Mobile 2.0: Still in the far-off future

Posted by Matthew Murphy on Thursday, August 2nd, 2007. Filed under: eHub Features

Let’s face it, most of Mobile 2.0 is still trying to catch up to Web 1.1. Despite the rapid growth of the mobile gaming industry, we still get excited about graphics that would have bored us in the glory days of 8-bit game stations. While the mobile world is about more than gaming, many mobile productivity applications seem to lack the luster needed to qualify them for anything that could be considered 2.0.

There are, however, applications out there that hold promise. This list is a quick inventory of applications which have stayed on my handset after I finished reviewing them. The following are Java applications, meaning that if they work on my handset, they will probably work even better on yours, and almost all of them are available for free.

FeedSpirit

Category: RSS Reader

Website: http://www.feedspirit.com/

imageFeedSpirit is a mobile RSS reader designed to use minimal data transfer. Add feeds or important an OPML file from your account at the FeedSpirit website. Read the full text of your feeds from your mobile handset. When you find a story you want to save for later, “clip” it from your handset and it is saved to your account for later viewing from on a PC.

Editor’s Note: At the time of writing, the FeedSpirit gateway is temporarily offline. However, the application is still available for download at the GetJar website.

Gmail Mobile

Category: Email

Website: http://mail.google.com/mail/help/intl/en/about_mobile.html

imageGmail Mobile wins the award for Best-Mobile-App-I’ve-Ever-Tried. This is a minimalist version of Google’s web-based email software, but all the essential features are there. You’ve got access to your mail (obviously), as well as contacts, search, and existing filters. The search function works especially well, and the entire application runs very smoothly.

Google Maps for Mobile

Category: Mapping, Directions, Directory Search

Website: http://www.google.com/gmm/

imageI use this application less now that I’ve started using Mapquest Find Me. Just like the web application, Maps for Mobile lets you look up locations by address or name, save your searches, and get directions. I really like the visual directions; you actually follow the directions turn by turn on the map. The interface is nicely done, and I’ve found myself turning to my mobile handset rather than my PC browser on occasion.

Mapquest Find Me

Category: Mapping, Directions, Directory Search, Location-based Search

Website: http://findme.mapquest.com/

imageMy wife insists that Mapquest gives better directions than Google Maps, and that is the only reason I tried this application. I don’t know if she’s right, but this app is pretty cool! Mapquest Find Me takes Google Maps for Mobile and adds GPS functionality. This allows you to do proximity-based searching even when you don’t have a clue where you are. The directions are text only, but at any given time you can pull up a map showing where you are. Another nice feature is the ability to send your location to someone via email or SMS. If you know others who subscribe to the service, you can see their whereabouts as well, although that’s getting a bit too personal for me.

Mobilcast by Melodeo

Category: Podcast Player

Website: http://www.mobilcast.com/

imageWhen I first used this application I was amazed by the sound quality. Other than the occasional blip, podcasts sound better than an FM radio and clearer than my actual phone calls. I’m also impressed with the fact that I can listen to hours of podcasts and still have enough juice left on my battery to make phone calls. The interface is intuitive, the podcast selection is impressive, and if you stop an episode in the middle, if even picks up where you left off.

Opera Mini

Category: Web Browser

Website: http://www.operamini.com/

imageOpera Mini is a full-featured html browser. Until the mobile version of Firefox hits the streets, Opera Mini is about as full-featured as a browser will get on a two-inch screen. Most sites are rendered well, unless they are heavy on the AJAX or Flash or something you wouldn’t kiss your mother with. I like the browser’s start page and the “*” key shortcuts. I don’t like the fact that it uses Yahoo! oneSearch as its default search engine, which is mostly useless. Opera Mini also handles secure logins surprisingly well.

Most of the mobile applications that we see today are ports of existing desktop or web applications. The ability to access your data and media on the go ushers in a new level of access and convenience. However, breakout applications on the mobile will likely create new experiences instead of direct ports of applications from the desktop. Many mobile phones (primarily CDMA handsets in the US) support Assisted GPS, which paves the way for location-based services (LBS). While that’s a lot of acronyms, the bottom line is that mobile applications are going to be able to locate you geographically (concerns about privacy are another conversation altogether). This functionality opens the door for a new set of experiences around navigation, productivity, social, and gaming apps.

We’ve seen a lot of progress when it comes to mobile apps–user interfaces are getting better, and alternate input methods such as voice recognition are improving usability. Still, there remains a lot to do before the golden age of mobile. Wireless operators, handset manufacturers and software developers have challenges before them. Nevertheless, it’s exciting to watch the mobile space as it develops. The possibilities are endless and some of today’s applications are still pretty cool.