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The Week in Mobile: April 10-16, 2016

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Facebook and the bot bandwagon, Android N developer preview 2, Nintendo’s Miitomo hits 4M users 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.

Facebook Enters the Bot Fray

During Facebook’s F8 Conference, the company unveiled its updated Messenger Platform which includes a new Send/Receive API for developers to create chatbot interactions. Bots crafted using the new API can send text and respond to messages with images, links and call-to-action buttons. That means users will be able to engage with bots to make dinner reservations, check package shipping statuses, book travel and more. And, for those that want to create more complex interactions, the company released Bot Engine, a framework that uses machine learning to handle diverse question/response scenarios. The idea is that developers can teach bots how to better engage in conversation and feel more human by providing sample conversations for the bot to learn from.

Facebook also announced a number of new tools for developers, including customizable push and in-app notifications, which allow developers to draw users back to their app, and a “pull quote” plug-in, which developers can incorporate to make copy/paste actions easier for users.

Google Introduces Hands-Free Device Navigation

Last week, Google introduced a new tool called Voice Access, which allows users to navigate through their phone using voice commands. Voice Access labels each possible navigation option on the screen with a number allowing users to speak a numerical selection to initiate an interaction. That means users can scroll, click, long-press, open apps or go back to the homescreen without ever touching their device. Voice Access could be particularly empowering for those with disabilities. For now, it is only available in beta.

Android N Second Developer Preview is Out

Google released the second version of its Android N developer preview. In addition to bug fixes and API changes, the new preview boasts three substantial additions — a 3D rendering API called Vulkan, launcher shortcuts and Emoji Unicode 9 support. Vulkan improves performance for apps dependent on draw-call and offers low-overhead GPU control. Launcher shortcuts allow devs to define three and five shortcuts for specific end points, making navigation between apps and tasks easier for users. Meanwhile, Emoji Unicode 9 updates emojis with a more “human-looking” design.

New Apple Watch May Arrive Sooner than Expected

While many expected the second generation of the Apple Watch to launch in September alongside the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, reports suggest a new iteration of Apple’s smartwatch may be unveiled even sooner at WWDC in June. The new device is rumored to be a slimmer model. However, this should be taken with a grain of salt as some had expected to see the Apple Watch 2 released during Apple’s March press event, but only price cuts and accessories were announced.

Nintendo’s First Mobile App Hits 4M Users in Just Two Weeks

Nintendo’s first foray into mobile can, undoubtedly, be called a success. On March 31, the company launched its first app — a social game called Miitomo — and it hit 4 million users within two weeks. According to a report from SurveyMonkey, 1 million of those users are opening Miitomo daily, and the app is bringing in an estimated $40,000 daily.

AMC May Make Theaters Mobile Friendly

Movie theaters are one of the few mobile-free zones. Yet in an attempt to appeal to the millennial appetite for being connected, AMC Entertainment’s new CEO Adam Aron says the company is considering allowing patrons to use their phones in theaters. It’s a concept that goes against every theater courtesy commercial you’ve ever seen. Aron understands that the idea may not be for everyone, which is why AMC is brainstorming ways to make all of their customers happy. The initiative could come to life in the form of mobile-friendly seating sections or, perhaps, designated mobile-friendly theaters.

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