Two major challenges abound in the mobile app world; flat-rate data and handset incompatibility.
While roll-out flat-rate plans is slowly gathering speed across most of the world (go figure why the US will overtake the #2 position soon if European carriers don’t get their act together), device incompatability is still the single-biggest problem of the mobile app hacker. Symbian (including incompatible S60 versions 1, 2, and 3), Brew, J2ME, Flash Lite; lots of fancy attempts to get at a more universal mobile app development stack.
Even the most wide-spread of these, J2ME, has widely different implementations across manufacturers with regards to core functionality and access to phone APIs like data, SMS, bluetooth or camera. The result is that the lowest common denominators across carriers and handsets, sound (calls and ringtones) and text (SMS), abound.
While newly relaunched DeviceAnywhere hasn’t solved the compatibility issues, they have taken a formidable stab at providing an easy and cost-effective way to test across a wide number of devices. In short, they provide an online interface for testing different live phones across multiple networks (demo here).
One company I know currently spends thousands of dollars each month on buying new phones simply for testing — DeviceAnywhere should cut that to a fraction, and hopefully allow for a wider rollout of real mobile services that go beyond the current cacophony. Were it not for the Windows-only environment this would be my clear vote for late-’06 mobile revelation.