Facebook’s 5 trends for an exciting, profitable, mobile-first future

Facebook
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Facebook thinks that mobile phones are changing the world, and sees a future where everything starts with our mobile-connected lives. What follows from that, if done right, can be happy users and profitable businesses.

This week, thousands of mobile company executives and others are gathered in Barcelona, Spain for Mobile World Congress. Yesterday, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg keynoted there, explaining that Internet.org, the company’s non-profit effort to bring connectivity to new users in developing countries, is helping carriers win new customers.

Today, Facebook is sharing its thoughts on the trends in a mobile-first future. In a blog post, Jane Schactel, the company’s global head of technology and mobile strategy, explained her vision for that future.

Facebook global head of technology and mobile strategy jane Schachtel.

Above: Facebook global head of technology and mobile strategy jane Schachtel.

Image Credit: Facebook

“Mobile phones have existed in one form or another for more than 30 years now, and every day they’re becoming more entwined in people’s lives,” Facebook wrote in its post. “But we are only in the early days of living in a mobile world. Today, a person’s mobile experience depends largely on where they live.”

In the developed world, countless people are using high-end Android phones and iPhones, and connecting via fast mobile networks, while in developing nations, networks are slower, and more people use basic phones. “For many people in these countries mobile phones are also a first point of entry to the Internet.”

With that in mind, here’s Schactel’s look at the five trends she sees for the future.

  • More affordable smart phones. Schachtel noted that she foresees significant innovation in the proliferation of low-cost smart phones “that offer better performance and better features for less money.” The benefits, she said, are that more people will get connected, and manufacturers will find new customers by targeting their devices at specific demographics, like Millennials, “hoping they’ll become future long-term customers.”
  • New focus on mobile commerce. As more and more people are conducting transactions via their mobile devices. But there’s still huge untapped opportunity there, Schachtel noted. “More technology and telecom businesses need to adapt their business models to mobile, and I expect to see new solutions from operators that make it easier for people to buy and sell things through their phones.”
  • Differentiation. In many developed countries, Schachtel said, it’s hard for device makers to stand out as almost everyone already has a phone, many of which look the same and offer more or less the same features. Without standing out, manufacturers struggle to build brand loyalty, and in the process deal with increased customer churn. But by finding ways to make their devices more personal to users — “focusing, for instance, on the emotional role they play in our lives rather than the latest technical specs — manufacturers could reverse that trend. That would be aided by getting users to buy more products from the device makers, Schachtel said. “Device manufacturers are now introducing gadgets like watches and selfie-cams to pair with phones and tablets,” a dynamic known as “device families.”
  • Better network capabilities. In the first world, users are consuming huge amounts of video content, Schachtel said, and that trend will only increase. As a result, carriers have little choice but to boost their networks’ capabilities and reliability. “I expect to see lots about 5G networks, as well as ways of delivering video to more people on slower networks….It’s become essential to understand creative best practices for mobile experiences, and the changing ways in which people consume video.”
  • Making the Internet of Things important. Schachtel said she expects the near future to be filled with talk about the Internet of Things — connected devices like the Nest smart thermostat or the August smart lock — and what she called “machine to machine” connections. Too, she said, Apple’s watch will likely spawn large numbers of second-gen smart watches. “With the Internet of Things, the big challenge remains showing people how connected devices can be meaningful additions to their lives, rather than just being cool pieces of tech.”

In the end, Schachtel concluded, mobile means great opportunities and exciting times for users and businesses. “As more people come online and new technologies become more widely available,” she wrote, “we’ll continue to see more sophisticated solutions for connecting the world. And that’s good for people, and good for businesses.”

 

 


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Google updates Play Services API with new location features for Android apps

A new feature of Google Play Games lets developers turn Android smartphones and tablets into second-screen controllers.
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Google is once again updating Google Play Services, its Android application programming interface (API), to add new features for developers. The new version is 7.0.

Google Play Services is the company’s set of features for building apps that connect with Google products such as Maps and Drive. The previous version, Google Play Services 6.5, came out in November, 2014.

Screenshot of Google's new Place Picker dialog, in Play Services 7.0

Above: Screenshot of Google’s new Place Picker dialog, in Play Services 7.0

The top features in this new API offer features for developers to add location-friendly features. There’s a new “place picker” dialog that makes it easier for people to select their current location based on the geodata provided by their phone and the database of locations that Google has.

And there’s an enhanced Places API that gives developers access to that location database — including details about specific venues and items within the database — either through Google’s user interface or through their own UI.

Google writes, “We will be rolling out Google Play services 7.0 over the next few days,” and notes that the software development kit for new new API will be available once that is complete.

Other updates to the API:

  • Google Fit: The company has updated several of the APIs for its fitness-tracking service.
  • Google Mobile Ads: Developers can now integrate data from Google’s AdMob (a mobile advertising network) with Google Analytics.
  • Google Play Games: There’s support for the new Android game features Google announced today, including the ability to connect an Android tablet or smartphone to a nearby TV as a second screen for gameplay — enabling you to use your smartphone as a controller, for instance.
  • App Indexing: Google has simplified this feature, which “lets Google index apps just like websites, enabling Google search results to deep-link directly into your native app.”

Google announced the news on its Android Developers Google+ page, and posted more details on the Android Developers blog.

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Android Lollipop hits 3.3% adoption, KitKat passes 40%, and Jelly Bean continues to slide

Lollipop Forest Google Android
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Google today released its monthly update of the Platform Versions page for Android, and it looks like the latest version has managed to double its adoption share. Android 5.0 Lollipop has hit 3.3 percent of the pie, cutting into the growth of Android 4.4 KitKat, once again the only other version to gain adoption share this month.

In fact, KitKat is about to pass Jelly Bean, which encompasses Android 4.1, Android 4.2, and Android 4.3. In other words, there will soon be a new Android king in town:

android_adoption_march_2015

More specifically, here are the changes between February and March:

  • Android 5.0 Lollipop: Up 1.7 points to 3.3 percent
  • Android 4.4 KitKat: Up 1.2 points to 40.9 percent
  • Android 4.1/4.2/4.3 Jelly Bean: Down 1.9 points to 42.6 percent
  • Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich: Down 0.5 points to 5.9 percent
  • Android 2.3 Gingerbread: Down 0.5 points to 6.9 percent
  • Android 2.2 Froyo: Unchanged at 0.4 percent

For the sake of comparison, here’s the Android adoption chart for February:

android_adoption_february_2015

As with any updates using this tool, we have to point out that the data is gathered from the Google Play Store app, which requires Android 2.2 and above. This means devices running older versions are not included, nor are devices that don’t have Google Play installed (such as Amazon’s Fire line).

More to follow

To recap, we currently have Jelly Bean in first, KitKat in second, Gingerbread in third, ICS in fourth, Lollipop in fifth, and Froyo in sixth. KitKat will overtake Jelly Bean before Lollipop passes Gingerbread, as unfortunate as that is.

As we’ve said before, Lollipop’s slow start is not surprising given the lukewarm popularity of the Nexus line and how long it takes for Android device manufacturers to push out updates. Multiple new Android devices were announced at Mobile World Congress today in Barcelona, and more are expected to follow in the coming days.

Nevertheless, Android 5.0 won’t see significant adoption for a few more months.

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Blackberry takes security, productivity, and communications tools cross-platform

The Blackberry Experience Suite is available for all mobile devices.
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Blackberry said today it will bring its security, productivity, and communications tools to iOS, Android, and Windows.

In an announcement about the Blackberry Experience Suite made at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, Canada’s Blackberry said “we want to empower all mobile professionals in order to supercharge their productivity and allow them to work across all their devices in an effortless and secure way.”

The company said the suite of tools will be released later this year.

This isn’t the first time Blackberry has brought its tools to other devices or platforms. It has already done so with its Blackberry Messenger, and Blackberry Blend.

With the Blackberry Experience Suite, the company is extending its “cross-platform strategy of complementing [its] innovative and ultra-secure hardware with software solutions that meet the changing needs of enterprises and mobile professionals – as well as device makers serving those markets,” it said.

The Experience Suite will comprise three individual sets of tools — the Productivity Suite, the Communication & Collaboration Suite, and the Security Suite.

 

 

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Looking East: The Western advance on China’s burgeoning mobile gaming market

Smartphone penetration is running at 47 percent in China and mobile gaming is on the rise.
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Taking your mobile game to China is tough, but it might just be worth the effort.

Mobile gaming in China was worth $4.4 billion in 2014 — a significant part of an $18.5 billion gaming market — and it’s unsurprising that Western developers want a piece of the action. But taking your game to China isn’t an easy task. Effective localization means more than just translating some text, and developers and publishers also have to deal with an incredibly fragmented Android marketplace, which is split across more than 200 different stores.

Walking around Casual Connect Europe earlier this month, I was intrigued by the growing number of stands devoted to publishing in China and the rest of Asia. Speaking to some of these companies revealed a Chinese market brimming with potential but needing a wildly different approach to find success.

China is the world's fastest growing economy, with a gaming industry worth $18.5 billion in 2014.

Above: China is the world’s fastest growing economy, with a gaming industry worth $18.5 billion in 2014.

First-time gamers

It seems somewhat contrived to discuss an entire nation of gamers as one, but China’s recent history is unique compared to other major markets.

The Chinese government’s thirteen-year ban on foreign consoles just recently ended, and buying a personal computer is still prohibitively expensive for many Chinese families. There is a massive PC gaming market in China that centers mainly around gaming cafes, but for a lot of people, their first ever experience of gaming is on their smartphones.

“In China, a lot of people — their first electronic hardware is their mobile phone,” said Johnny Lo, account executive at Japanese Internet advertising company Septini. “They can’t afford a console, and they may not have been able to afford a TV back in the old days. PC was too expensive for them. So now the country is more developed — people are making more money — [and] the smartphone is their first gaming item.”

This new exposure to gaming, coupled with relatively short commutes to work in urban areas, results in gamers that play in a very different way to the West. And translating your game to that market is about more than just language.

“Localization is key,” said Lo. “Not just text localization but the culture. The graphics, the whole game scheme has to be adjusted.”

Smartphone use is on the rise in China.

Above: Smartphone use is on the rise in China.

Omri Halamish of Ironsource told me a similar story. The digital distribution company — which raised $85 million in a recent funding round — opened a Beijing office six months ago. While Ironsource’s business there is more about helping Chinese developers succeed in the West, Halamish helped explain the importance of smart localization for the Chinese market.

“Most people think when I tell them they need to localize their game: ‘OK, I need to translate it.’ Not at all,” he said.

“You need to rewrite the story sometimes. You need to change the game flow [to] shorter sessions. Also, in-app purchases and monetization [need to be] much more aggressive and noisy. You have so much noise that you need to get over there.”

Halamish shared an interesting analogy for badly localized Western games: “I heard someone say it’s like watching a Bruce Lee film with subtitles that are very bad,” he said. “This is how your game is going to play.”

“That’s kind of the challenge. What Western game developers need to understand is that they need to rewire their game if they go to China. That’s the bottom line.”

A fragmented marketplace

Even if you have a game that suits the Chinese market, getting it published is tricky. Less so on iOS — where Apple controls most of the distribution for its phones and tablets — but with no single, unified store for the more dominant Android devices (accounting for 78.5 percent of the smartphone market), it’s a minefield, and you’ll likely need some help.

SkyMobi is one company helping Western developers publish in the Chinese market. It’s already got six games on the Chinese Android marketplaces — including Pele: King of Football and Beach Buggy Racing — and has another two currently undergoing localization.

It’s only taking around two games each month because localization isn’t easy, and it wants to hand-pick games it believes can actually succeed.

“To publish in China you need to work with tens if not hundreds of different channels,” explained William Heathershaw, the head of international marketing at SkyMobi. “At the end of the day a publisher only has so many resources, so we’re going to focus on the top maybe 50 channels, which will really give you access to 95-plus percent of the market.”

And each of those channels needs a unique copy of the game. “It’s not as simple as it is in the West,” said Heathershaw. “You have to create a clone copy of your game for each of the different app stores. Some of the larger app stores might [also] have certain requirements that you have to tweak for the game. It does require a lot of time on the publishing side for that to happen.”

SkyMobi's Pele: King of Football

Above: SkyMobi’s Pele: King of Football

Image Credit: SkyMobi

SkyMobi takes the source code directly from the developer and handles everything from there, including sending payments.

“As we’re a NASDAQ-listed company, we have the ability to give our developers money more quickly than other local Chinese publishers are,” said Heathershaw. “Some developers [elsewhere] have to wait maybe three months to collect what they made.”

But is it worth the effort?

“We’ve had a nice success with Beach Buggy Racing,” said Heathershaw. “In the first month, it’s done a few million downloads in just one market — China. It’s pretty impressive to think that a game can have a decent percentage of its overall downloads from one market.”

In the West, developers give 30 percent of their revenue to the platform holders — Apple and Google. In China, things are a lot more complicated. Payments are generally handled by a third party, as people don’t tend to have credit cards.

So you end up in a situation where you’re giving 30 percent to the platform holder and 30 percent to the payment provider. That leaves 40 percent of your total revenue, which you then need to split with your publisher.

“It always comes down to, ‘Do you want access to the Chinese market or not?’” said Heathershaw. “If you do, that’s just how it goes.”

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VLC gets first major release across Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, iOS, Windows Phone, Windows RT, and Android TV

videolan_org_vlc

VideoLAN today launched what is arguably the biggest release of its popular media player to date: an update to VLC for the desktop coordinated with new versions across all major mobile platforms. This is a truly cross-platform push.

The company told VentureBeat that the releases are the result of more than a year of volunteer work on the VLC engine and the libVLC library. As a result, VLC has gained numerous new features, has seen more than 1,000 bugs fixed, and has significantly increased its scope of supported formats.

Without further ado, here are the new releases (coming at 17:00 CET):

One major cross-platform addition is that VLC now automatically detects rotated videos. It can then rotate them using hardware acceleration (supported for MP4/MOV, MKV and raw H264) for proper consumption: no more stupid vertical videos!

For all platforms, the new version adds support for Digital Cinema Package to play native movie theater formats, compatibility for “a very large number of unusual codecs,” and “vastly improved compatibility” for UltraHD video codecs like VP9 and H265, including encoding, as well as problematic files in Ogg, MP4, and WMV. Now let’s take a closer look platform-by-platform.

Windows, Mac, and Linux

First and foremost, VLC media player 2.2.0 adds a feature that has been supported on VLC mobile for quite some time: Resume playback where you left off. This might not seem like a big deal at first, but if you remember all those times you’ve accidentally closed VLC, or opened a new video and lost your place in the first one, you’ll love this addition.

Although extensions have been available for a long time now, VLC for the desktop now has an in-app downloader, similar to what is available in Mozilla Firefox. Oh, and there’s also an extension specifically for downloading subtitles.

The desktop app has also gained experimental support for Interactive Menus on BluRays (BD-J). Last but not least, Mac users will notice a new interface on OS X Yosemite.

Android

VLC for Android arrived in beta back in July 2012, and while VLC 1.0.0 was released briefly on Google Play earlier this month, VideoLAN told VentureBeat that was still a prerelease build meant for testers. Now it’s finally out of beta and available as a stable version to the masses after more than 30 months of development.

vlc_android

The Android changelog is as follows:

  • Port to 5.0 new APIs
  • Rewrite of most views
  • Gamepad controller support for navigation
  • Async load of fragments and search
  • Option to show videos as list in portrait
  • Suport pull to refresh
  • Tracknumber, DiscNumber, and AlbumArtist tags support for audio files
  • Handle nowplaying for streams
  • Set Audio and Subs delay
  • Fix parsing of metadata with space
  • Fix popup context menu loaded for wrong files
  • More than 60 bugs fixed

The biggest highlight on Android is that the user interface has been rewritten to align with Google’s Material Design mantra.

iOS

VLC for iOS has had a long troubled history, including launching, being pulled, and relaunching on the App Store. Most recently, it properly returned in July 2013, was redesigned for iOS 7 in January 2014, and then disappeared again in September 2014 around when iOS 8 arrived. Now it’s back, again.

The iOS changelog is not as long:

  • Fixed subtitles downloading in some corner cases
  • Appearance fixes for playback speed selector and download view on iPhone
  • Improved WiFi Sharing reliability by disabling IPv6 support by default
  • Improved UPnP reliability and speed
  • Various minor UI improvements
  • Fixed regression leading to incomplete library listings on iPad
  • Improved decoding reliability by deploying FFmpeg instead of libav

A lot more is slated for version 2.5.

Windows Phone, Windows RT, and Android TV

While it may seem odd at first to lump these three platforms together, they do share one major thing in common: VLC was only offered on them as private test builds for select testers. Now the three are all getting their first public beta release.

Apps for Windows RT and Windows Phone have been a long-time coming. In fact, a Kickstarter for the Windows RT version (the Metro app that also works on Windows 8), successfully concluded in December 2012. Both apps are quite far along now, and while there are no major features added (just bugs fixes and stability improvements), the beta tag isn’t quite ready to come off just yet.

The Android TV app is still very basic, although a lot of the core work is done since it is based on the main Android app. The main features right now are video and audio browsing, a settings page, and recommendations.

What’s next

“I’m very happy [with] these releases,” Jean-Baptiste Kempf, lead developer and president of VideoLAN, said in a statement. “Moving VLC to the mobile world was difficult, but the difficult is done. VLC runs everywhere, plays everything. We’re working on many new features for VLC 3.0.0 to finish what we’ve started here.”

VLC 3.0.0 is currently slated for release “later this year.” This next major release will bring hardware decoding and acceleration to more platforms, better support for MP4, adaptive streaming, TS streams, as well as basic Google Chromecast integration.








Google Play is making more money than Apple’s App Store — in Germany

Google Play finally surpasses iOS in spending in a major world market.

Google has made amazing gains in one of the largest mobile gaming markets in the world.

The Google Play app market grew by 150 percent in Germany from 2013 through the end of 2014 according to a free report from intelligence firm App Annie. And for the first time ever, Google Play revenue in Germany surpassed iOS spending. This is very different compared to the rest of the world where, despite Android’s market-share dominance, iOS still makes up the bulk of mobile spending. With smartphone and tablet games generating $25 billion in revenue last year, developers and publishers are looking for the best platform to get the most of that money. While iOS is still the clear leader in terms of revenue, Google is proving that Android still has the potential to compete.

“Although the iOS App Store showed continued revenue growth [in Germany] throughout 2014, revenue in Google Play exploded,” reads the App Annie report. “Revenue in 2014 from iOS in Germany was 1.3-times 2013 revenue, while 2014 app revenue from Google Play was 2.5-times its 2013 level.”

Germany is the second-largest mobile gaming market in Europe and the sixth largest worldwide. And while Google Play has taken a lead in this territory, it is still far behind in terms of spending in the other major markets — especially in Europe.

While this is a big win for Android, it isn’t the first time Google Play has outperformed iOS in one of the world’s 10 biggest mobile-gaming markets. The Android operating system regularly generates more money in South Korea than iOS — but that isn’t surprising considering how popular the Samsung Android phones are in that region.

Google Play also goes back and forth with iOS in Japan, and it has the outright lead in Taiwan. Both of those are also top-10 in terms of mobile-game spending.

“The resulting app market distribution is significantly different from that in major European markets such as the United Kingdom, where the iOS App Store remains the dominant player in app monetization.”

UK Germany App Annie

So, what’s responsible for Google Play’s impressive revenue growth in Germany? App Annie points to how Android continues to gobble up device market share.

“The distribution between operating systems leaves little doubt that Android devices are a popular choice in Germany,” reads the report. “Mobile devices running the Android operating system have led the installed base in Germany for some time, and this lead has widened as Android device adoption outstripped iOS growth in each of the last three years. Its substantial lead in installed base for smartphones and tablets also indicates that Google Play has a significantly larger user base than the iOS App Store in Germany.”

Google Play also gets twice as many app downloads compared to iOS. So really, this is the story of the average iOS user still spending more than the average Android user, but — in Germany at least — the sheer number of Google Play customers has finally enabled it to squeak out more revenue. But only just barely.

average spend

While Google Play made more money than iOS in January in Germany, it was only about 10 percent more. Compare that to the U.K., where iOS made 130 percent more the revenue of Android.

Of course, making games on mobile is not an either-or proposition.

“Apple has always been better at ensuring the App Store is a valuable destination,” VB Insight analyst Stewart Rogers said. “These latest figures are the first sign that Android’s market share domination may overhaul Apple’s profit share majority globally, but it will still take time for that to happen. Regardless, our own studies on mobile market acquisition show that the developers who win are those that support both iOS and Android.”

App Annie shared all of these details and more in its report, which you can download for free from its website.

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Google launches Android for Work app and Google Play for Work app store

The Android for Work app.

Google today is introducing four pieces of technology — including an Android for Work app, a Google Play for Work business-oriented app store, new apps that support common productivity tools — that should enable people to use their Android devices to do work.

Google is also coming out with Work Profiles for Android devices that will enable people to find work-oriented apps in a segregated spot just above apps for personal use in the standard Android user interface.

Google first announced Android for Work at the company’s Google I/O conference in June. Today’s news amounts to “effectively the GA [general availability] of what we announced at I/O,” Rajen Sheth, head of product management for Android and Chrome for Work, told reporters at a press event at Google’s San Francisco office. But Google isn’t stopping here.

“We expect that what this is going to do is start to bring many more companies toward Android — not just make Android a player in the space, but actually change and redefine the concept of mobility at work,” Sheth said.

Google, of course, is looping in a bunch of hardware providers in this initiative — like HTC, Lenovo, LG, Motorola, Samsung, and Sony. After all, Google does work with a large team of hardware vendors, unlike, say Apple — even as it, too, is keen to get more iOS devices inside enterprises, if Apple’s partnership with IBM is any indicator. Meanwhile the news today also shows Google’s challenge to Microsoft, which has enterprise credibility but a lower position than Google or Apple when it comes to mobile devices.

Meanwhile, the move, following Google’s acquisition last year of bring-your-own-device startup Divide, is a fascinating when from the perspective of the mobile device management market, where there have been a few prominent acquisitions. Google isn’t competing, per se, but rather partnering — with IBM’s Maas360, VMware’s AirWatch, Citrix, MobileIron, SAP, and Blackberry, among others.

“What it’s done is broadened the range of devices that they can manage,” Sheth said. “It’s a very good but narrow set of devices [that they could] manage before. This broadens it to every Android device.”

Googler Rajen Sheth talks about Android for Work at a press event at Google's San Francisco office on Feb. 25.

Above: Googler Rajen Sheth talks about Android for Work at a press event at Google’s San Francisco office on Feb. 25.

Image Credit: Jordan Novet/VentureBeat

And while Google has no problem building applications, the company is bringing in software partners, including Adobe, Box, Salesforce.com, and SAP — to ensure a vibrant ecosystem. And Android for Work inherently acknowledges that many workers already use non-Google applications for email, calendars, and task management — the system supports Microsoft Exchange. So if you use Google’s new Work Tasks app, for instance, you can see tasks stored inside of other applications. The same goes for the new Work Contacts, Work Calendar, and Work Mail apps.

Oh, and you admins can even bulk-purchase apps for their employees, Sheth said.

There’s been a lot of demand for these sorts of Android tools, he said. Dozens of companies are now using them, he said, including Guardian Life, Pearson, and Woolworths Unlimited.

“Now we’re opening up the floodgates,” Sheth said.


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Google Calendar for Android gets 7-day week view, pinch-to-zoom, Drive integration for events, and more

Google Calendar Schedule view

Google today updated Google Calendar for Android with a slew of new features. You can download the new version now directly from Google Play.

First and foremost, the app now finally has a 7-day week view. Whether you’re a workaholic or actually plan events for the weekend, this long-time coming feature will be useful.

N6_weekview

Next up, you can finally add Google Drive files to events. Best of all, the service will check if everyone you’re inviting to the event can open the file(s) in question, and prompt you to adjust accordingly if not.

Other improvements include pinch-to-zoom (not as useful as in image-based apps, but still handy for when your calendar is overloaded with events) and a new option to show week numbers in settings. In case your company really wants you to get something done by week 14, this will be a good way to keep track.

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IDC: Android and iOS accounted for 96.3% of global smartphone shipments in Q4 2014 and the whole year

Android instead of iOS

Android and iOS accounted for 96.3 percent of all smartphone shipments in Q4 2014, and coincidentally, 96.3 percent for all of last year as well. That means the duopoly grew 0.6 percentage points compared to the same period last year (95.7 percent in Q4 2013) and 2.5 percentage points on an annual basis (93.8 percent in 2013).

The latest figures come from IDC, which puts together these estimates every quarter. Here is the breakdown for the full year:

Table of smartphone shipment data for 2014

Above: Volume units are in millions.

Google’s mobile operating system remained the clear leader in 2014, pushing past the 1 billion unit mark for the first time. This was a significant milestone in itself, but also because it meant that total Android volumes in 2014 beat total smartphone shipments in 2013. Samsung retained the leadership position “by a wide margin,” shipping more than the next five vendors combined, but its total volumes for the year remained essentially flat as Asian vendors (including Huawei, Lenovo and its subsidiary Motorola, LG Electronics, Xiaomi, and ZTE) took up the task of fueling growth for Android.

Apple’s mobile operating system, meanwhile, saw its market share decline slightly “even as volumes reached a new record and grew at nearly the same pace as the overall smartphone market,” IDC said. Strong demand for Apple’s new and larger iPhones as well as “the reception they had within key markets” kept the company going strong.

The remaining scraps were left to Microsoft and BlackBerry. Remember: There’s only 3.7 percent to fight over.

Windows Phone had the smallest year-over-year increase among the leading operating systems, growing just 4.2 percent. Not only was this “well below the overall market,” but it’s a stark contrast to 2013, when the OS posted the largest increase for both the quarter and the year. With the acquisition of Nokia completed in the spring of 2014, Microsoft relied on entry-level Lumia devices to maintain its position in the market, as well as partners HTC and Samsung in the high end of the market. That said, even if Windows 10 can turn the ship around, that’s unlikely to happen in 2015.

Believe it or not, BlackBerry did worse. It posted the only year-over-year decline among the leading operating systems, falling 69.8 percent from 2013 levels. If the BlackBerry Passport and BlackBerry Classic do indeed ship the 10 million units in 2015 that chief executive John Chen estimates, however, the company will see growth again.

The same question keeps coming up every year: How long will the Android and iOS duopoly last? We suspect it may have peaked in 2014, but it’s naturally too early to say for certain.

Android outpaced the overall smartphone market in all of 2014, while iOS beat the market in Q4 2014. Those are trends that are very hard to break, though it won’t just be Microsoft and BlackBerry trying this year: Mozilla (with Firefox OS) and Samsung (with Tizen) will be doing their best to make sure the 96.3 percent figure doesn’t go higher.

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