You finally put the finishing touches on your new J2ME
application and are probably starting to think about what is involved
in marketing and distributing your killer app. It is at this point
that, all too often, great ideas are left as nothing more than great
For many technical gurus, crossing the chasm from a finished
application to an application that is distributed to people around
the world involves the work of business professionals and marketing
experts. For J2ME developers, however, getting this process underway
is not only an attainable goal but also an exciting and rewarding
journey that can begin immediately. From concept to consumer, this
article will explain all that is involved in getting your application
certified and distributed by the world's largest J2ME distributors.
I decided to focus on three popular distribution channels in
this article: Nextel and Motorola's iDEN, Cingular Wireless, and
Handango.com. I chose these channels because they are currently
leading the marketplace in J2ME application distribution, and because
each has a unique approach to working with developers. In addition, I
recently went through the distribution process with each of these
services and can therefore provide an accurate, informed portrayal of
the steps involved. This article will begin with an overview of some
general practices that are important when preparing your application
for distribution. I'll then discuss, in detail, the procedure for
partnering with the previously mentioned channels.
Preparing to Launch
Before you can begin working with the major carriers, you'll
want to determine which distributors provide mobile devices that your
J2ME application can run on. Although J2ME was designed to make use
of the "write once, run anywhere" methodology, design decisions you
have already made could influence whether or not your application can
be distributed through certain carriers. Using device-specific APIs
or custom canvases that will only appear correctly on a certain
screen size or resolution could affect your marketing ability. The
size of your application could also affect who will distribute your
application. If your application was developed using standard J2ME
and the included user interfaces, your application will likely be
marketable to all of the major distribution streams with little or no
If you determined that your application is not specific to a
certain mobile device, you'll want to obtain emulators from as many
different carriers as possible to test your program. Although Sun's
Wireless Toolkit (WTK) provides a good starting point for testing,
you will notice different display characteristics and performance
issues when using manufacturer-specific emulators. A closer look at
recommended testing for different distribution channels will be
discussed in the following sections. In addition to developer
testing, it's always a good idea to have family, friends, and
business associates test your application. As the developer, it is
often difficult to prepare for usage scenarios that occur when
consumers use your product. You'll be surprised how much information
can come from this type of testing.
What You'll Need
There are several items you'll want to have ready to go
before you start contacting possible distributors. You'll find that
these items are common requirements among most distribution channels
and you'll save time and energy by preparing this information ahead
The first and most important piece of information you'll want
to prepare is a "long description" of your product. This description
can often be used to market your application to different
distribution channels and to provide the product information to
consumers. Your description should tell consumers how they can
benefit from your product and also provide an overview of the
application's functionality. It's also good practice to include a
link to your company's Web site or product site where a consumer can
find more detailed information.
In addition to this "long description," you'll want to create
a 2-3 line "short description" that's both catchy and informative.
This is the description that will appear next to the link for your
product in the distributor's application catalog.
When consumers visit your product's page in a content
catalog, they'll first see an application screenshot or other product
image representing your J2ME application. Nextel/Motorola iDEN
require a single screenshot while Cingular Wireless and Handango.com
allow multiple images or an animated gif image that could portray
several different screenshots or usage scenarios.
A product user manual, illustrated in Figure 1, is only
required by a few distribution channels, but you'll find that posting
a user manual on your Web site can be a helpful resource for
consumers. Most MIDlets are very simple and should be
self-explanatory; however, since a user manual is a requirement for
some carriers, such as Nextel and Motorola, and can provide a
thorough explanation of your product to consumers, you'll want to
prepare this before distributing.
A good user manual should provide a sufficient number of
screenshots that illustrate the directions. The program space (how
much program space the application will need after installation) and
data space (space used by resource files or persistent storage
entered by the user) requirements for the handset should also be
Though this is not a requirement for distribution, the
previously mentioned materials alone could be sufficient for a Web
site. All of the distribution channels will allow you to link to your
company or product Web site from the product page that consumers view
before purchasing your application. A company or product Web site
(see Figure 2) is a good tool for explaining your content in more
detail and showing additional product images. It's important to
clarify which phones and service providers your product is compatible
with. It is also a good idea to provide direct links to the
distributor's Web site where your product can be downloaded or
Distributing Through Nextel/Motorola iDEN Update
If you wanted to get your application downloaded by as many
consumers as possible and could focus on only one distribution
stream, Nextel and Motorola's iDEN Update would be the one to target.
Nextel and Motorola pioneered J2ME distribution with their iDEN
Update program and continue to attract a large number of consumers to
their product catalog. The process of getting your application
certified and distributed through iDEN (see Figure 3) is the most
rigorous and time-consuming of those that I've seen to date. If
you're able to get your product into the iDEN catalog, however, this
process will have been well worth your while as this distribution
stream will likely account for a large part of your product's
For distribution through Nextel and Motorola's iDEN Update,
you should use the "Motorola iDEN SDK for J2ME Technology," which is
available at http://idenphones.motorola.com/iden/developer/developer_home.jsp. This SDK provides
emulation, project management, and JAR/JAD packaging for the iDEN
J2ME products. This tool is free after registering as a developer
with iDEN Update and contains the iDEN J2ME extensions and emulator
skins for the i85s, i90c, i95cl, and i88s (a GPS) phones.
It's also possible to test your application on an actual
Motorola iDEN phone using a USB or serial data cable that can be
purchased from any Nextel store or from Nextel's Web site, and an
application loader provided through Nextel's developer portal. If
your application does not make use of any network services, you'll
want to use the JALLite application to transfer your MIDlet from your
computer to your handset. For applications that are network-aware,
you must first obtain permission from Motorola by describing the
application you'll be testing. Motorola will then provide a login and
password to use with their WebJAL application. This application
allows developers to load an unlimited number of programs that make
network connections to a maximum of five iDEN handsets.
Each major wireless carrier will put your application through
a series of testing scenarios before approving it for consumer sales.
For inclusion in the iDEN Update catalog, a list of user interface
compliance and consistency requirements can be found in the
"Nextel/Motorola Wireless Certification Program" document that's
available through Nextel's developer portal. These requirements focus
on user interface consistency, product functionality, usability, and
the required user manual. In addition, applications will undergo
stress tests that focus on memory constraints and inappropriate
Working with a Publisher
A relatively new but widely growing component of the J2ME
marketing and distribution process is the application publisher.
Publishers have a unique relationship with the developer and the
distribution channel that often varies between different carriers.
The publisher acts as the developer's agent or liaison throughout the
certification process and continues in this role after the
application goes live to consumers. In the case of Nextel and
Motorola's iDEN catalog, the publisher has several important
responsibilities, including providing legal agreements and
distribution contracts, testing and certifying an application,
handling all communication between the developer and wireless
carrier, providing sales reports and product statistics, and
delivering royalty payments to the developer.
You'll find that there are both advantages and drawbacks when
working with a publisher. Working with a publisher often provides a
better channel for communication in which you can receive quick
responses to basic questions. Although publishers often provide a
range of services to a large number of customers, they can dedicate
more time to your needs than a major carrier could. Unfortunately,
working with a publisher can also result in increased delays since
all requests targeted at the distribution channel must go through
Nextel and Motorola currently allow developers to choose
between three publishers when developing J2ME content for their iDEN
catalog. The publishers - MicroJava, TiraWireless, and PopSoft - all
accept open submissions and are well versed in the procedural,
technical, and legal requirements involved in distributing
applications through iDEN. You'll want to contact each publisher with
regards to their publishing services before choosing one. It's
important to determine the time it takes for testing and the royalty
percentage you'll receive as this varies for different publishers.
The Certification Process
The following events provide a detailed overview of the
certification process that occurred with one of the above publishers.
Depending on the publisher you work with, you may experience slight
variations in the process.
Once you have selected a publisher, your first step is to
send them a detailed product description, screenshots, and/or a user
manual. The publisher will conduct a trademark search on the name and
then determine if your application is in line with the content Nextel
and Motorola are looking to distribute. The trademark search simply
verifies that you are not violating any existing trademarks with your
If the application idea and name are approved, you'll be
asked to fill out a product submission form. This form will ask for
detailed company and product information including file sizes, model
compatibility, pricing, and descriptions to be used on the iDEN site.
Much of the information from this form will be transferred directly
to the iDEN Web site so you'll want to review it before submitting.
This form is then sent to the publisher along with the application
JAR/JAD files and user manual.
In addition to the product submission form, a traffic flow
template is required when certifying any application that involves
sending data over the carrier's network. This template must include a
diagram illustrating the flow of data over the network and the size
of the data being transferred. It must also include a brief paragraph
describing the application's networked components and functionality.
Nextel requires this information so they can determine the cost of
using the application and the amount of time this functionality will
take on the handset and on the network.
At this point your publisher will begin testing your
application to determine if its functionality and usability are in
conjunction with iDEN style guidelines. This process usually takes
anywhere from 1-4 weeks. It's important to note that publishers can
only submit tested applications to iDEN on the first of each month.
If an app finishes testing on the second day of the month, it won't
be delivered to Nextel and Motorola until the first of the next month.
While the application is going through its testing phase, the
developer will receive a Software Distribution Agreement (SDA)
detailing the terms of the distribution contract with your publisher.
The SDA includes the obligation and rights of the developer and the
publisher, royalty payment information, and other legal guidelines.
Once the SDA is agreed upon and your publisher finishes
testing, the application is sent to Motorola for a final review. When
this is completed, you'll receive a detailed "Applications Validation
and Verification Performance Test Plan and Results Document" from
Nextel. This document includes a thorough analysis of the tests
conducted during the certification process. After this review, which
usually takes 2-4 weeks, your publisher will notify you that your
application has "gone live" and is available to consumers.
Going Live to Consumers
If your application has made it this far, you can finally sit
back and relax. As outlined in the SDA, however, you are still
responsible for providing technical support and bug fixes for your
application. The current iDEN system does not give developers access
to their product's purchase statistics. This aspect of the iDEN
system is currently being upgraded to support such functionality, but
in the meantime you'll need to contact your publisher for this
information. You can expect to receive royalty payments every three
months. Some publishers, however, will not send your first payment
until the application has been live for four months. Royalty payments
vary from publisher to publisher but generally developers receive
50-70% of each purchase. For many distributors this percentage is
calculated after a small payment processing fee is deducted.
Distributing Through Cingular Wireless
Cingular Wireless is another major carrier that provides J2ME
content to its customers. Currently, Cellmania, Inc., distributes
much of the Cingular Wireless J2ME software. Cellmania powers the
Cingular Wireless Software Store that allows Cingular customers to
purchase wireless applications through a mobile or desktop portal.
Many consumers find content that they want for their phone, from
their phone. Cellmania makes this possible and a large portion of
their sales originate from handsets. The distribution system provided
by Cellmania is very developer friendly and the Cellmania team
maintains exceptional relations with those distributing content
through their portal.
For deployment on Cingular Wireless phones, you'll want to
use a combination of Motorola, Nokia, and Ericsson SDKs. A full line
of Nokia SDKs can be downloaded from
http://alliance.cingularinteractive.com/dev/cda/home and the SDK for
non-iDEN Motorola phones is available at www.motocoder.com. For
testing with Ericsson phones, download the "Sony Ericsson J2ME SDK"
Working with Cellmania
Cellmania provides a complete solution for mobile operators
to provision and sell J2ME applications through its J2ME mFinder
portal. This portal is currently one of the main distribution
channels used by Cingular Wireless for J2ME applications. Because of
this partnership, developers deal directly with Cellmania when
certifying an application for Cingular Wireless.
The Cellmania Developer portal is where your certification
process begins. Developers must first register with Cellmania by
filling out an online form that includes basic contact information.
After registering with Cellmania, a developer must log in to
his or her account and fill out the application information form.
This online form includes the application description, location of
JAR and JAD files, and pricing information. Cellmania's SDA can be
accessed via a link from this form titled "Terms of Service." This
agreement outlines many important details, including revenue-sharing
information and minimum application criteria. Some of the criteria
are originality of content, usability, functionality, usefulness, and
robustness of content.
As the developer you are responsible for hosting any images
that occur on your Cingular/Cellmania product page. You'll need to
send the HTML code with image links to a representative at Cellmania
if you would like to include such content.
After submitting your application, Cellmania editors will
test the application based on the above criteria. This testing phase
usually is completed within a couple of weeks and consists of an
automated verifier for Java and a multipoint manual certification.
Upon successful completion of this testing phase, the application
will become part of the mFinder directory.
Going Live to Consumers
Cellmania's mFinder directory is available through several
different carriers throughout the world. Once in the mFinder
directory, information about your application can be viewed from any
of these sources; however, J2ME content can only be purchased through
the Cingular portal at this time.
As the developer, you can view the number of purchases,
purchase dates, and royalty details through the Cellmania Developer
Portal. Royalty payments for the developer are remitted within 30
days after Cellmania receives the fees for a purchase.
Any modifications to your product page in the mFinder
directory or to your application can be made by contacting a member
of the Cellmania staff. Content updates usually occur within a week
and you can ask to be notified once your update has been processed.
Distributing Through Handango.com
Handango is not a major wireless carrier or a global phone
manufacturer, yet they currently have the largest catalog of J2ME
content and are well worth mentioning as a powerful distribution
channel. J2ME software in Handango's main product catalog can be
distributed to AT&T Wireless, Cingular, and T-Mobile customers.
Handango also offers "value-added" channels, such as Nokia's Software
Market and the SprintPCS Software Store, that select applications can
be featured in.
The process for including applications in Handango's catalog
is a lot different than the previous two distribution streams
discussed. Unlike most other distribution channels, Handango does not
certify content before it's included in their main product catalog.
Any individual or company with a J2ME application can make their
product available through Handango.com in a matter of hours. The
developer handles the majority of the setup process that occurs prior
to distribution. This includes testing the application, loading the
JAR/JAD files onto the server, and preparing the product page that
appears in Handango's catalog. All customer and payment-related
issues, however, are handled by Handango.
Launching Your Application
To begin distributing your J2ME application, you must first
register with the Handango Software Partner Program by filling out a
brief online form. After logging in as a developer, review Handango's
SDA for details pertaining to payment information and distribution
terms. If you agree to this SDA, you can immediately begin loading
your product into the Handango catalog by selecting the "Add a
Product" link from the developer portal.
At this point you'll be walked through a series of online
forms that focus on your product description, software category
selection, compatible devices, file information, and product images.
You'll also have the opportunity to include a trial version of your
application. Handango offers several product registration models for
use with J2ME software.
After completing the required product submission forms and
uploading your application's JAR and JAD files, your application will
appear almost immediately in the Handango catalog.
Once your application has gone live to consumers, developers
can modify their product information or application files at anytime.
You can also set up your Handango account to e-mail you each time a
customer purchases your product and access detailed purchase
statistics via Handango's developer portal. Handango is one of the
few distribution streams that provides the developer with the
customer's name, location, and contact information after he or she
purchases an application. Royalty payments are sent out within 30
days after the close of any month in which Handango receives full
payment from a customer. It's important to note that the number of
downloads and number of purchases for your product often vary as
consumers can download an application multiple times if they
experience technical difficulty during the installation process.
The distribution streams discussed in this article are just a
few of the many channels available to J2ME developers. In addition to
targeting these distributors, developers should look into other
marketing strategies that are outside the scope of this article but
could assist in driving customers to the channels where your products
With a market size of nearly $6 billion in 2002 and an
expected growth to over $18 billion by 2006, the demand for cellphone
content is beginning to soar. The development and distribution of
J2ME software involves a new and exciting field of technology with
tremendous growth potential and the opportunity for revolutionary
software ideas to emerge. Whether you're a professional software
developer or just interested in J2ME as a hobby, you have the ability
to become a part of this revolution as you take your idea from
concept to consumer and enjoy the many benefits of having a product
available to consumers around the world.
Nextel Motorola iDEN Update: www.idenupdate.com
IDEN Developer Community:
Nextel's Developer Portal: http://developer.nextel.com/portal/index.jsp
Cingular Wireless Software Store:
Cellmania, Inc.: www.cellmania.com
Cellmania Developer portal:
Handango Software Downloads: www.handango.com
About The Author
Greg Schwartz is the founder and CEO of Mobatech LLC. He developed
the Mobile Checkbook and Mobile Checkbook Pro personal banking
applications. The Mobile Checkbook J2ME software is currently
distributed by major carriers including Nextel and Cingular Wireless.
Greg holds a BSE in computer science from the University of
Michigan's College of Engineering.