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The Week in Mobile: March 6-12, 2016

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Android N dev preview arrives, Six Flags joins VR frenzy, Nest becomes more aware 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.

Android N Developer Preview Lands

Last week, Google released an early developer preview of its next operating system, Android N, which boasts a number of improvements including split-screen multitasking and updated notification capabilities. The release came earlier than expected, as Google usually waits until its developer conference in May to open up its newest OS. This year though, devs will be able to access Android N ahead of time through a new Android Beta Program that sends over-the-air updates.

Google Launches Mobile-Only “Destinations”

Google wants to help you book your next getaway — the company launched a new mobile-only search feature that makes it easier for users to plan vacations and get information about various destinations. With a 50 percent uptick in travel inquires on mobile phones in 2015, Google created “Destinations on Google” to make it even easier to gather vacation information on-the-go. Now, mobile users that search for a specific location can find weather and activity information as well as info on hotels and transportation to plan and book a trip.

Meanwhile, Google has quietly rolled out optical character recognition for Now on Tap, which lets users scan an image with their camera to search for related content. The technology reads text from images and conducts a search based on that context, retrieving info on news, companies, books and more.

Six Flags and Samsung Partner on VR Experiences

Samsung announced that it has partnered with Six Flags to bring its Gear VR headsets to roller coasters for an even more immersive riding experience. VR roller coaster experiences will roll out to nine amusement parks across the country.

Oculus Weaves Social into VR

Oculus is bringing social into virtual reality with a number of new capabilities for the Samsung Gear VR. Users are now able to create social profiles for Oculus and have the option to link social accounts, such as Twitter and Facebook, to their avatar. Users can also create rooms for watching social streams or videos with other users. Eventually, Oculus plans to support Facebook Likes and Shares in virtual reality.

Nest Becomes More Context Aware

Nest announced that its thermostat, camera and smoke alarm will be able to better anticipate when users are home. Using a combination of GPS technology, sensor data and an algorithm based on when you’re usually home, Nest will be able to turn on the heat or turn off security cameras based on user preferences. Previously, Nest devices relied solely on sensors and its algorithm to guess when users were at home. The addition of GPS capabilities makes that guessing game significantly more accurate.

Wells Fargo to Roll Out Mobile Eye Scanning

In another attempt to slay passwords and ease the login process, Wells Fargo announced that it will allow corporate account holders to authenticate using eye scan or face and voice recognition. The update will roll out this summer and will use the front-facing camera on a user’s device to identify the pattern of blood vessels in the eye. Similar to fingerprints, this pattern is unique and doesn’t change.

ExxonMobil to Accept Apple Pay

ExxonMobil announced it will accept Apple Pay at approximately 6,000 locations across the US. Taking a different approach than just tapping to pay, the company will integrate Apple Pay into its Speedpass+ app and require users to enter their pump number into the app and then complete their transaction using Apple Pay. Although Chevron has been testing mobile payments through Apple Pay, ExxonMobil’s roll out marks the first true use of mobile payments by a major gas station company. ExxonMobil expects to roll out Apple Pay to an additional 2,000 locations by the middle of the year.

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