The Week in Mobile: April 5-11, 2015


The Apple Watch learning curve, how to develop apps for cars, Samsung patents eye movement tracking technology 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.

The Apple Watch Comes with a Learning Curve That’s Well Worth the Effort

Unlike any other Apple product before it, the Apple Watch comes with a learning curve that may alienate some consumers, says Farhad Manjoo in the New York Times. According to Manjoo, the device is best suited for tech savvy users who are regularly flooded with notifications and are looking for a way to manage their digital lives. Many will need to play with software settings and personalize functionality in order to get the most from their new device.

Although it doesn’t exactly come “ready to use,” says Manjoo, those willing to learn how the Watch works and adjust features to fit personal needs will reap some major benefits. When calibrated right, the Apple Watch conveys information in a way that requires far less time and engagement from the user. Because information is abbreviated and notifications come in the form of various vibrations, the user can typically get information in seconds rather than minutes.

But, perhaps most exciting, the device promises to change the way we interact with the world around us by becoming a “remote control” for the real world. Apple’s vision for the device could mean your Watch will become the key to your hotel room, the ticket to a concert or a quick connection to an Uber.

Developing Apps for Cars May Be Toughest Task Yet

Car manufacturers have been using computers to power everything from fuel injectors to brakes, but the systems have historically operated as islands, with little connection with the outside world. Now all that is changing. In an attempt to satisfy customers who value connection, speed and mobility, manufacturers are beginning to increase cars’ connectivity with the world around them.

As this type of connection becomes increasingly possible, developers will need to take on what may be their toughest task yet: designing apps that integrate with cars. Challenges include spotty network connections and the complexities of delivering information to users who are operating vehicles. According to Infoworld, among other considerations, developers will need to keep the following in mind:

  • Car manufacturers have control over platforms – To gain access to tightly controlled platforms, make sure apps are easy to use and understand and make sense in the context of driving.
  • The network is inconsistent – Developers won’t be able to make assumptions about network strength, since it can change from moment to moment in a speeding vehicle. Because user location is constantly changing, developers will need to build apps that work online or off.
  • It’s not just about the human anymore – APIs should be designed to handle requests from both humans and algorithms, because apps will likely need to interact with both manual user commands and automated ones originating from the vehicle itself.
  • Hands-free is a must – Because users are driving, manufacturers are reluctant to accept apps that could distract from the road. Leave apps that rely on visuals behind and replace them with voice-enabled tools.

Apple’s iPad Lives On Thanks to Extreme Flexibility

Apple’s iPad turned five this month. Though it has celebrated years of success, recent sales have been flat. The device may not be flying off the shelf like it once was, but as Darrell Etherington argues in Techcrunch, the iPad still has a full life ahead of it thanks to its extreme flexibility.

As Macbook battery life continues to improve and the iPhone 6 boasts a larger screen so users can take on bigger tasks, the iPad is still uniquely suited for certain functionalities. For example, the iPad is the perfect Apple device for reading digital books or acting as an interactive cookbook. The iPad’s size and capabilities make for the perfect travel companion or the ideal wall-mounted technology. What makes the iPad such a success is its ability to become whatever its user needs through the apps it supports, which continue to advance even when the device itself has not.

Samsung Patents Eye Movement Tracking Technology

Last week, Samsung received a patent for technology that allows users to control their phones or tablets using eye movements. New sensors on devices will soon make it possible to track user eye movement and connect it with commands. For example, a user could control volume within a music app by moving their eyes left to right over the screen. A separate sensor will track blinks, which work like the click of a mouse. The new patent opens up a wide range of possibilities for devices and mobile apps that could transform our devices from being controlled by the tap of a finger to being commanded by the blink of an eye.