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The Week in Mobile: February 26 – March 4, 2017

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Google Play Store updates, Snap goes public, Microsoft introduces Xbox VR headset 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 Announces Updates to the Play Store

Google has good news for mobile game developers. The company announced that it will now take user engagement and app downloads into consideration when ranking games. Previously, the algorithm only considered the number of downloads, but this can be misleading as many apps are downloaded and then left unused. The update ensures that the best, most engaging games are prominently featured in the store. Google is also introducing a new feature that allows developers to offer sale prices in the Play Store. In the past, developers were forced to change prices manually and could not indicate to users that they were receiving a discount. Soon, Devs will be able to list sale prices and explicitly highlight discounts.

Snap Makes its Debut in the New York Stock Exchange

Snap made its official debut as a publically traded company late last week. While Snap priced its stock at $17 a share the night before entering the market, it officially started trading for $24 a share last Thursday, rising 41.2 percent from its opening price. Snap’s market value is approximately $33 billion with a $11 billion cap. In the background, Snap continues to innovate and push itself as a “camera company”. According to sources, Snap may introduce a 360-degree camera into its product pipeline. The company is allegedly investigating the possibility, with no further details available at this time.

Microsoft Announces VR Headset for Xbox One

Microsoft’s Windows Mixed Reality project is finally opening up to developers, with the first development kits being distributed in March. Soon, developers will have access to the Acer VR headsets, Windows 10 Insider preview builds and the SDK. Microsoft also announced that Windows Mixed Reality experiences will be available on Xbox One consoles as early as 2018. That means users will be able to access VR content from their desktop, the HoloLens and their gaming console.

Samsung also made headlines last week, with the announcement of a new Gear VR headset and motion controller.

Smart Assistant Front Runners Continue to Innovate

If you haven’t had a chance to try out Google’s AI assistant, this might be your lucky day. According to Google, the smart assistant will roll out to all devices running on Android 7.0 Nougat and 6.0 Marshmallow. Previously, Google Assistant was only available on Pixel, Google Home, Google Allo and Android Wear.

As Google Assistant expands its reach, competitor Amazon Alexa is looking to improve how it listens and interacts with users. Amazon is reportedly working on updates that could allow Alexa-enabled devices to identify which user is speaking based on their voice. It’s unclear when the improvements will be available. Meanwhile, Microsoft says it will soon release the Cortana Skills Kit, which will allow third-party developers to build new features for the AI assistant. Although Microsoft originally planned to release the Skills Kit on February 27, it’s yet to go public.

New TV and Movie Options Coming to a Mobile Device Near You

Australian mobile carrier Telstra and 21st Century Fox announced a new partnership that will allow users to access HD-quality movies from their smartphone without downloading the video or connecting to a network. With LTE Broadcast technology, Telstra will be able to push video content to its users all at once, and 21st Century Fox has agreed to provide that content. For now, the program is only available to users in Australia. However, Telstra may expand testing to include the US in the near future.

Meanwhile, YouTube introduced a new TV subscription service priced at just $35 per month. The service boasts live streaming for more than 40 channels and a cloud DVR to record shows.

Take a Sneak Peek at the Samsung Galaxy S8

Last week, Samsung announced that the Galaxy S8 will be available March 29, bringing with it a number of exciting features including yet another AI assistant named Bixby, an improved processor from Qualcomm and Sony’s Xperia XZ Premium. For those eagerly awaiting more details, you’re in luck! A video was leaked that shows off the device design and confirms a few rumors — there appears to be an iris scanner, the headphone jack is still in place and a new fingerprint scanner is located on the back of the device.

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