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The Week in Mobile: March 19-25, 2017

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Android O is now open to devs, Samsung introduces its first AI assistant, Apple reveals new iPhones and iPads 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.

Android O Now Available for Developers

In advance of Android O’s public debut this fall, Google has released an early iteration of the new OS to developers – they can download and begin testing now. Android O brings a number of new features including better battery life — thanks to additional automatic limits on app activity in the background — and more control over notifications. Developers will be able to create adaptive icons for various home screen themes and have more control over keyboard navigation. Android is also introducing autofill APIs, a new telecom framework, network-aware networking and improvements to WebView.

Samsung Introduces its First AI Assistant, Bixby

Samsung is finally sharing more details about its first AI assistant, Bixby, which will launch alongside the Galaxy S8 later this year. While Bixby joins the growing pool of digital assistants from companies like Google, Apple, Amazon and Microsoft, there’s something different about Samsung’s take on the technology. Bixby is intended to assist users with tasks and make device navigation easier, whereas assistants like Siri or Alexa are meant to be a source of information. At first, Bixby will only work with a select set of preinstalled apps. Users will have a dedicated button to ask Bixby to perform tasks within those apps. Over time, Samsung plans to expand the list of compatible apps, will release an SDK to developers, and expects Bixby to be used across internet-enabled devices. Eventually, they hope that “Everything you can do with a touch command, you can do with a voice command” using Bixby.

Apple Introduces New iPhones and iPads to its Device Lineup

Apple made a number of announcements last week, introducing new iPhones and iPads to its online shop. The company unveiled the Product RED iPhone 7 and 7 Plus along with this year’s iPhone SE, which boasts increased storage, but no additional updates from the previous iteration. Meanwhile, Apple has discontinued the iPad mini 2, while increasing storage for the iPad mini 4 and introducing a new 9.7-inch iPad into the the mix. The company is still expected to launch a new 10.5-inch iPad and upgraded 12.9-inch iPad Pro 2 at some point this year. And rumor has it Apple will announce iOS 11, macOS 10.13, watchOS 4 and tvOS 11 during WWDC 2017 in June.

You Can Now Share Your Location Using the Google Maps App

Google is beefing up its Maps app with the addition of location sharing, a feature that allows users to share their location and give directions to friends and family. Users can share their location temporarily or grant long-term access via the app or with a short link that can be sent via SMS. Location sharing, which is being rolled out incrementally, is just one of several recent updates meant to improve user experience. Google Maps has also added support for parking, ridesharing services, the ability to add pit stops into your route.

Facebook Testing Location-Based Searching

Google isn’t the only one upping its game with location services. Facebook is testing a new location-based search feature that provides users with recommendations for nearby restaurants and businesses. Similar to Google Maps and Yelp, Facebook users can search for nearby bars, restaurants, shops and beyond by typing a query into the search bar. The social network taps into places the user’s friends have visited or liked plus information on business pages, including user reviews, to populate search results with detailed information on what the business is known for, what their operating hours are and so on. Some results may feature a call to action, such as “call now” or “shop now”.

Hollister Tries Mobile Gaming to Reach its Target Audience

Abercrombie & Fitch partnered with Rovio Entertainment and TreSena to create a mobile game for its Hollister brand. The new game, which takes users on a surfing trip rife with sharks, is meant to appeal to Hollister’s teen demographic and boost brand awareness. Hollister’s game is available on the Rovio network and through Snapcodes on Snapchat. The company says it hopes to reach as many as 10 million teenagers through the app, though analysts expect the number to be much lower.

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