It’s a funny old mobile world

Mobile phones have been in my thoughts quite a bit just lately which is probably the result of the regular reminders I get from my service provider that my contract is due for renewal that I can get an upgraded cell phone.

Regular readers may know that I am currently using a Nokia 1200, bought for a shade over R250, when my previous handset failed with a couple of months to go in my existing contract. I was so impressed with the little Nokia which, after all, allows me to talk and send text messages and whose battery lasts for between five and seven days, that I got to thinking about I, or the vast majority of users, actually need anything more elaborate.

I even went as far as going into the one of the service providers branches and asking the assistant what marvels of technology I could own if I were to sign on the dotted line for a further two years. None of the units on offer would have provided a noticeable improvement and its not until mobiles get really expensive that you start to get extra features that really mean something.

Anyway, there I was thinking about mobile phones, when I heard that they were holding the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, from the 16th to the 19th of February. Early reports revealed a couple of interesting developments coming down the line.

The thing that interested me most was an agreement that has been reached between the major mobile manufacturers to switch to universal energy-efficient rechargers. It seems that by 2012, Nokia, Motorola and Sony Ericcson phones will all work with the same charger and the GSM Association calculates that this will result in the saving of 51,000 tons, per year I assume, of duplicate chargers which people won’t need to buy, and therefore, have manufactured for them.

A universal charger sounds to me like an incredibly good idea and one which will simplify matters if you get caught away from home and you need to borrow a charger from someone else. I think that manufacturers of other devices, like laptops, should get onto the bandwagon and start converting their products to use the same charger and make life very much simpler for us.

Another interesting development is Microsoft’s announcement of Windows Marketplace, which will be an online store of Windows programs for mobile phones running Windows Mobile. It is, of course, an unashamed copy of Apple’s wildly successful iTunes Application Store, where users of iPhones can download all manner of programs, either for free or for a fee.

One report claims there had been over half a billion downloads from the Application Store including some really esoteric programs that the majority of us would never need, like one for snipers to use to calculate bullet trajectories. I have this vivid metal image of a brawny sniper hauling out his shiny iPhone in the midst of battle and getting distracted when he notices a message from the little woman asking him to get milk on the way home…

Windows Marketplace will apparently be run on similar lines to the Application Store and time will tell how successful this venture will be for the company. You can’t help getting the idea Microsoft was a little slow off the mark and that they will battle to catch up in a marketplace where Apple has carved itself such a convincing niche.

On to other matters, I thought I would just mention a free program which seems to be very good at converting sound files from one format to another. I have an accumulating number of .WAV files which are taking a lot of room on my hard drive and I was looking for a free way to convert them to MP3s.

A friend told me about Switch Sound File Converter which you can get from www.NCH.com.au and which fits the bill admirably. I found it very easy to do a couple of sample conversions including a 283Mb .WAV which was reduced to a 51Mb .MP3 file which in about a minute and half.

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