The Week in Mobile: October 2 – 8, 2016


Google’s new product suite, Samsung acquires Viv, iMessage App Store’s early success, Mobile beats web commerce traffic 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.

Made by Google

This past week, Google showcased a host of new products “made by Google.” Among the highlights were the Google Home speaker, the Daydream View VR headset, a reimagined Wi-Fi router, an updated Chromecast and last but not least, the Pixel phone, which comes with Google Assistant and marks the first smartphone – hardware and software – fully owned by Google. In a blog post after the announcements, CEO Sundar Pichai shared his vision for the future as an AI-first world “where computing becomes universally available — be it at home, at work, in the car, or on the go.” These announcements together begin connecting the dots for how Google plans to make this vision a reality. (See our quick take on what it means for devs here.)

It was also revealed this week that, come December, developers can begin building with Google Assistant using “Actions on Google.” It’s a move that seeks to challenge Amazon, which now has thousands of “skills” that users can call upon via Alexa.

iMessage App Store an Early Success for Devs

Apple’s release of iOS 10 brought with it the ability to create apps for iMessage. Developers who jumped on the opportunity to add iMessage App Store support or created an app specifically for the chat platform are already enjoying the results of their efforts. Topping the download charts is JibJab, which saw more than a 1500 percent increase in downloads after launching iMessage compatibility. Also at the top of the download list: GIF Keyboard, Giphy and OpenTable.

Microsoft Deletes Apps Without Age Rating

Last week, Microsoft gave developers an ultimatum: assign an age rating to all apps in accordance with the “International Age Rating Coalition” or be deleted. The push was a move to increase app store usage by providing more predictability for what each app offers.

Meanwhile, the Apple App Store saw a change of its own with the introduction of ads. So far, the ads are only viewable by users in the United States, and they’re based on a bidding system aimed at allowing smaller developers to still get top spots. Time will tell whether Apple’s strategy is a win for users or a win for less-than-useful apps.

Samsung Acquires Viv

Viv, the AI platform created by the founders of Siri, has been acquired by Samsung. Injong Rhee, Samsung’s CTO, said that the purchase is meant to fuel wearable and home appliance integrations, citing Viv’s impressive capabilities with natural language processing. It’s a play that could put the company in direct competition with Siri and other virtual assistants.

Facebook Messenger Lite

In a move aimed at extending the reach of Facebook Messenger in emerging markets, Facebook released Messenger Lite, a version of the chat platform that’s friendlier to older or less advanced devices. Messenger Lite uses less storage and works better with weaker data connections. Users will still be able to send text, links and images using the service. Last year, the company released a pared-back Facebook app for Android called Facebook Lite, which displays images at a lower resolution and is missing features that use more data like video and location capabilities.

The social media giant also announced Marketplace for purchasing and selling items, its own interpretation of services like Craigslist and Ebay. Marketplace will debut in the US, UK, Australia and New Zealand, with a smartphone app launching first and a desktop offering coming in the next few months.

Apple Watch Hits the NYC Restaurant Scene

The quest for a better customer dining experience has gone the way of the Apple Watch for one New York City eatery. Select employees at Shake Shack creator Danny Meyers’ soon-to-be-reopened Union Square Cafe will be sporting the wearable device. Using the booking and reservation app Resy, managers will be able to tap into the length of time each table has been waiting to order, alert employees in the coat room to retrieve a diner’s jacket the moment they get up from a table, or locate just the right bottle of wine from the cellar. Of course, the decision is also about data. Customers who download Resy can fill out a profile noting previous meals at the restaurant, allergies and other preferences, and the eatery’s staff can do the same, bringing a big boost to customer service. The watches will be worn by restaurant managers and sommeliers, not servers.

Elsewhere in wearables, Microsoft put an end to its Band fitness tracker and is stopping sales of the device. But the company did express its commitment to other wearable devices, citing its HD hologram device, HoloLens, as evidence.

Mobile Takes the Top eCommerce Spot

Mobile commerce has officially exceeded web commerce, seeing 40 percent sales growth in 2016, according to Astound Commerce. Meanwhile, ecommerce overall saw a growth of just 11 percent from last year. The majority of sales, which reached 26.6 billion in Q1 of 2016, came from mobile.