The Week in Mobile: March 11-17, 2018

Smartphone rumors galore, Spotify adds voice control, TV Time helps users find their binge-worthy show 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.

Rumor: What’s in Store For Apple’s New Trio of iPhones This Year

Spring is in the air, which means the new iPhone rumor mill is now in full effect ahead of the company’s annual developer conference in June. Since the iPhone X debuted last November, there have been reports confirming Apple is developing three new devices based on the powerful (and expensive) smartphone. This trio is said to vary in size and price, with the higher-end including a 6.5-inch OLED option (the largest iPhone ever), as well as a 5.8 OLED option.

Apple is also said to be making a more affordable iteration on the iPhone X, which will cut out some pricier components such as the OLED screen, 3D Touch technology or the second rear camera. The production of a cheaper alternative to Apple’s flagship device isn’t a surprise move though, after last year’s expensive iPhone X fell short of sales expectations. The new set of devices will reportedly all feature the company’s patented TrueDepth camera system and Face ID technology, which might spell the end of Touch ID verification (for now). Apple tends to keep a pretty tight lip on what it’s working on, but users can expect to get official news about the new iOS devices at the company’s annual WWDC event on June 2nd.

More Rumors: Samsung Note 9 Won’t Ship with In-Screen Fingerprint Sensor, Essential Patents Clever New Idea to Drop Notches

Apple isn’t the only company with rumors swirling around new devices. According to trusted KGI analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, Samsung may not put an in-display fingerprint sensor in the Galaxy Note 9 as was previously anticipated. The company opted for a more traditional fingerprint sensor on the back of the new Galaxy S9, and now may delay the in-screen feature again due to power consumptions issues and difficulty making the sensors work reliably in different environments or with screen protectors. That would mean Vivo’s X20 Plus UD might be the only phone released this year to feature a fingerprint sensor built into the screen.

Meanwhile, Essential might be working on a solution to eliminate screen notches. Popularized by the iPhone X, screen cutouts are used to house Apple’s TrueDepth camera and Face ID tech. Essential, which launched with a notch prior to the iPhone X, has filed a creative patent that would use semi-transparent screen layers to remove the notch altogether. The idea for the technology is not entirely different from how in-screen fingerprint sensors work, although Essential has not confirmed the design and a patent is no guarantee it will be developed.

Samsung Debuts Same-Day Repair Service for Galaxy and Note Devices

Knowing how painful it can be to go without a phone for more than day, Samsung has announced a new initiative to help users repair their phones more quickly. The company will now partner with the uBreakiFix repair service to provide same-day (or faster) in-person care for broken devices. This will include front and back screen replacements, battery fixes, port and camera repairs and other services (some in, some out-of-warranty) for select Galaxy and Note smartphones. Device owners can schedule appointments online or drop off their phone at a physical store, and Samsung says repairs will be completed within two hours or less. uBreakiFix has more than 300 metro locations throughout the U.S., and plans to added another 200 stores by early 2019.

Spotify Adds Voice Control to Music Streaming Platform

Spotify has added a new voice control feature that allows users to play their favorite artist, playlist or genre hands-free. The new voice interface reacts to simple commands such as “Play my Discover Weekly” or “Play some upbeat pop”  to shuffle through Spotify’s various music libraries. The company says the feature has only been rolled out to a handful of users as they continue to test the functionality. The move is a bold one for the music streaming service, as it previously only had voice integrations with virtual assistants like Amazon’s Alexa and Apple’s Siri. It also opens the door for the company to potentially build its own set of hardware, although so far it’s only done integrations through partnerships with companies like Bose.

TV Time Helps Users Find Their Next Favorite Show

Struggling to find your next binge-worthy show? A new app may be able to help you with that. TV Time allows users to discover new shows, keep track of the programs they’re watching and even socialize with fellow fans after episodes. The app has launched personalized recommendations, which utilizes machine learning on dozens of metrics ranging from what you’ve seen (and what you binged) to shows your friends like. Users can even filter programs by network, genre, streaming service and more to find their next series to watch, and then use the tracking features to remember where they left off, when the shows airs again, etc. TV Time says it’s tracking some 60,000 shows and more than 8 billion unique TV episodes, as there are now more than one million people using the app daily. TV Time is free to download on both iOS and Android.

ARKit Transforms Any Location into Street Fighter II Stage

Showing off the power of Apple’s augmented reality platform, one crafty developer has made an unofficial AR version of one of the most beloved video games of all-time. This virtual reboot of Capcom’s Street Fighter II: The World Warrior sees players picking their favorite martial artist to duke it out in streets, on tables and in parking lots. One user sets the stage by pointing his device at any flat surface, then a second player can join the match simply by point her phone at the same surface. The two competitors select their fighters and then the bout begins, with users able to rotate their position to get a better view of the action. While the game won’t see an official release due to copyright issues, it’s a rare example of a working multiplayer game built using Apple’s ARKit technology.