BARCELONA, Spain — Imagine having Skype integrated directly into the dialer app of your phone, so that you could launch a Skype session straight from there. Or you could build the Cortana digital assistant right into the camera app, so that you could snap a selfie with a simple voice command.
Cyanogen, which makes a modified version of Android, thinks you shouldn't have to imagine that at all. At Mobile World Congress this week, the company launched Mod, a program that will give developers the opportunity to integrate apps more deeply into a mobile operating system.
Right now, only a few apps — largely Google's — get to natively integrate with Android. What Cyanogen hopes to do with its Mod program is remove barriers that prevent deeper integration so that "apps get super-charged to work in concert with the OS," said Stephen Lawler, Cyanogen's senior vice president of engineering.
Cyanogen's hope is to breathe some new life into the mobile arena. The way Lawler describes it, innovation has stalled with everyone carrying around similar-looking devices and apps having a hard time standing out from the crowd. The Mod approach promises a more personalized OS, while also giving app makers the chance for app makers to liven up set apart their offerings with features not currently available to them.
Cyanogen sees a world where you're scheduling a ride-sharing service from within the calendar app on your phone or launching your video-conferencing call app of choice from within your contacts list. Of course, many of the current Mod examples Cyanogen is touting involve Microsoft apps — not surprising given the strategic partnership the two companies truck last year. Besides the Mods involving Skype and Cortana, Lawler talked about a OneNote Mod that would let you take notes from anywhere in the OS and a Hyperlapse Mod that would let you edit Hyperlapse videos from within the native camera app, without having to download and switch to a separate app.
The Mod platform rolls out in march on devices running Cyanogen OS 13.0 or later. Cyanogen is also looking to get device makers and carriers in on the act with a newly announced Mod Ready program aimed at getting more phones running Mods in people's hands.