In the wireless industry, everyone talks about the quest for the "killer app" -- the next big thing that mobile users will repeatedly pay top dollar to acquire. Ringtones and SMS messaging have come close to this holy grail in the past. Both services have enjoyed widespread growth and greater profits compared to other basic services.

For its part, Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM) is doing all it can to help the industry find the next killer app. It's developed a technology called BREW, which is essentially a thin operating system for your cell phone. BREW allows users to download games or other applications directly to their phone over the air and pay for them on their regular phone bill. If you have Verizon's (NYSE:VZ) Get It Now service and have downloaded Frogger or Sports Illustrated swimsuit wallpaper to your phone, you know BREW.

But since ring tones and screensavers hit the mainstream, everyone's looking for something new to set them apart from the nearly 2 billion other wireless-device users around the world. Taking a cue from the past success of changeable phone faceplates, Qualcomm is now integrating new features into BREW that allow users to completely customize the look and feel of their mobile device. Called uiOne, the software solution allows developers to create fully customized graphical user interfaces (also known as GUIs) for mobile phones and sell them directly through carriers.

Since launching uiOne this February, Qualcomm has been busy demonstrating the capabilities of the new technology and providing developers with tool sets and design guides to get products on the market quickly. Yesterday, Qualcomm announced its first carrier-support agreement with Alltel (NYSE:AT) providing the uiOne system to Alltel's more than 8 million wireless customers.

Just as Windows transformed interaction with personal computer screens into a more graphical, feature-rich experience, so Qualcomm hopes to enhance the wireless phone interface experience. Imagine custom graphics, menus, and navigation styled around themes or brands, replacing the stale, cursor-driven interface on phones. Wireless phones are all about personalization, so I find it hard to see how this new user interface platform can go wrong.

Killer app? Maybe not. But I'd bet that once millions of users get a taste of this level of phone style, they'll never go back to plain old wallpaper.

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Fool contributor Dave Mock has had too many gooey experiences with wallpaper. He has no position in Qualcomm, though he authored its first corporate biography -- The Qualcomm Equation .