The Week in Mobile: March 18-23, 2018

Facebook cracks down on data misuse, virtual reality poised for big year, a chatbot wants to eliminate banking apps 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.

Facebook Will Restrict Developer Access to Account Data

In the wake of Facebook’s personal data scandal, the company will now set new limits on developer access to account data. Facebook has announced several new changes, which include: limiting the amount of personal information third-party apps can now see, stripping access to user account data when users stop using the app and requiring Facebook’s approval to access certain info.

Here’s how the changes will work in practice: third-party developers can now only see a user’s name, profile photo and email address when they use Facebook Login. Access to more information such as post history, likes, etc. will have to granted by Facebook via a request process. Additionally, an app’s access to Facebook accounts will be shut off if that person hasn’t used the app in three months.

Facebook also announced a forthcoming News Feed tool that will help people see (and disable) apps connected to the social media platform, as well as an expansion to its bug bounty program to include data misuse.

Virtual Reality May Finally Hit its Stride this Year

Despite relatively slow growth last year, according to a new report, the marketplace for VR experiences is expected to grow by 48.5% over the next year. By the year 2022, it is predicted that VR headset sales will exceed 69 million units. But consumer interest in virtual experiences has been slow to translate to sales. Companies like Facebook, which owns the innovative Oculus Rift platform, has slashed the prices of its headsets, with others such as Acer, Dell, Lenovo and HP following suit.

Could This Chatbot Replace Your Banking Apps?

A clever English chatbot wants to replace your banking apps forever. While still in its alpha version, the chatbot named Cleo now offers support for more than 647 banks across the U.S., and offers users a more conversational way to receive financial insights. By using simple commands, Cleo can lay out your budget and provide spending details across multiple accounts or credit cards. She can also transfer funds to Facebook Messenger contacts, help you donate money to charity and set-up new spending goals (and alerts when you inevitably surpass those). Cleo can even let you know where you are spending too much money and recommend new ways to save. The UK-based developers of the app hope their chatbot will become the new default financial control center for mobile and have already added more than 150,000 users.

Wave of New Augmented Reality Apps Pop Up on Android

This week, Google’s augmented reality platform brought to life several new augmented reality experiences. Demonstrating the power of ARCore, Google launched a new app aptly named Just a Line. The AR experiment allows users to create simple drawings such as stars or fish in augmented reality (think Snapchat filters, but floating in the air). The creations can then be brought to life and shared via a short video. In order to test out the new tech, you’ll need a smartphone that supports ARCore such as the Google Pixel 2, OnePlus 5, Zenfone AR, LG V30 and any of the latest Samsung Galaxy phones.

But Google isn’t the only one showing off what ARCore can do now that it’s available to the public. Popular online furniture retailer Wayfair also introduced a new AR-powered feature for its Android app on Wednesday that allows users to preview what an item may look like in their home before buying it. More than just a new tech trend, augmented reality helps online shoppers get a sense of the size and shape of items to help them make purchasing decisions. IKEA also released a similar feature this week, while eBay used ARCore to create a new tool for sellers to find the right-sized shipping box for items. ARCore, Google’s answer to Apple’s AR platform, was officially released last month and has the potential to reach more than 100 million Android users.

T-Mobile’s Parent Company Will Let Some Users Opt-Out of Bloatware

The parent company of T-Mobile has made history by saying no to “bloatware” on Android-powered devices. According to a new report, Deutsche Telekom will offer a new feature that eliminates unwanted pre-installed apps, which has been a source of frustration for users on many different platforms. Commonly referred to as bloatware, users often feel that pre-installed apps and software consume useful space and can be difficult to remove or delete. Depending on which smartphone you have, some T-Mobile customers will now go through a new set-up process allowing them to customize what apps (such as messages, mail, etc.) will initially appear on their phone. Apparently though, the feature has not been made available in the U.S.

Commuters Can Now Board the Las Vegas Monorail Using Google Pay

Google has started rolling out the ability for users to board public transportation using the Google Pay app. Android users can now purchase tickets and passes for the Las Vegas Monorail using their smartphone, with Google claiming that more transportation systems in more cities are on the way. Commuters simply make their purchase online using their computer or phone, and save them to Google Pay. From there they can simply hover their smartphone over the contactless reader at the monorail turnstiles to enter. The app will also save ride history and even show you nearby stations. At the beginning of the year, Google consolidated its various payment services such as Android Pay and Google Wall into one unified service called Google Pay. The company has not specified where else we might see the feature in the near future, but promised that new locations are on the way.