The Week in Mobile: December 31-January 6, 2018

Apple to waive Developer Program Fee for some, ARKit adoption off to slow start, Google releases early version of Fuchsia OS 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 to Waive Developer Program Fee for Select Organizations

Apple says some organizations will be eligible to waive the membership fee associated with its App Developer Program. After announcing last year that nonprofit organizations, schools and government institutions would be allowed to forego the $99 membership fee in 2018, Apple is now making good on its promise. To do so, developers will need to verify their identity and legal status. While Apple won’t provide refunds for qualifying organizations that have already paid, it will waive the fee when it comes up for annual renewal. The waivers are only available in the U.S. to start, but Apple says it has plans to make them available in more markets soon.

Apple’s ARKit Adoption Off to Sluggish Start

Despite the early interest around Apple’s platform for building augmented reality experiences, adoption has been slower than anticipated. According to a new report, developers were quick to build new apps when ARKit launched in September, but interest has waned in the months following. In the first month of ARKit, there were roughly 300 apps developed that utilized the technology. For October, some 200 more AR-based apps hit, an additional 155 were released in November and December saw about 170 new apps. The report notes there are roughly 1,000 apps in the App Store that were built using ARKit. While ARKit is still in its infancy, the current usage numbers are likely disappointing for Apple.

Google Quietly Releases Early Build of Cryptic Fuchsia OS

Following its success with Android, Google has released an early version of its cryptic new mobile OS to developers. The new open source platform, Fuschia, can now be downloaded on Google’s Pixelbook, but it won’t be easy. The early build version of this experimental mobile OS will require two machines to install, and only programmers will know what to do with it once they have it. Google has not revealed what its intentions are for the new technology, but Fuschia does utilize Google’s in-house programming language, so the platform is 100% Google. Developers interested in checking out Fuschia can find instructions for downloading the software here.

Hundreds of Mobile Games Are Using Microphone Access to Track Users’ TV Habits

A new report may shed some light on why some mobile games strangely (and unnecessarily) ask for microphone access. Apparently, it’s to monitor users’ television and movie watching habits to push more targeted ads. The report claims that more than 250 games on the Google Play Store (as well as several others in the App Store) contain a specific software designed to identify what users are watching — and may continue to monitor this activity even after the app is closed. Many of these apps don’t exactly make it clear what they’re doing, which could land them in hot water with the Federal Trade Commission. Users do have to respond to a notification allowing microphone access when first using the app, but it can be unclear whether the app will work properly without doing so.

5G Poised to Steal the Show at CES 2018

The fifth generation of wireless broadband cellular technology (or 5G) is almost here, and it’s poised to power all the devices and innovations of the future. With 5G set to debut in 2019, and reach more than 20% of the U.S. by 2023, companies are beginning to innovate with it mind. While 5G will provide vastly improved mobile download speeds and 4k streaming, it will also be necessary to enable developing technologies such as virtual reality, driverless cars, Internet of Things and smart cities. With the reduced ping time that will come with 5G, VR experiences will provide more feedback and create a more immersive experience. At the International Consumer Electronics Show this year, experts are expecting to see 5G power important new VR applications such as remote surgery, machinery control and training. They are also expecting improved VR entertainment experiences, such as 4k sports streaming with 360 degree views. While the technology is still a couple years away from hitting the masses, 2018 is officially the time to start thinking about how 5G will change the mobile space.

Face Unlock is Coming to the OnePlus 5 Smartphone

The iPhone X may get all the hype, but it isn’t the only smartphone out there with Face Unlock. With the new OxygenOS Open Beta 3, owners of the original OnePlus 5 will soon be able to unlock their device using facial recognition. This feature is already available on the newer OnePlus 5T model, and is designed with convenience in mind. While it does unlock the phone, users won’t be able to rely on it to authorize payments for example, as it is not as secure as Apple’s Face ID technology. The OxygenOS beta, which is based on Android Oreo, also contains a new security patch, bug fixes and some updates for 5G Wi-Fi connection issues. It is believed this new test version will be released sometime in January.