The Week in Mobile: November 4-9, 2018

Samsung unveils its foldable smartphone, global mobile device sales decreased again last quarter, Vine successor ‘Byte’ to launch next Spring & more

Each week we round up the top news stories, think pieces and other content about 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.

2019 Will be the Year of Foldable Smartphones

After years of anticipation, Samsung has finally unveiled its foldable smartphone. Using dim lights to conceal the design, Samsung gave users a glimpse at its bendable phone technology. The company calls it the Infinity Flex Display, and it looks like a tablet that can be folded down to the size and shape of a standard smartphone.  

The Verge’s Tom Warren (@tomwarren) reports: “Google is also officially supporting these new foldable devices with Android, and it’s working closely with Samsung for the launch of this phone next year. Google is providing guidance for developers to start using existing features that are built into Android to support these foldable displays.”

However, Samsung isn’t the only manufacturer getting into the foldable smartphone game. Huawei, Lenovo, Xiami and LG are all working on their own bendable displays for 2019.

Global Smartphone Sales Continue to Decline

Mobile device sales have been slowing down for a while now, but a new report paints a grimmer picture of the decline. According to the data firm IDC, manufacturers shipped just 355.2 million units last quarter. That figure marks a 6% decline over last year and the fourth consecutive quarter overall of declining shipments.

Engadget’s Steve Dent (@stevetdent) writes: “Samsung caused much of that pain because it shipped 13.4% fewer smartphones last quarter and it accounts for 20.3% of the global smartphone market.”

China, which represents a third of total smartphones sales, is also partly to blame for the slow down. Device shipments declined there for the sixth consecutive quarter.

Report: The 5G iPhone Won’t Debut Next Year

Although the first 5G smartphones are set to arrive next year, Apple’s 5G iPhone won’t arrive until 2020. While it looks like iPhone users will have to wait (thanks to some Intel chip issues) manufacturers such as Oppo, Huawei and Xiaomi could debut 5G phones as early as the Mobile World Congress show next February.

But Fast Company’s Mark Sullivan (@thesullivan) explains that Apple’s decision to hold off on a 5G iPhone is sensible, and not surprising: “The 5G standard was finalized only this year, and the number of 5G base stations available in major markets will remain limited next year.”

Vine to be Rebooted as Byte and Launch Next Spring

Vine lives on. The once popular looping video app is set to be reincarnated as Byte in Spring 2019, according to Vine co-creator Don Hofmann. Twitter acquired Vine in 2012, but killed the app four years later after six-second videos never took off in tweets.

The Verge’s Nick Statt (@nickstatt) writes: “Despite its short-lived existence, Vine became a hugely popular platform for video creators, many of whom have since moved on to Instagram, Twitch, and YouTube.”

Not much is known yet about how Byte may work, but the return of six-second looped videos certainly has the Internet abuzz with excitement.

Tencent Wants to Limit Young Gamers by Verifying Their Ages

Chinese tech behemoth Tencent hopes to curb video game addiction and foster positive habits for younger players, but took some drastic measures to make it happen. The company has started verifying the identities and ages of users in order to limit their game time.

Engadget’s Jon Fingas (@jonfingas) describes the new restrictions: “Tencent will check IDs through police databases and set the game time accordingly, giving the 12-and-under crowd one hour of play (and then only between 8AM and 9PM) while the 13-to-18 audience gets two hours.”

The new policy is raising eyebrows for privacy advocates, but Tencent has already introduced the system for its flagship game: Honor of Kings. The company said it will expand the restrictions to 10 titles by the end of 2018.

Instagram Working on Bully-Proof ‘School Stories’

Instagram could introduce collaborative School Stories that are supposed to be bully-proof through manual moderation. The feature could be a cool way for students to share moments just among their peers, but might also intensify teens’ feelings of envy, promote exclusionary social scenes, or even increase cases of bullying.

TechCrunch’s Josh Constine (@joshconstine) writes: “Instagram would have to develop an extraordinarily nuanced rubric for deciding what’s allowed, and do deep training of moderators to make sure they don’t miss anything.”