The Week in Mobile: April 29-May 4, 2018

Highlights from Facebook’s F8 developer conference, app revenue predicted to double in five years, iPhones perform better than expected 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 Biggest News from Facebook’s F8 Developer Conference

The show must go on. Despite backlash over Facebook’s clampdown on third-party data access and APIs, the company held its annual F8 developer to gin up excitement for building on the platform. Over the course of the event, Facebook made some major announcements around Stories, Messenger, virtual reality and even dating. Here are some of the highlights:

  • Stories: In a bit of turnaround from its data restriction following Cambridge-Analytica, Facebook is opening up Stories on its core platform and Instagram to third-party developers. Soon, apps like Spotify, SoundCloud and GoPro will sport an integration allowing users to pull content from that app directly into Stories, where they can then adorn it with filters and effects.
  • Messenger: The company is rolling around a redesign to make the app simpler and faster, but the big news here is that augmented reality is also coming. The first application will be for businesses, which allows users to load AR filters and effects when interacting with their favorite brands. The new feature is now in beta, and companies like Nike, ASUS, Kia and Sephora have signed on as early partners.
  • Facebook Dating:The social media giant is adding a dating layer to its main app, which will allow users to find potential matches based on dating preferences, things in common and even mutual friends. Users can even be able to “unlock” their profile so matches can see shared groups and nearby events. Facebook did not say exactly when the new feature will launch, but it’s expected to come sometime this year.
  • Oculus Go: Facebook’s new $199 standalone VR headset is now available, and will support Watch Party, multiplayer games and experiential theater. It will also connect to the new Oculus TV platform, which allows users to stream content from ESPN, Netflix, Showtime and more.
  • Analytics app: Wanting to prove its worth beyond social reach, Facebook is launching a new analytics focused app for businesses. This will allow brands to track important social marketing metrics, receive automated insights and more. It will be available on both iOS and Android.

Report: Mobile App Revenue to Nearly Double by 2022

The future of the mobile app industry looks bright, as revenue is forecasted to nearly double over the next four years. According to a new report, consumers are anticipated to spend as much $157 billion annually on mobile apps by the year 2022. Accounting for 92% more than they currently spend, the average per-user revenue is expected to jump up to $26 yearly as global smartphone and tablet adoption continues to increase—particularly in developing markets like India. The report also shows that users will be downloading some 258 billion apps annually in the next five years.

iPhone Gains Ground on Samsung Amid Slowing Smartphone Demand

While demand for new mobile devices fell in the first quarter of 2018, Apple saw a silver lining as it captured a larger percent of market share. According to a new report, global smartphone shipments fell 2% year-over-year to 345 million units. Samsung led the pack again in terms of units and total market share, but Apple gained some ground by increasing its number of units shipped by 3%, boosting its overall share up to 15%. The promising results come amid concerns that Apple’s newest lineup of devices—such as the pricey iPhone X—would perform below expectations. It isn’t all roses though, Chinese smartphone makers Huawei and Xiaomi saw even bigger boost to their number of units shipped so far this year.

High Schooler’s ‘SmartLens’ App is a Functioning Visual Search Tool

For years, the mobile industry has eagerly awaited the emergence of true, all-purpose visual search apps. Yet, time-and-time again, we have heard tech titans say how difficult this technology is to produce. That’s why you might be surprised to learn that the closest app to cracking the visual search code is not from the likes of Google or Apple, but rather a high schooler working in his spare time. Michael Royzen’s app is called SmartLens, and works exactly how’d you expect: the user points their camera at an object, and it tries to identify it. The app even connects to Wikipedia and Amazon so the user can learn more or even buy it. The app has its issues—including the large file size, toll on users’ processors and  limited visual library—but Royzen is experimenting with new technologies like edge computing to streamline the experience. If you want to check it out for yourself, the app is available for free on the iOS App Store.

This SmartWatch From the Future Turns Your Arm Into a Touchscreen

Who needs a smart screen display when you can just use your arm? Like something from science fiction, researchers at Carnegie Mellon University have created a smartwatch prototype that transforms your body into a touchscreen. Dubbed the LumiWatch, it uses an ultra bright projection module and touch sensor to cast a completely functional screen on your arm or hand. Users can then tap and swipe their own skin to control the device and access apps. The prototype runs on Android 5.1 and features Bluetooth and WiFi connectivity. As you might expect, there are no plans (yet) to mass produce the LumiWatch.