Category Archives: Browsers
Opera Software has released an initial Beta of a new version of Opera Mobile for Android that's based on the open source Webkit browser engine instead of Opera's own Presto engine. Opera is winding down Presto development and will eventually use Webkit for all its products.
The new release, called Opera 14 Beta, is available now in Google Play for devices running Android 2.3 and latter. It was announced in a post today on the My Opera - Opera Mobile For Android forum.
According to the post, what's new in this version is:
- everything :)
- New UI
- Improved Speed Dial, all your bookmarks and saved pages in the same place
- Discover, a new way to discover content and collect news
- Off-road mode, Opera Mini compression built-in
- Omnibar, combined search and URL field, with auto-completion
- no support for tablets bigger than 7.5 inches
- problems with localized strings not fitting into places
- problems with rendering 'Discover' section on Samsung Galaxy Y
- crashes on start on Samsung Galaxy S2 with Android 2.3.5
- crash on start on Motorola RAZR device
- hardware back key issues on Samsung Galaxy Y
- display issues on HTC One S (Android 4.0.4)
I tried the Opera Mobile Beta on a Motorola Photon running Android 2.3.4. Performance on this older Tegra 2 based device seemed quite good with fast page loads and no apparent user interface lag. Rendering seemed accurate on the pages I tried and I didn't encounter operational issues with any site. I did experience one crash in about an hour's worth of browsing, not bad for a first beta.
As expected in an initial Beat release there are lots of missing features. The most glaring omissions are:
- No text reflow after pinch zooming
- No bookmarks
- No Opera Link
The user interface changes are a bit of a mixed bag. I like the unified search and address bar and being able to create folders on the Speed Dial page. But I miss full screen mode and the ability to create custom searches. I'm not a fan of the new tab picker. It only shows four tabs at a time and requires double tapping to select a tab. The end result is that it takes more taps and swipes to switch tabs, and making users work harder is never a good thing.
The Discover feature (images below), which is essentially an RSS reader, looks great and is easy to use, but I wish it let me choose individual feeds rather than only being able to pick from a fixed set of curated categories.
Overall, I'm quite pleased with the Opera Webkit Beta. It's very polished, stable and fast for an early Beta. It's usable as is, although the lack of text reflow and bookmarks (or a way to import them) keeps it from being my daily driver for now.
Mozilla released Firefox 19 this week for Windows, OSx, Linux and Android. The release notes list the new features in the Android release as:
- Support for more HTML5 and CSS3 features
- Themes support
- Support for Traditional Chinese and Simplified Chinese localizations
- Lower Minimum hardware requirements (600MHz CPU, 512 MB RAM, HVGA) to support more devices
- Bug fixes
While I was poking around in the menus I noticed an option in the settings menu that I don't remember seeing before, "Pinch to reflow text". It's disabled by default, When you turn it on, text reflows to fit the window as you zoom in and out.
Reflow has always been a feature of the stock Android Browser, Opera Mobile and most other Android browsers, but not Firefox Mobile. It's a real eyesaver on some some desktop sites that are almost unreadable because of a combination of wide text columns and small font sizes. The screen shots above show an example on XDA-Developers. The left image shows how the site looks when you double tap to initially fit the page's text to the window. The font size is so small that I found it a hard to read. No problem, just zoom in a bit and Firefox reflows the text so it still fits the window and horizontal scrolling isn't needed.
I did notice a couple of somewhat annoying issues with Firefox's reflow. For one, the browser doesn't maintain the current scroll position as you zoom in. If you are at the bottom of a long page and zoom in the browser will jump back to the middle of the page and you will have to scroll back down to find your place. The second issue is that zooming on one tab tends to effect the zoom levels on other tabs. Neither if Pinch to reflow text is turned off. Hopefully these problems will be fixed in a future release, text reflow on zoom is a really useful feature when browsing on small screens.
The browser has a rather sparse UI. The only browser chrome is a bottom address bar (image top, left). The bar has three controls on it, a single button that defaults to stop/refresh but can reconfigured as a favorites or tabs button, a combined address/search field and a three dots menu button.
The menu button opens a scrolling half screen menu (images top, center and right).
The Settings menu option opens a full screen menu (image below, left) which lets you clear history and customize the address button. It also lets you change the browser's user-agent header to impersonate a desktop browser. That's essential for certain brain dead sites that force you to a mobile version that's hopelessly dumbed down. Here are the user agents that IE10 sends for the desktop and mobile options:
Mobile: Mozilla/5.0 (compatible; MSIE 10.0; Windows Phone 8.0; Trident/6.0; IEMobile/10.0; ARM; Touch; NOKIA; Lumia 920)
Desktop: Mozilla/5.0 (compatible; MSIE 10.0; Windows NT 6.2; Trident/6.0; ARM; Touch; WPDesktop)
The "advanced settings" button at the bottom of the settings screen brings up a scrolling menu (images below, center and right) which lets you enable auto-complete, change the default search provider from Bing to Google and adjust security settings including the "do not track" toggle, which defaults to sending a do not track header .
The IE10 user interface is pretty good overall but there are a few elements of the UI that I don't care for. My number one pet peeve is that there's no "forward" button or menu item. I often find myself switching forward and back between two related pages. With no forward control, IE10 makes me go into browser history, called "Recent" in IE10, to find the page I want.
I also don't like that the bottom address bar can't be hidden for full screen browsing and that it only has three controls on it. I'd like to see the Refresh/Stop embedded in the address field itself. That would allow it to coexist with the favorites or tabs button.
I was favorably impressed by the performace of the browser, it feels fast and renders the vast majority of sites very well. Opening multiple tabs doesn't seem to slow it down at all and switching tabs is nearly instantaneous.
Scrolling is smooth. I like that when scrolling vertically on a wide desktop page the browser holds it's horizontal position, keeping the current column of text centered rather than skewing to one side as Opera and Firefox Mobile tend to do. But there doesn't seem to be much in the way of momentum or flick scrolling in IE10. It takes a lot of "flicks" to go from the top of a long page to the bottom. As site navigation controls are almost always at the top and/or bottom of the page, I wish there was a quicker way to get to them.
When I moved from synthetic benchmarks and demo webapps to real world Web browsing the WP8 browser proved very capable. Virtually all the desktop and mobile sites I tried rendered accurately and were fully usable in IE10 Mobile. The exceptions revealed a couple of areas where the browser could stand improvement, namely text wrapping and hover navigation.
The problem with text is that, as far as I could tell, IE10 doesn't resize and reflow text to insure that it's a readable size. Thanks to the Lumia 920's large screen and high pixel density text on most sites is readable even for my 69 year old eyes. But a few sites, like the XDA-Developer forums (image above center ) that combine a small front and a wide fixed column width were unreadable for me. I don't have this problem with Opera Mobile or the Android browser. With those browsers, when you use pinch zooming to make text larger, the text re-flows and re-wraps to fit screen width. That feature would be a great addition to IE Mobile.
Hover navigation is an outdated design technique where links are hidden until you move the mouse pointer over them. On a touchscreen device, there's no mouse, no mouse pointer and thus no way to make hover links visible. Unfortunately quite a few sites still use hover navigation including WordPress which uses them extensively in its Dashboard which is where bloggers edit posts and moderate comments. Fortunately most touchscreen browsers now make hover links visible at all times. Mobile IE10 does not and that makes many common actions in WordPress like opening a comment for editing harder than they need to be.
Although Mobile IE10 is capable of handling advanced mobile Webapps, a number of sites are serving it "least common denominator" content intended to be usable in legacy feature phone browsers. Offenders include Twitter (image above, right) and Google. Google is rather inconsistent, IE10 Mobile gets the best iPhone/Android versions of Google Reader (image below, left) and YouTube but the basic versions of Gmail and Google Calendar. It's possible to force Google to show the versions of Gmail and Calendar that it serves to Android devices by using the URLs mail.google.com/mail/u/0/x/gdlakb-/gp/ for Gmail and www.google.com/calendar/gp for Calendar. Perhaps the strangest and most maddening example of a site underestimating the capabilities of Mobile IE10 is what happens when you try to use Google Search with IE10's "Desktop" user-agent. Google returns pages "adapted for your browser" by the circa 2006 Google Web Transcoder (images below center and right). The results would be funny if they weren't so unusable.
Internet Explorer 10 for Windows Phone 8 is a fast, Web standards compliant browser with good usability that works well with the vast majority of modern Webapps. There are are a couple of areas that could stand some fine tuning by Windows Phone finally has a browser that users and Web designers won't curse and Microsoft's developers can be proud of.
A Linux User's Nokia Lumia 920 Review - Part 1: First Impressions and Google Apps Integration
A Linux User's Nokia Lumia 920 Review - Part 2: Using Dropbox With Windows Phone 8
A Linux User's Nokia Lumia 920 Review - Part 3: Transferring Files Between Windows Phone 8 and Ubuntu
Thanks to @nokia_connects for providing me with the trial Nokia Lumia 920 that made this post possible.
Symbian lives! Opera Software and UC Browser have both released new browser versions for the Symbian platform. That makes sense as Symbian's installed base is still around 190 million, making it the third largest smartphone platform after iOS and Android in terms of current active users.
Today Opera released Opera Mini 7.1 for Symbian S60V2 and latter. According to a post the company's Opera For Phones Blog this release is focused on improvements to Opera Mini's download manager along with performance and stability enhancements. Opera lists the changes in 7.1 as:
- Possibility to rename files before download
- Non-finished downloads are now preserved upon browser exit and can be resumed in the next browser session
- Support for resuming of a failed download
- Target folder is now saved for each type of download (e.g. music, images or video)
- Added warning dialog if download with the same filename already exists
- Various improvements and bug fixes for Speed Dial and Smart Page
- Localization updates
- Connection stability improvements
I installed Opera Mini 7.1 on my Nokia N8 running Belle. My bookmarks, Speed Dial shortcuts and saved pages from Opera Mini 7.0 all survived the update. The new release worked well although I didn't notice any obvious changes from the previous version. I downloaded a 2 MB .zip file with no issues. Downloading seems much faster than before and when I downloaded a second .zip file Opera defaulted to the same SD card subdirectory that I downloaded the first .zip to.
Opera Mini 7.1 for Symbian is available now by visiting m.opera.com using your phone's built in Nokia browser. If you prefer to download Opera Mini to your PC and transfer it to phone via Bluetooth or USB go to opera.com/mobile/download/versions/. Their are separate downloads for S60V3 and latter and for S60V2. As of this writing, the Opera Mini in the Nokia Store is still the old 7.0 version so it you want the latest and greatest you will need to get it from Opera.
UC Browser for Symbian S60V3 and latter was updated earlier this month to version 8.8. Here's what UC says is new in 8.8:
- Customized online wallpapers - For those who want their browser looking good, we now have a range of customized online wallpapers available on our network for download. If you’d like a change from your old default browser background, we’ve got a bunch of great ones for you to choose from!
- Share to Twitter - For Twitter fans, you can now quickly and easily share links and images via Twitter. So if you come across a great picture or link you just have to share with your followers, just long press the item, then choose Share.
- Improved bookmarks managing on touch phones - For those with touch phones who like to keep things organized, we’ve added new and improved ways to manage your bookmarks. On the bookmark menu you can now drag your bookmarks around to group them how you want, and use the sort function to keep them in order.
- Auto-complete of search keywords - For those who want quicker and easier searching, our auto-complete function has been upgraded. It now has the ability to give you relevant suggested queries and results as you type your query into the search box.
- Clear browsing history on exit - For your convenience and privacy, upon exiting UC Browser you now have the option to clear your browsing history.
I installed UC Browser 8.8 on the N8 with no problems. My bookmarks were retained and the browser worked well. UC Browser 8.8 can be downloaded directly to your phone from wap.ucweb.com or to your PC for side loading from ucweb.com/English/UCbrowser/platform.html?platform=sis. There are separate downloads for Symbian S60V3, S60V5 and Symbian^3 and latter phones.
I keep both UC Browser and Opera Mini installed on all my phones that support them. I pay for data by the megabyte so using proxy browsers saves me quite a bit of money every month. I generally prefer Opera Mini as it renders pages more accurately and attractively. UC Browser is my fallback browser for the rare site that doesn't work properly, or at all in Opera.