The Week in Mobile: May 6-10, 2018

Highlights from Google I/O, Twitter tests direct messaging encryption, how to resolve the new “black dot” unicode bug 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.

Product Highlights from Google’s I/O Developer Conference

First it was Facebook, and now it’s Google’s turn as developer conference season is upon us. This week, the search giant held its annual Google I/O conference and made several important announcements around artificial intelligence, Google Assistant, and more. Here’s a few of the highlights:

  • Google AI: The company rebranded its entire research division as Google AI, signaling a new focus on machine learning technologies, such as computer vision, natural language processing, and neural networks.
  • Assistant: Google is looking to make interacting with its Assistant a bit less robotic. Soon, users will only need to say “Hey Google” or “OK Google” once to describe a string a commands. The new features are set to drop in the coming weeks.
  • Google Maps: The company is also making several big upgrades to Google Maps as soon as this summer, including new augmented reality controls and integrations with Google Lens and Assistant. The update provides users with personalized recommendations for nearby places, AR-powered directions utilizing 3D arrows and a virtual guide, and the ability to identify notable things along the way like buildings, signs, and even dog breeds.
  • Photos: The search giant also announced AI-powered tools for Google Photos to help users quickly correct or add pops of color, optimize brightness, suggest rotations, and more.

The Android P Public Beta is Now Live

The flurry of updates announced at Google’s I/O developer conference will be powered by Android P, which entered its first public beta this week. The new mobile OS has been described as “Google’s most ambitious update in years”, sporting a host of interface upgrades and visual changes, such as gesture navigation, improved notification controls, and new tools for monitoring smartphone usage.

The new gesture controls will take advantage of long presses and secondary swipes to navigate the new interface. Google has also added new ways to adjust how and when users receive notifications. An improved Do Not Disturb mode can now activate when the user flips their phone face down if they please, and Android P makes it easier to separate apps for work and play. The new OS also adds app monitoring and time limits, as well as a feature that makes the display flash black and white when it’s time for bed.

The Cool, New Developer Tools That Come with Android P

But it doesn’t end there! For developers, Android P brings about a bevy of widely anticipated new tools. First, Google has announced Android App Bundles, which will help developers make app file sizes much smaller by shipping only the screen size, language support or other assets needed for a given device. The new tool can result in install files more than 50 percent smaller than before. In a similar vein, Google is now opening up instant apps to all game developers. The technology was previously limited to select developers, and allows users to try a smaller, preview version of the game before making a purchase or downloading the full game.

Finally, Google is also adding a new subscription center that will make signing-up for and managing subscription-based apps easier on both users and consumers. The Android P public beta is available for download on 11 Android devices, with the full launch expected later this summer.

iOS 11.4 Will Add a New USB Connection Security Feature

Researchers have discovered a new security feature in the forthcoming iOS 11.4 update that disables data transmission via USB if the device hasn’t been unlocked for seven days. The toggleable option will prohibit data transfer over USB (the device will still charge) when the phone is left locked for a week. Normal USB data sharing will re-enable automatically once the iPhone is unlocked normally. The move could thwart law enforcement’s ability to exploit that USB connection to coax information out of the device without the user’s consent.

Twitter is Quietly Testing Encrypted Direct Messaging

Twitter is now looking to add end-to-end encrypted conversations to its direct messaging feature. According to new reports, the company is testing “secret conversations” on the Android version of its app, which will allow users to send messages that can only be read between the sender and recipient. Full encryption, which this is billed as, means not even Twitter would be able to see the messages. Twitter appears to be adding Secret conversations to prevent users from needing to leave the platform to send secure messages.

Here’s How to Fix the New ‘Black Dot’ Unicode Bug

Another unicode bug capable of crashing apps and operating systems is now gaining notoriety in the development community. Nicknamed the “black dot” unicode bug, the new string discovered last week consists of the black dot and pointing left emoji (as well as other hidden characters we won’t name here), and can affect everything from Whatsapp on Android to iMessage on iOS. When it comes to iMessage, the issue can usually be resolved by simply deleting the conversation where the string text appears. But if needed, you can find more information on solving the issue across various devices, apps and platforms here.