We all live rather hectic lives these days - always on the go. This can be a problem when we're so heavily connected to the internet, and just have to check a web page or our emails. Luckily, it's now possible to get online anywhere you are, just using your mobile phone.
Older mobile phones were able to use a service called 'WAP' - Wireless Application Protocol, which was like a cut-down version of the internet. WAP is now largely obsolete, as it's been replaced by modern smartphones that can access the same World Wide Web that computers use.
Web browsing anywhere
There have been web browsers for a lot of different phones over the years, but the first to be truly popular was the Safari browser built into Apple's iPhone. Unlike most mobile browsers back then, Safari was able to make webpages look almost identical to how they appeared on computer screens.
This was a revolution at the time but before long competitors had caught up and similar browsers are now installed in all the smartphones currently available. In fact, some might say that having a 'true' web browser is what defines a smartphone.
Most modern mobile web browsers use touchscreens, to let the users scroll by sweeping their fingers up and down the screen, and clicking links just by touching them. For a number of reasons - mainly to maintain battery life - most mobile browsers do not support the Adobe Flash plugin that many websites use for interactive elements, such as games and video. Many websites have special non-Flash mobile sites that allow phones to access the same content.
Having a web browser is all well and good, but rather pointless unless you can connect to the internet in the first place. Modern phones have two main ways of doing this: Wi-Fi and 3G. Wi-Fi is a high-speed wireless connection that you might have set up in your home, although Wi-Fi networks are often also used in specific public areas (usually for a connection fee). Wi-Fi is extremely fast - close enough to wired network speeds that you're unlikely to notice a difference.
3G is part of the mobile phone network that covers almost the entire country, so you should be able to access the internet from wherever you are. It's not as fast as Wi-Fi, and is closer in speed to older dial-up connections on a computer. Most mobile carriers place a limit on how much you can download each month (charging extra fees if you go over), so for heavy downloading you will probably want to wait until you can use Wi-Fi.
All smartphones can also access the more widespread 2G mobile network if they can't find a 3G signal. 2G can still access the internet, but extremely slowly - even slower than a dial-up connection. It can take several minutes just to view a simple webpage! At the other end of the spectrum, tests are currently being carried out on a 4G network (also known as LTE) that would allow wireless speeds comparable to current broadband, all across the country. The government auction for the 4G frequencies is expected in 2012, with providers hopefully rolling out the service in the following years.