The Week in Mobile: June 11-17, 2017

Google releases third Android O developer preview, Essential Phone to be Sprint exclusive, U.S. banks launch peer-to-peer payment rival 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.

New Android O Developer Preview and More

It was a busy week for Google and Android, which announced a number of updates to share with developers and users alike last week.

  • Google rolled out the third phase of its developer preview for Android O. The latest test version now includes finalized APIs and updates to background limits, networks and security. Google plans to release one more developer preview next month before making Android O available to users later this summer.
  • Google Play Store has a new way to showcase top apps and games with the announcement of it “Android Excellence” program. The new collection will allow Play Store editors to feature apps on a quarterly basis.
  • The company has also released an update to its GBoard that will cut down on the amount of typing required. Using machine learning, Google’s smart keyboard will now let users draw the emoji they wish to use and be able to predict full phrases when responding to messages.
  • Google’s mobile wallet will now allow users to transfer money to relatives and friends in another country. Android Pay has paired-up with remittance startup WorldRemit to deliver the new service, which marks the first time users can perform international money transfers on the platform.

Andy Rubin’s Essential Phone Will Only be Available on Sprint

The new “Essential” smartphone from Android creator Andy Rubin has inked an exclusive distribution deal with Sprint. The Essential phone was revealed last month and is widely anticipated for its slick design and powerful hardware —including a titanium and ceramic screen said to be stronger than competitive offerings. The problem is that Sprint is only the fourth largest carrier in the United States, severely limiting the reach of the new device. According to reports, the project recently received more than $300 million in funding to distribute the smartphone, which is set to retail at $699.

US Banks Unite to Launch Peer-to-Peer Payment Competitor

US banks now finally have a way to compete with peer-to-peer payment tools like Venmo, PayPal and now iMessage. More than 30 banks and credit unions in the US are signed on to integrate the unified payment system Zelle into their apps and services. Zelle doesn’t have its own app yet, but the tool will allow users to transfer money to and from supporting banking apps. What distinguishes Zelle from other payment services is the ability to make instant transfers, rather than needing to pay a fee or wait several days to cash out. It also has leg up on the competition for older users, since it’s backed by banks and will be built into apps that they have likely already downloaded. Zelle will roll out to financial partners over the next 12 months.

Facebook Wants to Help Users Subscribe to News Publications

Facebook is reportedly building a feature that will make it easier for users to subscribe to news publishers through its mobile app. Following the last election and rise of “fake news,” the social media company has been hard at work to change the way the platform handles news. Facebook added new tools earlier this year to help users identify false articles and sign up for newsletters. The company’s new subscription service will build on this effort, although it is still unclear how the feature will be structured and what it will look like in practice. The feature is set to launch before the end of 2017.

Amazon Unveils New Alexa-Enabled Dash Wand

Amazon has released a new version of its Dash Wand that integrates with Alexa. The revamped version of the Dash Wand can still scan barcodes and convert measurements, but it will also take advantage of the company’s AI assistant to help users find restaurants, recipes and beyond using voice commands. The product is selling for $20, but also includes a full rebate that can be redeemed for online purchases. For now, Dash Wand is only available to Amazon Prime members.