The Week in Mobile: October 1-7, 2017

Google unveils the Pixel 2, Apple fixes crackling audio on iPhone 8, Foursquare launches new developer offerings 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.

All the Goodies from Google’s Big Product Event

After Apple dominated the spotlight throughout its iPhone/iOS release cycle, Google finally unveiled a number of new products at its own major hardware event last week. The highlight was the formal debut of the company’s new Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL smartphones, but it announced a host of other tech as well, including: two smart home speakers, new wireless headphones, and a new laptop-tablet hybrid. Here’s a quick look at the new gadgets:

  • Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL:  Google’s newest version of its flagship smartphone has arrived, and will come equipped with a dual-pixel camera, “Active Edge” technology, water resistance, and an always-on display. What it won’t have, to the chagrin of many users, is a headphone jack. The company also revealed that the Pixel lineup will feature the first preview for Google Lens: the company’s first stab at combining machine learning with photo recognition. The highly anticipated new tool will allow users to snap photos of landmarks and restaurants to learn more about them.
  • Home Mini and Home Max: This new lineup of smart home speakers is Google’s answer to Amazon’s Dot and Echo, and both come equipped with Google Assistant. Home Mini, the budget option, costs $49 and is designed to allow users to place multiple across the home for a seamless experience. Home Max is the fully-loaded option. With a $400 price tag, Google says it is 20 times more powerful than the original Home speaker. Home Mini pre-orders are now available and will be released officially on October 19th, while Home Max will become available sometime in December.
  • Pixel Buds: While wireless earbuds aren’t anything new, Google dropped a bombshell with its Pixel Buds announcement. The headphones contain a revolutionary new feature: real-time language translation. Users either speak into the earbuds to output the same thought in a different language, or listen to another speaker to hear a translation through the headphones almost instantaneously. The Pixel Buds pair with the new Pixel 2 lineup of smartphones, and will support more than 40 languages on release.
  • Pixelbook: Google has a new laptop-tablet hybrid called Pixelbook. The two-in-one device will run on Google’s Chrome OS, feature a foldable 12.3-inch display, and have about 10 hours of battery life. It will cost $999 and pre-orders are now available.

Apple’s Latest iOS 11 Update Fixes Crackling Audio on iPhone 8

Apple launched a new update for iOS 11 that addresses the crackling audio issues during calls on the iPhone 8. This is the second bug fix for Apple’s now two-week-old OS, and it addresses a host of other issues as well. Apple says users should no longer encounter a bug that causes some pictures to not appear in the photo library or experience issues with attachments from encrypted emails. There is also said to be some minor performance improvements, although the company didn’t say how. The new update is now ready for download through the settings menu.

FourSquare Provides New Developer Offerings with Redesigned Website

Foursquare has revamped its developer site for the first time in nearly a decade. Places API, which provides information on more than 105 million places around the world, is the free option that most developers choose to build location-aware experiences. On the enterprise front, Foursquare is offering the Places database and Pilgrim SDK to help developers learn more about points of interest for app users. With the emergence of Augmented Reality apps, Foursquare’s new website offers even more value in the form of sample code and demos for developers looking to create innovative virtual experiences. Foursquare has worked hard to build out its enterprise offerings, and now provides location services for Uber, Airbnb, and even Apple Maps.

Mobile to Become Default Payment Method by 2019

Prefer to make payments over your phone when possible? Turns out you’re not the only one. In the near future, mobile may even be the default payment method for developed nations. According to a new report, we will be more likely to pay for goods and services using our smartphones versus credit or debit cards in the year 2019. Over the next two years, the number of payments made by card is expected to drop below 46% as the ability to pay via smartphone becomes more readily available. The report notes this won’t be the case for developing nations, where cash transactions will still reign supreme for the foreseeable future.

Snapchat Debuts Augmented Reality Art

Snapchat has launched a new Augmented Reality experience that ties specific works of art to real world locations. For the art platform’s debut, Snapchat teamed up with contemporary pop artist Jeff Koons to place virtual sculptures in cities across the world. Users simply travel to the pinned location, open the special “Snapchat ART Lens,” and point their smartphone in a certain direction to reveal the AR art. Snapchat hopes that more artists like Koons will sign up to have their artwork featured on the new platform. Koons’ balloon animal sculptures can now be viewed using Snapchat in cities such as New York, Chicago, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Toronto, Sydney, London, Paris, and Rio de Janeiro.

Instagram Develops Its Own Polls for Stories

After the smash success of the Polly add-on for Snapchat last month, Instagram is adding its own polling option to Stories. Polly found success with teens as a way to make Snapchat more interactive, allowing the user to pose a multiple choice question that followers could respond to with a simple tap. Now, Instagram users can get in on the fun. Similar to dropping a location sticker, users can now add a two-answer question to their Instagram story. Results come through instantly, with users able to check who voted for what through Stories view count page. The move reveals that Instagram isn’t afraid to copy not only Snapchat’s core features, but also those created by smaller startups. Instagram’s new polling feature is now available.