WAP Makes Comeback

Forthcoming handsets promise to give browser technology new life.

A slew of upcoming handsets from U.S.-based companies Motorola Inc. and LG InfoComm U.S.A. Inc. indicate that the industrys interest in multimedia messaging, with features such as built-in cameras, video streaming capabilities and graphics/text integration, may breathe new life into an old browser technology called WAP.

Motorola plans by the end of the year to roll out the T720i, a full-color flip phone that includes a detachable camera with 180-degrees lens rotation.

Images are stored on the phone, which includes photo album and slide show features, so there is no memory needed on the camera.

The phone is designed to work with Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications ABs and Nokia Corp.s MMS (Multimedia Messaging Service) standard, so that users can take a picture and send it as an instant message. It will be available from GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) carriers in the United States, although officials acknowledged that MMS has been a slow sell here.

"What were really seeing is MMS being picked up by the European carriers," said Dean Sirakides, director of market intelligence at Motorolas personal communications sector, in Libertyville, Ill. MMS is generally supported by carriers that operate GSM networks and their iterations, and GSM is the prevailing standard in Europe.

Another iteration may fare better in the United States because its based on technology inherent in many phones.

EMS, or Enhanced Messaging Service, combines text and graphics and uses a WAP (Wireless Application Protocol) browser.

Motorolas upcoming A830 flat-screen color display phone, which also includes a camera as well as an MP3 player, supports MMS and EMS via the WAP 2.0 browser.

In this way, WAP has made a quiet comeback even though early WAP browsers were a disappointment.

"I never use the term WAP," said Harry Kargman, president and CEO of Kargo Inc., a wireless application development company in New York. "I say that the EMS solution we use uses the enhanced capabilities of the embedded browsers already on the device. Remember, WAP has a really bad connotation, but a browser is a browser, and the technology is not inherently bad."

Handset vendors now say that current versions of WAP give the technology the promise it was not able to deliver on initially.

"WAP 2.0 now supports color," said Curtis Wick, director of product testing and technical support at San Diego-based LG InfoComm U.S.A., a subsidiary of LG Electronics Inc., of Seoul, South Korea.