Flurry is a fast, free, convenient way to monitor email or RSS feeds on a conventional Java phone.
Full-blown email management is the raison d'etre for smartphones such as BlackBerry units, Windows Mobile devices, Palm Treos and Symbian-based handsets.
But what if you don't have a high-end mobile phone? A pair of free services, Flurry and Teleflip, let you monitor (and if need be, respond to) email on a wide variety of mass-market handsets. Both are useful, but in different ways.
Flurry requires a Java-capable phone that can access the internet. After signing up with Flurry, we got a text message with a link; when we clicked it, the service's Java client downloaded and installed in a matter of minutes.
After that we simply launched the Flurry application, and it started downloading message headers. All retrieved mail is processed through Flurry's servers, which compress images and strip down headers to keep your data airtime costs down.
You can add multiple email accounts and RSS feeds, as well as import CSV-formatted contact lists (which you can create in most major email services or clients), via your account page on Flurry's website. There, you can also set filters so that, for example, Flurry delivers messages only from certain people, or blocks messages with particular words in the subject line.
Flurry doesn't refresh your inbox until instructed to do so, but you can opt to get text messages alerting you to any new mail, or messages from specific senders.
Flurry officials say the service supports some 700 phone models worldwide, significantly more phones than services from Gmail and Yahoo can support.
Flurry's main drawback: it doesn't work on networks such as Alltel or Verizon that prohibit third parties from installing software on their devices without carrier support (this failing also holds true, however, for Gmail and other Java-based mobile clients that don't partner with such carriers).
Flurry plans to make money with ads at the bottom of email messages; by year's end Flurry also expects to offer for-pay premium services - for example, the ability to sync your Flurry inbox with your email server (so that erasing a Flurry message makes it disappear on your desktop).
Although you don't pay for Flurry, you do need to pay carrier fees for data.