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The Week in Mobile: June 18-24, 2017

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Ikea is early adopter of Apple’s ARKit, Bixby Voice beta rolls out, Firefox Focus brings ad-free browsing to Android 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.

Ikea to Leverage Apple’s New ARKit Framework

Swedish furniture store Ikea will be among the first to take advantage of Apple’s ARKit framework, a new tool Apple released during WWDC this month that allows developers to build their own augmented reality apps for iOS 11. Ikea’s new AR app will allow users to insert images of Ikea products into the camera view of their device to give customers a better sense of what a new desk, shelving unit or sofa would look like in their own home. Ikea hopes to release its new AR app alongside the iOS 11 launch this fall or shortly thereafter. At launch, the company expects to have anywhere between 5 and 600 products available in-app.

In other Apple news, the company is reportedly partnering with startup Health Gorilla to store medical data — such as blood work results, lab tests and allergy information — on your iPhone. This will give iOS users the ability to store, review and share their own medical history, which could make hospital visits easier and more effective.

Bixby Voice Beta Rolls Out to Early Testers

Samsung Galaxy S8’s digital assistant, Bixby, is one step closer to launch. Last week, Samsung rolled out a beta for Bixby Voice, which means those who signed up to test the feature early can start tinkering around. Right now, Bixby boasts over 3,000 commands and offers support for Samsung apps as well as a few third-party apps in Bixby Labs. Although Bixby has been highly anticipated, many testers are experiencing issues and report that the digital assistant has a long way to go before it releases to the general public. Simple features like search seem to lag and performing crucial tasks like text messaging are hard to navigate. Luckily, Samsung has created a game to encourage testers to keep using Bixby so they can collect as much user feedback as possible and make changes accordingly.

Firefox Focus Brings Ad-Free Browsing to Android

Firefox’s private browser, which automatically blocks ads and operates incognito, is now available on Android. Firefox Focus is meant to provide more privacy and a smoother user experience that is uninterrupted by pesky ads. Automatic ad blocking also increases browsing speed and saves data. The new browser for Android boasts a few special additions that aren’t available for desktop or iOS users (at least not yet). This version comes complete with a counter that tracks the number of ads blocked and a notification system that reminds users when Firefox is running in the background.

Google Glass Sees Signs of Life?

Google Glass, the company’s first foray into the wearable market, may be back from the dead. Or at least so it seems. In 2015, Google pulled Glass from the market, announcing a shift in focus from consumer to enterprise wearables. At the time industry experts pronounced the project dead. But, just last week, software engineer Cody Toombs released a new update for his MyGlass app, which is used to set up and manage Glass devices. Updates include a myriad of bug fixes, battery optimization and improvements to notifications. While the updates are certainly minor, this is the first we’ve heard from Google on its Glass devices since production shuttered two years ago.

Snapchat Launches Social Mapping

Last week, Snapchat introduced a new way for friends to keep track of each other and discover videos. Snap Map allows users to share their location and navigate around an interactive map to see where their friends are and watch stories. It’s a fun new feature for users, but it’s also a creative way for Snapchat to bring more brands onto the platform. Restaurants, stores and beyond will also be featured on the map, allowing users to watch photos and videos taken in that specific location.

SEGA Brings Iconic Games to Mobile

SEGA, the creator of iconic games such as Sonic the Hedgehog and NBA Jam, announced that some of the company’s top titles will soon be available on iOS and Android. In a push the company is calling “SEGA Forever,” five new games have been released: Sonic the Hedgehog, Comix Zone, Altered Beast, Kid Chameleon and Phantasy Star II. But there’s more to come. SEGA says a new game will be released every two weeks over the next few months. Each game will be available for free, with the option to turn advertising off with a $1.99 in-app purchase.

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