Internet-Enabled Mobile Phones

Internet-enabled mobile phones potentially represent an important communications milestone, providing users with access to Web content and applications, including the ability to participate in electronic commerce transactions. The Wireless Application Protocol (WAP), an internationally accepted specification, allows wireless devices to retrieve content from the Internet, such as general news, weather, airline schedules, traffic reports, restaurant guides, sports scores, and stock prices.

Users also can personalize these services by creating a profile that might request updated stock quotes every halfhour or specify tastes in music and food. Auser also could set up predefined locations, such as home, main office, or transit, so that the information is relevant for that time and location. With access to real-time traffic information, for example, users can obtain route guidance on their cell phone screens via the Internet.

Up-to-the-minute road conditions are displayed directly on the cell phone screen. Street-bystreet guidance is provided for navigating by car, subway, or simply walking, taking into account traffic congestion to work out the best itinerary. Such services can even locate and guide users to the nearest facilities, such as free parking lots or open gas stations, using either an address entered on the phone keypad or information supplied by an automatic location identification (ALI) service.

One vendor that has been particularly active in developing WAP-compliant Internet-enabled mobile phones is Nokia, the world’s biggest maker of mobile phones. The company’s Model 7110 works only on GSM 900 and GSM 1800 in Europe and Asia but is indicative of the types of new mobile phones that about 70 other manufacturers are targeting at the world’s 200 million cellular subscribers. It displays Internet-based information on the same screen used for voice functions. It also supports Short Messaging Service (SMS) and e-mail and includes a calendar and phonebook as well.

The phone’s memory also can save up to 500 messages— SMS or e-mail—sorted in various folders such as the inbox, outbox, or user-defined folders. The phonebook has enough memory for up to 1000 names, with up to five phone and fax numbers and two addresses for each entry. The user can mark each number and name with a different icon to signify home or office phone, fax number, or e-mail address, for example.

The phone’s built-in calendar can be viewed by day, week, or month, showing details of the user’s schedule and calendar notes for the day. The week view shows icons for the jobs the user has to do each day. Up to 660 notes in the calendar can be stored in the phone’s memory. Nokia has developed several innovative features to make it faster and easier to access Internet information using a mobile phone:

  • Large display  - The screen has 65 rows of 96 pixels, allowing it to show large and small fonts, bold or regular, as well as full graphics.
  • Microbrowser - Like a browser on the Internet, the microbrowser feature enables the user to find information by entering a few words to launch a search. When a site of interest is found, its address can be saved in a “favorites” folder or input using the keypad.
  • Navi Roller - This built-in mouse looks like a roller (Figure C-4) that is manipulated up and down with a finger to scroll and select items from an application menu. In each situation, the Navi Roller knows what to do when it is clicked—select, save, or send.
  • Predictive text input - As the user presses various keys to spell words, a built-in dictionary continually compares the word in progress with the words in the database. It selects the most likely word to minimize the need to continue spelling out the word. If there are several word possibilities, the user selects the right one using the Navi Roller. New names and words can be input into the phone’s dictionary.

However, the Nokia phone cannot be used to access just any Web site. It can access only Web sites that have been developed using WAP-compliant tools. The WAP standard includes its own Wireless Markup Language (WML), which is a simple version of the HyperText Markup Language (HTML) that is used widely for developing Web content.

The strength of WAP is that it is supported by multiple airlink standards and, in true Internet tradition, allows content publishers and application developers to be unconcerned about the specific delivery mechanism.