The Week in Mobile: January 21-27, 2018

Apple previews iOS 11.3, Google Play smashes quarterly app download record, the battle for AR dominance heats up 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.

Apple Release Preview Version of iOS 11.3

A new preview for Apple’s iOS is now available, and with it some big new changes and features. The iOS 11.3 beta gives us the first look at the highly anticipated iCloud Messages, as well as some new Animoji, upgrades to ARKit 1.5 (more on that below) and more. Messages on iCloud were originally slated for release when iOS 11 dropped in September, but was removed before launch and promised at a later date. That time is now, and with the preview users can free-up some device space by storing iMessages and attachments in the cloud.

With iOS 11.3, Apple is also rolling out a new iMessage feature that will allow consumers to engage with businesses directly through the app. It will allow users to chat with service reps, schedule appointments and even make payments through Apple Pay. Early adopters will include Discover, Hilton, Lowe’s and Wells Fargo. Other additions with the upcoming iOS update include a medical records storage feature for the Health app, some small App Store and Apple News changes and HomeKit software authentication support. iOS 11.3 is scheduled for public release this spring.

Google Play Breaks Quarterly Record for App Downloads

Emerging markets continue to help the app business flourish, this time boosting Google Play to a new quarterly record for downloads. According to a new report, the store surpassed 19 billion downloads in Q4 2017. The number is not only Google’s largest to date, but also the biggest lead Android has held over iOS at a staggering 145% more downloads. The surge was led by games, finance and personalization apps. While Apple may have lost the download battle, it handily led in worldwide consumer spend with $11.5 billion total for the quarter (2x as much as Google Play). The report also notes that for the first time ever, India surpassed the U.S. in combined iOS and Android downloads.

Apple and Google Announce Big (But Very Different) AR Updates

The battle for augmented reality dominance continues as Apple and Google revealed major updates to their respective AR platforms. Tied to the release of iOS 11.3, Apple’s upcoming ARKit version 1.5 will introduce the ability for apps to map irregularly shaped surfaces and vertical planes. This means users will be able to place virtual objects on vertical surfaces such as walls and doors. The update will also see ARKit support 1080p virtual images, which it did not do previously.

Meanwhile, Google has unveiled a new cross-platform approach to AR. The new effort will integrate AR features across mobile and desktop versions of the Chrome browser, and allow developers to create 3D objects for websites that could be downloaded to any smartphone and “placed” into the real world. Google’s objective here is clear: create a cross-platform advantage by making its AR options accessible on the iPhone via its popular Chrome browser. The move represents a major shift away from the mostly app-based focus AR has taken so far, and it will be interesting to see how Apple responds to users potentially running Google AR elements on the iPhone.

iPhone X Was the Best-Selling Smartphone Over the Holidays

After the release of the iPhone X last year, Apple had to deal with multiple reports of potential supply issues and user demand. Well, the company finally got its vindication as a report named it the “world’s best-shipping smartphone model over the holiday season.” According to the analysis (which can be tricky since Apple isn’t particularly transparent about the numbers), the iPhone X saw healthy sales with more than 29 million units shipped last quarter. That landed it just a hair short of analyst projections of 30 to 35 million, but at least quelled fears that users wouldn’t pay top dollar while a cheaper model (the iPhone 8) was also available.

Speaking of cheaper models, Apple is reportedly working on a 6.1-inch iPhone for 2018. It is believed the new phone will skip some of the more advanced features of the iPhone X, such as a dual camera system, as well as 3D touch. It might come equipped with an aluminum frame and LCD display instead of OLED, which could drop the price to $700-800 (versus $1,000 for the iPhone X).

Samsung to Reveal Galaxy S9 on February 25th

Samsung will unveil its next flagship phone, the Galaxy S9 on February 25th at the Mobile World Congress event in Barcelona. If the invitation is any indication, Samsung is excited to announce what it has in store for the smartphone’s camera performance (the words “The camera. Reimagined.” appear alongside a large purple 9). Rumor has it the S9 will be equipped with dual rear-facing cameras, such as those found on the iPhone X. It is also believed a new sensor will allow users to snap as many as 1,000 photos per second. We won’t have wait much longer to find out, as the phone is believed to start shipping in March.

Android Delivers Simple, but Useful Feature for Assessing WiFi Networks

Google has added a nifty new feature for Android Oreo 8.1: a label that shows users network speed before connecting to a network. The company hopes it will help users better decide which network to join. After all, a strong signal doesn’t really matter if the network is too slow to load pages, watch video or download apps. The new labels are “Slow, OK, Fast and Very Fast” with each label reflecting a standard speed range. Slow has enough juice for calls and texts, OK can manage social media and music streaming, Fast works for most video and Very Fast supports high quality video streams (and everything else). The feature is rolling out now. It can be disabled in Settings, if desired.


  1. Interesting rumours of the new s9 camera. It would certainly be interesting if they were to equip it with a sensor capable of 1,000 images per second. iPhone source phone parts from Samsung so I wouldn’t be surprised at all if they wound up with the same rear camera setup.

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