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mbVentureBeat’s team of experts has selected 14 finalists for our MobileBeat2009 Top Startup Competition.

We’re revealing the full list at our conference on July 16, but here are some teasers about the seven finalists for the top “mobile services” category and seven finalists for the top “mobile applications” category.

Criteria included needing to be less than three years old. Of the more than 100 qualified applications, 53 were from new companies or products (companies that are either operating in stealth mode or wanting to make a new product launch at MobileBeat). Thanks to everyone for applying and being patient as we sorted through the list.

urbanairshipAmong the services finalists are three that have gone public in some way with their plans: Boku, Urban Airship and ZOS Communications. Boku handles mobile payments for digital goods in a variety of apps. Urban Airship provides push notification and in-app purchasing services for iPhone apps. ZOS provides developers with a location-based services platform. But each of them will be announcing significant new products at MobileBeat.

wazeOur apps finalists include two that have previously talked about some plans: Waze and Ringful. Waze (right) uses the members of its network of drivers to provide real-time road traffic information, and it rewards drivers who provide information on roads that have no traffic data. It has attracted quite a following in Israel, where it is based. Ringful creates a dashboard on the iPhone for accessing personal health information. But these companies, too, will have new announcements at MobileBeat.

So all of the these competition companies — including the nine in stealth mode that will first be revealed at MobileBeat — will have significant new announcements at the conference.

VentureBeat’s staff reviewed the applications with help from our advisory board. We decided to give more weight to companies that had either not launched yet or had a significant unannounced product.

We learned a lot from looking at the applications. Notably, most of the activity was focused on Google’s Android platform (a sign that there is still virgin ground to conquer on this platform?). The next was the iPhone, while the balance was spread between Research in Motion, Windows Mobile and Symbian.

The focus on Android makes sense for another reason: In April, Google Ventures’ Rich Miner noted that Android was “a good place where you can quickly prototype and test out capabilities that you probably can’t on some of the other platforms.”

We were surprised to find relatively few game-related applicants among the application companies, even though games are the top apps on the iPhone, with more than 10,000 titles. There also weren’t many entertainment applicants.

In interviews with 20 venture capitalists in preparation for MobileBeat, we heard that the best opportunities in apps exploited technologies such as connectivity, location, web-browsing, and presence (think Twitter updates).

Our applicants are excited about the next chapter in mobile commerce, inaugurated perhaps by the iPhone 3.0’s new in-app payment system. They are also interested in location services, enterprise apps, communications apps, and mobile content apps.

If you’re an entrepreneur or executive active in mobile, be sure to join us at MobileBeat 2009, our mobile conference for industry leaders. Sign up here.

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