The Week in Mobile: June 3-8, 2018

Highlights from Apple’s WWDC, Microsoft Buys GitHub for $7.5 billion, Google debuts standalone Google Lens app 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.

Mobile Highlights from Apple’s WWDC Event

In San Jose this week, Apple held its annual developer conference, WWDC. As with every year, the event kicked off with a keynote presentation where the company laid out all the major software and product updates in store for the future. The biggest announcements this year included the first look at iOS 12, new ARKit features and upgrades to Apple’s wearables lineup. Here are some of the mobile-focused highlights from the conference:

  • iOS 12: While the next generation of iOS won’t be available until the fall, the company showcased many of the key changes developers can expect from iOS 12. Alongside new features such as group FaceTime, new Animoji and improvements to Siri, the focus of Apple’s keynote was on mobile performance. With iOS 12, the company claims users will see apps launch up to 40% faster, the keyboard come up 50% faster and open photos 70% faster. Perhaps spurred by reports of battery issues in older phones, Apple even showcased these new performance buffs using an iPhone 6. It was also revealed with iOS 12 that developers will be able to port iOS apps to MacOS starting next year.

  • ARKit 2.0: As part of iOS 12, Apple has revealed a number of improvements to its augmented reality platform that will bring improved performance, multiplayer support and more. The company demonstrated the power of ARKit 2.0 with a competitive slingshot game, which supports multiple players each using their own device. The full range of new ARKit features includes: improved face tracking, more realistic rendering, 3D object detection and persistent and shared experiences. The company also announced it has partnered with Adobe on a new universal file format called Universal Scene Description (USDZ), which will make it easier for developers to deploy AR-based apps.

  • Wearables: A new report claims that while the market growth for wearables is slowing, the devices themselves continue to get smarter. Apple, which remains king in terms of wearables sales, certainly demonstrated that at WWDC with the introduction of WatchOS 5 and several other updates. This new smartwatch software delivers improvements to fitness tracking, a Walkie Talkie feature, new audio streaming app options and an overhaul to the interface. Apple also announced Live Listen for its AirPod wireless earbuds, which allows users to turn their iPhone into a microphone to deliver improved sound to the headphones (similar to a hearing aid). The new updates are expected to drop alongside the launch of iOS 12 sometime this fall.

Microsoft Acquires GitHub for $7.5 Billion

In addition to the announcements coming out of WWDC, there was another major storyline for developers this week when Microsoft announced its acquisition of GitHub. The deal, which was made for $7.5 billion, means the gigantic code repository that is also utilized by Google, Apple and Amazon, will now rest firmly in the control of Microsoft. Although the company is the top contributor of code to the platform, some developers have already voiced concerns about the move, citing Microsoft’s past practices and track record with previous acquisitions such as Skype and Nokia. The deal will earn GitHub some cred with more established enterprises, but Microsoft will need to tread carefully in order to not alienate the open source platform’s existing developer community.

Google Releases Standalone App for Google Lens

While the focus of the news cycle centered around Apple and Microsoft-Github this week, Google quietly launched some of the upgrades promised at its own developer conference earlier this year. A standalone app for Google Lens has now debuted in the Play Store, which means more Android users can access the AI-powered identification tool. Google Lens utilizes smartphone cameras and artificial intelligence to recognize and describe images of clothing, books, buildings and more. Previously, this tool was only available to users through native camera apps on devices such as the company’s own Pixel smartphones. At Google’s I/O developer conference, the company stated that the platform would initially roll out to 10 Android devices, in addition to its Pixel lineup.

Apple Updates App Store Rules Around Remote Game Streaming

Outside of WWDC, Apple made some changes to its App Store policies that open the door for remote game streaming. The company faced pushback last week after rejecting Valve’s “Steam Link” gaming service, which allows users to access their Steam library of PC games in order to play remotely on their mobile device. Apple claims it turned the app away initially for apparent “business conflicts.” Well, now it has reversed course and will allow for what are known as remote mirroring apps, as long as purchases within those apps are not processed through their tightly-controlled App Store ecosystem. The change is a nuanced one, but should allow for apps like Valve’s Steam Link to exist on iOS without interfering with Apple’s plans to take a slice of the revenue (typically 30%) on all in-app purchases.