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The ­nused Cellphone App: 'calling'

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Harvard seniors, from left, Winston Yan, Joy Ding, and Alex Bick discuss plans for their Rover iPhone app.

Channing Johnson for The Wall Street Journal

Harvard University senior Drew Robb is so attached to his cellphone that he keeps it by his bedside at night and in his front jeans pocket every day. He uses the Apple iPhone to check email, text his friends and play games, pretty much for everything—except phone calls.

Calling "really slows you down," says the 22-year-old physics and math major from Honolulu.

The way Mr. Robb and his friends use their phones offers a glimpse of where consumer technology is heading. Their phones are used non-stop for their social lives and their group project to design a mobile guidebook to Cambridge. The friends also show how quickly change is happening: When Mr. Robb's friend Winston Yan, a 21-year-old physics major from Alexandria, Va., arrived as a freshman in 2006, he had a phone that couldn't send or receive email.

Interest in smart phones has attracted a new universe of students to computer science classes, says David Malan, a computer science lecturer who teaches Computer Science 50, the introductory class at Harvard. Mr. Malan gave his students a number of options they could focus on for their final projects, including writing traditional computer software and Web-based applications. Many chose to make cellphone apps. It has become easier for students to create Web and mobile applications thanks to the proliferation of Application Programming Interfaces, or APIs, which help developers share data and content. And ever since Mark Zuckerberg famously launched Facebook from his Harvard dormitory room, computer science—and dreams of it—have grown here. All this helped rebuild enrollments which had fallen after the dot-com bubble burst. The current semester-long introductory course has 337 students, compared to 283 in 2007 and 132 in 2006.

From The Wall Street Journal
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