The Week in Mobile: May 10-16, 2015


Facebook launches Instant Articles, Uber updates API, Google releases app update for Apple Watch 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.

Facebook Launches Instant Articles for iOS

Facebook has updated its iOS mobile app with Instant Articles, a feature that pushes content directly into the app, allowing articles to load faster. The initiative is the result of partnerships with a myriad of publications including The Atlantic, BBC, BuzzFeed, The Guardian, National Geographic, NBC and The New York Times. Articles distributed via Instant Article will load immediately and offer a “native” feel, with content sliding into place with a swipe and videos streaming instantly.

For now, only one Instant Article from The New York Times is live, but it could be the start to a new “walled” reading experience in which articles are streamed directly into the app and designed for a “brand experience” by the publisher.

Instant Articles cuts down on long load time for readers and prevents media websites from missing out on traffic because readers aren’t willing to wait for content. It also keeps users engaged in the Facebook app for longer periods of time since they won’t leave the app when they click on an article. And the best news for the media properties? Facebook is allowing publishers to display their own ads inside their Instant Articles, which means their revenue model won’t be disrupted.

Uber Updates API to Include “Request Endpoint” Feature

Last week, Uber updated its API with a new feature that allows developers to embed Uber within their apps. The update builds upon the API Uber launched in August, which opened up limited capabilities to third-party developers, allowing them to send address destinations to Uber. Now, third-party developers will be able to integrate the full Uber experience into apps with Uber’s API “request endpoint” feature.

That means users reading a restaurant review in one app could request an Uber to that restaurant without leaving the original app, for example. Uber is already working with a handful of companies including Starbucks, OpenTable and TripAdvisor, but now all third-party developers will be able to embed Uber capabilities.

Google to Support Apple Watch with Update to News & Weather App

Google’s News & Weather app is now available for the Apple Watch with a recent update to the iOS app, which added support for Apple’s latest product. Although late to the game (more than 3,500 Apple Watch apps are already available for download), Google’s update suggests the company will embrace the Apple Watch even though it is a direct competitor of Google’s own Android Wear device.

It appears that Google is testing the waters with its News & Weather app, which means we’ll likely see Google rolling out Apple Watch support to other apps in its stack over the coming months. Google’s Apple Watch app release follows Microsoft’s update to iOS cloud storage service app, OneDrive. Microsoft also offers a competing smartwatch device, Microsoft Band, but, like Google, is making moves to embrace the Apple Watch anyway.

Social and Communication Apps Dominate App Usage

According to a recent study of Android sessions in the first quarter of this year, messaging apps see the most usage of any type of app and have the longest sessions in a majority of key markets worldwide. However, data from App Annie shows that the U.S. is the exception, with Facebook’s flagship social app leading in number of sessions, while Facebook and Instagram both lead in time spent in apps. It’s possible these trends point to regional preferences for communication, with U.S. users preferring one-to-many communication while other countries prefer one-to-one communication.

Also present on the top apps is the Chrome browser, which is in the top three in the U.K., U.S. Germany, and Japan. Chrome’s presence highlights the growing shift of web content consumption from desktop to mobile.