Can You Imagine A Post-App Era?

Cyanogen Inc. is a company with an interesting history. It grew from a community of open source mobile developers interested in modifying their mobile phones into a successful business of third-party firmware. 

Their best known product, CyanogenMod, is an open-source operating system for smartphones and tablet computers, based on the Android mobile platform. It is developed as free and open-source software based on the official releases of Android by Google, with added original and third-party code.  They’re not without controversy, particularly due to their desire to “Take away Android from Google.” They announced a partnership with Microsoft in April last year, under which Cyanogen would integrate and distribute Microsoft’s consumer apps and services across core categories, including productivity, messaging, utilities, and cloud-based services. As part of this collaboration, Microsoft would create native integrations on Cyanogen OS.

I met with some of the team at Cyanogen Inc. about their launch of MOD, an integrated mobile platform (not to be confused with CyanogenMod) that will introduce what they call “mods,” – intelligent, contextually aware, and lightweight experiences built natively into the mobile operating system.  These mean that third-party applications could take advantage of platform APIs to implement unique experiences directly within the Cyanogen OS. 

Essentially MOD enables a series of distinct experiences, none of which require you to “go into” the app to achieve. They include:

  • TrueCaller Mod : A global database of over two billion numbers allows this mod to identify incoming spam calls and texts in the native dialer and messenger apps so you can block them for good.
  • Social lock screen: Wake your phone up to view trending and relevant posts from your favorite social networks right on the lock screen.
  • Skype Mod: This is integrated directly into the native dialer. You can even upgrade to a Skype video call directly from an ongoing phone call.
  • Cortana Mod: Allows you to do everything from setting reminders and scheduling meetings to calling and texting friends. It is also enabled with a voice-activated countdown timer for selfie shots. 
  • OneNote Mod: Take notes simply and intuitively anytime—from anywhere in the OS. The OneNote mod creates entry points throughout the OS, from the dialer to the browser and beyond. There’s even a dedicated quick settings tile so you can jot down a quick note anytime.
  • Hyperlapse Mod: Simply open the native camera app, pull up the mode switcher and select Hyperlapse. Now you can shoot, edit, and share Hyperlapse videos without ever needing to download a special app.

Float notes mean you can jot down a note at any time.

The team gave me a demo of MOD and explained that they considered apps to be “single minded and boring:” 

“With mods, barriers to deeper integration are removed and developers can now unleash the full potential of their applications across the OS.  Users can conveniently access their workout playlist with voice-activation, schedule a ride-sharing service from within their calendar, and make a video conference call from their contacts list. The system will even nudge users to install the perfect mod to help you complete the task at hand. “

Voice activated photos make hands-free selfies easy

MOD Ready Brings Speed and Scale to OEMs and MNOs

The challenge for Cyanogen is to ensure the technology can keep up with demand. To accelerate time-to-market for devices running MOD, Cyanogen has created MOD Ready, a scaling program that enables original equipment manufacturers (OEM) and mobile network operators (MNO) to rapidly launch phones across a broad range of chipset platforms. 

As part of the MOD Ready program, Cyanogen will provide a Platform Development Kit (PDK) consisting of all the major components needed to launch a MOD enabled device. In addition, Cyanogen will work closely with major chipset providers to update the PDK roadmap with new chipsets on a quarterly basis. Since Cyanogen OS is CTS-compliant, MOD Ready devices will allow partners to take advantage of the existing Android ecosystem.

The MOD platform will begin rolling out next month on devices with Cyanogen OS 13.0 or greater. It’ll be interesting to see how this is received, I suspect they might have just created the norm of the future. 

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