At the Under the Radar conference on mobility yesterday, I hosted two panels on mobile apps. Execs from cellular phone carriers judged company pitches. I'll report later on the very cool session on digital imaging. But first, here's the rundown on four mobile Web access companies.
4Info is a mobile search service. Via SMS, you can query it to give you weather, movie times, stock prices, and so on. Just send simple words, such as movies, to 4Info (44636). The latest feature is a somewhat open platform that lets publishers quickly add content (such as blog feeds) to the 4Info system. I added the Webware feed, but the site told me it would take up to three days to approve the keyword. In the meantime, if you send @Webware (the @ is removed after approval) to 4Info, you can get a list of the latest headlines. There's also a widget publishers can put on their sites to make sign-up easier for readers. I created a Webware widget in no time:
Note: Text "Suspend" to 4Info to turn off the alert.
It's a nice system, but it seems a bit antiquated to me. Back-and-forth SMS is a lousy browsing interface, and some of the content 4Info sends is likely to be taken as spam. Also, while it's simple and comfortable for a lot of people today, SMS is clearly not the UI of the future. My real complaint is that 4Info is an information middleman. Who wants to use a gateway service to access data that should be available on the open Internet? 4Info is solving a real problem right now, but it's going to have to modify its delivery platform to remain relevant.
Mobifusion is another content middleman for mobile phones. My panel of judges did not like this product, because it looked difficult for publishers to use and also because the business model was based on having users pay for content--content that is often free on the Internet.
Plusmo also puts Web content on mobile phones, but it has a very pretty Java-based interface that shows not just text from newsfeeds, but pictures, too. That's good for everybody but Treo users, who have to jump through a few hoops to get a Java platform on their phone. I didn't go that far. Plusmo, like 4Info, also provides publishers with a widget they can put on their pages to make sign-up easy.
Winksite makes a WAP publishing tool for mobile sites. It also adds chat rooms and forums to these mobilized sites, which is pretty cool. Like 4Info and Plusmo, it's ridiculously easy to mobilize a site with this tool. I did Webware.com it in about two minutes. The only issue is that it cuts off posts that get too long (it links directly to the site for them). Maybe I should write less. Try it on your phone: http://winksite.com/raferx/webware.
Until I saw these four products back-to-back, I had no idea it was so easy to make a mobile version of a Web site. My vote for the best of the bunch for mobile content today is Winksite. It uses WAP, the simplified, text-based browser technology that's the Mama Bear of mobile content--neither as rich (or slow) as a full Web browser interface nor as linear and limited as SMS.