Programmers face vertical design challenge for 3G mobile phones

The wait is over for 3G mobile application designers

The wait is over for 3G mobile application designers

What is it?

3G phones offer always-on connectability with enhanced multimedia capabilities such as voice, data and video and higher bandwidth speeds.

Several years after they were promised, 3G mobile phones have arrived, but if the industry is to recoup its enormous investment in licences and research, the content needs to be compelling enough to persuade subscribers to spend several times what they already have with 2G.

The challenge is to create an experience that will meet the expectations - and not stretch the patience - of people who are used to broadband internet on the desktop.

That is quite a challenge when you consider the small screen, the cramped numeric-based keyboard, the slower line speeds and the fact that users are paying all the time they are connected.

Where did it originate?

The leading handset, content and service providers, including Ericsson, Motorola, Nokia, Psion, Vodafone and Orange, got together at the end of the 1990s to form the Wap Forum. The language associated with Wap was the XML derivative, Wireless Markup Language. Now, the focus has moved to forms of XHTML such as Mobile Protocol and a subset, Basic.

The Wap Forum has now been absorbed into the Open Mobile Alliance.

What makes it special?

There is a constant struggle to ensure that content will display on the widest possible range of devices, while taking advantage of the individual features the handset users have paid a king's ransom for.

One answer might be wireless universal resource file, an open source project endeavouring to collect information for developers about all wireless devices in one place.

What is it for?

The size and shape of the screen makes designing for mobile devices a different undertaking.

OpenWave's Guide to Best Practice in XHTML Design said you must think vertical, not horizontal. "Most mobile devices have a vertical layout, and users scroll downwards to get more content. Forget anything you have learned about users viewing the middle of the screen first: they view the top on mobile devices. Avoid navigation bars, tabs, and side-by-side positioning."

How difficult is it to master?

Not hard for those who have already mastered XML and HTML, but HTML developers will have to knuckle under to the stricter disciplines of XML, and both will need to adapt to the constraints of mobile devices.

Where is it used?

Despite the aims of the Open Mobile Association, suppliers choose different implementations of XHTML. The pace of language standards bodies such as the World Wide Web Consortium is no match for the device manufacturers in their quest for competitive edge.

What systems does it run on?

Phone simulators and mobile application developers are available for Windows and Linux.


There are plenty of free tutorials available, and you can download software development kits and phone simulators for free. See the OpenWave, Nokia Developers Forum and Ericsson sites.

Rates of pay

From £20,000 for junior developers to £55,000-plus for experienced application designers.

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