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The Week in Mobile: February 14-20, 2016

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Apple expected to unveil new iPhone and iPad, Venmo sees $1B P2P transfers in January, Volvo ditches keys for app 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.

Apple Expected to Unveil New iPhone 5SE and iPad Air 3

Following a recent dip in iPhone sales, Apple is reportedly preparing to release a new 4-inch iPhone as well as an iPad Air 3. A price cut on the Watch is also fueling speculation of an upcoming update for the wearable. The new iPhone 5SE is thought to feature a similar design to the iPhone 5S, however, the device will support a number of updated capabilities, including NFC payments and Live Photos. Meanwhile, the iPad is expected to get an upgraded processor, support for the Apple Pencil and Smart Connector support for keyboards and add-ons. Both the iPhone 5SE and the iPad Air 3 are expected to hit stores as soon as March 18.

Apple and FBI Sharpen Knives Over the Future of Digital Security

Last week, a U.S. district court order demanded that Apple assist the FBI in unlocking an encrypted iPhone belonging to one of the San Bernardino shooters. The order comes two weeks after the FBI asked Apple to assist in hacking the device—a request that Apple refused. The company continues to stand its ground, even as demands escalate, stating that the request would require building a technology that could be detrimental to the security system of existing and future iPhones. It’s a debate that holds significant implications for the future of digital security, encryption and law enforcement.

Venmo Announces $1B P2P Transfers in a Single Month

Peer-to-peer mobile payment platform Venmo recorded $1 billion worth of transfers in January 2016. That’s the first time Venmo has hit $1 billion within a single month and marks significant year-over-year growth for the company. January 2016 saw 2.5 times more transfers than in January 2015 and 10 times more transfers than in January of 2014.

Meanwhile, Venmo’s parent company, PayPal, has updated its app to bring P2P payment functionality to the forefront. The shift follows 100 percent growth in PayPal payments over the last two years and plays off of Venmo’s remarkable success in the space.

Amazon Turns to Mobile to Expand Marketshare in India

Amazon announced plans to purchase Emvantage, an Indian online payments company with a focus in mobile. The acquisition could help Amazon grow marketshare in India, a country in which 50 percent of Amazon purchases are paid for using cash. New services, such as a mobile prepaid wallet, could encourage users in India to abandon online cash payments for a more convenient mobile payment method.

In other mobile payment news, Apple Pay has officially launched in China after much anticipation. However, many users experienced difficulty signing up for the platform due to traffic that was too heavy for Apple’s backend system to handle. Even so, within the first day of the launch, 38 million bank cards were linked to Apple Pay. What’s the next stop for Apple Pay? Rumor has it that the platform will be coming to France this year.

Facebook to Open Instant Articles to All Publishers

Facebook announced that its Instant Articles functionality, which speeds upload times by housing articles directly in the Facebook app, will be open to all publishers beginning April 12. Facebook launched Instant Articles in May, but the format was only available to select publishing partners. Once the functionality opens up in April, any publisher who chooses to do so will be able to create Instate Articles using Facebook’s guidelines.

Volvo to Replace Car Keys with an App

Volvo announced plans to replace car keys and fobs with a Volvo app, which will use Bluetooth to unlock car doors, start the engine and even pop the trunk. The app will allow users to store multiple “keys” that they can share with other phones to make ride-sharing more convenient. According to Volvo, the company will replace physical keys with its app as early as next year.

Google Releases Public Beta of its Cloud Vision API

Last week, Google released a public beta of its Cloud Vision API. That means third-party developers will be able to incorporate the image recognition and classification technology into their own apps. The API can identify objects, interpret facial expressions and read text within images. For now, developers will be able to process 20 million images a month using the Cloud Vision API.

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