The Week in Mobile: December 3-9, 2017

Apple & Google showcase the year’s best apps, Android Oreo Go now available to developers, app store purchases to surpass $110 billion next year 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.

Apple, Google Names Top Apps of 2017

The new year is almost upon us, which means it’s time to look back on the best apps of 2017. Google and Apple have each published their own lists of top apps for Android and iOS respectively. Google shared that Russian photo app – Faceapp, sarcastic weather app – What the Forecast, and cartoon subscription service – Boomerang – were the top three most downloaded apps for Android in 2017. Play Store editors also revealed their selections for best apps of the year. Taking top honors was Socratic, a virtual tutoring app that leverages artificial intelligence to help users on their homework. Editors also named user favorites likes Pinterest, Snapchat, and Google Earth to the “most innovative” list , as well bitcoin wallet Coinbase and Be My Eyes, an app that aids the blind.

On the iOS side, Apple also released a list of its top apps selected by App Store editors. The iPhone app of the year distinction went to Calm, which helps users relax with guided meditations and sleep stories. On iPad, Apple chose Affinity Photo, a powerful image-editing app akin to Photoshop. Apple also released a list of the most downloaded iOS apps in 2017, which included Bitmoji, Snapchat, YouTube, Messenger, Instagram and Facebook.

Google Launches Android Oreo Go for Low-End Devices

As promised at Google I/O earlier this year, a lightweight version of Android Oreo optimized to run on lower-end phones will become available soon. Users can’t get their hands on Android Go just yet, but Google has now made the build available to smartphone makers and developers, so it’s only a matter of time. Android Go is designed to make the most of smartphones running with either 512MB or 1GB of RAM, and comes with lightweight versions of classic Google apps such as Google Assistant, Google Maps and Gmail. These “Go” apps contain special features that will optimize tasks (such as downloading content over WiFi) for less powerful devices. Unlike Android One, another build of the mobile OS designed to get the most out of low-end devices, Go is a full release of Android Oreo utilizing less cumbersome apps. Google said that Go compatible devices should start shipping early next year.

Report: Global App Store Spending to Surpass $110 Billion

As users’ insatiable hunger for mobile apps and experiences continues to grow, so does revenue tied to app purchases. According to a new report, consumers are expected to spend more than $110 billion globally on app store purchases in 2018. The forecast marks a 30% increase in app store spending from the last year, with a majority of those gains continuing to come from the mobile game market. However, the report notes the new monetization trend around in-app subscriptions is continuing to pick-up steam, with the growth set to now outpace games. It also predicts increased user adoption of AR-based apps, and notes China, India and Brazil as countries where growth is expected to be the strongest.

Facebook Introduces Children to Social Media with Messenger Kids

Facebook is bucking the long-standing trend of restricting social media and online messaging for those under the age of 13 with the new release of Messenger Kids. The app allows parents to download a special version of Messenger to their child’s device, establish a profile and approve who the child is able to chat with. It is also linked to the full version of Messenger, so children can communicate with their parents, older siblings and other family members who have a normal Facebook account. In an attempt to quell safety concerns, Facebook says the Kids app also comes equipped with special filters and detection features to proactively block children from receiving or sending inappropriate content. Even with the new app, those under the age of 13 will still not technically be able to establish a Facebook profile. Rather, parents are creating a sort of mini-profile within their account. Facebook Kids is now available for iOS, and is said to be coming to Android in the near future.

Android Devices Will Be Able to Capture 4K HDR Video Next Year

Smartphones cameras on Android devices will be able to capture 4K HDR video for the first time starting next year. The news comes after Android hardware supplier Qualcomm revealed its brand new Snapdragon 845 mobile processor. With this chip, Qualcomm claims that flagship Android devices will be able to record 4K video in HDR at up to 60 frames per second. It will also be able to capture slow-mo 720p video at 480 frames per second, and 1080p video at 230 frames per second. The Qualcomm chips are more than just a processor though — they also house Android device’s CPU, GPU, ISP and DSP. The Snapdragon 845 is expected to start appearing on flagship Android smartphones like those from Samsung, HTC, LG and Google as early as Spring 2018.

Target Debuts Mobile Wallet Feature Within Existing App

Target has now introduced its own in-store mobile payment system. Aptly named Wallet, the feature lives inside Target’s existing app on iOS and Android, and can be used to check out in store up to four times faster than traditional methods. To do this, users simply open the Target app and Wallet feature in a physical store, scan any applicable coupon barcodes and then present their device to be scanned by the cashier at check out. Currently, the Wallet requires Target’s REDcard, but the company said the feature will soon become available to non-cardholders. Target is also planning to extend the feature to gift cards. The new feature is now available.