This post, which was originally published in October 2007, is consistently one of the most popular on WapReview and as such gets updated periodically to remove sites that are no longer working and to include the best new ones. Last Update: 31-Dec-2011
Mobile pundits are starting to talk about the death of Java ME. Oracle, which owns the Java brand, isn’t doing much to reassure developers of mobile Java’s viability. But Java ME is still the biggest mobile app platform in terns of installed base and one that will be around for years to come.
Mobile carriers offer games and applications for download from their portals, for a price. But there is an alternative, an amazing number of mobile Java games and applications are available for free. Here are my favorite sites for free and legal (not Warez) Java downloads.
Free and Open Source Downloads: These range from simple games and utilities created by hobbyists to some quite sophisticated programs.
GetJar.com is the pioneer and market leader when it comes to free Java game and App downloads. It’s huge site (57,000+ downloads) that has been around for years and is now the second biggest app store (after Apple’s) in the world. Just about every freeware, shareware or demo game ever published can be found on GetJar as well as many ad-supported ones. In addition to Java programs, Getjar also has games and apps for the BlackBerry, Windows Mobile, Android, iPhone, Symbian and legacy Palm OS platforms.
GetJar’s mobile site (m.getjar.com) is pretty easy to navigate. Apps and games are organized by categories, the mobile site’s search facility works fairly well and there are descriptions and user reviews on the download pages. The PC site (getjar.com) is also categorized and you can filter the selection by phone model or family. The handset filter works well and includes generic programs in the same listings along with handset specific ones. Each download has a description and a screen shot and most also have user reviews. Each file on the PC site also has a 5 digit Quick Download Code. As the name implies, you can enter this code on the mobile site to go directly to the download for that app or game.
Phoload is a relatively new JAVA ME “App Store” along the lines of GetJar.com. In fact, it’s organized very similarly to GetJar. There’s a full web version (phoload.com) with a categorized, searchable directory of games and applications that can be filtered to only include apps compatible with your device. Applications and game listings include a screenshot, description and user reviews and ratings. All files can be downloaded to your PC for side loading. Or you can make note of a six digit “download code” and enter it on the mobile site for a direct to mobile download. Registered users can also add titles to a “Quick Download List” which makes them appear on the mobile site’s front page.
All downloads are free, the applications and games themselves are mostly freeware or ad supported but some are trials and demos. The type of each download (free full version, free ad-supported or trial/demo) is clearly indicated in each listing on Phoload.
The mobile version of the site (m.phoload.com) offers a searchable, categorized directory of apps and individual pages for each app with screenshot, description and rating. There is also download by code feature and, registered users can access their “Quick Download List” containing applications and games they have tagged on the full web site.
Mobango is a huge mobile file sharing site that has a lot of Java apps and games as well as ringtones, wallpapers, and videos. Registered Mobango users can upload content to mobango.com and then download them to their phones from the Mobango mobile site. When you upload a file you can flag it as either public or private.
Anyone can download the public files, which number nearly 700,000, from the Mobango mobile site wap.mobango.com without logging in or registering.
Sites hosting user submitted content have a problem with users sharing copyrighted material and Mobango is no exception. Each time a user uploads a file Mobango requires the user to check a box asserting that the file is their’s to share legally. Mobango responds to take down orders from publishers as well. But manually checking 700,000 files is an impossible task and it goes without saying that there is some copyrighted material on Mobango. I don’t know what the answer is to intellectual property issues on file sharing sites. Sharing content you have created is great, sharing the hard work and livelihood of musicians and software developers is not. I hate DRM and the heavy handed approach of the RIAA, etc., but just asking people not to post or download copyrighted material isn’t going to work.
BoostApps.com, is a site I created for Boost Mobile and Sprint Nextel iDEN network users. Unlike most mobile platforms, iDEN doesn’t support direct over the air downloads of Java applications using the browser. BoostApps uses a public Sprint API to hook into the iDEN app provisioning system and send free apps directly to Boost and Nextel USA phones. As far as I know, it’s the only site that lets iDEN users send applications directly to their phones without the need for cables or a PC.
Although designed for Boost Mobile users, most of the 200+ apps and games on BoostApps.com also work on other phones. All the downloads are legal freeware, ad-supported or open source and include essentials like Opera Mini, Gmail and Google Maps as well as many games.
Mjelly mjelly.com (mobile mjelly.mobi) has a small but high quality selection of free apps (no games). There are user reviews and ratings to help you find the best apps. By default, listings are sorted by rating but sorting by Newest or Most Popular is just a click away.
Mjelly also has a funky collection of ringtones including, sound effects, old school phone ringers, cartoon and TV themes, rave and metal tones.
While it doesn’t have a huge catalog, Mjelly loads fast, is easy to navigate and is a hassle free way to get truly free content for any phone.
Mob385 has no games, it’s all freeware applications like calculators, calendars, browsers, password safes, etc. plus some wallpapers. You can download directly to your phone from the mobile site (http://mob385.com/wap/) or to your PC for side-loading from the PC site (mob385.com/java/) The PC site has screen shots and descriptions, the mobile site doesn’t but it’s fairly small (230 applications) and files are at least grouped into categories.
Mob385 doesn’t seem to be updated anymore and now bills itself as offering “Free Java midlets for old Java enabled cell phones. Most of the applications work fine with current phones…“. Although the apps are old, there are still some gems on Mob385.
Ad Supported. These sites offer commercial quality games for free. Obviously there is advertising too. In my experience the ads are only shown when a game first loads and when you exit it. I don’t find the ads obtrusive, they are simple text or banner ads that can be dismissed with a click or two. Seeing a couple of ads seems like a reasonable price to pay for a high quality game. Be warned though that if you pay for data by the KB you will be charged for downloading ads every time you play.
Hovr Both the mobile (hovr.com/wap) and PC sites (hovr.com) feature good usability with categories and descriptions and, on the PC site, screen shots. Registration is no longer required to download but from the PC site but you have to navigate past multiple interstitial ads that appear to require you to enter personal information to proceed. To get past the ads safely click the tiny “no thanks” links hidden above below or along side each ad. after the last ad click “Leave this page” in the popup that appears. The mobile site doesn’t have the interstitials and is much more user friendly.
Mobile Rated at mobilerated.com is another site that offers free ad-supported mobile Java games and apps. It’s a big site with lots of content. The PC site is searchable and pretty well organized. The mobile version at mobilerated.com/wap/lists games and apps by categories but there is no search. If you are looking for something specific and have a PC it’s easiest to find what you want on the PC site to take note of the app or game’s Download Code which you can enter on the mobile site to go right to the download.
Will these free Java games work on your phone? I’ve found that most of them do if you have a GSM phone. In the US, ATT and T-Mobile are the main GSM carriers. Sprint and Boost Mobile CDMA users can download and play these games as well. Nextel and Boost iDEN phones can run many Java games but you will have to side-load them from a PC as downloading is not supported on Nextel. If you are a Verizon, Alltel or US Cellular customer you are out of luck as these carrier’s phones do not run Java programs. Outside of the Americas almost all phones are GSM and should work. Of course, Java ME being what it is there are bound to be some incompatibilities between certain games and phones. But if you download a game that doesn’t work, it didn’t cost you anything, except possibly data charges and there are plenty more games to try.
For a current list of even more free mobile game and app download sites for all platforms be sure to visit the WapReview Directory’s Mobile Downloads Page.