The Week in Mobile: June 26-July 1, 2016


Google’s new Awareness APIs, N is for Nougat, YouTube Gets Livestreaming, Pinterest adds Visual Search 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.

New Android Awareness APIs

In an effort to help developers create more context-aware apps, Google announced two new APIs: Snapshot and Fence. Snapshot makes it possible for developers to understand if a user is approaching a beacon, whether they’re driving someplace or walking (and where), the current weather and even if they’re using headphones. Then, Fence turns this information into alerts, allowing developers to decide which parameters or user actions warrant sending a notification. It’s easy to understand the many use cases of these new APIs, which companies like Trulia and SuperPlayer Music are already using to better hone the user experience.

Elsewhere, Google released two videos showcasing progress on its Android VR offering, Daydream. The two experiments featured, called Animator and Puppeteer, make it easier for developers to control items and characters within a virtual world.

N is for “Nougat”

Surprising no one, Google announced Nougat as the moniker for Android’s next release, which is expected to be available this fall. This time around, the company allowed fans to cast their votes for the upcoming alphabetically ordered, dessert-themed name using the hashtag #NameAndroidN. Then Google announced its final choice via Snapchat in an ode to the growing influence of the social media platform.

YouTube To Introduce Mobile Livestreaming

Following on the heels of Periscope, Meerkat and most recently Facebook Live, YouTube announced that users will soon be able to share live video on the go. Once available, livestreamed videos will be searchable on the site, in addition to being available as recommended content and viewable in playlists. Broadcasters will also be able to create private groups for viewing specific videos.

For those with access to a 360-degree camera, livestreaming may not be as new: the company has been supporting livestreamed videos for a couple of months, but this new announcement will make it available to anyone with a smartphone and an idea.

Google to Create a High-end Handset Challenger?

Rumor has it that Google may have a phone of its own on the market by the close of 2016, in a move aimed at challenging the success of Apple and Samsung. According to a report in The Telegraph, the device will be different from Google’s Nexus offerings that already exist thanks to partnerships with HTC and LG. While the company has focused on software, rather than hardware, if true, this step will allow Google to increase its control over the way its Android offerings are presented.

The social media site is improving its approach to search in the way it knows best: by using photos to bring fans of the platform closer to its database of pins. Using the Pinterest app, users will be able to snap a picture of a scene they’d like to recreate and then initiate a search for similar items that exist on the site. Pinterest will also roll out a new feature to its shopping cart, allowing users to pull shoppable pins into one place and buy on any device where they’re logged in. The new shopping cart and visual search features are expected to go live in a couple of months and mark a big step forward for Pinterest’s e-commerce efforts.

Macy’s Mobile App Gets an “In-Store” Mode

The latest step in the US-based retail giant’s mobile strategy is aimed at connecting customers’ digital and physical worlds. Shoppers near a store location will be greeted with a new in-store mode, with other new features including easy price checks and alerts about current offers. Macy’s has been taking several steps in recent years to improve the mobile customer experience, including adding beacon and QR code functionality to the app experience.

Amazon Offers Steeply Discounted (ad-filled) Smartphones

Beginning in mid-July, those in the market for a new smartphone could get one for half off through Amazon—but only if they’re a Prime subscriber and willing to navigate through an ad-filled device. Two unlocked phones will be offered, the simplest being the BLU R1 HD, which will retail for $49.99. The Moto G will also be available, first for $25 off, and then at $149.99 when the promotion expires. But there’s some skepticism over whether this is actually a bargain since the BLU R1 HD is only compatible with AT&T and T-Mobile, and both phones require the regular yearly Prime subscription cost of $99.