The Week in Mobile: February 18-24, 2018

Samsung to preview Galaxy S9 with augmented reality app, Google and Facebook compete for virtual reality supremacy, Apple drops a new iOS 11.3 beta 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.

Samsung to Let Mobile Event Goers Hold the Galaxy S9, Thanks to Augmented Reality

Mobile World Congress attendees will be able to get their hands on Samsung’s Galaxy S9 (officially announced yesterday)… sort of. In the latest in a series of leaks for the company’s new flagship smartphone, hidden software was discovered in the official Samsung app for the event that will let users hold the Galaxy S9 with the help of augmented reality. The feature will allow those at the event to scan their event badge to unlock a virtual, 3D version of the device that they can “hold” and check out from any angle. Users will also be able to switch between the various color schemes that will be available (including that hip new Lilac Purple colorway).

Google, Facebook to Make Big Pushes for Virtual Experiences in 2018

A new report explains that Google is gearing up to make augmented reality (and other virtual experiences) a priority for Android this week at Mobile World Congress. These efforts will allegedly begin with the release of ARCore: the company’s framework for third-party developers to deliver AR experiences to Android apps. The platform was announced last August and has gone through several test versions on Google’s own Pixel phones, but now the company is ready to bring the tech to key Android smartphone makers. The report notes that that Samsung flagship devices (such as the Galaxy S8 or S9) will likely be some of the first to receive the ARCore update.

Meanwhile, Facebook is developing a different approach to capture the virtual experience market. The company has been working on its plan to unify VR, AR and its news feed with something called 3D posts. Announced last October, this feature will allow people to create virtual objects in a 3D modeling app that can then be dropped straight into the News Feed to be downloaded and played with by users. The company says its now polishing the platform and adding more features as part of step one and two in making 3D posts comes to live. On the technical side, support for the industry standard gITF 2.0 file format is now available. There are also new user features for dragging and dropping 3D objects into News Feed and the social VR hangout room called Facebook Spaces. Facebook has not announced an official launch for 3D Posts, but third-party developers from LEGO, Jurassic World, Clash of Clans and Wayfair have already been experimenting with test versions.

Apple Releases New iOS 11.3 Public Beta, Ups Screenshot Limit for Developers in App Store

Apple has now dropped public beta number three for iOS 11.3 alongside new previews for macOS and also tvOS. New iPhone X Animoji, ARKit updates and Business Chat for iMessage were some of the new items featured in the last public test. The latest version includes the previously mentioned Messages in iCloud feature, which allows users to save device space by storing conversations in the Cloud. There are also the some new privacy changes, as well as the standard performance and quality of life updates.

Apple also announced an increase in the number of screenshots developers can include in App Store previews. App makers can now include 10 screenshots per device, up from the previous limit of 5 per device (this includes the iOS, tvOS and watchOS versions of the App Store). The change means developers can show off more of their features, which in turn can help users get a better feel for the apps they’re considering downloading. However, Apple has not increased the number of screenshots allotted for the Mac App Store at this time.

Google Creates New Business Certification Program to Jumpstart Android Enterprise Use

In order to gain a stronger foothold in the workplace, Google has launched a certification program to let companies know that certain Android smartphones meet requirements for corporate use. The program is called Android Enterprise Recommendation and weeds through the inconsistencies among Android-powered smartphones, so businesses know devices will meet their needs. To do this, Google has built out new criteria, which includes specific minimum hardware, security, update and unlock requirements. Google said it plans to expand its classifications in the future, so companies can know which devices would be best for “rugged” or outdoor use, or those that work best for large-scale enterprise deployment. The current devices that meet the programs requirements include Google’s own Pixel and Pixel 2 (XL versions too), and BlackBerry KeyOne and Motion, Huawei Mate 10 and P10 lines, LG V30 and G6, Motorola X4 and Z2, Nokia 8 and Sony Xperia X.

A Smart Jacket Will Keep You Toasty With the Help of Alexa

The next phase for smart technology is nearly upon us, as a Boston-based apparel company has announced an Alexa-connected heated jacket. As nearly 1/3 of Americans now own a smart speaker, performance tech apparel maker Ministry of Supply has been testing an electric-powered smart jacket that uses carbon fiber wires throughout to keep the user warm. The company notes that Alexa is not actually on-board the wearable, but a skill can be used to turn the heating function on by simply asking: “Alexa, turn on my jacket.” There will also be an iOS and Android app that can be used to manage jacket temperature, but the company says over time you’ll need that less as the coat will learn your preferences via machine learning. The jacket will also be machine washable, despite sporting a USB power for charging.