The Week in Mobile: April 19-25, 2015


Microsoft embraces Apple Watch, Android Wear to untether users from smartphone, Google unleashes “Mobilegeddon” 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 Launches Tweak to its Search Engine Algorithm, Sites Cry “Mobilegeddon”

Last week, Google launched the latest tweak to its search algorithm. Nicknamed “Mobilegeddon,” the change could have a significant impact on how companies’ websites are ranked in search results on smartphones because the adjustment now favors websites that are more mobile-friendly.

Sites that meet Google’s new standards will rank higher in search results. To be considered mobile-friendly, a site must have text that is readable without tapping and zooming, tap targets must be spaced out appropriately and pages must avoid unplayable content or horizontal scrolling.

According to recent tests, the update could affect the search ranking for over 40 percent of Fortune 500 websites. As of early April, 46 percent of Fortune 500 companies and 29 percent of the top 500 retail sites were not deemed “mobile-friendly” by Google. However, “Mobilegeddon” will only affect a site’s search ranking on mobile devices. Still, it may be the push companies need to create mobile friendly content.

Microsoft Updates OneDrive App with Apple Watch Capabilities

Last week, Microsoft updated its iOS cloud storage service app, OneDrive, in order to allow Apple Watch users to flip through photos on their smartwatch. While Microsoft offers a competing smartwatch device, Microsoft Band, it appears the company plans to support Apple’s newest device. OneDrive is the first Microsoft iOS app to support Apple Watch, but it’s likely that other Microsoft apps will see similar updates over the next few months.

In the past, Microsoft has demonstrated its commitment to cross-platform functionality with the release of Office for iOS, Outlook for iOS and Android and more. The company offers over 100 iOS and Android apps, so it should come as no surprise that the company is embracing the Apple Watch rather than limiting tools in an attempt to push Microsoft devices.

Android Wear to Untether Users From Smartphones

A new update scheduled to roll out in the coming weeks will allow Android Wear users to connect their device to a separate Wi-Fi network than the network on which their smartphone is operating. That means users will be able to operate their Android Wear watch on a Wi-Fi network miles away from the Wi-Fi or cellular network connected to their smartphone.

The update distinguishes Google’s smartwatch from the soon-to-be-released Apple Watch, which requires users to connect their watch to the same Wi-Fi network as their phone. While the Apple Watch is tightly coupled to its smartphone counterpart, Google’s Android Wear is working to loosen that constraint for its users.

Facebook Messenger Making Moves to Replace the Telephone

Facebook announced that its Messenger app now makes up 10 percent of global mobile Voice Over IP calls. And CEO Mark Zuckerberg says he expects that percentage to grow rapidly because VOIP can provide higher audio quality than traditional phone calls and is offered for free. Facebook rolled out free mobile VOIP calling to Messenger last April and has already become a viable competitor to apps like Skype who have had a more lengthy presence in the space. Additionally, Facebook launched free VOIP calls for WhatsApp on iOS in mid-April after launching the feature on Android last month. Because Messenger has 600 million users and WhatsApp has 800 million users, it’s possible that the networks are finally large enough to make VOIP calling a viable alternative to traditional phone calls.

Last week, Facebook also released its caller ID app, Hello, that links up with the social network platform to identify callers even if they aren’t stored in your phonebook. And, in an attempt to push users to sister apps, Hello makes it easy for users to ignore normal phone calls and use Messenger VOIP to return the call back free. For the time being, the app is built for Android only because iOS doesn’t let apps interact with phone calls.