The Week in Mobile: January 7-13, 2018

App revenue surges 35% in 2017, Samsung to unveil Galaxy S9 in February, Vivo unveils first smartphone with in-screen fingerprint sensor 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.

App Revenue in Apple Store and Google Play up 35% in 2017

App revenue is showing no signs of slowing down. In fact, it’s actually surging, according to a new report. Year-over-year app revenues from Apple Store and Google Play increased by a whopping 35% in 2017, as new installs jumped up by 13.5%. The report states that worldwide mobile app revenue exceeded $58 billion last year. That total includes both paid downloads and in-app purchases or subscriptions, but not mobile commerce transactions like on-demand rides or food delivery. While the revenue was almost evenly distributed between Android and iPhone apps, downloads apparently grew faster for Android by a mark of 16.7% versus just 6.7% for iPhone. The report claims that is due to Android prevalence in still developing regions.

Samsung to Provide First Look at Galaxy S9 in February

Samsung is slated to reveal its next flagship device at Mobile World Congress next month. Many thought the company would unveil the Galaxy S9 at CES last week, but Samsung’s mobile boss has confirmed that the new phone and release date would be announced between February 26th and March 1st at the Mobile World Congress trade show. No other details were made available about the smartphone, but it is rumored the Galaxy S9 will be the first Samsung device to offer 512GB storage. Samsung also confirmed previously announced plans to launch a foldable smartphone in 2018, although no further comments were made about the release timing.

Vivo Showcases the First Ever Smartphone with an In-Display Fingerprint Sensor

The world’s first phone utilizing a fingerprint scanner built straight into the display is now a reality, but you’ll be surprised to find it’s not a Samsung or iPhone. Despite reports that this tech was supposed to go to one of these two mobile leaders, it’s actually Chinese company Vivo’s unnamed smartphone prototype that will boast this feature first. Vivo will be using the Synaptics optical sensor, the same that was supposed to be used for the Galaxy S8 last year until Samsung discovered the tech wouldn’t be ready in time for the phone’s release. Now it appears that Synaptics has perfected the Clear ID sensor, which the company says is now in production. It works by looking through the gaps between pixels in an OLED to scan the user’s unique fingerprint. Once unlocked, the scanner “button” on the Vivo phone then disappears so the user can then take advantage of the entirety of the screen. Vivo has not announced when the phone will be released.

Google and Facebook Announce Smart Displays to Rival Amazon’s Echo Show

Soon, the Amazon Echo Show won’t be the only assistant-powered smart display. At CES last week, both Google and Facebook announced new products to rival the retailing giant. First, Google revealed that it will be partnering with JBL, Lenovo, LG and Sony to infuse their upcoming smart displays with Google Assistant. Several of these products have already been revealed, and are slated to hit the market this year. All will be powered by Android Things and have Cast built in.

Meanwhile, Facebook has also announced a jump into the consumer hardware business with an assistant-powered smart display of its own. Named Portal, the device will be equipped with a camera that recognize individuals faces automatically by associating them with their Facebook accounts. The company hopes to position the smart display as a way for friends and families to video chat and take advantage of other social features around the home. Portal will reportedly receive its official reveal this spring, with plans to ship the product in the second half of 2018.

Google Unites its Payment Tools Under ‘Google Pay’

Google is streamlining its various payment tools and mobile wallets, bringing them together under the same umbrella. Google Pay will now be the new home for Android Pay and Google Wallet, the search giant’s mobile payments platform and peer-to-peer transactions app. Google hopes the change will simplify the payment process for users, as it will eliminate confusion around which app to use. Users will starting seeing the Google Pay option when making purchases from Google or from partner apps and stores. The first partners to adopt the new system include Airbnb, Dice, Fandango, HungryHouse and Instacart.

Apple’s Slow Batteries Problem Lingers as Governments Step In

The fallout continues over Apple’s revelation that it slowed old iPhone batteries. Authorities in France are now investigating whether the company throttled performance intentionally in order to drive more new sales. Under French consumer law, any techniques that aim to deliberately reduce duration to “increase the replacement rate” is illegal, and carries a maximum sentence of two years in prison — as well as a loss of 5 percent of a company’s annual turnover. Apple has apologized for doing this, and promised that it has never done anything to shorten the life of its products so users will upgrade more frequently.

But, that answer hasn’t been good enough for everyone. U.S. Senator John Thune has also taken action. As the Chair of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, Senator Thune penned a letter to Apple requesting answers to his questions about Apple’s lack of transparency, why they don’t offer battery replacements for free and if they’ve considered rebates for those that already paid full price for a replacement battery. Senator Thune said he wants those questions answered by January 23rd, and has not ruled out the possibility of a Congressional hearing.