The Week in Mobile: August 20-26, 2017

Android Oreo goes live, Google developing new smart speaker and headphones, Star Wars to launch first AR experience with new event 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.

Android Oreo

Android Oreo made its debut last week alongside the solar eclipse. While most of Oreo’s features have been known for a while, here’s a refresher on the major additions and backend updates:

  • The most anticipated feature has been Notification Dots. With these, users can easily identify apps with new information to show them, and then use the long tap ability to pull up a menu with full-length notifications. There is also a new options menu to control what notifications you see.
  • Another highlight of Oreo is the new Picture-in-Picture feature. This mode allows users to continue playing video in the screen corner while performing other tasks. While only a few apps support this now, major video players and chat apps are sure to follow soon.
  • Oreo really shines with the backend improvements. Android now boots up significantly faster, and the battery will reportedly last much longer. Google has done this by overhauling how apps are allowed to run in the background.

Google also snuck something into Oreo with Project Treble, its latest attempt to help users get faster software updates. The company is reportedly working with at least nine major Android smartphone makers to optimize their devices for more frequent upgrades. Google has confirmed that new smartphones to launch with Oreo will be set up to take advantage of this new software modularization.

Google Has New Smart Speaker and Headphones in the Works

Google continues to churn the rumor mill as reports indicate the tech giant may be readying some new hardware products. The company is reportedly building a mini version of its Google Home smart speaker. It’s believed the speaker would function much like Amazon’s Echo Dots, which can be placed throughout the home to create a seamless smart speaker experience from room to room. But a mini Home speaker isn’t the only thing Google has in the works. The company may also be developing a pair of smartphone headphones to take on Apple’s Airpods, which were released earlier this year. Codenamed Bisto, the headphones will leverage Google Assistant for tasks such as listening to and replying to notifications using your voice. The existence of an external Google Assistant button on one of the earcups indicates they may be over-the-ear as opposed to ear buds. There is no information about when either of these new smart products might hit shelves.

Star Wars to Release Augmented Reality Experience Alongside New Event

Disney is releasing a new augmented reality experience to coincide with the release of its first batch of Star Wars: The Last Jedi collectible toys. Here’s how it will work: fans will go to one of the roughly 20,000 participating retailers where they will find up to five different Star Wars character displays. Then, using the Star Wars mobile app, they will scan the display to unlock a life-size digital version of the character to take photos and videos with. The displays will feature a total of 15 unlockable AR heroes, including a new character. The event begins on Friday, September 1st and will last through Sunday, September 3rd.

Apple to Launch Redesigned App Store in September

Apple is set to launch a revamped version of the App Store this September that will make it easier for users to discover apps that might interest them. The App Store will feature a new home where users can find short articles about trending apps, interviews with developers and more. A recent demo showcased an article on the Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor fight alongside a list of suggested to apps to watch the event. Apple also redesigned the Games and Apps tab into more digestible sections and made the trending section more prominent, so users can easily browse new or popular games and apps. Apple says the update is the most comprehensive change to the App Store since it launched.

Apple Nudges Google with Search Price Tag and iOS 11 Safari Changes

While Google and Apple often compete directly with one another, they also join forces on some strategic partnerships. When it comes to mobile, Google is the default search engine for Safari on iOS: a deal that provides Apple with the most powerful Search Engine available and Google with access to ad dollars from its rival’s 18 percent share of the mobile market. However, according to a new report, Google may need to pay Apple as much as $3 billion a year to keep its search engine the default on mobile Safari. But, that’s not the only place Apple is applying the pressure. With the release of the new iOS 11 beta 7, developers also found that Apple’s mobile OS will now automatically revert Google AMP URLs into their original forms when shared from Safari. Google’s AMP enables faster-loading web pages, but are disliked by many because they drive users to Google domains, which diverts traffic away from the actual sites. Developers noted that this design isn’t unintentional, as Apple presumably had to do work on the backend, so iOS could track down original URLs. iOS 11 is expected to launch sometime in September.

Samsung Opens Pre-Orders for Galaxy Note 8

After an arduous journey, Samsung has finally revealed the latest version of its flagship device: the Galaxy Note 8. The company reimagined its Galaxy lineup with the release of the S8 earlier this year, and their newest device stays pretty much in lockstep with those changes. The Note 8 boasts a slightly larger 6.3-inch display (reportedly the largest ever on a Samsung phone) and a unique dual camera loadout that features a wide-angle lens alongside a telephoto one. It follows the S8’s footsteps with a slimmer design and built-in fingerprint reader.

The release of the Note 8 marks the end of a long year for Samsung, which had to completely recall the previous version due to a battery issue that caused some devices to catch fire and explode. To help ease tensions about the situation, Samsung is offering Note 8 buyers in the U.S. 60 free days of Samsung’s protection service as well as in-home visits from HelloTech, a startup that specializes in troubleshooting a variety of tech devices. Pre-orders for the Note 8 are now available, with the device set to ship to retailers on September 15th.