We’re a generation of multi-device users. But even though many of us use more than one device throughout the day, it’s still really difficult to get a single app working perfectly when pivoting between a phone and a tablet.
That’s the problem Cyanogen and Nextbit have teamed up to resolve. Cyanogen makes the popular Android fork CyanogenMod. Nextbit is a San Francisco-based start-up that focuses on mobile cloud solutions. On Monday, the two companies announced Baton, a new synchronization platform baked into the latest version of CyanogenMod.
Baton essentially syncs a “snapshot” of the app you’re using on one device, uploads it into the cloud, and then immediately loads up that state and launches it on the other device. “It combines all the things in Apple’s Handoff with the best things in Chromecast,” said Mike Chan, co-founder and CTO of Nextbit.
Data syncs over Wi-Fi by default, and it looks at activity and time stamps to load the correct saved state. “We put a lot of thought into how you manage different devices,” says Tom Moss, Nextbit CEO and co-founder. “When we can intelligently pick the right version, we do that, and if you want a different version we offer you a prompt.”
Synchronization is executed at the operating system level rather than with a built-in API, so you also don’t have to worry about whether a third-party app supports the feature—it just works right out of the box. But because Baton relies on the cloud to fire up the app from where you last left off, the feature won’t work unless you’re connected to the Internet.
I had a chance to see Baton in action. Chan showed me how he effectively “pushed” a half-done drawing from an app on his smartphone, the OnePlus One, over to a second-generation Nexus 7 running the latest version of CyanogenMod. The hand-off happened quickly and seamlessly, and it made me wish that I had the feature now.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wanted to play Disco Zoo on my tablet instead of my smartphone, but couldn’t because the cloud saves wouldn’t sync up correctly. Unfortunately, the Baton feature is currently limited to CyanogenMod users and devices that come standard with the software, like the OnePlus One.
Small, but significant steps for both companies
Baton is more than just a neat feature for Cyanogen devotees—it’s a prime example of how the company plans to entice users to its platform with built-in features that you can’t get on Google’s stock Android. And now with wearables and buzz-wordy “Internet of Things” devices permeating our computing universe, there’s a greater need for native operating system solutions that save developers the hassle of rewriting their apps.
As for Nextbit—a company staffed with former Googlers who worked on Android back in 2010—it’s optimistic that its cloud-based features will appeal to a broad spectrum of users. The startup also has plans to introduce a Backup and Restore feature that syncs all the apps and data on your phone or tablet into the cloud, so that it’s easier to migrate between devices.
“For Nextbit, the next big step is just scratching the surface at what’s possible to bring infinite resources to the cloud,” said Moss. “It’s pushing computing itself forward—not just building an app.” The company is also developing its own cloud-storage service (the name of which has yet to be decided).
Baton will first be available for CyanogenMod users, who will have to request to be invited into the beta. The feature will launch fully later this year.