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Ringing in an app a day
Priyanka Joshi / Mumbai April 12, 2010, 0:36 IST

From repelling mosquitoes to managing your grocery list, developers introduce innovative applications for an ever-expanding mobile base.

Did you know that you will soon get to load your mobile phone with an app (short for an application) that can kill mosquitoes?!! This particular mobile phone module will use light and sound generated at a specific frequency to repel mosquitoes.

Indeed, mobile apps today can take on just about any role, or even channel a recital for that matter. Take Shafeeq Khan, for instance. This 29-year-old mobile repair shop owner in Uttar Pradesh has close to 30,000 followers who listen to his shayari over a mobile app called RockeTalk in India, Bangladesh and Pakistan the US and UK.

Besides these two examples, there are thousands of more utility-based apps to be purchased — a combination of products and services that enhance personalised experience on mobile phones. Most utility or productivity apps, offer a blend of technologies with functional benefits that cater to various social or professional requirements. With over 500 million mobile subscribers, growing by approximately 10 million per month, mobile networks in India have undeniably become the country’s largest distribution platform for delivering information and services to the masses through innovative applications.

It sure explains how Rajiv Kumar, CEO and founder of RockeTalk, managed to get a subscriber-base of 1.5 million users for his mobile app, which runs on close to 550 models of mobile phones, mostly low-end ones (priced at about Rs 4,000). RockeTalk is a free mobile phone app that enables users to create text, voice, photo and video messages, and share them. It also enables users to join communities and chat with individuals and groups over GPRS (mobile internet). “Next step is to get the app on Apple’s iPhone and introduce it to 3G markets in the West. “In India, too, 3G will accelerate growth since it will enable real-time networking,” says Kumar. With no advertising budgets, RockeTalk was introduced to users by bundling it on LG and Samsung handsets and through tie-ups with operators like Idea and Airtel.

Innovation: Name of the game
Mobile device makers like Micromax believe a mosquito repelling app on its low-cost handsets would do well with consumers. Rohit Sharma, COO of Micromax, draws on Nokia’s torch-phone that became vastly popular among the masses, “If a torch-phone can work, then a mosquito-repelling phone can be a hit, too.”

Media, pharmaceutical, retail and even governments are asking app developers to create mobile apps. App developers like 2ergo, which have created iPhone apps for the UK-based newspaper The Guardian, have seen their apps being downloaded 70,000 times in just four weeks. Ramesh Krishnan, COO of 2ergo, explains how a pharmaceutical company approached the developer for an app that could prescribe a healthy diet to individual users to maintain the right body mass index (BMI). “We are developing this app for devices based on various mobile operating systems and it will be offered by the pharma company as an advisory app to healthy living,” adds Krishnan.

The company is also keen on developing a voice-based app, along with state governments and local governing institutions that will enable users to request a birth certificate, marriage licence or register real estate with just a click on their mobile phones. “This app needs extensive government support. We have received encouraging feedback from government bodies. We strongly believe that e-governance can take a new leap with mobile apps,” says Krishnan.

Companies call in
Krishnan’s confidence is shared by Infosys. The software major has forayed into developing mobile applications and is working with a large retail partner to launch an app that would manage your grocery list. Subhash Dhar, senior vice-president and head (communications, media and entertainment business) Infosys, explains: “Infosys is keenly following the mobile app economy and is working with partners on various productivity and utility- based apps.” The company is also developing apps that will allow users to book, rent and even schedule taxi pick-ups (GPS-controlled vehicles) from any part of the country.

With Nokia continuing to command 60 per cent of the handset market, the company is making sure that its users carry the ‘smartest’ phones. Soon, Nokia mobile phones will come with ‘Nokia Bots’, a collection of add-ons that autonomously learn a user’s personal preferences and improve experience with customised features and tricks. These add-ons observe how the phone is being used and automatically configure and activate themselves. So, for instance, if you are in a meeting, your phone can automatically set itself to silent mode or prompt you to activate the same.

With user spending an average seven minutes on apps on every usage, Jasmeet Gandhi, head (services marketing), Nokia, reckons the company needs to have apps that will deliver services within the stipulated time. “We are also hopeful of engaging our rural customers with transaction-based apps and services that work on the SMS platform.” For its urban consumer, Nokia hopes to put the mobile phone’s camera to good use. “We are experimenting with apps that will allow users to capture images, upload them directly and even search details of the captured visual images,” he explains.

‘Walmart of mobile apps’
CanvasM, the joint venture between Tech Mahindra and Motorola, is yet another company purely focusing on utility applications. The company has close to 6,000 applications still under wraps. Jagdish Mitra, CEO of CanvasM, is confident about apps meant for commercial transactions and mobile banking. Mitra’s aim is to be the “Walmart of mobile applications”. The company is also working on a project for a retail giant to deliver barcode-based discount coupons. “The idea is that the customer will just have to put their mobile’s screen in front of the scanner and the barcode will be read for earning discounts,” explains Mitra. Industry research suggests that mobile coupons can increase footfalls by almost 17 per cent.

Operators like Virgin Mobile, too, have caught on. Beginning with apps like Hatke Learning, Virgin Mobile provides insights into various alternative career options. Another app, called Hatke Naukri, developed with Naukri.com, informs users about openings.

Apps unbound
There are hundreds of utilities out there on app stores — some useful, some not. Here are a couple of our recommendations that we believe will give a bang for your buck:

Making mouse of an iPhone
For $1.99 (Rs 88), Air Mouse Pro (AMP) lets you convert your iPhone into a wireless mouse or trackpad. The app puts to use the phone’s built-in accelerometer to translate hand motions into mouse movements. AMP gives you two options to control your system. The first is via a touch-pad-style interface, where you drag your fingers around the screen in the same way you would on a notebook. The second mode is through the use of the accelerometer. The basic concept is that you press and hold the button in the middle of the mouse buttons and then tilt the phone in the direction you wish to move the mouse.

Do you have Wikitude?
Wikitude is a free, location-based Wikipedia app for mobile phones based on the Google Android platform. Aimed at tourists, this app superimposes information about points of interest on either a Google map or through the mobile camera’s viewfinder. The app calls this ‘augmented reality’, and it’s a pretty cool effect. If you’re looking for more information on where you’re located and the surrounding area, this app is perfect.

Readymade emails
If you want to cut short the time taken for emailing people you stay in touch with a lot, go to the Apple’s App Store and download the $0.99 (Rs 44) Mail Quick app. This allows a user to, with one or two clicks, open an e-mail template already addressed to a person on a favourites, list. Users can select a person they email often and, by clicking on the app icon, a mail already addressed to that person will open. They can also enter multiple addresses and have preset subject lines.

Location-based friendships
Affle, better known as creators of SMS 2.0, plan to have a location-sharing and -tracking service (for the Symbian platform) that lets members know where their friends are and share photos or notes about locations with others in an area. Members can post photos or comments about their location or activities and discover new people who use this niche app, ranging from within a few feet to an entire region. Affle has not indicated the app’s price.

Compile your own dictionary
Nokia is testing a new app for its mobile device, called the custom dictionary. This app can store user-defined words that are used frequently while typing. The words are then used in predictive text input. While price is undecided, the app will allow users to add and delete words from the dictionary, and even scan text files to add them to a text library. Other features include ability to transfer the dictionary to other devices.

– With inputs from Shivani Shinde

Posted via email from iPhone R & D

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