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The Week in Mobile: October 8-14, 2017

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Facebook gets 3D posts, Apple investigates swollen iPhone 8 batteries, the death bell tolls for Microsoft’s Windows phone 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 Unveils “3D Posts” for VR Objects

Facebook has announced a new type of interactive News Feed post that allows users to create and share 3D objects. “3D Posts” will allow users of Oculus Medium sculpting platform and Facebook Spaces VR hangouts to create virtual objects. These can then be published to the News Feed where friends can inspect, grab and rotate them — no VR headset necessary. Users will even be able to manipulate some of the objects, like opening a virtual car door or posing a virtual action figurine. To get more VR app developers using 3D posts, the company has said it’s working on an API to let third-party developers share their work on Facebook.

Apple Deals with Swollen Batteries and iPhone X Scarcity

Following the hyped announcement of its new lineup of iPhones in September, the company has stated that it is now investigating a swollen battery issue in some iPhone 8 Plus handsets. A number of users have reported that their iPhone 8 Plus split open shortly after charging for the first time. This comes shortly after Apple was forced to fix a software issue that caused crackling audio during calls on its new iPhones.

But it’s not the only iPhone-related problem the company is dealing with. According to a new report, stock for the highly anticipated iPhone X will be extremely limited well into the new year. The production issues causing the scarcity is nothing new, but the report indicates it will be even later for users to get their hands on the new smartphone than was previously (and previously) believed.

It’s not all doom and gloom for Apple, as new data shows iOS and Samsung’s share of the U.S. smartphone market now tied. iOS saw steady growth throughout the summer months to secure a 35 percent market share, although Google Android still remains well in the lead at nearly double that figure.

Microsoft to Discontinue New Updates for the Windows Phone

Microsoft’s Windows Phone will no longer receive new software or hardware updates. The news was announced in a string of tweets by Microsoft’s Joe Belfiore, who said the company will still push out bug fixes and security updates to current users of its mobile operating system. Belfiore said a lack of developers supporting the platform was partially to blame, along with a low number of users and problem with the Windows Phone app store. Microsoft will support Windows Phone users who want to make the switch to either Android or iOS, and has been focusing on improving ways to link PC and smartphone apps for those platforms to create a seamless experience.

Wells Fargo Buffs Mobile Transactions at ATMs

Wells Fargo is upgrading its mobile transaction options at ATMs with a big expansion. The bank said that more than 5,000 of its ATMs will now allow you to take advantage of the same technology that powers mobile wallets to complete bank transactions. That means users won’t need to pull out a debit or credit card to withdraw cash at about 40 percent of Well Fargo ATMs across the country. Supported terminals will feature a special contactless decal, and customers need only hold their smartphone or wearable device near the ATM to begin a transaction. Tap-and-pay mobile technology continues to grow more popular among consumer apps like Venmo and mobile wallets from Apple and Google. Bank of America also began offering these types of transactions at ATMs last year, and Chase has announced that it is looking to do the same.

Google Assistant Will Take Your Panera Bread Order

Panera Bread is working with Google so its voice-activated assistant can order and pay for your favorite lunch or dinner items. Here’s how it works: hungry users simply say “Okay, Google” to open the app, where they can ask it to “talk to Panera.” Google Assistant will then open the Panera app where users can see the menu, place their order and pay using their preferred mobile wallet. The restaurant chain said that with 1.3 million digital food orders placed weekly, there is a “clear demand for voice-activated ordering methods” too. Panera Bread’s Google Assistant feature is now available in the company’s home city of St. Louis, as well as six other locations in the Silicon Valley area. There were no details on when it may roll out nationwide.

Panera Bread isn’t the only one experimenting with digital orders. Facebook has also announced that users can now use the social media network to order food for pick-up or delivery from restaurants such as Chipotle and Five Guys.

Walmart to Refund Online Purchases in Physical Stores

Looking for new ways to counter e-commerce giant Amazon, Walmart is rolling out an in-store returns feature for products bought online. The service, Mobile Express Returns, allows online customers to generate a QR code, which expedites the returns or exchange process when they head to a physical store. Over the last year, the company has tested dozens of new initiatives like grocery deliveries and free two-day shipping for online orders to compete with the likes of Amazon. The company said it’s also working on a way for third-party vendors to be covered under the Mobile Express Returns policy. The service will launch in November this year at all 4,700 of Walmart’s U.S. locations.

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