Apps allow the user to install additional functions, games and programmes to their handset with minimal effort and very often for absolutely free. So before you look into which specific piece of hardware is most suitable it is worth considering which software platform most matches your requirements. At present there are four main operating system-native platforms at the forefront of the field:
Apple pioneered the app concept and advertise this extensively, established in July 2008 the App Store service offers more than 140,000 different apps and has facilitated in the region of 3 billion downloads. Designed predominantly for the iPhone, it also caters for Apple's iPod Touch, and iPad and is based around the popular iTunes format.
Developed by web-giants Google and launched in October 2008, this application store built into the Android operating system is growing rapidly and hotly tipped to usurp App Store in the near future. With around 40,000 apps available and near seamless integration into the operating system it is tied to, it offers a very intuitive experience and generally has more free apps than it's competitors due to the ease with which third party developers can produce software and distribute through the Android Market portal.
Nokia's OVI is the brand under which the Finnish mobile phone masters operate their internet services. Initially OVI served mostly PC based applications and acted as a competitor to Apple's iTunes and Google Maps. In May 2009 it made the leap into providing mobile phone apps and now offers more than 2500 (often 3rd party developed) handset applications through OVI Store alongside a mobile based version of their map software. By August 2009 OVI Store had been the conduit for 10 million software downloads.
Windows Marketplace for Mobile
Established in October 2009, this digital distribution platform for Windows Mobile initially served only Windows Mobile 6.5 operated handsets and personal computers but has since been tailored to operate within earlier 6.x editions. Although only offering 376 unique apps in November 2009 the platform is growing in popularity and available applications, particularly in the light of the imminent release of the Windows Mobile 7 operating system.
Other handset manufacturers and mobile phone operating system developers have either launched their own apps platforms or have them in the pipeline. App Catalog by Palm for instance was launched in June 2009 catering for Palm's range handheld devices. It's hard to see what the future holds for app download systems, but there is much excitement about software such as Google Android, which is non-manufacturer specific hence has the potential to become a more universal platform in the mobile computing world.