The Best of the Wireless Web

NEW ORLEANS (03/02/2000) - Internet mobile phones may still be a novelty, but already a number of Web sites accommodate for Wireless Application Protocol browsers. Want to know which ones are the best?

On Tuesday at the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association's (CTIA's) Wireless 2000 conference here, Cellmania.com Inc. announced winners of the first-ever Wappy awards, recognizing the best consumer WAP sites. Strategy.com, a wireless spin-off of Microstrategy, which provides personalized news and financial content, walked away with the award for the best overall WAP site.

Other sites claimed awards in categories like news, sports, finance, entertainment, search engine, and portal.

Rating the Mobile Web

Cellmania.com is an electronic commerce site that sells handsets, service plans, and other wireless goodies. The Wappy awards are the result of Cellmania's Mguide service, which reviews and rates WAP applications, says Ronjon Nag, president and chief operating officer of Cellmania.com. Mguide features sites in the WML (wireless markup language), HDML, and HTML formats, all viewable on a WAP browser.

"We looked at 1000 WAP sites and tried each one on a phone," Nag says. Only half of them worked.

Beyond working with a wireless phone, a good WAP site must provide something useful for the consumer, says Neerav Berry, vice president of marketing at Cellmania.com. Many of the working sites give only basic company information.

Strategy.com acts like a custom wireless portal. You can create a favorites folder to quickly retrieve information such as stocks or specific news.

Cellmania was so impressed with the service, it awarded Strategy.com for the finance and news categories and best overall WAP site award. Not bad for a site that only launched its wireless portal service this week.

"About eight months ago, we decided to take the financial content from our regular site and put it on a WAP site," says David Miller, program manager at Strategy.com "We had so much fun we kept adding more like our personalized news and even a blackjack game."

Familiar Winners

Big Web names took the best portal and best shopping categories. Yahoo was recognized for its WAP portal, which features news, weather, e-mail, and links to other WAP sites. Amazon.com was judged best at taking e-commerce to the mobile phone, and Infospace.com won for the reference category. Infospace.com for WAP offers yellow pages, location services, and auto-dialing from directory assistance.

Not surprisingly, Scandinavia, home of leading mobile phone makers Ericsson and Nokia, has a lot of WAP activity. Danish company Wapmore was named the best entertainment site with its build-your-own-WAP-site service. Like a GeoCities for WAP, Wapmore lets you easily set up your own WAP site, including links, says Berry.

Norwegian FastWAP Search won the title of best search engine with its 20,000 wireless URLs, searchable by category and name. "It's the only search engine where 'Nokia' and 'Motorola' are more popular than 'sex,'" says a FastWAP spokesperson.

Las Vegas-based Sportsfeed took first place in the sports category. Not only does it feed you live sports scores, but it even provides live betting scores from Las Vegas for the mobile gamblers among us. With the lag in deployment of WAP, Sportsfeed hadn't put much into developing its WAP site, says Dick Holl, a spokesperson for Sportsfeed.

"We're so honored we won, we're upgrading our product as we speak," he says, promising more news and odds information will move from its Web site to WAP site.

WAP is more widely used than you might think. Mailandnews.com, which won for best WAP e-mail site, claims to have just hit a million customers.

Hotelguide.com, which took the travel award, already has 60,000 worldwide hotels on its roster.

"Eighty percent of hotel reservations are made on the phone, so a WAP Web service is a natural extension," says Michelle King, marketing director at Hotelguide.com.

Cellmania.com plans to make the Wappy awards a biannual event. By the time of the next awards this fall, many more sites should be contenders.

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