Sep 8, 2009

Wonderful Mobile Applications

I love it that the mobile phone is becoming the 'most accepted' mobile device, so vendors are packing more and more features into it. Of course most users use it for voice calls and texting, but the integrated camera is opening many new ways to use the mobile phone. Most people don't know that many mobile phone camera also have rudimentary photo editing capabilities too. I take a picture of something and send it by phone to someone to show him/her that what I see, and ask them to comment.

Some TV shows demonstrate how the police are using the cameras in their mobile phones to take photos of suspects to send to colleagues and witnesses thereby getting information faster and keeping third parties safer. Forensics shows tell us that cell phones can help law enforcement people track the time and location of phone calls. We see that by-standers are capturing photos and VIDEOS with important information for law enforcement and the news media.

We already know that browser-enabled phones let us browse the web, such as to 'do' email, use search or map addresses. The problems are often, the display on the phone is very small so it's hard to see detailed web pages; and the keyboards are small and often require repeating several key strokes to enter information. There are shortcuts and built-in auto-text, but most people don't want to make the effort to learn and train their devices -- and rightly so. Devices must be intuitive and easy to use. Well, better user interface have already been built. A large virtual display as well as virtual keyboards and other ways to control the display were developed for the heads-up-display and user interface for fighter pilots. Voice input is also available, as is eye-movement tracking. The hurdles to consumerizing those technologies are market acceptance and cost.

There's a web application where you take a picture of the bar code of an item with your mobile phone, then the application searches the web, and using its GPS (or by communicating with the cell tower closest to your location), it tells you where the same item is available nearby and the price of that item. Helps you to shop better!

Many, many diverse, useful, charming and ingenious applications are available if only people knew about them! There are so many choices of ways that mobile applications can improve our lives.

The type of application that I am currently enthusiastic about is 'augmented reality.' No, it's not a game or like those 3D movies. Such applications give more information about your surroundings, based on what you ask it to find out. F'instance, you're driving in an unfamiliar part of town and want to know whether there is a police station or hospital nearby. Or you're a child who's lost and wants to let your mother know how to find you. By taking a few photos of your immediate surroundings, the mobile application will figure out where you are and you can send that information to your Mom. Augmented reality applications can help you.

In countries other than the US, mobile phone service providers have partnered with vendors to do bill processing. You can pay bills with your phone. In other words, your phone provides similar services as credit cards.

This post is quite long enough so I'll stop now, but my main message is, a personal mobile device such as the phone can improve our lives in many, many ways, in addition to making phone calls and sending text messages.

A very important problem that inhibits consumers from choosing and using so many capabilities is the relatively high cost of data services. That's a huge, complex topic that is receiving a lot of research and discussion. Maybe I'll do a little homework and write about it next time.