The Week in Mobile: September 10-16, 2017

Apple unveils new lineup of products, Samsung promises ‘foldable’ smartphones in 2018, Google to launch Pixel 2 in October 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.

Hardware Highlights from Apple’s Big Product Reveal

Apple’s annual September product event is always a hyped ordeal, but this year’s reveal was even more so with the announcement of three new iPhone models. While the iPhone X (pronounced “iPhone 10”) may have stolen the show, Apple had a number of other interesting new products to show off. Here are some of the highlights:

  • iPhone X: The 10th anniversary edition of the iPhone was the main attraction of last week’s event. Rumors of a nearly bezel-less display, Facial ID to unlock and the removal of the home button were all true, as well as the $999 price tag. The iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus boast many of the same processing and camera components—as well as wireless charging—and start at $699.
  • Augmented Reality: Apple demonstrated some new games and apps showcasing just how powerful the ARKit platform can be on the new set of iPhones. The new camera and A11 Bionic chip make extremely detailed visuals appear lifelike for games such as The Machines by developer Directive Games, which runs on Epic’s Unreal Engine 4. Another app displayed how ARKit could be used to enhance the live sporting experience by providing player names and games using the camera.
  • LTE-enabled Watch: The outward design of the new Apple Watch may not differ much from previous models, but they say it’s what’s on the inside that counts. Namely, an LTE chip that will allow users to connect to cellular data networks. That means you will be able to make calls, receive notifications and stream music without the need for it to be tethered to your iPhone. The new Watch is now available for pre-order for $399.
  • Apple TV: Apple TV is getting a major boost with the ability to stream video in 4k resolution. The new 4k device is also getting a tab devoted to streaming live sports, although it’s not quite clear exactly what the offering will look like or how it will integrate with existing services such as ESPN.

Apple Seeds Release Version of iOS 11 to Developers

iOS 11 isn’t set to be pushed out to the public until September 19th, but after several months and over 10 developer previews, Apple seeded the golden master version to registered developers and public beta users. This means devs can now download iOS 11 from the Apple Development Center or over the air once you’ve installed the proper configuration profile.

Samsung Hopes to Release a Foldable Smartphone in 2018

Uneager to hand over the spotlight to Apple for too long, Samsung announced last week that it’s aiming to release a foldable Note smartphone next year. The company did not provide any details on what the phone might look like, but it has been rumored to be working on such a device since 2013. Flexible OLED screen prototypes have been demoed at technology conferences before, but Samsung would be the first to produce such a device at mass scale. Samsung is also reportedly planning to launch the Galaxy S9 in January of next year, meaning 2018 could shape up to be a big year for the South Korean tech company.

Google To Launch Pixel 2 on October 4th

Google says it will launch the new versions of its Pixel smartphone early next month. The company has launched a new advertising effort and website to promote the upcoming Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL, which will be produced by HTC and LG respectively. It’s unclear exactly what the specifications will be on the new devices, but the website does drop hints of some features such as optical image stabilization for photos, a more durable casing, and a more powerful Google Assistant experience. The launch event is scheduled for October 4th in San Francisco.

Facebook Now Testing Instant Videos and Bonfire Group Video Chat App

Facebook is currently testing two new mobile app features. The first is called Instant Videos, which will help users save on data plans by temporarily downloading news feed videos to their smartphones when connected to WiFi. Pre-loaded videos will bear a lighting bolt icon, and once on the go, users will no longer need to worry about data usage or network bandwidth to watch. The company says it’s attempting to remove data costs as a barrier to watching videos on its app, but it may also have the added bonus of making Facebook’s new Watch tab more widely used, since users can preload longer content for later.

The company is also testing a new app called Bonfire, which lets up to eight friends host a group video chat with special filters and effects. Facebook has also integrated it into Messenger, which means those 1.2 million users can start a Bonfire without needing to download the standalone app. Bonfire is currently only available in Denmark, but those with the app can invite other users from around the world via the Messenger app.

Zelle Has Launched Its Own Payments App

Zelle has launched its own standalone app to rival existing payment services like Venmo, Apple Pay and Square Cash. Backed by more than 30 banks, the company has been managing money transfers on those banks’ apps since its launch in June. While the app won’t have a social feed, it will provide users with instant transactions. In comparison, most other services require users to cash out to receive their funds, which can take a couple of days to process. And in many cases, Zelle won’t require users to  sign-up for the service or enter bank account information, since the app works directly with a number of banks where users are already members. The Zelle app is now available and will support debit cards and checking/savings accounts, but not credit cards.