The Week in Mobile: October 14-19, 2018

Google rejiggers Android licensing in Europe, Palm’s tiny phone makes a big splash, the bendable future of mobile screens & 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.

Free No More: Android’s Reckoning in Europe

Google’s Android platform is the latest to experience the fallout from the company’s $5 billion antitrust fine, levied this summer by European regulators. Google is appealing the ruling, but this week announced changes to its Android licensing model in Europe — a proactive move to “avoid additional penalties heaped on top of the antitrust fine,” per TechCrunch.

Device manufacturers will have to pay a fee to license many Google apps, although Google Search and the Chrome browser will remain free. According to TechCrunch, apps that will now require a fee include: Google Play Store, Gmail, maps, YouTube, Drive and Photos, among others. Google has not yet announced what the fees will cost. The new policy gives manufacturers whose devices run on the Android platform flexibility to choose which Google apps are default on their devices. For more details on the licensing policy, read Google’s blog.

In the Fight Against Screen Addiction, Palm Opts for Smaller Screens (Not Software)

Palm (remember that name?) made a splash on the mobile device scene this week by unveiling its new model. But there’s a twist: While the likes of Apple and Samsung are going bigger on screen size, Palm has gone small. And that’s by design. The credit card-sized device is intended to be an add-on to users’ full-sized phones, more of a smartwatch than a replacement phone. While device makers like Apple have addressed screen addiction with apps and software such as Apple’s Screen Time app in iOS 12, Palm’s approach is to miniaturize the device itself. The $350 device, available in November and currently exclusive to Verizon, will run Android 8.1.

The Verge’s Dieter Bohn writes: “It’s a tiny phone to keep you from using your big phone, but it could do all the things your big one can do if you wanted (but you shouldn’t because the whole idea is to get you to be a little less obsessed with your phone). It’s like a phone for your phone.”

In Other New Device News …

Palm’s tiny phone comeback wasn’t the only mobile device news this week. There’s something for everyone in device makers’ forthcoming models.

  • Huawei packs in the features with its Mate 20 and Mate 20 Pro series. BGR’s Chris Smith writes that the models “have instantly become the best iPhone XS rivals out there,” adding that the Pro model is “easily the most beastly Android phone the world has ever seen so far.”
  • Samsung confirmed design details for its much-anticipated Galaxy S10 that will arrive in 2019. And the Galaxy F, expected to be a combo phone and tablet with a foldable OLED screen, is expected sooner, possibly by Samsung’s developer conference in November.
  • Not to be outdone in the foldable device market, Apple is rumored to be developing an iPhone with a bendable screen. One class of apps not likely to show up on the devices? Misleading subscription apps that, Apple says, have tricked users into spending hundreds of dollars per year. Apple has started removing the apps from the App Store.

Beyond the Pin: Pinterest Unveils in-App Product Recommendations

Pinterest continues its evolution into an e-commerce destination with the launch this week of a new shopping feature called Product Pin. The feature uses machine learning and visual search to offer users personalized shopping recommendations. According to Engadget, the feature will introduce “a new shopping recommendation area in the Style and Home Decor categories. The recommendations are based on your personal tastes as well as the latest trends, and each of the pins are now called Product Pins. When you click through one of the recommended items, you’ll get a feed full of similar styles as well as links to product pages where you can buy them.”

A More Conversational Cortana

Tech giants like Apple, Amazon and Microsoft are eager to imbue their digital assistants with the ability to speak colloquially with their human masters. Microsoft’s Cortana might be losing the popularity contest with Siri and Alexa, but Microsoft hopes to close the gap with a forthcoming update (currently in beta) for Android and iOS. In addition to a redesigned interface and a slew of new features, the beta will allow users to chat conservationally with the AI assistant.