The Week in Mobile: January 1-7, 2017


Alexa’s push to ubiquity, App Store developers see record revenue, BMW and Gap launch AR shopping apps 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.

Alexa is Coming to a Device Near You

If you haven’t had a chance to try out Amazon’s AI assistant, Alexa, that’s likely to change soon. The tech giant is in the midst of a major push to put Alexa front-and-center in your life. Most recently, Ford announced that it is integrating Alexa into its SYNC Connect technology, which will bring the voice assistant to all equipped vehicles in 2017. Meanwhile, Huawei’s new Mate 9 smartphone will come preloaded with Alexa, Lenovo introduced a new, competitively priced smart device powered by Alexa, GE has added Alexa to a smart lamp and LG even unveiled a smart fridge with Alexa so users can order food via voice command.

As voice expands its reach, a wide variety of players will have their take on the possibilities it brings. Mattel just announced a child-friendly alternative to Amazon’s Echo called Aristotle, which features Mattel’s own AI assistant.

App Store Sales Skyrocket

Apple reported a record-breaking $3 billion in App Store revenue in December, marking the most successful sales month since the store launched in 2008. The App Store now boasts over 2.2 million apps, bringing in revenue through in-app purchases, paid downloads and subscription fees. In 2016, developers raked in $20 billion in revenue — a 40 percent year-over-year increase.

Following on December’s momentum, Apple rang in the New Year with record revenue on January 1. According to Apple, the app store generated $240 million of revenue on New Year’s day alone.

BMW Creates AR Shopping Experience

BMW announced a new mobile app, called BMW i Visualiser, that will allow potential customers to customize, configure and walk around various BMW vehicle models virtually. The AR technology, powered by Google’s Project Tango platform, will make it possible for users to explore car options that aren’t necessarily available in the dealership.

BMW isn’t the only company to tap into Tango. Gap Inc. also announced that it will use Tango to add augmented reality to its mobile app, which shoppers can use to supplement their in-store shopping experience.

Google’s AI to Count Calories

Just a few months ago, Google’s AI was watching hours upon hours of TV in order to perfect lip-reading capabilities. Now, it is taking on a new project called Im2Calories. The project leverages deep learning algorithms, which analyze pictures of food in order to estimate the number of calories that the photographed meal contains. Im2Calories is able to identify specific food items and takes the portion size into consideration when calculating calories. The tool is still in early testing, and it is unclear when it will be available for general use.

Carnival Personalizes the Cruise Experience with Wearables

Last week, Carnival unveiled the Ocean Medallion Wearable, a new IoT device that enables cruise ship guests to personalize their trip and access interactive entertainment experiences throughout their stay. The wearable is powered by an IoT network of sensors, NFC technology and an intelligent navigation assistant. Cruise guests will be able to use the device to access their rooms without a keycard, locate friends and family, get help navigating the ship, make purchases and much more. The Ocean Medallion Wearable is also compatible with Carnival’s digital experience portal, which means guests will be able to seamlessly personalize online and kiosk experiences as long as they have their wearable on.