The Week in Mobile: September 9-14, 2018

Apple’s brand new trio of iPhones, what we know about 5G networks so far, Facebook hopes to train AI to catch ‘fake news’ 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 — all 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 showcase has become one of the mobile industry’s biggest events, and this year was no different. As rumored for months, the company introduced three new iPhone models, as well as a brand new Apple Watch. While the new iPhones were the main attraction, Apple had several other cool products and updates to share with users. Here are some of the highlights:

  • New iPhone trinity: With so many leaks this year, little had been left to the imagination when it came to Apple’s new iPhone lineup. As expected, the trio of iPhones each come equipped with edge-to-edge displays, Face ID to unlock, and some version of 3D Touch. The devices also come in at three distinct price points. The new standard version called the iPhone XS will start at $999, while the larger iPhone XS Max prices at a whopping $1099. Finally, Apple’s new budget model, the iPhone XR, starts at $749. Preorders for the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max models open today, but users won’t be able to order the iPhone XR until October 19th.
  • Apple Watch Series 4: The company’s newest Watch boasts a bigger display, faster processor and built-in electrical heart sensor. The latest model also features a redesigned modular face with more detailed and graphic information, as well as new health features and apps that make wellness a major focal point. The Apple Watch Series 4 starts at $399, and is now available for pre-order alongside a variety of band styles and accessories.
  • iOS 12 releases next week: While hardware may have stolen the show, Apple had a little something for everyone at the event. Even those not planning to upgrade to a new iPhone will get a bunch of new features next week, as the company announced plans to release iOS 12 on Tuesday, September 17th. The big sell for this next major version of iOS is performance, as those with older devices should see vast improvements when launching apps, triggering the camera and entering text. Other features include iOS shortcuts, ARKit 2.0, improved Apple apps and new options for limiting screen time.
  • So long, iPhone home button: Goodbye Touch ID, hello Face ID. With the new lineup of iPhones, Apple has now completely abandoned the physical home button, which has been a stable available to every generation of devices since the beginning. That means the company is also leaving behind its Touch ID biometric in order to go all in on its facial authentication system called Face ID. Introduced with the iPhone X last year, Apple says that customers love it, but with no new iPhone sporting a physical button, this year will finally put that claim to the test.

With 5G Networks Imminent, Apple Faces an iPhone Conundrum

5G is on the horizon, with carriers and smartphone makers alike gearing up to make the next generation of cellular networking a reality. When the future of mobile networks does finally arrive, it will bring faster speeds and lower latency that will have huge impacts on everything from mobile gaming to tech of the future – such as self-driving cars and smart cities. Most major carriers have announced plans to deliver 5G to select U.S. cities by 2019, which means mobile device manufacturers are already considering whether to introduce 5G functionality in hardware launches next year.

Notably absent from that conversation though is Apple, which has remained tight-lipped (per usual) about its plans for future iPhones. The company did not make any announcements around 5G this week, meaning support for the iPhone is not likely to come until September 2019. That could put Apple as much as three quarters behind other smartphone makers, and lagging in perhaps the most critical mobile market: China. The country is anticipated to be the first to implement 5G networks at scale, and this could mark the first time that markets outside the U.S. shape Apple’s product roadmap.

Facebook Expands Fact-Checking Program for Photos and Videos to Better Train its AI

In order to combat the spread of misinformation from photos and video shared on its platform, Facebook is expanding its fact-checking program. Some two dozen fact-checking partners located in 17 countries will now help Facebook identify falsified content through reverse image searching and analyzing image metadata. The company says the bigger program will also provide critical data for improving the accuracy of their machine learning algorithms, which the company hopes will eventually become good enough to automatically spot doctored images, incorrectly labeled photos or text and audio claims that are provably false. With this artificial intelligence tech, Facebook hopes to more proactively hunt down fake news on the platform.

eBay’s ARKit-Powered HeadGaze Feature Introduces Head-Based Controls

eBay has unveiled some new augmented reality software that allows users to navigate the iOS app hands-free. HeadGaze was built using the ARKit framework from Apple, and relies on the front-facing iPhone X camera to enable users to browse and make purchases on the eBay mobile app by simply moving their head. This feature uses the 3D sensors in the TrueDepth camera (the same hardware that powers Face ID unlock) to transmit input commands through head motions, and even just glances at the iPhone screen can progress users through some of the checkout flow. HeadGaze’s use cases go beyond just e-commerce, and could be utilized as assistive technology for those with disabilities. It’s now listed as an open-source project on GitHub, so any developer can use the HeadGaze framework for their own products.

Sacramento Kings Add Next-Gen Texting for Streamlined Ticketing and Schedule Requests

The Sacramento Kings have a reputation as a tech-savvy NBA basketball team, and they proved why this week. According to a new report, the team joined forces with Zipwhip to become the first professional sports organization to use next-gen RCS texting. With this functionality, Kings fans will be able to receive tickets, schedules and more game info through their usual texting app. That means no more downloading separate apps or checking email, as fans can just text the Kings’ toll-free number for a plethora of information. Unfortunately, next-gen RCS texting is only available to Android devices on Sprint. Other carriers or iPhone users will have to procure game info the old-fashioned way.