The Week in Mobile: July 1-7, 2018

‘Near-final’ Android P beta now available, Apple Maps overhauled for iOS 12, Facebook bug unblocks some blocked users 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 — all to inspire you and your company to take advantage of the many benefits mobile can offer.

Developers Can Start Testing Android P Apps With Latest Beta Release

Google’s latest developer beta for Android P represents a near-final look for the upcoming mobile OS. Expected to be completed this summer, this preview release has been called an “early release candidate build” that “takes us very close to what you’ll see in the final version of Android P.” While unclear if there are any new features (notably absent is Android’s announced “digital wellbeing” update), the more important news for developers is that they can start reliably testing apps, since system behaviors and APIs should be more or less in final state. The new Android P beta is now available for download at the Android Beta Program website.

Apple Maps Gets a Major Overhaul With iOS 12

Apple’s most anticipated new update within the upcoming iOS 12 release wasn’t even announced at the company’s developer conference last month. Apple quietly revealed last week that it has spent the last four years rebuilding the Apple Maps app from the ground-up. The new version is said to no longer rely on third-party data. Instead, it will use Apple’s own mapping data to provide more detailed visual information around terrain, bodies of water and landmarks.

The company is also building a toolkit for human editors to make suggestions that will make maps smarter around the “last 50 feet” of trips. For example, editors will be able to make suggestions about where the actual entrance to the building is located. The new Apple Maps features are expected to launch sometime after the iOS 12 update goes live.

Facebook Bug Unblocked Blocked People for Some Users

Facebook revealed last week that a bug randomly unblocked some people on users’ blocked lists. The company said the issue was active between May 29th and June 5th, and affected some 800,000 users. It did not reconnect friends previously blocked, but did allow blocked individuals to view posts again, resend friend requests and even reach out on Facebook Messenger. While those affected only represent a sliver of Facebook’s 2.2 billion user base, the issue was serious due to harassment, bullying and other egregious forms of online behavior. Facebook has since released an official statement around what caused the bug and announced that the issue has now been resolved.

New Lineup of iPhones to Come in New Colors, Too

With just a couple months before the launch of a new lineup of iPhones, the rumor mill continues to swirl. A new report claims that the next set of iPhones may come with some new colorways, too. Alongside the usual grey and white, the entry-level 6.1-inch iPhone is said to be launching in blue, red and orange. Meanwhile, the company’s new flagship 6.5-inch device may also release in gold. According to the report, there are said to be three new iPhones coming this fall: the 5.8-inch iPhone X successor, the new 6.5-inch OLED iPhone X (expected to retail at $1000) and the LCD 6.1-inch iPhone. The new lineup of devices are expected to make their debut in September.

Smartphones Aren’t Listening to Users, but They Might be Watching Our Screen

Convinced that your smartphone is listening to your conversations after seeing ads for items you talked about, but never actually searched for? Sorry to burst the conspiracy bubble, but according to a new report, there is no evidence that apps activate the microphone and transmit audio without user consent. However, and perhaps equally frightening, researchers did find that some Android apps are sharing screen image data with third parties without consent.

They say it’s unclear how this data is being captured and shared, but that it includes screen and video recordings of what people are doing while using the app. The information is apparently being sent to a third-party service that helps developers fix bugs and see how users are interacting with their apps, although it’s unclear if this is actually the intention. The researchers reported the issue to Google, which stated this practice puts developers at risk of violating Play Store policy.

‘This Week’ in Augmented Reality

The proliferation of augmented reality experiences continues, and last week two more cool new use cases cropped up. The first is Bodygram, a service that utilizes AR to accurately measure your body for custom-sized clothing. By simply taking front and side photos, users can get their exact neck, sleeve, shoulder, chest, waist and hip measurements as if they were taken by a professional tailor. Bodygram showcases the confidence level of the measurement, and also offers free returns for any ill-fitting clothing. The app is set to roll-out later this summer.

The other neat AR experience out last week comes from Snapchat. With Wimbledon in full swing, the company has developed a 3D Bitmoji Lens that lets you take on the seven-time champion herself: Serena Williams. When users fire up the game, Williams Bitmoji serves the ball. Users can then command their own cartoon avatar to return each shot. The new limited-time game can be found within the Lenses option on Snapchat, and appears as a tennis ball icon.