The Week in Mobile: January 14-20, 2018

Global app downloads top 175 billion, Apple to offer power management option in future iOS update, Google makes speed a factor in mobile search 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.

Global App Downloads Exceeded 175 Billion Last Year

New data is out that paints a clearer picture of the state of the app industry and mobile growth. According to a new report from App Annie, global app downloads surpassed 175 billion last year as consumer spending hit a whopping $86 billion. The growth can be attributed to emerging markets such as China, India, Brazil and Russia, with India now passing the U.S. to become the number two country in downloads (China is well ahead in first place). These figures are not in line with app download and revenue numbers from another report out the week prior, but that analysis did not include third-party Android stores popular in China.

While downloads and revenue may be on the rise, in yet another end of year wrap-up, Flurry Analytics revealed that the time spent in apps grew only 6% in 2017, down from 11% growth the year prior. The report notes the stagnation means users likely can’t dedicate much more free time to using apps, rather they’re spending time across more diverse and new apps. Ecommerce, music and media/entertainment session growth continues to boom, while games and lifestyle are noticeably down.

Apple to Offer Power Management Option as More Requests Over iPhone Slowing Roll-in

The slow drip of requests for more information over Apple’s battery controversy has no end in sight. After French authorities and a U.S. lawmaker launched inquires the week prior, a Chinese consumer group has sent a letter requesting an explanation for the slow-down on older iPhones and how Apple plans to fix it. The company apologized for software that throttled performance on some older versions of the iPhone in December, and then cut battery replacement costs. Tim Cook also revealed last week that a future iOS update will provide users with more visibility into the status of their device’s battery, as well as an option to disable performance throttling. Apple said it would not recommend using this setting however, as it could cause unexpected shutdowns.

Google to Change Mobile Search Ranking Criteria with “Speed Update”

Google is making big changes to how it ranks websites when searching on mobile. Starting in July this year, the company will factor in the page loading speeds into search rankings. That means websites that “deliver the slowest experience to users” may be down-ranked depending on the relevancy of the content. Google notes that speed won’t be the only factor, and slower websites will still appear if they are a closer match to the search criteria. The move may entice more website publishers to adopt the company’s Accelerated Mobile Pages, which are stripped versions of web pages that can be loaded more quickly. However, Google said that it will not automatically give AMP priority over other webpages. That said, it will likely give AMP users a significant advantage under the new system.

Toyota and Lexus to Get Apple CarPlay This Year

CarPlay is finally coming to Toyota vehicles this year. The company (which also owns luxury brand Lexus) has been a notorious hold-out from Apple’s in-dash infotainment system that pairs with the iPhone, but no longer. The 2019 Toyota Avalon will be the first model to include the CarPlay platform at launch. Several car companies (Toyota included) wanted to use their own in-house technologies to power iOS or Android apps on dashboards, but it now seems even the last abstainers are giving into control by Apple and Google. Toyota also announced that Alexa will be coming to some vehicles, but did not mention an Android Auto integration at this time.

Meanwhile, BMW is adjusting how it handles CarPlay. Starting next year, CarPlay will be require a yearly subscription instead of BMW charging a one-time fee after the first year.

Portkey Games Announces Harry Potter Mobile Role-Playing Game

While all the focus has been on the widely anticipated Harry Potter augmented reality game Wizards Unite, Portkey Games has quietly gone about building its own Harry Potter game: Hogwarts Mystery. The game is a mobile RPG where players can finally live out the fantasy of attending Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. It’s set to take place before the events of the books, and will involve creating your own avatar, picking a house and growing your magical abilities by attending class. The playable areas are said to include other player-controlled characters, introducing some online elements where wizards and witches can make friends and duel for glory. The game will be free-to-play and is slated for release later this year. Whether it can top the potential AR bonanza of Wizards Unite remains to be seen, but it looks like this Harry Potter game will also be a hit with fans.