The Week in Mobile: December 4-10, 2016


Google unveils low-data patching, Amazon grocery stores now in beta, Microsoft brings desktop apps to mobile 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.

Google Unveils File-by-File Patching

Google announced a new system for delivering app updates called File-by-File patching, which cuts down on data usage by reducing the size of each app update by an average of 65 percent. Instead of sending the complete new version of the app, Google Play sends a patch to the user’s device that describes the differences between the old and new versions. Though using less data, the approach counterintuitively makes updates twice as slow, but will only be used for automatic updates, so users are unlikely to notice the change.

Separately, according to Google and Teads, mobile publishers using Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) saw a 200 percent increase in clickthrough rates and an 18 percent increase in ad performance. There are already approximately 100 publishers using AMP, with more likely to join given early success.

Amazon’s Take on the Grocery Store in Beta

Amazon Go — the first checkout-free grocery store — is now in beta testing in Seattle. The physical store allows shoppers to pick up products and walk out without waiting in line at a checkout counter. Shoppers identify themselves with their smartphones when they enter the store and Amazon uses a number of advanced AI systems to automatically charge for items selected. The process is made possible through a complex network of computer vision, deep learning algorithms and sensor fusion to identify where each user is within the store and what products they decide to take home.

Microsoft Brings Desktop Apps to Mobile

Microsoft is partnering with Qualcomm to bring desktop apps to your mobile device. That means users with an ARM-powered device will be able to access the full versions of Office, Photoshop CC, Microsoft and beyond. What’s more, developers won’t have to make any updates for these apps to function on mobile. The move is a big step toward bringing all apps together across devices.

Starbucks Continues to Push the Mobile Envelope

Longtime mobile leader Starbucks is updating its app with new AI functionality, which will allow users to place mobile orders using a chatbot or voice command. The new feature, called My Starbucks Barista, is rolling out to select beta users in 2017. Meanwhile, Starbucks has struck up a new partnership with WeChat in which users in China will be able to send Starbucks drinks as gifts along with a personalized message via the app.

New iOS and Android Betas Available

Last week, Apple introduced the sixth public beta and developer beta for iOS 10. Although the update is similar to the fifth public beta, which was released three days prior, there are some subtle changes and early access to new emojis.

Meanwhile, Google introduced Android 7.1.1, which will bring image keyboard support, a new set of emojis and, most importantly, a handful of features previously exclusive to Pixel, including app shortcuts. As Google gears up to release Android 7.1.1, it’s important to note that a mere .4 percent of users have upgraded to Android 7.0.

Apple Anticipates Big Holiday Season for its Smartwatch

According to a new report from IDC, Fitbit, Xiaomi, Garmin and Samsung are catching up to the Apple Watch. Each wearable company reported annual gains except for Apple, whose shipments dipped 71 percent year-over-year in Q3. But in quick response, Tim Cook says there’s nothing to worry about, stating that the Apple Watch has seen “off the chart” growth and record breaking holiday sales thus far.