The Week in Mobile: August 13-19, 2017

Android O reveal to coincide with total eclipse, report says developers should charge more for app subscriptions, Snapchat debuts Crowd Surf 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. This content is designed to inspire you and your company to take advantage of the many benefits mobile can offer.

Does Android’s “O” stand for Oreo?

On Friday, Google announced that Android O will be “touching down” at the same time as today’s solar eclipse. The company posted a solar eclipse-themed Android O countdown clock for the livestream reveal in New York City at 2:40pm ET. They also may have prematurely leaked the official name of the new operating system on Google+ via a video teaser with “GoogleOreo” in the filename. The company promptly deleted the video, which claimed Android O would bring “super (sweet) new powers”.

Meanwhile, Apple is also gearing up for the final release of its own upcoming mobile OS. Just one week after dropping its last developer preview, Apple has released iOS 11 Developer Beta 6. The updated version contains mostly bug fixes and some user interface changes. The frequency of developer preview releases and lack of new features indicates that Apple is closing in on a final public release date. Developers anticipate iOS 11 will officially launch in September.

Google Plays for Emerging Markets with Search Lite and Speech Recognition

Google could soon release a version of its search app designed to work in poor service areas. The company is said to be testing a search app described as “Search Lite” in Indonesia, which is optimized to work with slow connections, limited data plans and less powerful smartphones. The data-friendly app will load pages more quickly and connect to other content such as news or weather, as well as take up less storage space and require less RAM to operate.

Google also added voice typing support for 30 new languages, including several in emerging markets in Africa and Southwest Asia, in an effort to bring Google apps and services to the next wave of mobile Internet users. Now, more users across the world can surf the web using voice commands in their native language or access voice-to-text features on GBoard, Google’s keyboard app. The new languages will also be supported by the company’s Cloud Speech API, which functions with a number of third-party apps and services. The company says eventually the new languages will be integrated into other Google services, such as the Google Translate app.

Report: App Makers Should Charge More for Subscriptions

Mobile app developers may want to charge more, if they want a larger number of subscribers. A new report claims that users are more likely to sign up for mobile apps that cost between $7 to $20 than those that are cheaper. Apps priced in this range had the highest conversion rate for subscribers (7.6%), which was five times better than low cost ones. They also had the lowest cost to acquire users at slightly more than $106 per subscriber. The report attributes this finding in part to the sunk cost fallacy, which explains that consumers are afraid to part ways with items they’ve invested resources or time on. The report also suggests that popular streaming services such as Netflix and Spotify have set the market value for premium app subscriptions around $10 a month.

Snapchat Launches User-Generated Concert Mashups with Crowd Surf

Snapchat has developed a new feature that crowdsources footage from concerts, so other users can watch the musical performances from multiple vantage points. Crowd Surf leverages artificial intelligence and machine learning to seamlessly combine user clips along with audio to showcase different angles of a live event. Those mashups are then included in the Crowd Surf story, which appears in the “Featured” section beneath recent stories. While Snapchat initially launched the feature at a concert in San Francisco, the company also hopes it will catch on for speeches, parades and sporting events. The company says it will be rolling out the feature at additional events in the near future.

Google Pixel 2 to Have Squeezable Sides, but No Headphone Jack

The next generation of Google’s Pixel smartphone will utilize squeezable sides to perform specific tasks like launching the camera or flashlight. A recent filing with the FCC asserts that phone maker HTC plans for the Pixel 2 to deploy a technology it calls Active Edge to perform programmable functions. Screenshots in the filing show Active Edge will launch Google Assistant by default. The filing also shows the new 4.97-inch device will feature a 1080p display and was running the yet to be released Android O. To the chagrin of many users though, the Pixel 2 is taking a move out of Apple’s playbook and appears to be doing away with a standard jack for headphones.

Facebook, Instagram Apps Get Mobile Redesign

Facebook and Instagram are getting a facelift designed to make the mobile apps easier to read, click through and comment. Facebook is streamlining its mobile feeds by adding more white space and bubble style comments for posts, which the company says will help posts and replies pop more while reducing eye fatigue. They are also adding more prominent navigation and like buttons to help users keep track of where they are when clicking around, and make it obvious how to respond or react to a post. For its part, Instagram is adding a long-desired comment thread feature that will allow users to start conversations under specific responses. Facebook says the changes to both mobile apps will be coming to iOS and Android users in the next couple weeks.

Two New Options for Voice Calling

Google has announced that users can now use Google Home to make phone calls. The free feature works over wifi – not your phone plan – and enables users to call contacts, local businesses or recite a number using the “OK Google” command. The update is currently available in the U.S. and Canada and only works for outgoing calls. Note that unless you are a Google Voice or Project Fi user, calls from Home will appear with “unknown” or “No Caller ID” to the recipient instead of your phone number, which might make some think the call is spam.

That brings us to GoDaddy, which has launched a paid app that makes it easier for those with only one mobile device for both business and personal use. SmartLine adds a business number to the user’s smartphone, so they don’t have to give out their personal one. GoDaddy says it’s designed with small businesses in mind and boasts some nifty features that competitors like Google Voice don’t have, such as caller ID and differentiation between personal and SmartLine business calls. SmartLine’s other features include setting business times, so after hours calls go directly to voicemail, the ability to see all work text and phone call history in one place and automatic voicemail transcripts. SmartLine is available to download for iOS and Android.