The new world of mobile apps

27 Jun 2007

Think about mobile applications just a year or so ago, and your thoughts likely would have focused on necessary but mundane tasks such as email, messaging and security. Think about mobile apps now, however, and it's a brave new world, seemingly limited only by a software developer's imagination and tolerance for risk.

All over the world, mobile operators are looking to find the 'killer app' that will pique the interest of mobile users and generate a whole lot of recurring revenue. Service providers are struggling to find the right business model to capitalize on the mobile apps explosion that is being fueled by cooler devices, added convenience and greater bandwidth. The opportunity is certainly huge: Recently released research from Compass Intelligence shows US businesses alone will spend roughly $9 billion annually on mobile applications by 2011 up from $3.8 billion this year. The consumer market is even more lucrative in Asia and around the world.

'Because of the converged world of communications, applications and mobile applications are creating huge buzz and interest in the market,' says Stephanie Atkinson, managing partner at Compass Intelligence. 'Service providers must get into the mobile applications game by either developing new relationships with software vendors or developing in-house solutions that work across mobile devices.'

Some of the most interesting mobile apps are surely designed for niche market players (thwarting terrorism, tracking lightning strikes or locating the best fishing hole), but others have a much broader call (social networking, accessing music collections or forwarding email.) Whether the approach is micro or macro, the result is intriguing all the same, and the payoff for users (in enhancing efficiency) and for service providers (by developing new revenue streams) promises to be profound.

Wireless Asia picks 10 of the most interesting, and often the weirdest, apps with the potential to generate new revenue streams and give consumers more convenience and fun.

1. Magazines to go

Tired of lugging a satchel full of heavy magazines on that next business trip or vacation‾ Mobizines, a mobile magazine aggregator, may have the answer. It provides bite-size, brand-name magazines, webzines, TV channels and record labels for your mobile device and has gained nearly 250,000 subscribers in the UK, Germany, South Africa and more recently, North America. In Asia the it då·„uted a preview of the service at the Music Matters event in Hong Kong at the end of May, and Charged magazine will launch the service at CommunicAsia in Singapore in June.

Furthermore, the service is free; advertising pays for the content. (Users have to pay applicable data charges to their carriers, however.) The company uses up-to-the-minute technologies such as Flash Lite and Java interfaces to pull together word, picture and sound files and display them as a multimedia page on your mobile phone. The service works on more than 100 different mobile devices. So if reading GQ, Men's Fitness, Maxim or BBC news updates on the run is your idea of unwinding, Mobizines may be for you.

2. Voice-to-screen messaging

Okay, so you're inundated with annoying voicemail messages, and it's time to head out of the office for that pressing social engagement. SpinVox has you right in its crosshairs. The company is test marketing with more than 40 service providers around the world a service that allows wireless customers who sign up to have their incoming voice messages converted into text and sent directly to their mobile phone.

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