The Friday Five highlights the biggest tech news of the week: announcements, releases, and anything you can’t miss from the world of digital products.
The wearable industry is finally coming of age. With the announcement of Apple Watch, the largest technology player is investing in an all-new category that complements and expands mobile technology experiences.
In addition, manufacturers are sure to release more and more Android Wear smart watches of ever-increasing quality, spurred on by the gorgeous Moto 360 and Asus Zen Watch of 2014. As every tech company scrambles to get their wrist products right, 2015 might finally be the year that Dick Tracy comes to life.
On both iOS and Android, developers can now extend their app functions into new territory. While Android has included such functionality from the beginning, iOS 8 just introduced new “extension points” for developers to latch their apps onto—everything from sharing options for photos to custom widgets in Notification Center.
Combined with new interactive notification capabilities and home screen notification access on both systems, developers have tons of opportunities to provide value to users without them having to even open an app. Users can reply to messages right on their home screens, dismiss emails from their wearable, or check their flight status in Notification Center. Extensions will transform what “apps” mean on mobile, and redefine what native experiences can do.
The definition of what constitutes an “Android device” is growing. After more than 1 billion Android smartphones and tablets have been activated around the globe, Google is expanding its ecosystem to include watches with Android Wear, cars with Android Auto, and the living room with Android TV.
Unlike the heavily customizable Android OS, these new platforms are more tightly under Google’s design control, and provide a new degree of cohesion and integration across devices. In 2015, expect Google and its partners to launch Android hardware products that span industries and form factors, giving developers new opportunities to connect with users wherever they are.
We already live in a “cashless” society—pretty soon, we’ll be living in a “cardless” one, too. With the introduction of Apple Pay and the continuing popularity of Google Wallet, both major platforms include a contactless payments option going into 2015. Thousands of retailers have already added NFC support in stores or announced their intention to do so this year.
Alternative payment options like Softcard, which lives on Android and has the backing of major cellular carriers, and CurrentC, which uses QR codes instead, reinforce the notion that we’ll all be paying with our smartphones sooner rather than later. The future for the “cash register” is starting to seem less about cash and more about near-field chips.
“Unbundling” refers to the trend of companies breaking up their flagship apps into single-purpose apps for their constituent parts. For example, Facebook has been aggressive in “unbundling” Messenger from the core Facebook app on iOS and Android. Major technology companies have been unbundling their apps for years, but this trend only promises to accelerate in 2015.
Multiple apps for unique purposes give brands opportunities to reach distinct audiences with different interests, and to increase their presence on users’ home screens. In addition, spinning off single-purpose apps from the primary property lets developers experiment with innovative ideas in ways that their primary audience might not permit. In 2015, expect major players and indie shops alike to splice up their offerings and try new things—it might be annoying to add apps to your home screen, but these fresh apps are a hotbed for fresh ideas.