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Summary:

Mobile Internet adoption rates are still abysmal. Just 7 percent of U.S. adults are accessing the web via mobile devices once a week or more. Israeli startup Moblica wants to change that, with mobile-friendly web apps.

Mobile Internet adoption is still rather slow. According to Forrester Research, only 21 percent of U.S. adult mobile phone owners use the mobile Internet, and only 7 percent do so at least once a week. One of the main reasons for this is that browsing the Internet through a mobile phone is kind of like eating soup with a fork – that is, using the wrong instrument to get the job done.

To provide an adequate mobile Internet browsing experience, it’s not enough to shrink the web page into a size that fits on a mobile phone screen. A web site designed for the mobile Internet should consider the different keyboard, the lack of a mouse-like pointing device and the different context; if it can wait until a user gets home, it probably will. So, how do we make the mobile Internet work well on different handsets with different screen sizes and different operating systems?

One solution is offered by Israeli startup Moblica. Founded in December 2007 with a seed investment of $700,000 from angels, Moblica aims to bridge the gap between the richness of Internet services and the limitations of mobile devices to offer an iPhone-like experience on Java-enabled mobiles. Moblica takes relevant web sites and redesigns them to give customers a better mobile user experience.

After downloading the Moblica application, users are presented with an iPhone-like desktop that contains different mini applications, such as weather forecasts, RSS feeds, Picasa pictures and more. Navigating is easily done using the keys, and pages load very quickly. Currently only Picasa and RSS are available, but Moblica says many more are set to launch by the end of the September, along with a consumer web site. Moblica says it can work with content providers to develop a mini-application version of their site in one to two weeks. The downside is that the Moblica solution currently only works on Java-enabled phones. Still, seeing these efforts to improve the mobile web experience leaves me eager to throw away my fork.

Moblica’s competitors include WidSets by Nokia, which also provides a downloadable application that contains different mini applications. While WidSets currently offers many more sites, after seeing both applications in action, I can say that I definitely had a better user experience with Moblica. An additional competitor is Volantis, which provides automatic content adaptation services for mobile operators.

  1. Mobile software hace become very boring lately.

    Shozu, Zyb, Fring, Moblica, Ovi and others added more and more features to their cellphone software so that they all do the same now: Give access to always the same Web 2.0 services like Facebook, Gmail, Twitter, Flickr, Picasa and some more.

    I liked them more when they concentrated on their original purpose.

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  2. Mobilica and the ilk are dead on arrival. To access the mobile internet, I have to go for a data plan which usuallly goes for around 20 bucks a month. Without a touch screen and with the limited resources of a feature phone you end up getting frustrated using the web.

    Whats the point of paying 20$ a month extra for the data plan = 240$ a year for a crappy user experience on a dumb phone.

    If I was paying that much extra, I would rather get a smartphone which can go for as low as 50 bucks nowadays. And the apps on the smart phone are much better than what mobilica can muster.

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  3. Hi guys, thanks for commenting.

    @Yuvamani you raise a valid point. Yet unfortunately not every consumer is a calculated consumer who does that math. Also there are segments who wouldn’t want to have a smartphone (think of older people that may find it too complicated or youth who’d prefer “cooler” handsets) but if they had the possibility to get internet content in an easy and friendly manner – they’d welcome it.

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  4. In the U.K. costs are dropping dramatically for data usage, thankfully! I think it’s Vodafone that offer unlimited usage for £5 a month which is more reasonable than it used to be.

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  5. Not sure if costs would be the culprit in this case. Myself and members of my family own various smart devices (i.e. AT&T Tilt, BlackJack, iPhone, HTC Advantage, Blackberry) and not a single one of them really gets a kick out of looking at pictures on a 2 – 3 inch screen. Oh, and 5 inch screen on Advantage doesn’t make it any better.
    Messaging – maybe, sending pictures to e-mail – possible, checking e-mails – doable. Browsing the web? Hardly, everybody is trying to stuff too much on their pages. Just try to get GoDaddy’s web site working in your mobile IE :)

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  6. @Vlad Moblica does not offer a Web browsing experience of through the mobile. The Moblica Team choose the content they think a user would want to access through the mobile and pack it to fit the mobile (smaller screen, no mouse etc’).
    I agree that picture sharing is something I personally would prefer to do on a bigger screen.

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  7. I for one commute to work via train every day which takes 27 minutes each way. I thought about buying a laptop to pass the time but it’s a bit expensive just to get rid of 54 minutes of boredom every day. I sometimes try to use my mobile to find movie & book reviews or shop for a vacation and it’s pretty frustrating.

    I welcome anything which would make my 54 minutes a day more enjoyable/productive.

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  8. Hi, really interesting to see new comers in this area.
    Webwag also provides an open platform for mobile and web widgets, making convergence a reality. Anybody can create mobile and web widgets in a matter of minutes (rss) or hours thanks to javascript and xml.

    The end user is presented with a simple user interface (yes, quite close to the iPhone now) but with dynamic icons at the dashboard level.

    You can grab invites for the private beta here: http://blog.webwag.com/?p=143

    Tell us waht you think!

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  9. Thanks for the feedback guys.

    You can now download the actual open application as seen in the screenshot with some of our first applications at the following link (soon more to follow) -

    http://mosh.nokia.com/content/591F1658B4F5E8B4E040050A4530387A

    Enjoy

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  10. [...] than 10 times what it is today, reports AJR. Moble platforms may be one direction, but currently only 21 percent of U.S. adult mobile phone owners use the mobile Internet, and only 7 percent do so at least once a week, according to [...]

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