Mobile recap: Apple Watch in April; Outlook here now; Google Now gets apps

Ever since we first saw the Apple Watch in September, we’ve been waiting for an actual availability date. Now we at least have a month: Tim Cook said the Apple Watch will be shipping “right on schedule” in April.

Apple CEO Tim Cook talks about the Apple Watch during an Apple special event.  (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Cook made his comment right after Apple announced a record quarter of 74.5 million iPhone sales, helped largely by large new models. I feel slightly vindicated for my 2012 Galaxy Note 2 phablet purchase now. Kidding aside, it was a stellar quarter for [company]Apple[/company] and come April it will have a completely new product line. I’m still not sold on the Apple Watch, mainly because I haven’t yet been given a convincing reason for why I need one.

Apps and notifications alone won’t cut it for me; I like the contextual information that Google Now provides in Android Wear, for example. That’s not only glanceable information, but information at the right place and time. And now third-party apps can take advantage of Google Now, which is becoming more like a platform than just a service.

google now cards partners

[company]Google[/company] shared the news of third-party app cards this week and says it has about 40 software partners. Land at an airport, for example, and Google Now might surface Lyft for a ride. That’s better than fumbling around on various home screens and in numerous folders to get at the app you want. And the benefits on Android Wear would go ever farther since it can a chore to find and open an app. In some respect then, Google Now could replace your home screen in the future, provided it has very robust third-party app support.

Speaking of third-party apps, one of the latest is from one the biggest software companies in the world: [company]Microsoft[/company]. The company released Outlook for iOS and for Android, although the latter is a preview version.

Surprisingly, the iOS version leapt up the charts in the App Store while the Android edition only saw between 1,000 and 5,000 downloads and didn’t crack the top 300 free apps. I think the difference has something to do with app discovery on both platforms, while readers have suggested that mail apps for iOS are worse than those on Android. Perhaps that’s true but it seems to me that iOS users have more willingness to try new mobile software in general.

Workflow in new iOS Outlook app

Regardless, don’t let the download numbers or chart position of the app stop you from trying Outlook for Android. It’s likely better than you think and while there are still a few missing features — it is a preview, don’t forget — the overall experience is quite good. It’s not a completely new app; Microsoft bought Acompli back in December, and retooled the company’s popular email as a re-release under the Outlook name.