The Week in Mobile: May 14-20, 2017

Highlights from Google I/O, Alexa gets notifications, Nintendo doubles down on mobile 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.

Google Updates Photos, Assistant and Much More

Google offered an exclusive glimpse into the future of Android and its other platforms during the company’s annual I/O conference last Wednesday. Here are some of the highlights:

  • Google plans to add new layers of Artificial Intelligence to all of its products, and that starts with the unveiling of a new photo technology called Google Lens. The new product will allow users to point their smartphone cameras at an object to identify or interact with it.
  • The company announced that its virtual assistant will soon become more conversational, and even make the jump to iPhone. Google Assistant has expanded from the Pixel phone to more than 100 million Android devices. While iOS users won’t be able to replace Siri as their default assistant, they can now utilize Google Assistant on iPhone through an app. Google also revealed that developers are now able to build apps and actions for the Android and iOS versions of Google Assistant. Previously, developers were only able to do this on Home devices.
  • While Google still hasn’t picked an official name for its new operating system, the company has now made an Android O beta available to users. That means consumers can finally get their hands-on new updates such as notification dots, picture-in-picture and autofill with Google Chrome.
  • Google unveiled plans for new standalone VR headsets that won’t require a phone or PC to operate. The devices are being produced in partnership with Lenovo and HTC, and will run on Google’s Daydream platform. They are said to feature improved graphics and movement tracking, and are scheduled to ship later this year.
  • Finally, Google announced some impressive growth numbers, including that there are now more than two billion Android devices in use around the globe. Even as Android continues its position as the most popular mobile operating system in the world, Google unveiled plans for a stripped down version called Android Go, targeting developing countries with limited connectivity.

Uber Adds Nearby Public Transportation Details for Riders

Uber will now show passengers the departure times for public transportation options near their drop-off point. The company announced a new partnership with a transport information service called Transit to provide real-time data for local buses and trains within the Uber app. The integration, which is only available to Android users for now, was designed to make Uber a better option for commuters. Users can now view upcoming departure times, potential delays and directions for getting to their bus or train through the Uber feed. The integration is now available in 50 of the nation’s largest cities.

Nintendo is Bringing Zelda to Mobile

Nintendo is reportedly bringing another popular franchise, The Legend of Zelda, to smartphones later this year. The move marks the Japanese company’s latest foray into the mobile gaming space after announcing several years ago that it would release five new mobile titles by 2017. Following the release of Super Mario Run, Fire Emblem Heroes and Miitomo, Nintendo is close to making that promise a reality. Although widely praised by fans, Nintendo’s mobile experiment only netted the company $176.4 million out of $4.3 billion in total sales the last fiscal year. Despite the modest payout, Nintendo is pushing forward with mobile in the hope that it will capture the attention of casual gamers.

Amazon Adding Notifications to Alexa

Alexa will soon be able to alert users via notifications. According to a recent announcement, developers will be able to build notifications for Amazon’s family of Echo devices as well as third-party platforms that utilize Alexa in the coming months. The updates will come in a couple of different ways, including an audible chime and glowing green light to alert the user that new information is available. Users will then be able to ask Alexa about the notifications, as well as enable a “Do Not Disturb” mode if they’d like to cease visual or audio cues for alerts for a set time. The tech giant said AccuWeather, The Washington Post, Just Eat and Life360 will be among the first brands to take advantage of the new feature.

Apple May Discontinue Updates, Phase Out iPad Mini

As anticipation grows around the potential announcement of a new iPad during WWDC in June, reports suggest Apple may do away with the iPad mini. A source close to Apple says the iPad mini will no longer receive updates and will eventually be phased out altogether. The iPad mini has seen declining sales recently, and some analysts have predicted the 7.9-inch iPad mini would eventually be discontinued following the release of the larger 5.5-inch iPhone Plus, which reduced the need for a smaller-sized tablet.

While Apple looks to be moving away from smaller, lighter versions of their trademark tablet, Amazon is raising the stakes by releasing four new versions of its compact Fire tablet. The new releases include upgrades to the Fire 7 and Fire HD 8 tablets, which offer 7-inch and 8-inch displays respectively. Amazon is also releasing kid-friendly versions of each of these products that come complete with a special protective case and parental monitoring options.