Since the dawn of the Smartphone era, Mobile World Congress has been the premier location for the largest exhibition in the mobile industry. An event that has stolen the limelight globally, it’s a platform where small and large industry players can launch their products and services to the world.
The hedgehog lab team has been following this event since its inception, to keep track of the amazing new introductions to the mobile industry. Although we’re a self-professed group of tech enthusiasts, as app designers and developers we look at the products and services in a slightly different way. Our dreams consist of all the amazing apps that we can make using the newly-announced tech.
In light of this, we thought we’d share our thoughts on the 10 most important announcements at Mobile World Congress 2015, from an app developers’ perspective:
Cyanogen gets serious:
Cyanogen, as most of you know, is a heavily-modded version of Android. Apart from enabling users to load the modded OS onto their Android devices to provide a different user experience, Cyanogen has previously partnered with companies like OnePlus and Micromax to release phones pre-installed with the OS.
During MWC, they announced a new partnership with Alcatel, to release devices pre-installed with Cyanogen OS. Meanwhile, a partnership with Qualcomm will result in reference devices installed with the OS, enabling smartphone makers to select a pre-configured base unit and quickly ship products based on this.
As app developers we are excited to see up-and-coming mobile OS’s gaining market share, creating a more competitive environment and the opportunity to work with new tools and services. Although Cyanogen is largely based on Android OS, it does have its subtle differences that would make it interesting to work with.
Blackberry has been on a steady decline for the past few years, and there were even rumours that it would be sold to other mobile manufacturers. Irrespective of these rumours and falling sales, Blackberry remains very much invested in mobile, demonstrated by the announcement of a new phone called Blackberry Leap.
The launch of this new device should help to dispel speculation on the longevity and viability of app development on Blackberry platforms; it’s hoped that Leap will provide new opportunities for app developers and designers to continue supporting this ecosystem. In fact, the hedgehog lab team had the privilege of developing a Blackberry app for a client in the last quarter of 2014, and we look forward to developing new apps on this platform as it attempts to gain a foothold in the smartphone era.
Valve VIVE in partnership with HTC:
Another Virtual Reality headset was announced during MWC 2015: the VIVE. Launched by Valve, the brains behind successful AAA games like Half Life, Portal, Counter Strike and Dota 2, the device will most likely be targeted at the gaming industry, to connect to a console or computer.
Nevertheless, we are intrigued by the fact that HTC worked with Valve to develop this device, which suggests that HTC now has expertise and experience in virtual reality headsets. With Samsung (and supposedly Apple) leading the way in developing mobile-supported VR headsets, it would not be surprising to see HTC launch a headset to support their mobile devices.
Although these devices are currently being marketed towards gaming and entertainment, our app designers know the huge potential of the VR headset. There are a multitude of applications for this technology, especially when you factor in the agility available by connecting them to a mobile device.
Visa is developing a payment system that can be integrated into the user’s car. They have so far partnered with Pizza Hut, to work on a project that enables users to order pizza from the car, to be ready by the time they drive up to the nearest outlet. The user can then pay for the pizza using the Visa system installed in the car (possibly via the infotainment system).
Visa will be running this experiment with Pizza Hut for 3 months and collecting the usage data to gauge its success. If the pilot goes well, it could open up a whole set of possibilities for app developers to create apps and services. This would enable users to purchase a wide variety of services and products on the move, with the time-saving convenience of being able to collect items on the way to work or home.
Samsung Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge:
Samsung released two new phones during MWC 2015 – the Samsung Galaxy S6 and Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge. Samsung has been forced to make a lot of changes to their flagship devices in a bid to protect their share of the smartphone market. These devices have been designed to target the premium market, replacing the old plastic casing with aluminium chassis. They have also refined the design with a unibody, non-removable battery, and taken away memory expansion capabilities.
One of the benefits in terms of development is the removal of a lot of bloatware that had previously curbed performance; these devices can now accommodate better, high-performance apps than before. Additionally, the Edge interactions provide innovative ways for app designers and app developers to integrate UI and UX for users.
Following the launch of Apple Pay, it came as no surprise that its rival is introducing Samsung Pay to enter into the payment ecosystem. This system works very much like Apple Pay; the user stores a card on their mobile device and uses the NFC capabilities of the phone to make a payment after using their fingerprint to authenticate the purchase. However a major advantage of Samsung Pay is its ability to process a payment using the magnetic reader which most debit / credit card payment systems are already working with, increasing the potential market size for Samsung at launch.
We are excited to see how we can integrate this system into various mobile apps and services, as Samsung starts rolling it out to developers.
Android Pay sounds like yet another rival service to Apple Pay, but in fact it isn’t a payment system at all. Google Wallet already covers these functions, which they are looking at developing as a stand-alone system. Android Pay, on the other hand, is a platform that would enable app developers to build their own payment system. Google provided very few details beyond this, but such a platform holds obvious promise and has really made us excited.
Rise of Huawei :
Huawei is an up-and-coming Chinese mobile device manufacturer, which has established a global presence despite having a very small market share in Western markets. This MWC saw Huawei rising up with the launch of their first Smartwatch, Huawei Watch. The reason why this wearable has generated such interest in a somewhat saturated market is because it is possibly the most attractive and well-designed Android Wear Watch currently available.
What’s more, there are rumours that Huawei could be working with Google to build the next Nexus device, which would bring them to the table of the big players in the mobile industry. We are excited to see how the Huawei Watch will be received by users, and would love to get our hands on it to see what interesting apps can we develop for it.
Growth of Firefox:
Firefox is currently one of the few underdogs in the mobile OS market, although they are fighting hard to gain a market share. They had previously announced basic smartphones for the developing markets, and it seems that they are pursuing this plan. At MWC 2015, they also announced a Firefox OS-based flip phone, which could enable them to grow their market share in countries like Japan, where demand for flip phones has revived of late.
As well as working with mobile device manufacturers, Firefox OS has also partnered with Panasonic to launch a 4K TV powered by their operating system. Not to mention teaming up with Monohm to create a masterpiece circle-shaped smartphone named Runcible. The Runcible smartphone redefines the boundaries of how the form factor of a smartphone needs to look, so could have major implications on the industry.
App developers, app designers, mobile device manufacturers and users will be curious to see what Firefox OS targets next. The up-and-coming platform is opening up possibilities for interactions and use by adopting different form factors like circular mobile device and flip devices – exciting prospects for developers.
Sailfish is another underdog in the mobile OS market. They had previously confined themselves to a closed ecosystem, by developing and manufacturing the Sailfish OS and Jolla devices themselves. However at MWC 2015, the company launched Sailfish OS 2.0, announcing that they will be licensing the operating system out to mobile device manufacturers around the world. Opening up their ecosystem will enable them to finally take on the mobile phone OS market. It will be interesting to see how this plays out, and how successful the licensing will be.
There was no shortage of exciting news and announcements at MWC15, and hedgehog lab is looking forward to seeing how these new products and services take off in the coming months. Perhaps we’ll even have the pleasure of working on some of them! We do hope so…