The Week in Mobile: August 19-24, 2018

Netflix ditches iOS store with direct payments, Facebook gears up for voice functionality, the $1,000 smartphone is here to stay 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.

Netflix Joins a Growing Number of Apps Looking to Bypass App Store Fees

Netflix is one of the most popular iOS apps out there, and the company is now exploring ways to make even more revenue on iPhone and iPad users. The plan? Bypassing the iOS App Store altogether. According to a new report, Netflix is now testing a new direct payment for users in more than 33 countries across Europe, South America and Asia. New or lapsed users in these regions will now be redirected to the mobile web version of Netflix for subscription payments.

Netflix is the latest major service to undercut iOS subscription fees and move users away from app stores in favor of direct payment. Spotify has already bucked the app store trend — as well as the immensely popular battle royale game Fortnite — as Apple crosses the $1 trillion market cap. As more apps continue to gain colossal followings, it will be interesting to see if more companies like Netflix forego app stores to boost their margins.

Women are More Likely to Make In-App Purchases for Mobile Games

The golden age of mobile game marketing is upon us, as new findings turn conventional wisdom about mobile game players on its head. According to a new report, female gamers are 79 percent more likely than men to make in-app purchases after downloading a mobile game. Overall, users are spending more and more cash across the board as app developers deliver higher-quality mobile gaming experiences across platforms. The report also indicates that while Android has the advantage in the player count and downloads department, it’s actually iOS gamers who are more likely to make in-app purchases. The post-holiday season is the most lucrative opportunity for mobile game developers, as user engagement ticks up over 22 percent.

‘Aloha’ Facebook: Welcome to the Competitive World of Speech Recognition

Facebook hasn’t been as quick as other tech giants to make a move on the booming speech recognition industry, but that may soon change. Newly discovered code and patent filings indicate that Facebook is developing its own voice recognition functionality. Codenamed “Aloha Voice,” the new speech recognition feature is designed to work across Facebook, Messenger and Instagram — as well as external hardware via WiFi and Bluetooth connections. The company is said to be interested in creating casual, colloquial ways for users to dictate comments or messages to friends, and to power navigation across its platforms for a hands-free experience.

But Facebook has some catching up to do in the competitive speech recognition market. It has a $499 smart speaker, called Portal, in the works, but delays following the Cambridge Analytica data privacy scandal saw the company scrap plans to unveil its ambitious voice products at the F8 developer conference in May. Facebook declined to comment on its potential voice functionality or smart speakers, so it’s unclear when users can expect to see those launch.

Sony Explains Why Users Can’t Download Android Pie Yet

The roll-out for Android OS updates are notoriously slow. Sony, eager to let consumers know why it takes so long to get updates like Android Pie to their devices, published a new infographic that explains the delay. The colorful infographic lays out the steps needed to get the latest version of Android in users’ hands — and it’s a doozy. First, Sony has to optimize the OS for its smartphones before adding its own personal touches to the software. Then, the company has to test it internally and externally to ensure it meets certain standards. Finally, it has to confirm the devices will still work with carriers.

The $1,000 Smartphone Price Tag is Here to Stay

A couple years ago, a four-figure smartphone price was unfathomable. But following the unexpected success of the iPhone X, it seems the $1,000 smartphone is the new normal. Device makers took a chance that they were undervaluing how much consumers would pay for premium smartphones, and all indications demonstrate that they were right. Apple, Samsung, Huawei and Oppo are now selling flagship devices equipped with bells and whistles (and lacking a headphone jack) at $1,000, something that was unimaginable before the launch of the iPhone X. As Apple gears up to officially announce its new lineup of iPhones on September 12th, one thing is clear: The four-figure smartphone isn’t going anywhere.

Popular Paid Weather App ‘Dark Sky’ Rolls Out Complete Redesign

Dark Sky is consistently the top paid weather app in the iOS Store. This week, it got a major overhaul. The update has been more than a year in the making, and introduces a new timeline and scroll view that allows users to more efficiently browse weather updates. These new displays can showcase temperature and condition updates by the minute, hour or day so users can more accurately compare, for example, how the weather will change from morning into the afternoon. Aside from more colorful icons and buttons, Dark Sky has also introduced a “time machine” feature to check-out historical weather data. The update is now available for both iOS and Android devices.