While there are very-very few new releases for Windows Mobile (almost all of the games and a lot of app/utility developers seem to have jumped ship and went straight for the iPhone), Web browsers seem to continuously receive love from app developers. At MWC (where I was also present), there have been even two major, new releases (the new Opera Mobile and BOLT).
I didn’t bother with looking up the links for my reviews of the previous Web browser versions listed. You may still want to take a look on them – just look around HERE.
Let’s start with Opera.
Opera has (lately) come out with new versions of their two browsers with largely the same interface (at least on touchscreen platforms; the non-touchscreen Opera Mini is vastly different; note that, with the new Opera Mobile beta, the touchscreen-less MS Smartphone aka Windows Mobile Standard has also received official support):
Opera Mobile 10 beta 3
It, now, also officially supports Flash Lite (up to now, this was only available through manual hacking and using unofficial versions), with an additional twist: it only shows them when they’re really needed; that is, a Flash-heavy web page won’t bring your phone to its knees. (See THIS for more info - linked from HERE)
Should you need an XDA-Devs one-tap installer with Flash Lite built-in (and a lot of other goodies like automatic rotation on some newer HTC phones with built-in accelerometers), download version 1.1 HERE (linked from HERE; official thread HERE). I’ve tested it (as with the official Opera Mobile 10b3) and found it excellent. If you need prompt support for Flash Lite, go for this distribution in the first place. Nevertheless, don’t forget that Flash Lite has pretty bad performance on everything not having an 1 GHz Snapdragon – don’t bother with, say, watching YouTube videos on a WinMo phone / PDA with a, say, 624 MHz XScale CPU. Use the alternatives – there are quite a lot – I’ve explained in my YouTube bible. Nevertheless, it can still be of great help with Flash sites otherwise not compatible with any other players (see my Flash Lite compatibility list HERE).
Opera Mini 5 beta2
The new, beta 2 version of Opera Mini 5 was released on 12/02/2009; see THIS for more info. It already supports a lot of goodies and is much-much better than the pretty much useless beta1.
There is a one-step all-in-one download package HERE, which, in addition to beta2, also has Jbed 20090216.5.1 bundled. Just start the CAB; it’ll set everything up – it’s an absolutely hassle-free install great for newbies. (On phoneless PDA’s, you will, of course, need the “dumb” Phone / SMS DLL’s for it to work.) After installing, a new Opera Mini icon will be displayed in Programs, along with the Java icon. The former can be used to even more quickly start the browser.
Note that, despite the bundled Jbed version is meant for QVGA devices (that is, it doesn’t have the necessary Registry hacks to make character sizes larger) works – with the largest chars – just great on large-screen WinMo VGA phones too. Now, on my test HP 214 VGA WinMo PDA, it’s working flawlessly (except for the still-lacking italic characters), unlike the first, barely-working beta of version 5. Even Opera Link is supported and working great. It also has a large on-screen keyboard taking up more than the bottom half of the screen, even in landscape mode, and pretty well usable with fingers on larger-screen devices.
Copying text from web pages also works great. Should you want to paste your text into an external program (e.g., Notes), do the following:
- Tap-and-hold the screen anywhere
- Select “Select Text” from the pop-up menu
- Select the text (with the stylus / your finger) you’d like to copy to the clipboard; when you finish selecting (raise the stylus / your finger from the screen), a context menu will appear. Select “Search With” from it.
- Tap-and-hold the text input field until the context menu is displayed; from it, select Fullscreen Edit.
- In the Fullscreen Edit (that is, the native text input / edit area of Jbed) mode, make sure the cursor is at the very end of the text (by default, it will be). Now, activate both Ctl and Shift on the on-screen keyboard (tap them once to change color) and, with the stylus, tap the beginning of the text. It’ll then be highlighted; now, on the on-screen keyboard, deactivate Shift and just tap C (while Ctl is still active) to copy the currently (!) selected text to the system clipboard. With this, it’ll become available for other apps, not only Opera Mini. (Note that Ctl + A, to select all text, doesn’t work; neither does the standard, stylus-based, standard text selection.)
You may ask why so many steps are needed. The answer is simple: we needed to switch to the full screen mode (native) editor because the in-app text copy didn’t make the text available for external apps, only Opera Mini itself. It was only by re-copying it from the full screen mode (native) editor that we could make it available for all the other, external apps.
Note that this method only works with MIDlet managers that do support copy/paste in their native text editor. Not all of them do (for example, the outdated TAO Intent couldn’t), as can also be seen in the “Text input: cut/paste?” row of THIS chart.
SkyFire has just come out with the new version of their excellent Web browser, SkyFire. (Press release HERE). The new version, among other things, supports high-resolution, that is, (W)VGA devices in that the text /images are no longer “blocky” or “pixelizated”, az opposed to previous versions.
I’ve thoroughly tested it on my HP iPAQ 210 and found it excellent. Even YouTube streaming went on acceptably over a 128 kbps DSL connection way-way away (in Finland). Now, I can only recommend the new version – if the lack of tabs isn’t a problem with you, you may like the new version very much. Of course, in my opinion, it isn’t better than, say, iCab Mobile (the best Web browser on the mobile Apple platforms) on an iPhone 3G S, despite what some pundits state.
NetFront 4.0 Concept Version
While Access no longer plans to offer their NetFront web browser to the general public (NetFront, officially, can only be purchased bundled with a phone), I have still tested the “concept” version (available for download HERE) of the latest, 4.0 version.
It, now, has six tabs, which is way more usable than the two of the previous concept (trial) versions. The Browser Settings has really been redesigned (most of the previous settings seem to have been completely removed). It also has a new “PC View” mode, which may be something similar to the “Desktop view” mode of Internet Explorer Mobile.
Unfortunately, unlike with the two Opera’s (both Mini and Mobile) or SkyFire, its usage is still very awkward with finger-only usage – it uses standard menus to, for example, switch to full screen mode. I’ve also continuously run into memory outage problems with large forum pages (say, with 500 posts) – NetFront has always used more memory to render Web pages than even Opera Mobile, let alone the even more memory-conscious Opera Mini.
Therefore, particularly given that the previous tree browsers are way better, quicker etc., I don’t recommend NetFront 4 at all – its days are simply over (as opposed to the “good old” PPC2k2 days, when it was the only alternative browser, along with Thunderhawk), it seems.
This now-excellent Java-based browser has received a lot of goodies lately:
- Support for Russian has just been implemented; however, there’s no support for other non-Western languages (for example, Middle/Far-East or East-European) languages at all
- Widget support
- Copy/paste support. To make use of this, tap-and-hold the screen (or select Menu / Page Tools / Select Text) and select the text. (Note that you don’t need to make sure all of the text is inside the selection box – you can just draw a vertical line, it’ll still select all the surrounding text.) After finishing highlighting the text block, select Menu / Search (NOT Copy!). From then, do exactly the same as in the case of Opera Mini (Ctl + Shift – highlight; Ctl-C: copy to the system clipboard).
I’ve tested it, just like Opera Mini, on my HP iPAQ 210 running Jbed 20090216.5.1.
You can download Bolt from HERE.
This browser is also highly recommended – particularly if you don’t need multiple tabs (which it, unfortunately, still doesn’t support) and/or non-Western / Russian languages (Opera Mini is compatible with every language as long as you don’t use its “smallest”, custom and Western-only character set) and/or you absolutely need italic support, which Opera Mini isn’t capable of.
Firefox (Fennec) 1.0 alpha 3
I’ve also tested the latest (released in Sept 2009) alpha 3 of the official Firefox port, Fennec - which has nothing to do with the now-abandoned Minimo project. The browser is available HERE.
I’ve found the browser far from usable. In my tests done on the HP iPAQ 210, the browser always crashed (requiring a reset) after loading a page. The other, reviewed browsers didn’t exhibit this problem. Moreover, it was considerably slower than the other browsers. In a word, I in no way recommend this browser – for the time being, just stay away, there are waaaaay better browsers out there, some of them even for free. (Note that there may be different opinions on the usability of this version; see for example THIS).