Looking to aid discovery of services and content on Airtel Live and Airtel App Central, Bharti Airtel has launched an ‘on device portal’ called Airtel Live Explorer, an application that users can install on their handsets to browse through Images & Videos, Games, Music, App Central, suggested mobile Internet portals, News, as well as Airtel Services like utilities, classifieds, chats etc. [via @sonyjoy]

What’s rather unfortunate, and surprising, is that the app launched by Airtel is only supported for 51 types of handsets – 39 of then Nokia, and 12 from Sony Ericsson. I tried downloading it for my Nokia 95 (unfashionable, I know, but I can’t find an adequate replacement), and Airtel doesn’t support it, nor is any N series phone in the list.

Beats me why they would launch an application with a limited handset base, but this does underline the problem which most application developers still face, and why they love the iPhone: applications need to be customized according to the handset form factor, whether using J2ME, or developing for Symbian or Android, and with over 100 OEM’s, developing applications for the mobile is a nightmare. What works in the iPhone’s favor is the fact that they’re developing for one handset, one OS and one form factor which everyone uses.

I wonder which newspapers and Internet portals Airtel is pushing in Live Explorer. Also note that this is, in a sense, an enhancement for the SIM Toolkit, which is otherwise limited by the 32 kb SIM card it is on. An on device portal can give access to a much larger array of services, and using GPRS, the services and offers listed can be refreshed.

Services Guide?

Services are of particular interest, since any mobile operator has hundreds of services live at any given point, customized according to the needs of a particular circle. I’ve even tried to make a list all services from all operators in all circles in the past, and it is no easy task. I’m not even sure if all services are listed online anyway – for example, how many operators have listed their AdRBT pilot? Also begs the question – if you have a thousand services live across the country, would you list them all?

That said, it’s impossible for users to remember how to subscribe or unsubscribe to a service, and I do think there might be takers for an application which lists all available services…something like a mobile services version of What’s On India. I haven’t been able to try it, but it appears that Airtel Live Explorer might be trying to address a part of that problem.

(Update: crediting changed on request)

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