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The Week in Mobile: August 6-12, 2017

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Apple building cellular-capable watch, Venmo adds scannable QR Codes to profiles, Facebook launches revamped video platform 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.

Apple to Untether Apple Watch?

Apple is reportedly working on a new version of its smartwatch that will cut ties with the iPhone for an independent experience. Sources say the Cupertino-based company plans to release an Apple Watch sometime this year that can directly connect to cellular networks using an LTE chip. That means these new models of the Apple Watch will no longer need to be tethered to an iPhone for tasks such as messaging, streaming or navigation. A standalone version of the Watch could give Apple an edge as other companies in the wearables industry seek to expand their product offerings as well. Intel will reportedly supply the LTE chips for the new watch.

Venmo Releases ‘Scan Code’ Feature for User Profiles

Venmo has launched a new feature that makes it easier and safer to find your connections for payments. Users can now scan and share unique QR codes associated with individual Venmo profiles to add new connections and set up payments. The new code appears next to your profile picture in the app’s menu, and a simple click will open it up full-screen so it can be scanned. Users can then either physically scan the new code by opening their device’s camera or share it remotely via a feature that nests it within other messaging apps or social networks. The new “Scan Code” helps make payments more secure, avoiding the pitfalls of searching for friends with common names or unusual usernames. The feature is available for both iOS and Android.

Apple Reportedly Going All-in on Facial Recognition

The latest potential iPhone 8 find from the now infamous Apple HomePod firmware leaks is here. According to the developers that are pouring over the firmware code for information, Apple’s newest iPhone will likely be able to silence notifications while you’re looking at the screen. But that’s not the only facial recognition rumor. Another report claims that the company abandoned plans to integrate a fingerprint scanner underneath the smartphone’s display. In fact, it’s said that Apple plans to scrap Touch ID altogether on the iPhone 8 in favor of security through its new facial recognition software called Face ID. Eliminating Touch ID could be a risky play for Apple, as it has been the go-to security feature since the release of the iPhone 5s in 2013.

Amazon and Tencent Back Andy Rubin’s Essential Phone

After weeks of delays, Andy Rubin said he will finally reveal the release date of the Essential phone. In a tweet last week, Rubin posted the $699 device was now in mass production and that the street date will be announced next week. The Essential phone was originally scheduled to ship in June, but the new launch update comes just as the project earned an additional $300 million in funding from Amazon and Tencent. The device will be available unlocked through retail partners Best Buy and Amazon, and will also be available for purchase through Sprint and essential.com.

Miami Heat Scrap Paper Stubs in Favor of Mobile-Only Ticketing

You will now need your smartphone to gain entry to some professional basketball games next season. The Miami Heat will become the first team in the National Basketball Association to eliminate paper tickets, requiring fans to download an app for mobile-only entry. Even those who buy tickets at the team’s stadium box office won’t get a physical copy, and will need to need to present the eticket on their mobile device to get in. Other NBA teams also utilize smartphone entry, but the Heat are the first to scrap physical stubs altogether. Sports teams are slowly shifting toward mobile-only ticketing in part to deal with fraud, but also to encourage fans to download the team’s apps so they can get more information about who is attending the games. The Miami Heat says the new digital tickets will still be transferable.

Facebook Debuts New Video Platform, Kills Two Other Apps

Last week was a busy one for Facebook, as the company launched a redesigned version of its video tab but also shut down two of its social apps. Facebook said its video platform, Watch, is already being distributed to a small number of the social network’s users. The company debuted a video tab last year, where users could previously check out trending videos and ones posted by friends. But with Watch, Facebook is introducing original content as well as a revamped discover tab to help users find more videos aligned with their interests. The new Watch tab will be available to all users soon on iOS, Android, the Web and Facebook’s television app.

Meanwhile, Facebook did some more housekeeping last week, putting an end to two of its other apps. The social network officially pulled teen-only app Lifestage from the App Store just before its first anniversary. Lifestage never really caught on with its target audience, and raised security concerns, since there was no way to verify the age of those signing up. The company also retired its Groups app, which launched three years ago as a standalone way to manage your groups from Facebook. The social network said it will incorporate what it has learned from these projects into the main Facebook app in the future.

Apple Drops iOS 11 Developer Beta 5

As iOS 11 inches closer to full release in September, Apple has shared yet another preview so developers can get their hands on the upcoming mobile operating system. So what new changes and features can you expect to see? Not many. Developer Beta 5 was supposed to include a highly anticipated update that would allow users to store Messages in the cloud rather than save them to the device itself. However, this space-saving feature has been scrapped from the preview, leading some developers to believe it won’t be ready in time for the September launch. The new preview also contains the usual bug fixes and subtle tweaks, including some updates to the control center music, camera and settings icon. Apple has also updated the screen recording status bar from blue to red to make it more obvious when recording.

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