The Week in Mobile: February 19-25, 2017


Snapchat spectacles go online, Google Home enables shopping, Apple acquires facial recognition company 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.

Snapchat’s Spectacle Strategy

The same week Snap ramped up its IPO roadshow, it also made its new Spectacles available to everyone. After appearing in pop-up vending machines throughout the U.S., the company’s picture and video-equipped sunglasses can now be purchased on For those looking to snag a pair, the glasses cost $129.99, are limited to six orders per household, and are set to ship in two to four weeks. It’s no easy feat to shift from software to consumer hardware engineering, but it’s clear Snap has high hopes for adoption as it is betting its future on their vision of becoming “a camera company.”

Voice-Activated Assistants are on the Move

Microsoft’s Cortana is expanding its reach thanks to audio electronics maker Harman Kardon. Using the recently opened Cortana SDK, the company created a smart speaker, complete with an LED display. Once it’s released, the new device will do many things its competitors can, but it is trying to differentiate itself with Microsoft capabilities like the ability to read Word documents.

Meanwhile, having already made its way to US Amazon Fire TV screens, the company’s updated Fire TV stick is now bringing Alexa to UK viewers. The new device works via an HDMI port for streaming Netflix and Amazon Prime Video using voice commands. Users use the remote’s microphone button to access Alexa features like the weather forecast, checking local traffic conditions, turning off the lights for a movie or changing the room temperature.

Finally, not to be outdone, Google Home now lets users order from Google Express stores like Whole Foods, Walgreens and Costco. There are also plans in the works to move that purchase power beyond Google Express offerings.

Apple Acquires Facial Recognition Company

Following recent reports that Apple will include retina scanning security features in iPhones as early as 2018, the company has allegedly acquired RealFace, a startup focused on facial recognition technology. Although Apple has yet to confirm the transaction, this isn’t the first time the company has shown interest in facial recognition. Apple has already filed patents for a system that unlocks devices with a selfie instead of the classic passcode procedure.

Android Ad Revenue Overtakes iOS

According to recent research from PubMatic, Android apps are funneling more mobile ad revenue back to developers than Apple for the first time. What’s more, PubMatic estimates that Android ad revenue will also exceed iOS ad revenue on into 2017. iOS has historically had lower market share compared to Android. However, until recently, Apple has been able to attract users that spend more in the app store and are valuable to advertisers. Android may now be turning the tides.

Skype Lite Launches in India

Microsoft announced the upcoming launch of Skype Lite for Android, a version of the voice and video calling app specifically built for users with limited connectivity. The app will make Skype services available to users in developing countries, much like Facebook Lite has opened up social media content to users in emerging markets (with great success). Skype Lite will use just 13MB of space, but packs support for nine languages, boasts chatbots and includes SMS messaging. The low-bandwidth app will launch in India to start, but could roll out to additional markets in the near future.

Chipotle Goes Mobile for Faster Service

Chipotle is rolling out a digital ordering system, which consists of a new mobile app and an improved web platform. Leveraging “Smarter Pickup Times”, the company expects to cut wait times in half and drastically improve customer experience in the process. The company also anticipates that the technology will increase digital orders to record levels. Chipotle is adding an extra order assembly line to handle digital orders without impacting service for those dining in.