What happened to WAP? The telcos promised the Internet on a mobile phone, leading customers to believe that their mobile online experience would be rich, speedy and colourful. WAP is none of those things.
The current circuit-switched GSM networks can transmit data at around 9600bps, or about as fast as a 10-year-old analog modem. With few exceptions, mobile phones have tiny screens optimised for text, not images. And none of them is colour.
Which is why the Hyundai WAP phone is a surprise. Yes, it's got a small mono screen. And no, despite being hooked up to Orange's CDMA network, it's not cable modem fast. But, if you view WAP as a super-rich version of the popular SMS service, then it takes on some appeal.
SMS can't transmit more than 160 characters in one go, making it ideal for short messages but not so great for other textual info. WAP doesn't have that limitation: news, stock quotes, surf reports and horoscopes can be downloaded to the Hyundai HGC-610e in a matter of seconds. Being text, the downloads are quick, which means you're not going to get stung by heavy charges for lengthy downloads.
Despite this, the phone itself needs some work. The build quality of the clamshell design is reasonable, but the user interface could be improved. In fairness, mobile phone UIs are notoriously difficult to get right.
The Hyundai HGC-610e is light and small (97g, and 86cm in length) and has a talktime of up to two hours and standby time of up to 150 hours. Orange supplies it with two standard batteries.
Should you buy into WAP now? Packet services are just around the corner, promising faster downloads and per-packet charges. That said, the benefit of Orange is that you don't have to sign up for a WAP service - you can use it on a casual basis.
While the Orange-Hyundai gives us a look at what the mobile future could be, it's probably not compelling enough to break your contract.