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Test Driving Mobile Phone Operating Systems for Users and Developers

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Are you shopping for a new cell phone or maybe even developing a mobile app? Eric Geier shows how to install and use emulators for the popular mobile phone operating systems. With Eric Geier's help, check out iPhone apps, see Palm’s WebOS, and discover Google’s Android platform.
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These days, we can easily spend more time with our mobile phones than our landlines. Those who have a data plan or Internet service may also send and receive just as many emails with their mobile device than on the PC.

Since your cell is so important, you might want to test drive new mobile phone operating systems (OSs) before making a buying decision.

In this article, you'll discover emulators for a few popular mobile phone OSs. These programs run right on your PC and act just like the phone. You can click around the interface and browse the Web within the phone browser; some let you install real applications (apps).

Most mobile phone vendors invite software developers to make apps for their mobile OSs. Thus they release a software development kit (SDK), which usually includes an emulator and development tools to create apps.

We're going experiment with SDKs from two different vendors, but first we'll look at an emulator/development program released by a third party.

MobiOne for the iPhone and Palm Pre (WebOS)

The MobiOne emulator (version 1.0 Milestone 6) from Genuitec currently supports the iPhone (2.2 and 3.0) and Palm Pre (WebOS) platforms, and more are in the works. The iPhone emulator (see Figure 1 for an example) lets you play with the default applications, browse the Web, or install and run web apps from the Internet.

The iPhone emulator also supports multitouch, geolocation, and both the portrait and landscape orientations. The Palm Pre emulator isn't as sophisticated. It currently features only the web browser.

MobiOne includes development tools in addition to the emulators. There's a Visual Designer for creating iPhone web apps. It features drag-n-drop controls, smart alignment, and image exporting. MobiOne also supports PhoneGap, an open source and cross-platform mobile development tool. This gives you support for GPS, Accelerometer, Vibrate, Orientation, Alerts, Sound, Database, and DeviceInfo.

You can take screen shots in both emulators. Debugging and inspection tools are also available, including DOM inspector, JavaScript debugger, JavaScript profiler, web database explorer, and a resource monitor.

If you want to give MobiOne a try, start by downloading it from its website and running the setup file. Then open the MobiOne shortcut.

You can start clicking around the iPhone or change to the Palm Pre. To switch behind devices, either right-click the current device or click the Select Device icon in the upper-left corner of the emulator window. The upper left also has an icon to rotate the view and to take a screen shot.

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