Coming Soon to a Phone Near You

Your mobile phone is about to get a lot cooler.

How cool? In the coming months, you’ll be able to dictate text messages and surf the Web just by speaking commands — no tapping or clicking required. If you’re trying to figure out where to go to lunch, you’ll be able to call up a map marked with local eateries your friends and family recommend. And you’ll be able to film movie clips on your cellphone and send them live to somebody else’s gadget.

Rapid hardware advances are making all these new offerings possible. Cellphones are morphing into minicomputers, packed with more processing power and bigger screens, and more of them are coming loaded with features like GPS. Faster connections are also driving the changes. Developers can work with tools like streaming video that wouldn’t be practical with creaky connections.

New mobile phone features

Here’s a sampling of the new applications scheduled to hit the market soon.

  • Voice Controls: Plenty of mobile applications allow you to dial your phone by voice. But very soon, you’ll be able to carry out a lot more functions with spoken commands — making your cellphone truly “hands free.”
  • Better Browsers: Connecting to the Web from a mobile phone can be painful. Download speeds slow to a crawl, and Web pages get cropped by tiny screens. Skyfire Labs Inc. of Mountain View, Calif., has developed a mobile Web browser that tries to replicate the experience of browsing the Web on a PC. The browser supports all the standard elements of a Web page — like photos and videos — so users feel like they are browsing the Web on their computers.
  • Digital Storage: Imagine being able to store your videos, photos and work documents online — and then call them up on your mobile phone. So, you could put photos of your vacation online and brag about your trip by showing them off to people you meet right from your phone. Or you could store a PowerPoint presentation for work online, and then look it over on your mobile device while you take the train home.
  • Sending Video: A bunch of services let you stream live video footage from your phone to a computer over the Internet, so you can share live images of, say, a concert or a scenic vista. Now one of those services — Visivo Communications Inc.’s Qik of Foster City, Calif. — is also working on technology that lets you send that live feed to someone else’s phone.
  • Surveillance: Similar technology could soon help you snoop. Movidity Inc. is developing a service that allows mobile users to view footage from a camera positioned at a remote location. You could keep an eye on the house while you’re out of town, for instance, or you might check in on the babysitter while you’re at dinner — a mobile version of the nannycam.
  • Advanced Games: Move aside, mobile crossword puzzles. Much more complex games are coming to the small screen. Vollee Ltd. of Israel plans to deploy a mobile version of the popular “virtual world” Second Life for mobile phones. Consumers with handsets compatible with high-speed mobile 3G networks will be able to try out the application free starting in May. The company is also working on mobile versions of other popular 3-D games and virtual worlds.

Full article: Wall Street Journal

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