Mobile Web Browsing

As you may or may not know, I am one of the unhappy users of a Blackberry Storm. The storm is not actually such a horrible phone. I was pretty happy with it when I first got it. But then I did the OS upgrade which did three things: it made the device much faster, it increased my battery life by more than a half and made it crash like it was running windows 98. So you take the good with the bad I guess. The crashing and freezing is moderately annoying – it just makes for funny conversations:

“Dude can you call my phone, I can’t find it”
“Sure I ca…. Oh wait… Frozen again. Hold on… Need to reboot this thing. I hope no one called me in the last hour or so…”
“Oh… You have a Storm, don’t you?”

I’m sort of stuck with this phone for the next 8 months though. I mean, I could buy a new one for a full price, but I’d rather wait a bit and get a massive discount when I renew my contract. Last time I checked my carrier (Verizon) would knock off anywhere between 60 to 80% off the retail price of their smart phones if you signed your soul away for one or two more years. So it is definitely worth waiting a few months. It just sucks that a lot of my co-workers are happy owners of the HTC Incredible – a phone that is twice as fast as the junker laptop I’ve been messing around with lately. I think that stings the most. I totally want that phone. And before you recommend the iPhone, I should probably mention that while I would love to have one, having more than one bar of signal strength in and around my town is sort of important to me. I could also say that I wouldn’t get it on principle because of Apple’s shady policies with the app store and their stance on flash, but that would be a lie. Most of my principles go out the window when I shiny gadget is involved. You don’t even want to know what I did to get a Dell Axim Pocket PC back in college. I became a Microsoft Student Ambassador for one semester. I still feel a little bit dirty for doing that – even after all these years.

Like any owner of a smart phone, I can’t actually imagine using a dumb cellular device ever again. It just wouldn’t make sense. For one, I hardly ever make any calls. I text more than I call, and I email more than I text. Not having email on my mobile device would essentially render that device useless for me. It is a great feeling to know I have the internet sitting there in my pocket, ready to be accessed at any time. Of course 90% of the time I don’t actually need that access. Both at home and at work I’m always only few steps away from a working computer with internet connection. And when I’m not at home or at work, I’m usually doing something social. So I’ll quickly check my email, but I won’t sit there and read news on my phone.

Unless of course I’m stuck somewhere with nothing to do but sit and browse the web on my phone. This happened to me recently when my brother had an oral surgery and I was his designated driver. I was stuck in a boring waiting room with nothing save for a little table with a few magazines. All of which where at least 3 months old, and their subject matter ranged from fashion to celebrity gossip. Needless to say it was just me and my phone for an hour or two. In retrospect I should have taken a book with me, but I didn’t actually think about that at the time.

There was a problem though – the blackberry web browser sucks ass. It’s good for looking up quick facts with Google or maybe pulling up some funny video you wanted to show to someone. But it’s virtually useless when it comes to regular browsing. It has no tabs, it does not remember passwords between sessions, it is incredibly slow and it does not always render web pages properly. Sadly there were not that many alternatives.

In the past I have tested Opera Mini on my phone but the user experience was horrible. At the time the Storm was not a supported model, so the browser didn’t actually flip he page when you flipped the phone to a horizontal position. It did not register the screen click, and text forms did not bring up the on-screen keyboard. To type something in, you had to tap the form, call up a context menu, scroll through it and find the “show keyboard” option. Once you were done typing, you had to manually hide the keyboard again – it would not go away by itself. In other words it was worse than the default browser. Not by much, but worse.

But being stuck with nothing to do but browse reddit, and totally annoyed by the sucktitude of the Blackberry browser I decided to give it another try and I was blown away. The version I installed was 5.0.19692 and it seems they have fixed all the problems I had with the browser on my phone. It supports the orientation changes just fine, it pops up and hides the on-screen keyboard as needed, it is blazing fast, sleek and intuitive. It still does not detect the screen-click thing but that’s just a minor thing. It takes about 30 seconds to re-adjust yourself to tap links to follow them and tap-and-hold to pull up the context menu.

If you are a Blackberry user and you haven’t checked it out yet, go and download this fine browser today. I mean, tabbed browsing on your phone – how can you go wrong with that. The browser looks great, works great and you definitely won’t regret downloading it. I know several people with Blackberries (some with Storms) IRL and few people with Androids – I’ve been telling all of them about my re-discovery of Opera Mini for about a week now. All I get is blank stares and complete and total incomprehension.

Sigh… Is there a phone app that imparts clue upon the user? Eh, scratch that. No one I know would install that one anyway. And if it was pushed out by the provider they would probably use that newfound clue to remove it from their phone forever.

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8 Responses to Mobile Web Browsing

  1. Naum UNITED STATES Google Chrome Mac OS Terminalist says:

    Luke, no offense, but Blackberry web browsing is like running DOS in a Windows world…

    Quite happy with iPhone, though I don’t use my “phone” as a “phone” very much anymore — it’s mostly text, PDA, notepad and web browser/app usage. Google Nexus or Droid/Evo nearly the same experience except that once one is accustomed to fluidity and elegance of iPhone UI, those Android phones may frustrate…

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  2. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Linux Terminalist says:

    Naum wrote:

    Luke, no offense, but Blackberry web browsing is like running DOS in a Windows world…

    Rub it in, why don’t ya?

    Sigh… I must be strong and wait till January. :P

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  3. Douglas AUSTRALIA Google Chrome Windows says:

    I have Opera Mobile on my Nokia E63… it’s a damn sight better than the Symbian Browser, which, although based on webkit, is a bit touchy at times and regularly brings up “Low Memory” messages. Tabs in Opera are just a bonus, really.

    And I envy you, being in the US with the wider range of phones available (we have very few Android-based devices on carrier plans here, and when they do show up they’re on ridiculously expensive plans that involve Telstra, who enjoy confusing customers and charging loads of money for bugger all).

    If\when you get a Droid Incredible, would you be so kind as to post a review or some such for us?

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  4. Mart SINGAPORE Mozilla Firefox Mac OS Terminalist says:

    Mobile web browsing is best done on a mobile browser based on webkit, like Android’s and iPhone’s browsers. Makes a hell of a lot of difference between Safari Mobile and Opera Mini on the iPhone. I think the only reason Apple allowed Opera Mini to be in the App Store, is because they know its users can’t stand a non-webkit-based browser.

    Google Reader Mobile is implemented quite nicely for webkit-based browsers.

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  5. David Google Chrome Windows says:

    I’m using the original Droid/Milestone; it’s my first smartphone I’ve used besides my friend’s iphone on occasion. I’ve used the default browser, Opera Mini, and Dolphin HD; of the three, Opera Mini seems the fastest, but Dolphin HD remains my browser of choice mostly due to the customizations (think swipe gestures) and the UI is impressively slick. And the fact that Opera mini takes about 5-8 seconds to load every time – I think it’s because it clears it’s cache if you exit out immediately.

    The server side compression in Opera doesn’t seem to make a difference in load times in most websites; only the ones with quite a few images seem faster.

    Maybe I have too high expectations/am spoiled, but I’ve been disappointed by the quality of android browsers (and, to be frank, most android apps) compared to the iphone’s mobile safari. Hopefully, given the larger market base through the droid incredible/shadow, and the cheaper handsets, bigger and better things will come to android. Fingers crossed the update fragmentation won’t segregate the cool apps to just the bleeding edge phones.

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  6. Steve CANADA Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    Yeah, go with a Droid phone. Steer clear of iPhone – locked in apps, overpriced piece o’ crap :)

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  7. mcai8sh4 NORWAY Opera Mini Terminalist says:

    I just installed opera mini on my hero. and yes MUCH better than it used to be. just needs to sort out zooming. pinch zoom would be nice.

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  8. Andrew Zimmerman UNITED STATES Google Chrome Windows Terminalist says:

    ATT constantly drops my calls, so my next stop will be Verizon for sure…

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