Applications on the go

It took a very long time indeed for me to see the value in mobile phones that you could use to do more than talk to other people and send SMS messages.

The Wireless Application Protocol (WAP) for connecting mobile phones to the Internet dates from 1997. Phones with WAP built in soon began to emerge and, although I don’t remember exactly when they appeared in South Africa, I do remember feeling distinctly underwhelmed by the whole idea.

I may even have made the assertion that WAP is crap and that connecting to the Internet with mobile phones would never be a thing that ordinary people would do. This manifestly incorrect assumption did nothing to improve my batting average as far as technology predictions go, and the less said about that the better.

Admittedly, the early WAP experience wasn’t all that great due to the fact that the phone screens of the time were small and the webpages were big, making them a real pain to read. Luckily, consumers weren’t swayed by my somewhat gloomy outlook, and bought the phones in big enough numbers to encourage the manufacturers to improve them.

In a comparatively short space of time, manufacturers including Nokia, Apple, Blackberry and many others, were building phones that could be used for listening to music, connecting to the Internet and playing games.

As I have written before, I held out against smart phones and until last year when my mobile contract came up for renewal, and I decided to take the plunge and get the basic Blackberry phone, never expecting the thing to make itself so useful to me.

Quite often when I’m sitting waiting at the doctor’s or at a coffee shop, I find myself checking e-mails or reading the latest news headlines, and realise just how far I’ve come in the last year. I didn’t think, for example, that it would be so beneficial to have access to my e-mail whenever I was.

Being able to read mail and respond to queries in free moments during the day means that when I get home, all that stuff has been dealt with, and I’m ready to relax or go straight to work on whatever task needs doing.

My Blackberry has a web browser which can be used to do more or less anything you can do on a desktop computer, but I have recently discovered the world of applications, which are potentially even more useful. These applications, or apps, are little programs which are designed to do all manner of things for you.

Apple is undoubtedly the king of the app world but the other phone manufacturers are speedily catching up and offering online repositories or stores, where you can find and download apps for your phone. Some apps cost a minimal amount and others are free; you can, for example, get free Blackberry apps in South Africa and paid ones might have arrived by the time you read this..

One app that I use quite often is supplied free by Associated Press and lets you read the latest news. I have also installed a game or two, a program I can use to create posts for my WordPress blogs, and a fun one that plays Vuvuzela sounds.

One app that caught my eye on the day I was to write this column, was the Google Mobile app which functions as a single interface for accessing services such as Gmail, Google Docs and Google Calendar. It also allows you to not only search the Internet, but also the messages and contacts stored on your phone.

My initial feeling was that it was a bit slow but I’m not calling it a dog yet, because that could very easily have been due to factors including network problems. Google Mobile looks interesting but, having learnt from bitter experience, I’ll reserve judgement on it for a while.

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