Developers' Own Favorites
By Joachim Bamrud, Tue Aug 20 00:00:00 GMT 2002

TheFeature surveys wireless developers on how they personally use the mobile Internet.

The last few years, the mobile telecommunications sector has undergone dramatic changes with the emergence of data capability. However, the changes have not been without controversy, with hype and anti-hype often dominating the news about mobile data.

TheFeature asked wireless developers in Europe, Asia and North America how they personally used the mobile 'Net. Participants include Barbara Ballard, who designed user interface for U.S. operator Sprint's TouchPoint 3000 smart phone and created the style guide for its wireless web; Espen Lyngaas, a Norwegian developer who came up with one of the world's first WAP cam sites and Gerhard Fasol, who has been coding computer software since the 1980's and won a second prize in the Computer Visualization Contest of Japan's Computer Graphics Association for computer visualization code. The answers have been edited for clarity.

TheFeature: What do you personally use the wireless web and data for and how often?

Barbara Ballard, principal user experience designer, Little Springs Design, USA: I primarily use the wireless web on my phone for three things, in descending frequency order: view my email, check the weather forecast, and get movie listings. The amount I do this is variable. If I am in town, I've got "full" access - I'm never more than 30 minutes from having access to my computer. However, if I drive into "the city" (Kansas City) I will leave my laptop at home and check my e-mail by phone. It's a lot simpler than trying to figure out somebody's wireless network. So the amount varies: if I'm on the road, even for a local 45 minute drive, 5+ times per day. If I'm at home or in the office, it drops to almost never. Occasionally I'll check the weather on the phone when I get up in the morning, as it's faster than finding the computer, booting it, and dialing in. The sole advantage to doing this over listening to the radio: I'm always paying attention when it shows up.

Espen Lyngaas, IT-Consultant, Color Line AS, Norway: To be honest, I mostly use my own applications. I was especially active on the wireless web during my vacation to a cabin with no phone line, and practically no coverage except for certain spots. Still having to solve some problems at work, it was convenient to have a WAP interface to some mission-critical applications. The other types of services I use most are news, location services that let you see where someone is and movie info and ticket ordering, bus and train times. It's very difficult to tell the difference between personal and business use when you're a developer because even if you're just ordering cinema tickets with some mates, you automatically think about what's behind the scenes - sometimes, trying to provoke a known bug, and sometimes wondering how they managed to get around that particular problem. But on average, excluding the testing of my own applications, I would say I use the wireless web maybe ten times per week.

Gerhard Fasol, EuroTechnology, Japan: I use it many times every day for sending and receiving email (i.e. proper internet e-mail from and to all over the world with our business partners), wireless information services, e.g. train timetables to plan my trips, weather reports, news and to look at wireless websites for my business.

Hratch Soghomonian, Wireless Application Developer, Tenrox, Canada: Typically I use wireless tools and applications in order to verify e-mail, receive headline news, stock quotes (well, not as much, anymore) and lots of reminders and schedules/calendars. I also use Tenrox's Wireless Application to fill my timesheet when not working from the office, verify status from my team on specific projects, and check issues (essentially tasks that are assigned to me). I receive notifications on some of the internal processes, mainly "damage control" situations on the project. I use these applications on a daily basis when it comes to some of the simpler functionalities such as e-mails, messages and, of course, I use the wireless applications that are connected to our internal PSA system, at least once a week.

Marcus Weibull, Product Developer at Aspiro AB, Sweden: I use the web part most to access information and sometimes for entertainment. Sometimes in the evenings and weekends and often when I am traveling. I use it every week about 1-6 times.

TheFeature: What are your favorite wireless web sites?

Ballard: 1) Sprint PCS's Wireless Web Mail (not sure about URL; available through Sprint's menu). This is a clean POP mail site, although the filters I've got set up rarely work. I pull my POP e-mail from external servers on an as-needed basis, and can manage the mail from the phone or from the PC. Advantages: I don't have to deal with the overhead associated with a portal like Yahoo, the design is better than other clients, and I use POP and not corporate mail. 2). The Weather Channel (special URL for Sprint PCS). Their HDML/WML site, although it has gotten worse in the past two years, is still pretty useful and usable. They have up to five favorite cities you can store, and you can get weather information based on city name or ZIP. I store my local towns plus the locations of my currently active clients.

Lyngaas: I tend to stick to a local site called because they have good services and a fairly good portal. Of news services, I use and and I use those basically because it's the same two newspapers I read the most on the wired web.

Fasol: The Japanese train timetables via a JAVA applet that tells me exactly which train to take, when and where to change trains or airplanes all over Japan. Second-favorite is the weather site. Both are "official menu sites" of DoCoMo, so although they have an ordinary Internet URL, you can't normally access them except through a DoCoMo phone.

Soghomonian: My favorite sites are Joachim Bamrud is an award-winning journalist with 18 years experience as a writer and editor in the United States, Europe and Latin America. Bamrud has worked for various print, broadcast and online media, including Latin Trade, Reuters and UPI.