The Week in Mobile: April 1-7, 2018

App Store shrinks because of stricter requirements, Apple releases iOS 11.4 developer beta, Facebook continues privacy overhaul and more

Each week we round up the top news stories, think pieces and other content that centers on the fast-paced, quickly changing world of mobile technology. We tell you which companies are employing clever mobile strategies, illuminate new ways of thinking about mobile and offer a peek at meaningful trends in the industry — all to inspire you and your company to take advantage of the many benefits mobile can offer.

The App Store Shrank Last Year Amid Apple’s Quality Crackdown

The number of apps in the App Store shrank for the first time ever in 2017, but that might not be a bad thing. According to a new report, the number of iOS apps in the store dropped from 2.2 million at the start of last year to 2.1 million by year-end, a 5 percent loss attributed to Apple’s quality crackdown and new technical requirements mandating developers update their apps to the 64-bit architecture. The company promised to remove outdated or abandoned apps in 2016, and then started targeting clone and spam apps last year. Meanwhile, the Google Play Store grew by 30 percent in 2017, reaching more than 3.6 million available apps.

Apple Releases Preview Version of iOS 11.4 to Developers

iOS 11.3 just went out for public release last week, but Apple is already eyeing its next software update. The company teased iOS 11.4 in its education-focused product announcements last week, and has now seeded the first developer beta for iPhone and iPad. The new major features available for testing include AirPlay 2 and stereo pairing for the HomePod and Messages on iCloud.

Facebook Doubles Down on Privacy Push with Bulk App Removal Tool

Following its account data and user privacy scandal, Facebook has made a new feature available to delete third-party apps in bulk. After the news broke of data misuse, Facebook users have flocked to their account privacy settings to prevent apps from accessing their data. Facebook helped ease the frustration by providing a bulk delete option for these unwanted apps, as well as the ability to permanently remove any posts the apps made on a user’s behalf. The bulk delete feature is now available on both desktop and mobile versions of Facebook.

The company is also cracking down on Instagram user privacy amid the fallout, severing third-party developers access to app’s APIs and putting new app submissions on hold indefinitely.

Apple Rumors: Bye Intel Chips, Touchless Control, Curved iPhone Screens and More

Apple is planning to ditch chips made by longtime partner Intel in favor of Apple’s custom chips as soon as 2020, according to a new report. Codenamed “Kalamata,” the move is designed to make all of the company’s devices—iPhones, iPads and Macs—work together more seamlessly. Apple already produces the A-series chips that power the iPhone and iPad, so the transition would be focused mostly on bringing Mac desktops and laptops on board. The change would be a big loss for Intel, which receives about five percent of its annual revenue from its Apple partnership.

But that isn’t everything keeping the Apple rumor mill churning this week. New reports claim the company is also considering new touchless control features and a curved screen for future iPhones. Plus, Apple is said to be working on microLED displays that would enable augmented reality on the Apple Watch. The company hasn’t made any decisions yet, and the radical updates would be a couple of years away at best.

Xiaomi’s Chinese Voice Assistant Fills in the Gaps Left By Google and Amazon

Chinese smartphone makers and app developers don’t have a lot of options if they want to use voice assistants. Google Assistant isn’t moving quickly enough in the region, Siri is restricted to Apple devices (which only account for 17 percent of the Chinese smartphone market) and Alexa or Cortana just aren’t as popular as elsewhere. To fill the void, Xiaomi launched its own virtual assistant, Xiao Ai, last year. Xiao Ai can play music, check the weather, answer questions and control smart home devices. It also sports a Chinese bent, focusing on key integrations with immensely popular apps in the region such as WeChat that other voice assistant creators have largely neglected. Huawei is also reportedly developing its own voice assistant specifically for China, which may start a race to see who can capture the enormous market first.