The spread of free wireless networks may make using applications and phone functions less of a battery drain for mobile device users.

Several cities in the U.S. and beyond have initiated efforts to introduce public wireless networks. While phone users have long enjoyed the service in private establishments such as coffee shops and hotels, coming across a non-secure, strong network on the sidewalk or in parks is rare and never lasts much longer than a block when walking.

Applications such as Google Maps and GPS services take a toll on battery life, and these are exactly the functions that users need when traversing city streets. New York is one location that may soon provide a solution: The city is working on providing public Wi-Fi in several parks across the boroughs, with one of the first slated to be Central Park. If the networks are strong enough, the surrounding blocks will also be connected.

Salem, Virginia, in a collaboration with Roanoke College, is working on introducing a free network for a large section of Main Street by 2012. Other cities with plans in the works include Hollywood, California, and London, U.K.

With the spread of free Wi-Fi and mobile phone accessories such as solar battery chargers, mobile device owners may soon be able to use their devices at leisure without worrying about power levels.