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The Week in Mobile: January 15-21, 2017

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Android One coming to the US, China tightens grip on app stores, app prices to rise in the UK 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.

Google to Launch Android One in US

Google’s Android One program, which offers affordable smartphones powered by Android, may be arriving in the United States. Android One was originally launched in India as a way to bring secure and affordable smartphones to developing markets. The program was subsequently expanded to Africa, Portugal and Spain, and now may make its way to the US. It’s unclear which hardware company will be responsible for manufacturing these devices, however; in exchange for promotional dollars from Google, partners will be required to push out regular software and security updates — a move that could cut down on Android OS fragmentation.

Android Creator Unveils New Hardware Company

Android creator Andy Rubin is back in action after leaving Google over two years ago. Rubin is launching a new hardware company, called Essential, which will produce a smartphone to compete with the iPhone and top-of-the-line Android devices. Essential’s smartphone will feature a large screen and is built to receive regular hardware updates that will lengthen the life of the device. It is unclear when this new smartphone will be available to consumers.

China Steps up App Store Regulation

For years, the Google Play Store has been banned in China, while Apple’s App Store has been tightly regulated. Now, independent app stores that have popped up to serve Android users, such as Baidu and Tencent, will be officially regulated, according to the Cyberspace Administration of China. This news comes just on the heels of China’s decision to ban Pokemon Go and similar AR mobile games, citing security concerns due to data and location tracking.

Meanwhile, Ant Financial has released a new app in China built to replicate Pokemon Go, but this time with a cultural twist. The app allows users to exchange AR red envelopes in celebration of the Chinese New Year. Given the recent ban on Pokemon Go and new regulation policies, Ant Financial was careful to ensure that the app meets all standards so as not to raise security concerns.

Prices to Rise in UK App Store

Due to currency fluctuations stemming from Brexit, the UK’s App Store prices are expected to increase by 25 percent. The most affordable apps in the UK app store will increase from .79 Euros to .99 Euros, while games such as Super Mario Run that were priced at 7.99 Euros will increase to 9.99 Euros. This change will also impact users in India and Turkey. New prices will roll out over the next week.

Apps Take the Cake in 2016

According to a recent report from App Annie, 2016 was a big year for the mobility and the app economy. Time spent in-app grew by 20 percent globally to approximately 900 billion hours over the course of the year. Meanwhile, app downloads grew by 15 percent globally to over 13 billion. App store revenue increased by 40 percent year-over-year, generating $127 billion worldwide. Google Play app downloads in India surpassed downloads in the United States for the first time, while China accounts for the most downloads for the Apple App Store.

YouTube Brings Social to its App with New Messaging Feature

YouTube is testing messaging functionality, which will allow iOS and Android users to share video links and chat with friends directly in the YouTube app. The feature could boost user engagement and lengthen user sessions by bringing sharing in-app, rather than forcing users to share content via other platforms such as Twitter or Facebook. For now, the feature is only available in Canada, however; it’s likely that YouTube in-app messaging will roll out to additional markets in the coming months.

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