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Find out the week’s top mobile stories from around the world.

This week.. Samsung’s new voice assistant won’t understand English when Galaxy S8 launches, Facebook Messenger now supports group payments, Telstra shares slump as TPG Telecom plans own mobile network and much more.

Samsung’s new voice assistant won’t understand English when Galaxy S8 launches

Ars Technica

Reports indicate that Samsung will delay the English-language version of its first voice-assistant app instead of launching it simultaneously with the Galaxy S8 smartphone on April 21. The app is named Bixby.

The Wall Street Journal credits “people familiar with the matter” with the discovery. These sources also tell the WSJ that Bixby’s English version could be delayed until as late as “the end of May.” That estimate was not based on a “final” decision, the report warns. No information was given about when other language versions of Bixby should be expected to launch.

Samsung’s major March unveiling of the S8 had mostly been spoiled by leaked images of its handsome, tiny-bezel design. Early leakers pieced together clues about the S8’s extra, unexplained button being connected to a voice-assistant service called Bixby. That late-March presentation confirmed the rumors by explaining how integral the Bixby service will be to the S8 (especially since it got its own dedicated button, as opposed to the voice-activated prompts used in comparable iOS and Android offerings).

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Facebook Messenger now supports group payments

Tech Crunch

Facebook introduced person-to-person payments within Messenger in early 2015, but today the company announced the feature is expanding to support groups, as well. The payments feature essentially works the same in group chats as in private ones, but now allows users to pay either everyone in the group or individual members through a click of the payments icon (the dollar sign).

The payments icon can be selected after first clicking on the plus sign in the bottom-left side of the group conversation.

This is where the other, lesser-used features like games, location sharing, ride requests and more are tucked away in a new, scrollable user interface that arrived alongside Facebook’s debut of its Messenger assistant, M, earlier this month.

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Telstra Shares Slump as TPG Telecom Plans Own Mobile Network


Telstra Corp., Australia’s former phone monopoly, slumped to a five-year low in Sydney trading after rival TPG Telecom Ltd. spent A$1.26 billion ($945 million) on airwaves as part of a plan to build a fourth mobile network in the country.

Telstra dropped as much as 7.2 percent before trading down 6.9 percent at A$4.245 at 11:28 a.m. local time. It’s heading for the lowest close since December 2012. Mobile services accounted for about 40 percent of Telstra’s earnings in the latest six-month period.

TPG, which offers fixed-line broadband services as well as third-party mobile services, plans to spend an additional A$600 million over three years rolling out its own network to cover 80 percent of Australia’s population, the company said Wednesday in a statement.

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Alibaba makes its move in Indonesia, partners Emtek on mobile payments

Tech in Asia

Chinese ecommerce giant Alibaba Group’s global payments chess game continues as it announced in a release that its payments subsidiary Ant Financial has locked in a partnership with Indonesian media conglomerate Emtek. Together, they’ll launch a new mobile payments product as well as other financial services.

The payments solution will be offered on Blackberry Messenger (BBM), which is operated by an Emtek subsidiary and has 63 million monthly active users in Indonesia. It claims to be the most popular chat app in the country of 250 million people.

Emtek is turning BBM into much more than just a chat app. It allows people to shop, play games, watch videos, and more. Tying everything together would be the payments system jointly developed by Alibaba and Emtek.

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From mobile first to mobile video first

The Drum

There’s no doubt that we’ve moved into the age of mobile internet: mobile now represents more than 65% of all digital media time, according to comScore, with mobile video content fuelling much of the growth.

Between 2010 and 2015, mobile video consumption increased by a whopping 2,084%. By early 2016, 46% of all video plays happened on a mobile device. Experts believe that by 2020, mobile video will account for 75% of all mobile data traffic and many media platforms have improved their mobile video ad formats and capabilities as a result.

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“Making premium mobile games? Go free or PC”

It’s a topic that has already been debated in our Mobile Newsletter, but still the debate endures: is it possible to find success on mobile with a premium game?

As was discussed on our podcast earlier this year, there are plenty of impressive games available for smart devices with reasonably low price points – low enough to be in danger of undervaluing the developer’s work – but studios face a reluctant audience that is difficult to convince when it comes to spending money on that initial purchase.

The indie spaces on both the Apple and Google app stores arguably offer better exposure for premium-priced games, and there’s always the possibility the release of a must-have title could drive more interest in such apps. But Ben Cousins – former EA and DeNA exec, and now co-founder of Swedish dev The Outsiders – says it is too late: the tide has turned against anything but free-to-play games on mobile.

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Valuable mental health apps lost in a sea of untrustworthy digital solutions

Fierce Healthcare

With more than 10,000 mobile health apps available to assist with mental health treatment, patients and clinicians now face the daunting challenge of parsing out trustworthy digital tools.

That challenge has only intensified as more apps have entered the marketplace amid the FDA’s hands-off approach to regulating apps and wearables, researchers wrote in JAMA Psychiatry. Incorporating digital solutions and patient-generated data into mental health treatment could be incredibly beneficial, but the proliferation of untrustworthy or ineffective apps has clouded the marketplace.

The two researchers—from Stanford and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center—cited one app that recommended hard alcohol as a sleep aid for bipolar patients and many others that collect and sell patient data through convoluted user agreements. Previous research has shown that most mHealth apps on the marketplace aren’t effective for chronic conditions.

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LG Pay could maybe use your face to send mobile payments


We’ve heard that LG will be releasing its own mobile payment platform on the LG G6 to rival the likes of Apple Pay, Android Pay, and Samsung Pay, but it could get a leg up on the competition. LG Pay may use facial recognition as an extra layer of payment authentication, according to The Investor. If this happens, the LG G6 could be the first premium smartphone that can use your face to buy a soda.

The global mobile payment market is expected to reach over $780 billion (or £624 billion, AU$1.04 trillion) this year, so mobile payments are a pretty big deal. LG plans to get in on the action by releasing its own payment service this year, but it’ll have to catch up to the other big brands that already have tens of millions of people on board. But adding facial recognition, a feature that LG’s competitors don’t have, could help LG Pay stand out.

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The smartphone is eventually going to die, and then things are going to get really crazy


One day, not too soon — but still sooner than you think — the smartphone will all but vanish, the way beepers and fax machines did before it.

Make no mistake: We’re still probably at least a decade away from any kind of meaningful shift away from the smartphone. (And if we’re all cyborgs by 2027, I’ll happily eat my words. Assuming we’re still eating at all, I guess.)

Yet, piece by piece, the groundwork for the eventual demise of the smartphone is being laid by Elon Musk, Microsoft, Facebook, Amazon, and a countless number of startups that still have a part to play.

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Mobile apps dominate smartphone screen time, but fewer apps share in the bounty


Mobile app usage is consolidating among a few extremely popular apps that capture the majority of mobile users’ attention, to the detriment of mobile internet browsers, according to a new study from eMarketer. Mobile apps in general continue to eat up the vast majority of time smartphone and tablet users spend consuming data on their phones.

In 2016, users spent two hours and 11 minutes per day using mobile apps, but just 26 minutes browsing the web on a mobile device. Time spent mobile browsing will remain stagnant in 2017, while mobile app usage will increase to two hours and 25 minutes, just shy of 20 percent of the total time Americans spend with media throughout the entire day.

It’s a trend that should continue for several years, according to the digital data research provider. By 2019, mobile browsing time will increase by just one minute, while mobile app usage is expected to balloon to two hours and 43 minutes per day.

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