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The Week in Mobile: May 15-21, 2016

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Google I/O rundown, Fitbit pursues payments, Amazon’s programmable IoT button, Ebay VR shopping 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 I/O: Android N, New Products and More

Google had a barrage of announcements during its three-day developer conference last week. The company announced new apps, teased new products, unveiled Android N features and more. Here’s a roundup of the key announcements:

  • New Android N Features and Beta – Google reviewed a handful of Android N features including multitasking, redesigned notifications and a low-latency VR Mode. The company also launched a new beta version, which is open to developers and users.
  • VR Headset and Motion Controller – Google introduced its new mobile VR platform, Daydream, along with plans for a new smartphone-powered VR headset and motion controller. The new headset and controller are expected to launch this fall.
  • Instant Apps – A potentially groundbreaking way to access apps, Android users will be able use portions of app functionality without having previously downloaded the app.
  • Android Pay Expansion – Android Pay’s in-app payment API is now open to all third-party developers, which means the payment functionality can be integrated into any app. Google also announced that Android Pay is headed to the UK.
  • Google Assistant – Google unveiled a new virtual assistant, which appears to be an improved version of Google Now. Google Assistant can answer questions and follow-up inquiries conversationally. The tech is also integrated into Google’s new AI powered messaging app, Allo.

Fitbit Acquires Coin to Add Payments

In a move to expand its capabilities, Fitbit acquired digital credit card wallet Coin. However, Fitbit is not interested in the company’s Coin 2.0 device but Instead is focused on continuing their wearable payment efforts, spurred by Coin’s partnership with MasterCard. Those planning to buy a Fitbit device this year won’t be seeing Coin on their wrists just yet, but the company says next year could bring big changes as they work to bring NFC payments to their devices.

In other mobile payment news, Walmart, which has been opposed to accepting Apple Pay, started rolling out Walmart Pay, and CurrentC, a competitor to Apple Pay, announced 30 layoffs and a pause in its rollout process last week, pivoting its focus to bank partnerships, instead.

Digital Driver’s Licenses May Soon Hit the UK

Mobile payments aren’t the only things moving us closer to ditching our wallets. By 2018, the UK government could come out with a digital version of the cards – currently in prototype phase. The license would be accessed through Apple Wallet alongside credit cards, tickets and other digital records. The digital version won’t fully replace traditional licenses, and is instead meant to supplement the plastic cards—at least for now.

Amazon’s Programmable IoT Button

Amazon Dash, the shopping button that syncs with users’ Amazon accounts and allows one-touch ordering for anything from laundry detergent to cat litter, has been growing in popularity. Now, Amazon has introduced a new approach to Dash intended to unleash developer creativity for the Internet of Things. AWS IoT syncs with the AWS cloud and can be programmed to perform everyday tasks like turning on lights, calling a car service or posting something to twitter…you name it. The button, which costs $20, is already out of stock, but shoppers can enter their email to find out when it becomes available again.

eBay Ventures into VR Shopping

A new partnership between eBay and Myer, a department store in Australia, is bringing virtual reality to the shopping world. The eBay Virtual Reality Department Store app launched last week. It works on both iOS and Android and syncs with VR headsets, including Gear VR from Samsung. The two companies also made a select number of cardboard VR headsets available with the launch. The app works by presenting users with retail categories to choose from and creates the preferred shopping experience accordingly, learning what a shopper likes and doesn’t like throughout the process. Currently, 100 products can be viewed in 3D, with 2D viewing available for 12,500 of them. Navigation works using something called “eBay Sight Search,” where shoppers hold their eyes on a product to select, and then again to add to their shopping cart. The checkout process, however, requires the eBay app to complete—sans-headset.

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