The Week in Mobile: September 17-23, 2017

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A look at the first week of iOS 11, Amazon working on Alexa smartglasses, Google buys HTC’s mobile division team 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.

iOS 11 is Now Available – Here’s What You Need to Know

After months of waiting and nearly a dozen preview versions, the much anticipated iOS 11 is finally available for public download. With some internal changes to enable ARKit functionality for iPhone, as well as a brand new app docking system for the iPad, iOS 11 might be Apple’s most ambitious OS update in years. Aside from the major updates that have been talked about since its announcement earlier this year, iOS 11 has some lesser known features that can be extremely useful for developers.

One such option is the ability to record your screen from your device, saving the video to your photo library. Users can add this capability as a shortcut to their Control Center. Speaking of the Control Center, there has also been some controversy around how Apple has decided to implement the WiFi and Bluetooth features. Disabling WiFi and Bluetooth from the new Control Center doesn’t actually turn them off. Rather, it will merely disconnect you from existing accessories utilizing WiFi or Bluetooth (but not AirPlay, AirDrop, or Location Services). Fully disconnecting will require users to open the Settings app. Apparently, Apple designed the buttons with this intent in mind, but it may be confusing for users.

Another useful feature for iOS 11 users comes in the form of a new management option nestled within the App Store. It lets users delete apps they don’t frequently use to save on storage space. However, the icons will still appear on the homepage, which allows users to quickly redownload the app should they need it. To check whether apps will be compatible with iOS 11, you can use Settings > General > About > Applications. Apps on that won’t work with iOS 11 won’t be purged from users’ devices, but they won’t be able to open them until they receive an update.

Amazon Looking to Make Alexa-Enabled Eyewear

Eager to expand its AI assistant beyond the home and take on Google Assistant and Apple’s Siri, Amazon is allegedly working on a pair of Alexa-enabled smart glasses. According to a new report, the eyewear would sync to users’ smartphones so they could access Alexa without needing to open the mobile app. Amazon plans to forego the addition of any cameras or screens to the specs in order to focus on Alexa’s voice-based functionality. The technology will reportedly be implanted into normal glasses, which would make them better for daily use than what Google imagined with Glass several years ago. Amazon is also reportedly working on a home security camera that will sync with Alexa and the Echo Show, and could even inform users when Amazon packages have arrived on their doorstep. There are no details about when either of these products may become available.

Target’s New App Will Lead You to the Snack Aisle

Target plans to roll out a newly redesigned app that will guide shoppers to the items they want to buy. Utilizing Bluetooth-powered beacons, the app provides a detailed, real-time map of the user’s Target store. Simply search for a product, and the app will direct you to the aisle where it is located. The feature also lets users know if the item is on sale, and Target is working on more features that will let you scan products for reviews, price and even mobile payments via CartWheel. Target says the new mapping will go live in about half of all stores during the holiday season.

Google Acquires HTC’s Smartphone Team Ahead of Pixel 2 Announcement

As Google prepares to unveil its latest Pixel smartphones on October 4th, the company announced that it has acquired HTC’s mobile division. The deal is worth $1.1 billion and will see more than 2,000 HTC employees join the search giant. For many, the acquisition will be a simple change in name. Google released its first Pixel smartphone last year with the help of HTC, which is also currently working on the second edition of the phone that is set to be debuted next week. Google also partners with smartphone maker LG on the larger Pixel XL, the prices for which have been leaked ahead of the announcement. Google’s Pixel 2 XL will reportedly cost $849 for the 64 Gigabyte version, and $949 for the 128 Gigabyte version.

It will be interesting to see how Google’s Pixel launch stacks up to Apple’s iPhone event. Pre-order sales for the iPhone 8 have been slower than expected, likely due to consumers waiting for the more advanced iPhone X to become available for pre-order later this fall. Apple’s new LTE smartwatch, however, is experiencing higher than expected demand spurred by full phone and streaming capabilities.

Google Launches Tez in India with Audio QR-Enabled Payments

Joining a very crowded field, Google has unveiled its first mobile payments app in Asia. Tez is a free mobile wallet in India that connects to users’ banks accounts for secure purchases both online and at brick-and-mortar stores. It also puts a new spin on peer-to-peer payments with its proprietary Audio QR technology, which lets users’ smartphones speak to each other using ultrasonic sounds to make transactions even easier. This is the first time Google has used Audio QR for payments, although it’s appeared before in other apps that share sensitive information. The feature is particularly useful in countries like India, where not all devices come equipped with Bluetooth or other secure options. Tez is now available for download in India.

Airbnb Debuts Reservation Booking Feature for Restaurants

Rental app Airbnb is expanding into the restaurant reservation game. In an attempt to look beyond lodging and become a more complete travel-booking service like Expedia or Priceline, Airbnb now allows users to reserve tables at more than 650 restaurants across the U.S. The company hopes that the ability to book food reservations will promote more frequent engagement with its app. Airbnb has also tinkered with flight-booking and a widget that helps travelers plan their itineraries using targeted suggestions. The restaurants tab is now available for all users on Airbnb’s app.

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