps installed, on average. But those in the U.S., South Korea, Japan and Australia, have over 100.

China’s influence on the market can also be seen in the 2018 year-end report released by Sensor Tower today.

It found that Chinese mobile gaming giant Tencent was the global leader for overall revenue across iOS and Android, not counting the third-party Android app stores. It was also the leader in game revenue.

Tencent topped the non-game app chart for 2018, too, with its Tencent Video app clocking in at No. 3.

Other Chinese apps made the year-end charts, too, including online video platform iQIYI which was the No. 4 non-game app, in terms of overall revenue; and ByteDance’s TikTok, which was the No. 4 non-game for 2018. Other high-ranking apps included UC Browser, QQ, Youku, and Tencent’s PUBG Mobile.

TikTok is still growing rapidly, too, having had its best quarter ever in Q4 2018, where it was the No. 3 app by downloads across both iOS and Google Play, and the most-downloaded app on iOS.