Thursday, April 30, 2009

Mobile browsers - what's going on?

For some time now there have been multiple players in the mobile browser markets. If you are using some other phone than iPhone (or iTouch), you have the possibility to choose some other browser than the built-in one.

Multiple browsers are based on open-source WebKit engine, these browsers are among the most used ones (S60, Safari on iPhone/iTouch, Android), but there are also other players.

I've tried to list all (at least most common ones) browsers that available at the moment and also share some thoughts about them.

S60 browser
  • Available in S60 operating system as a default browser. Default browser cannot be changed.
  • Based on WebKit like mentioned previously.
  • Proper support for normal web technologies (HTML, CSS and JavaScript)
  • Decent Flash support, although most of the Flash pages are mostly unusable, e.g. Youtube. I don't use any Flash-based services with this browser.
  • Supports WML.
  • Small differences in different S60 platforms / feature packs. Starting from S60 3.2 (3rd edition Feature Pack 2), it should be possible to update only the browser, not whole OS. At the moment there hasn't been these kinds of updates.
  • I use mostly S60 browser but in some web pages it just doesn't work, in these cases e.g. Opera Mini is a good choice. It is difficult to give good guidelines when to use S60 browser and when Opera Mini, usually web pages that are "complex" work better with Opera Mini.
  • Nokia is porting S60 browser to some of its S40 devices, but I don't have any experiences about it.

  • Opera Mini is a Java-based browser that is available for multiple devices / operating systems.
  • The browser is fast and doesn't use so much memory. When I was using Nokia E70, S60 browser ran out of memory quite often, but Opera Mini worked fine, even if you were listening music when you were browsing.
  • Mini uses servers which handle the rendering between your phone and the web site you are accessing. This enables small traffic costs if you don't have unlimited data plan.
  • Mini enables accessing your favourite bookmarks anywhere, anytime if you are using Opera Link. This is a nice feature if you lose all the information from your phone, you still have your favourite bookmarks with you.
  • Mini is a stable browser that can handle any kind of web page, excluding Flash pages.
  • I've had multiple times difficulties using WiFi with Opera Mini.
  • You can get Opera Mini by visiting the address using your phone’s default Web browser.
  • Supports WML.

  • The only non-Java-based browser that uses server between your phone and the web site you are accessing.
  • You can download Skyfire by going to with your phone's default browser.
  • Like almost all other browsers, Skyfire supports most used web standards.
  • Has probably the best Flash support, but still not fully usable.
  • I haven't used so much, but I've had quite many difficulties getting Skyfire to work properly.
  • I haven't been able to update Skyfire version 0.9 to my Nokia N96.

  • When I had Nokia E70, I was mostly using Opera Mobile 8.65 which felt better browser than E70's default S60 browser although Opera Mobile 8.65 wasn't providing full Web rendering.
  • Opera Mobile 9.5 has full Web rendering
  • When used with X1, Opera Mobile was much better than IE.
  • Supports WML.
Internet Explorer on Windows Mobile 6.1
  • I used SonyEricsson X1 Xperia for some time and tried it's default browser, Internet Explorer.
  • If I would need to describe this browser with one word, it would be lousy.
  • Although I like browsing with mobile devices, I must say I wasn't feeling like this when I was using IE.
  • Zoom doesn't work properly.
  • There are three different rendering possibilities (one column, fit to screen and desktop). Fit to screen is the option.
  • I wasn't using X1 for so long, but it seemed that it has the same rendering engine than Internet Explorer 6.
  • I must admit that some part of these lousy experiences can be caused by the device which wasn't so good either.

  • Like Opera Mini, Bolt is Java-based browser which uses also server between the phone and the web page you are using.
  • Still in beta.
  • Good URL auto-complete, just like in Opera Mini.
  • Almost identical features when compared to Opera Mini.
  • One of the biggest difference is magnifier, shown in second picture below.
  • Seems fast, just like Opera Mini.

S60 browser on S40
  • Like I mentioned previously, Nokia is porting current S60 browser to some S40 devices.
  • Unfortunately I don't have any experiences about this browser. If you do, please share them with us.
  • Nokia is not porting this browser to every S40 devices, because they recently introduced Nokia 6216 which has Opera Mini pre-installed.

Safari on iPhone / iTouch

  • Like mentioned previously iPhone's Safari is based on the same WebKit engine than S60's and Android's browser.
  • Another thing that everybody knows is that this version of Safari doesn't have Flash-support.
  • I haven't compared S60's and iPhone's browser but nowadays it feels that iPhone's browser is faster than Nokia N96's.
  • Safari supports all the necessary web technologies, like HTML, CSS and JavaScript and this makes it suitable for convenient browsing.
  • Don't support WML.

Safari on Android

  • Most probably quite close to S60's and iPhone's Safari because all are based on the same Webkit engine.
  • I would guess that browsing is convenient.
  • I haven't used Android-based phones yet, but they should be available in Finland in Autumn.


  • Mostly pre-installed to SonyEricsson phones.
  • Available for S60 also.
  • If I remember correctly, newest versions have full Web support.
  • Used at least to be fast (when I was using Nokia E70).
  • Doesn't fully support WML.

I left out some older browsers, e.g. Services -browser which can be found from older Nokia S60 devices and Nokia S40's built-in browser that are both developed in-house by Nokia. These browsers use mobile rendering, meaning that they put all the content on the web page to one, long column.

You can divide mobile browsers e.g. to following categories

  • Full Web (Almost all new browsers)
  • Java-based (Opera Mini, Bolt Browser)
  • Server in the middle (Opera Mini, Bolt Browser, Skyfire)
  • Mobile rendering (Older browsers, but some new browsers have this as an extra feature)

All browsers support normal web technologies, including JavaScript that enables for example AJAX-based services. Some are still supporting also WML. Personally I don't have so much experiences about different implementations of JavaScript but the more complex services you make, the more important is to test with different browsers. "Normal and simple" services that are using basic HTML and CSS works fine with all browsers.

Although Flash is supported in some browsers, you cannot really say that Flash-based services would be usable with mobile device.

In future it is interesting to see will for example Nokia be sued because their default browser cannot be changed or uninstalled in S60. The similar situation is in Windows and Microsoft have sued for multiple times because IE cannot be uninstalled.

I've noticed that few features annoy me in mobile browsers, and unfortunately there isn't any browser that wouldn't have these features. One is URL auto-complete, in Opera Mini and Bolt it works like it should but not in S60 browser. Second is that Java-based browsers open "text editor" when entering text, not like S60 browser which works like PC-browser when entering text, just showing normally text that you are writing to input field.

If you want the best possible user experience, I suggest you learn how to use shortcuts. The problem is that every browser are using them differently.

Opera Mini has lots of shortcuts.

As you can see, at the moment there are multiple good browsers for your mobile and only you can decide what you prefer. My choices are S60 and sometimes Opera Mini and I might start using Bolt as well.

The ways I'm using Twitter and Facebook

I thought to tell you how I'm using Twitter and Facebook, if you are interested.

Nowadays quite many have combined their Twitter and Facebook updates, but I'm not going to. Reason for this is that I use Twitter as a microblog; I share my "geeky thoughts" there, and not what I'm doing (except geeky things). In Facebook I usually share everyday life things although I'm losing interest to Facebook.

I don't use aggregator services, like HelloTxt that enables updating multiple social service simply because I don't want to share my credentials.

I usually tweet using Dabr with my phone or TweetDeck if I'm next to my computer. In TweetDeck I have some work related searches configured.

Picture 1. With Dabr, twittering is easy.

Picture 2. TweetDeck offers good twittering experience on desktop. You can also configure different searches.

So, if you want to follow my "geeky thoughts", follow me in Twitter. If you are more interested in my personal life, follow me in Facebook.

Saving Private Phone

Have you ever lost all your contacts and/or calendar and you don't have backups available? I have. I have also good news for you. Nokia and Google have been offering contact synchronization for some time now. Obviously, you have to have Google account to be able to use Google Sync and Nokia Account to be able to use Nokia's Ovi services.

I'll show you how it is done in both cases so that you can deside which one you want to use. I'm not personally using these synchronization services because I have company-confidential data in my phone. I suggest that also you think twice before start sending information to Google or to Nokia although these services should be secure.

There is also another aspect than security why to avoid these online-services. What if Google or Nokia would be down for multiple days? Or even start charging suddenly for the service? It is not so long time ago when Gmail was down for some time. Remember, this can happen to any service.

Google Sync
It seems that to be able to use Google Sync, you have to set up it manually following these detailed instructions if you have S60 3rd edition phone. If you have some other phone, you should start from here.

In general it seems that Google is not offering automatic synchronization, so you have do everything manually. This of course makes it more difficult for the big audience to start using the service, although atleast S60 specific instructions were really detailed.

Ovi Sync
Unlike Google, Ovi (or Nokia) is setting up sync profile as automatically as possible. You can setup synchronization profile either using only your mobile phone or then with a desktop browser. The procudure is exactly the same with mobile browser and desktop.
  1. Log in to
  2. Choose your device pre-selected for you and enter your phone number
  3. Ovi sends you a SMS with sync information
  4. Open SMS and save sync information
  5. Start syncing
As you can see this is really straight-forward. Here are screenshots from this process.

Picture 1. Log in to

Picture 2. Choose your phone model that is preselected and enter your phonenumber.

Picture 3. Wait for SMS.

Picture 4. Open SMS and save Sync settings.

Picture 5. Everything is set for syncing.

Picture 6. When ever you want to sync your device, you just need to press Sync.

After you've synchronized your phone, you can access the information even if your device would get lost or stolen.