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The Week in Mobile: May 24-30, 2015

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Google announces sweeping advances, Apple’s rumored new personal assistant, Snapchat reports nearly 100 million active daily users 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.

Google’s Roadmap: The Future is Now

Last week, Google made a number of announcements at its Google I/O conference. Many of the company’s new initiatives, especially updates to Google Now, focus on the free-flow of information to enable seamless mobile experiences. Of course, the growing contextual awareness and ability to connect all the dots to anticipate user needs also ensures Google’s continued access to the data that fuels its ad-serving cash machine.

Google also announced a new mobile payment system, Android Pay, which offers both in-app payments and tap-to-pay functionality. Android Pay will also feature an open API, which means third-party developers will be able to integrate the platform into their apps. It’s currently available in 700,000 stores and on 7 out of 10 Android smartphones. It will be rolled out to more stores throughout the summer, but developers can start building with the API now. Google’s first attempt at mobile payments, Google Wallet, will live on as a new payment option for the Google Play Store and as a person-to-person payment system similar to Venmo.

Here’s a roundup of Google’s announcements from I/O:

  • Cloud Test Lab, a new tool for developers, will be released later this year to help automate app testing across 20 devices, including generating crash reports.
  • Thanks to its recent Nest acquisition, Google has now announced its own loT operating system called Project Brillow.
  • Android M will come with a variety of new features including App Permissions, which will make it easier for users to control what data their apps have access to, and Chrome Custom Tabs, which allows developers to add features that overlay on top of apps.
  • New wrist gestures, an “Always On” feature and a drawing feature are being added to Android Wear.
  • Google Now is adding a “Now on Tap” feature, which will pull contextual information based on what a user is looking at on the screen.
  • A new Google Photos app will allow users to backup an unlimited number of photos for free and view images across a timeline.
  • Google is working to increase the number of apps offered with offline capabilities, starting with Offline Maps. See our take on why this is so important here.

Apple to Mirror Google Now with New Personal Assistant

According to reports, Apple is working on a new personal assistant, codenamed Proactive, that may make its debut with the launch of iOS 9. Similar to Google Now, Proactive will give personalized recommendations based on user usage habits by pulling data from Siri, Contacts, Calendar, Passbook and third-party apps. Perhaps most exciting, it will also come with an augmented reality feature, which will be added to Maps to help identify personal points of interest.

Here’s What Apple’s New Mobile Hotspot Patent Could Mean for Apple Watch Users

Apple’s new patent application for a mobile hotspot could be just the product many Apple Watch users are searching for. A number of analysts, bloggers and Apple Watch users have stated that the device’s limited ability to act independently of the iPhone is a point of frustration. And Apple Watch competitors have even picked up on the complaint, positioning their own smartwatches as independent devices. While the patent application doesn’t directly mention the Apple Watch, it’s possible that the product is meant to act as a smaller and more easily portable point of connection for Apple Watch users looking to be untethered from their iPhones.

Snapchat Reports 100 Million Daily Active Users with 65 Percent Actively Engaged

Last week, Snapchat announced that its app sees nearly 100 million daily active users. That’s a huge user base, but what’s even more impressive is the percentage of those who actually contribute content. The company reports that 65 percent of daily users are actively engaged, sending their own snaps or creating their own stories. While it’s clear Snapchat has succeeded when it comes to building a large and actively engaged user base, the company continues to struggle when it comes to nailing down the right business model. Weaving advertising into the app has proven to be difficult, and attempts like the campaign with Discover have received little attention from users. But with such a large and active user base, Snapchat is sure to have advertisers lining up once they figure out the best way to incorporate marketing campaigns into the app.

GoPro Developing Camera Capable of Creating Content for Virtual Reality Systems

Inspired by Facebook’s recent acquisition of Oculus, GoPro announced that it is developing a camera that is capable of generating content for virtual reality and augmented reality systems. Expected to hit the shelves in the second half of 2015, the product is a combination of six GoPro Hero cameras, which can take spherical shots all at once. GoPro’s early entrance into the space is likely to secure its spot within the market just as VR devices start to appear.

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