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The Week in Mobile: October 16 – 22, 2016

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Pixel receives glowing reviews, Apple brings in new AI research director, Google Play updates metadata rules 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.

Pixel Receives Glowing Reviews

Last week, Google released its new branded smartphones, Pixel and Pixel XL, to the general public. This is the first time the company has had front-to-back ownership of its smartphone hardware, software and cloud ecosystem. The result? Early reviews suggest that the device could be a major hit. While some feel that the design is fairly standard, critics widely agree that the Pixel is powerful and makes good use of Google Assistant.

Google’s new connected hardware ecosystem could continue to grow – reports suggest the company will release its own smartwatch in early 2017. Rumor has it the devices will launch alongside Android Wear 2.0.

Apple Makes Strategic AI Hire

Apple is bringing Carnegie Mellon University professor Russ Salakhutdinov on board to lead the company’s AI research team. The move is part of a larger push to improve Apple’s AI technology, which has been criticized for lagging behind others despite having had a head start of multiple years with the original Siri acquisition. The company has made several new acquisitions over the past year, including Tuplejump, Perceptio, VocallQ, Mapsense and more.

Meanwhile, Microsoft unveiled new speech recognition technology with an impressively low error rate of just 5.9 percent. The technology transcribes speech nearly as well as a professional transcriptionist could.

Google’s New Mobile Search Indexing

Google is making mobile search a priority as the company begins to index mobile search results separately from desktop. Ultimately, this should provide mobile users with better results. The move follows shortly after Google’s updates to its algorithm, which improves rankings for mobile-optimized websites and the addition of Accelerated Mobile Pages in search results.

Elsewhere, the company rolled out new functionality for its flight searching and booking tool, Google Flights, which will now alert users when airfare is expected to increase. Google has also improved mobile-optimization for Flights, so users can more easily access the tool on-the-go.

Google Play Updates Metadata Rules

In order to ensure app listings in the Google Play store are accurate and appropriate, Google has updated its metadata rules page and will remove any apps that infringe on these new guidelines. The goal is to ensure that app descriptions are relevant, provide accurate information and are appropriate for all ages. The company is requesting that developers keep details concise and avoid quoting user testimonials as these can be misleading and repetitive.

Apple Downshifts its Car Ambitions

In 2014, Apple began working on Project Titan, an initiative that (is widely believed) would ultimately lead to the company’s own self-driving car. Now, Project Titan is shifting gears to develop an autonomous driving system that may or may not lead to an Apple-produced vehicle. This gives Apple the ability to partner with another automaker when the technology is ready, or resume work on its own car. The company is expected to choose its path towards the end of 2017.

eBay Introduces ShopBot for Facebook Messenger

eBay released a beta of ShopBot, a personal shopping assistant for Facebook Messenger. Users can engage with the new bot in the Messenger app by asking ShopBot for help finding specific items. The bot will then ask a series of questions to narrow down search results and will present users with the best offers on items listed on eBay.

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