Mobile applications galore

Published on November 12, 2009 by in Telecommunication

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By Jennigay Coetzer – Business Day – 12 November

Smartphone handset manufacturers are turning their devices into services platforms, which includes making as many applications available to users as they can. Hence the recent emergence of online application stores from all the major industry players, from which users can download myriad of consumer and business applications to their phones, many of them free.

Market demand is also forcing smartphone manufacturers to extend most of the user’s desktop tools to the mobile phone, such as e-mail, share price tracking, company performance indicators, and employee leave application and payment approvals.

Deon Liebenberg, regional director for sub-Sahara Africa at Research in Motion (RIM), manufacturer of BlackBerry smartphones, says in the next few months mobile applications will represent one of the most significant software markets, with increasingly sophisticated applications emerging. “This will require smartphones to have faster processors, brighter and clearer screens, more memory and longer battery life,” he says.

Another trend is the increase in social networking on the mobile phone and this will be extended to business use as the young early adopters move into the workplace. “Young people are more likely to communicate using instant messaging and social networks than making a call,” he says.

RIM has had 20 million downloads of the Facebook and MySpace social networking applications and 4 million downloads of instant messaging applications since it launched its mobile application store in April.

More than 3000 applications can be downloaded from BlackBerry App World, including Blue Mobile, a real-time global stock market analysis tool and currency converter, and Lonely Planet, which translates English phrases into different languages and provides the pronunciation.

Other applications include the ExpenseLog expense management application, and users of the Salesforce.com CRM web service can download an application that provides mobile access to it, for example to view sales leads, contacts, and customer accounts, and edit tasks and events. BlackBerry users also get unlimited email and internet access on their phone for R60 a month.

Liebenberg says lower cost mobile phones that have richer features such as cameras and MP3 players will move up into the smartphone category. Tania Steenkamp, head of communications at Nokia SA says mobile phone manufacturers are becoming more solutions focused, because customers want to be able to do more with their devices than just making calls and sending SMSs.

“They want a richer experience and the ability to use their mobile phones to run their business and personal life,” she says. Over 25,000 applications are now available from Nokia’s Ovi online application store that can be downloaded to over 100 of its phone models, including older non-smartphone devices.

These include spreadsheet, financial planning, loan analyser accounting, currency conversion and Voice over IP (VoIP) applications. There is also ScanR, a scan, copy and fax application that converts paper documents into a PDF file and allows users to e-mail or fax these from their phone, and a Mobile Manager application that allows users to take notes and file them in folders.

Bar-code reader, scanning, adobe PDF file reader, dictionary, language course and flight verification applications are also available from the store, as well as navigation software tools for specific uses, such as finding local restaurants and tourist sites.

Users that have a 3G-enabled phone can also download JoikuSpot, a free application that will allow the device to connect to Wi-Fi wireless networks at home, in the office or at a hotspot. Another application, SMS Scheduler, allows users to write SMSs and schedule them for sending later.

“We are encouraging local developers to to develop applications for the Ovi store,” says Steenkamp. She says existing local applications include widgets that provide direct access to News24 and MoneyWeb.

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