This is the article that appeared in the Guardian Weekly on 8 March 2011:

There has been an explosion in the use of smartphones. Around 270m handsets were sold in 2010, while CNN Fortune has forecast that sales could exceed 500m in 2011. With the price of entry-level handsets expected to fall to $100 or below, growth is likely to accelerate and smartphones will become more accessible to consumers in developing countries.

Smartphone owners use them on the move to access information and entertainment such as music, audio books, reading, and for viewing photos and video clips. One-third of Facebook traffic is now via these devices used simultaneously for instant messaging, email and Twitter.

The mobile phone application, or app, brings all the above to life in one self-contained mini-program. The growth in apps for communication, gaming and simple utility (finding the quickest route on public transport) is phenomenal. Apps seem to be everywhere, often created for quite short-term uses: event apps, conference planners, even the small hotel in Berlin I stayed in recently had its own free app for guests.

Apps are often seen as synonymous with the iPhone, which has been the leader in this area, but many commentators expect the Android operating system, which works on smartphones from other manufacturers, to overtake Apple.

Apps have enormous potential for language learning because they allow for multisensory learning on the move: for learners to use nuggets of time in a queue or on public transport. And because smartphones can store so much data or retrieve it via the internet, apps can serve as rich media dictionaries and reference tools.

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