With more than 1 million mobile applications currently available and more than 19,000 additional ones added each week (according to mobile analytics firm Distimo), it's safe to assume that the relationship between smartphone users and their apps will be a long-lasting one. But this increasingly heavy use of mobile applications comes with a significant drawback: a correspondingly greater signaling load at the network level compared with a relatively low amount of data traffic. One major culprit is the proliferation of "network-unfriendly" applications that are not optimized for mobile networks. Because mobile networks have their own specific requirements and constraints, applications written for fixed networks may not necessarily perform well in the mobile world.

Fortunately, a substantial effort to combat this issue is now underway. At last month's Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, the GSMA announced the creation of a guide for application developers, helping them to ensure that their applications are more user- and network-friendly. Backed by a collective of mobile operatorsincluding Bharti Airtel, KT Corp., NTT DOCOMO, Orange, Rogers Communications, Telecom Italia, TeliaSonera, Verizon Wireless, VimpelCom, and Vodafonethe recommendations will enable improvements across a number of areas, including application connectivity, power consumption, and network reliability and security. A copy of these guidelines can be found online at http://www.gsma.com/smarterapp.

In addition, the GSMA has launched a "Smarter Apps Challenge" to drive the development of efficient mobile applications. This contest calls on all developers to submit their commercially available mobile apps (on any platform) that adhere to the GSMA guidelines. The winners will be announced at the GSMA Mobile Asia Expo, to be held in Shanghai, China June 20-22. For full criteria, visit www.mobileappchallenge.com/smarterapp.