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The Week in Mobile: April 16-22, 2017

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Facebook announces AR platform, Google opens access to speech recognition, Microsoft aims to kill passwords 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’s F8 Highlights

Last week, Facebook hosted its annual developer conference in San Jose, making a number of product announcements ranging from updates to Messenger to a free version of Workplace. For those unable to tune into the event, here’s what you missed:

  • Facebook Opens its AR Platform – Third-party developers will have access to Facebook’s AR Studio, a tool that allows users to incorporate technology like image recognition into their apps without having to invest in AR from the ground up.
  • Messenger Expands Business Features – Facebook is rolling out a number of new capabilities for Messenger that makes it easier for users to find relevant businesses and chatbots. A new Discovery Tab features businesses and popular bots based on location and breaks these down by category. Additionally, Facebook is introducing Chat Extensions, which allow multiple users to interact with the same business at once. The company also plans to introduce a number of new integrations starting with a partnership with delivery.com.
  • Updates to Facebook Login – Improvements to Facebook Login will allow users to more easily login to apps that have been linked to Facebook in the past. The process will cut out the need to input information again, instead granting access with a single tap.
  • Instagram Offline Mode – Following success of Facebook Lite, the company is rolling out an offline mode for the Instagram Android app. Users will be able to scroll through their feed without using data. You’ll even be able to like photos and leave comments that will post as soon as you are connected to wifi or a network again.

Google Expands Speech Recognition Access

Google is giving cloud customers access to an updated version of its speech recognition technology, which powers transcriptions and voice commands. The improved version is faster, more accurate and is compatible with more file formats. In addition to these improvements, the update grants cloud customers increased access to the software, lifting previous restrictions on the number of products or customers for which the software could be used.

In other Google news, the company is expected to roll out a new ad-blocking feature in Chrome for mobile and desktop, which would automatically remove ads deemed to harm the user experience. The feature could launch as early as next month, however; sources say some details are still being ironed out.

Google Simplifies Deleting Unused Apps

Thanks to a new update to Google’s app store, users will be able to delete unused apps without having to do a manual audit. The change is rolling out just in time for spring cleaning, and brings a new “My Apps & Games” section to the Play Store. Here, users will be able to sort a list of installed apps alphabetically, by size and by most recently used. That means you’ll be able to quickly identify which apps aren’t being used and uninstall those apps with a single tap. The update also makes it easier to update apps. Instead of navigating to each app’s page, users can update all at once from the new listview in “My Apps & Games.”

Microsoft Authenticator App Aims to Kill Passwords

Microsoft is turning to mobile to make desktop logins hassle-free. The company introduced a new Authenticator app for Android, iOS and Windows, which allows users to skip the password entry process whenever a Microsoft Account is involved. Users will be asked to input their username and password information into the Authenticator app once. After initial setup, users will be able to login on their desktop by inputting their username. A notification of the login attempt will then be sent to the user’s phone, which they can tap to approve, granting immediate access on the desktop account. For additional security, users can set up a second authentication code.

PayPal Partners with Android Pay

Two rival payment services are partnering to make mobile purchasing even easier. PayPal and Android Pay announced a new integration on Tuesday that will soon allow you to use your PayPal account through Android Pay. Once the new feature rolls out, users will be able to link their Paypal credentials to the Google wallet service to make purchases using their Paypal balance through the Android Pay app. According to Google, the integration is slated to roll out in the United States over the next few weeks.

Snapchat Unveils AR-Powered World Lenses

Snapchat has introduced a major update that includes the highly anticipated World Lenses. The company announced Tuesday that users can now select from a new group of filters that will allow you to drop 3D images into real world scenes. Once objects from World Lenses have been placed, they will behave as if they exist in the world, becoming bigger as you move closer. The new feature is notably different from its previous 3D stickers, and marks the company’s first move into Augmented Reality. The initial line-up of images includes a cloud, a rainbow, flowers and a floating “OMG” that will change daily, according to Snap.

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