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The Week in Mobile: June 28- July 4, 2015

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Apple releases info on HomeKit, Uber acquires Microsoft map technology, Apple Watch enters new markets 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 Sheds Light on What’s in Store for HomeKit

If you’ve been wondering what’s in store for HomeKit, you’re in luck. Last week, Apple updated the HomeKit support page and released hands-on product demos that may be able to answer a few of your questions. Since announcing the new smarthome framework that allows users to control home appliances from iPhones and iPads nearly a year ago, the company has been slow to explain what the new technology will look like and how it will work. Now, Apple is beginning to paint the picture.

To control HomeKit-compatible devices, users will download the corresponding iOS app and pair an iPhone or iPad. The user will then be able to control that device through voice commands to Siri. In order to make complex requests in which multiple appliances are controlled at once, users can connect smart devices by room. And, as predicted, Apple TV will act as a central command, so that users can control appliances remotely.

Apple’s Latest Acquisitions Could Mean a Buttonless iPhone

Apple has now acquired 26 of 31 patents from biometric technology firm Privaris. These patents consist primarily of fingerprint and touchscreen technology, which could improve TouchID functionality on Apple devices. It’s also possible that the patents are intended to advance Apple’s plans to remove the iPhone home button and, instead, create a multitouch screen with a virtual home button. Apple seems to have been entertaining the idea for a few months, as the company recently filed a patent for similar technology in which a TouchID fingerprint sensor is housed underneath the touch screen.

Uber Looks to Improve Services with Acquisition of Microsoft’s Maps Technology

In an attempt to strengthen mapping research efforts and improve services, Uber will acquire a portion of Microsoft’s maps technology. In addition to around 100 engineers, the deal includes a data site, cameras, image-analysis software and a license to intellectual property, which adds to Uber’s mapping technology from Apple, Baidu and Google. Late last year the company also acquired deCarta, a mapping technology start-up and, for months, Uber has been competing to buy Nokia Here, Nokia’s mapping division.

Meanwhile, Uber has quickly become the most-downloaded travel app in France during the taxi driver riots. Following the incident, Uber has risen to the second-most downloaded iPhone app in France and took the top spot the next day. While downloads have dropped off, Uber is still seeing more downloads in the country than ever before.

Apple Watch Available in Seven New Countries

Apple Watch is now available in seven new countries including Italy, Mexico, Singapore, South Korea, Spain, Switzerland and Taiwan. The expansion comes shortly after Apple’s latest device became available for in-store purchase at Apple stores with a reservation. And, beginning July 17, the Apple Watch will be available in the Netherlands, Sweden and Thailand. While Apple was slow to release the Apple Watch in stores, it appears the company has finally caught up to demand, allowing for in-store sales and expansion into additional markets.

Facebook Messenger Rolls Out Payment Functionality Nation-Wide

Gearing up to compete head-to-head with payment platforms like Venmo, Facebook Messenger has rolled out mobile payment functionality nation-wide. Following Facebook’s launch of the payment platform on Messenger last month for New York City users, the capability is now available to all users in the US. And because Facebook Messenger no longer requires a Facebook account to log in, new payment functionality is available to a larger user base than ever before.

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