DUBAI // A competition for the best new mobile phone apps in the world, billed as the "Oscars" of the industry, began in Abu Dhabi yesterday.
A total of 18,000 apps from 160 countries have been whittled down over the past eight months to a shortlist of just 40 that will vie for the top spot at the World Summit Award (WSA).
The apps - software applications that run on smartphones and tablet devices - range from one that allows users to withdraw money from ATMs using their phones rather than their bank cards, to another that allows cancer sufferers to keep a diary of their treatment.
The chairman of the WSA, Peter Bruck, said a winner would be chosen at the end of the event tomorrow. Although the 40 finalists make presentations to judges and delegates, he said winners would not be chosen like they are on the BBC television show Dragons' Den.
"The focus is on the quality of the content, rather than the frivolousness of its use," he said.
Instead he said the WSA was similar to the Oscars, although because of the subject matter, perhaps more prestigious. "When you go to Hollywood, you get recognition for films," he said. "When you come to Abu Dhabi, you get the same thing for content on the mobile.
"Mobile phones are more pervasive than cinema. That's the reason Abu Dhabi is more important than Hollywood."
There were no finalists from the UAE this year, although there were 250 applicants from the country.
A UAE company called Flagship Projects won the competition in 2011 for a mobile maths education app called Hesabi. The only finalist this year from the region was the ATM app, developed by Bahrain-based Ithmaar Bank.
Mr Bruck said the region wasn't behind in terms of app development but had yet to develop a global focus.
Event speaker Harri Koponen, the chief operating officer of developer Rovio, which created the popular Angry Birds app, said the three-day exhibit showcased the focus on development of mobile apps. "The more we start to live our lives by mobile phones and the internet, the more opportunities there will be.
"Everyone has an equal opportunity to develop new applications ... that's what drives the innovation."