Tag Archives: server based browser
When I reviewed UC Browser Mini 8.6 for Android last month I was pleasantly surprised that it was able to load almost every site I tried. Even more impressive was how well the browser rendered popular sites including Twitter and Google Plus. Mini 8.6 seemed to be much improved compared with previous UC Browser Mini versions that had rather inaccurate rendering and a tendency to throw errors when asked to open a number of pages.
UC Browser Mini is proxy browser like Opera Mini or Nokia Xpress. It users a cloud service to retrieve and render Web pages and compress them before sending them to the thin client browser on the phone. The proxy architecture has the advantage of greatly reducing the amount of data sent over the mobile network. Browsing with UC Browser Mini typically uses 80% less mobile data than with a conventional direct browser like the Android Browser.
UC Browser Mini is actually a dual mode browser. It has proxy mode (called Speed Mode) and a direct mode that bypasses the proxy and uses the Android Webkit browser engine directly access the web. Users can switch between Speed and Direct mode using a button in the left corner of the browser's header.
I think I've discovered the secret to UC Mini's new found site compatibility and rendering accuracy and it's rather sneaky. On popular sites that the proxy can't handle well or at all the browser silently switches to its non-proxy Webkit based direct mode even though the user has selected "Speed" (proxy) mode.
The screenshots demonstrate what I think is happening. At the top are images showing the WapReview mobile homepage in (left to right) UC Mini's Speed (proxy) and direct modes and in the Android Gingerbread browser. UC Mini does use its proxy on WapReview, as evidenced by rendering differences (like the non-floated images) in the screenshot compared with the other two. The images directly above and below show Twitter.com and plus.google.com in the same order. As you can see, UC Mini's rendering of Twitter and Google+ in its alleged proxy mode is identical to its direct mode and to that of the Android browser.
As further evidence of what's happening, here's a table comparing the data consumed while loading the three sites in both UC Browser modes and in the Android browser. The browser's cache was cleared between each test and I used the 3G Watchdog Android app was used to measure data consumption.
|Site||UC Mini Proxy||UC Mini Direct||Android Browser|
|WapReview||40 KB||150 KB||140 KB|
|710 KB||720 KB||690 KB|
|Google+||1250 KB||1270 KB||1210 KB|
It seems obvious that even though I've selected proxy mode, UC Mini is using direct mode when visiting Twitter or Google Plus. This trick makes the browser seem better than it really is but it also misleads the user into thinking they are using less data than they are.
Last week UC released UC Browser Mini 8.7. It's a minor update to 8.6 that according to UC includes speed and stability enhancements, a smaller file size and support for the Russian, Spanish and Portuguese languages. I've confirmed that 8.7, like 8.6, bypasses the proxy in proxy mode on Twitter, Google+ and probably other sites.
This version of UC Browser Mini seems like a relatively minor update to the previous 8.0 release which I reviewed in October. The main changes seem to be:
- Video Searching: Search for videos directly in the search bar.
- Cloud Download: UC's UDisk cloud storage is now supported. Users can download large files to UDisk without using any mobile bandwidth or local storage space. The file can be downloaded from UDisk later when a WiFi connection is available. Or UDisk files can be shared to a social media or file sharing site without ever being downloaded to the phone. Every registered UDisk user gets 2GB of permanent space and 4GB temporary space where files are automatically deleted after 7 days
- Speed Mode Button: UC Browser Mini is actually a dual mode browser. It's a proxy browser in "Speed" mode, which is the default. There's also a non-proxy mode which is user interface wrapper around Android's Webview class. In previous UC Mini versions the mode toggle was buried in a Settings sub-menu, now it's a button with a lightning bot icon and a checkbox at the right end of the browser title bar
- Improved Video Support: Full screen video, which required Ice Cream Sandwich in the previous version, now works in Froyo and Gingerbread
I've been using UC Browser 8.6 for several weeks and it has generally worked well. The browser is very fast in Speed (proxy) mode and according to its built in data counter used 78% less data than a direct browser would.
Site compatibility was pretty good. There used to be a lot of sites that UC Browser wasn't able to load. It would fail with a generic error (image bottom left) even on mainstream sites like Twitter, Facebook and Google+. UC seems to have made server improvements that have all but banished page loading errors. During my testing of this version I only saw that error message once on the Blogger.com dashboard. That error wasn't reproducible, I went back to Blogger latter and the site loaded and was usable
Although almost all sites load, they don't always work perfectly. I wasn't able to leave or view comments on sites that use the Disqus comment management system. For what it's worth, Disqus doesn't work in Opera Mini either. On the other hand commenting on Blogger sites, which is broken in Opera Mini, worked perfectly in UC Browser Mini.
UC's page rendering has also improved a bit but still leaves a lot to be desired. Most sites with separate mobile versions including Yahoo, the New York Times, Google+ and Twitter look pretty good. Others like ESPN are ugly but readable. And a few, including SB Nation, were unusable because the main content was truncated off the right side of the screen.
UC Browser renders desktop sites that are wider than the browser viewport in fit to width mode, with everything reformatted into a single column. The results will likely make the page's designer cringe, but are generally usable. Media queries don't seem to be supported either, so most responsive sites look like a fit to width version of their desktop view.
Even with its rendering issues UC Browser has a lot going for it. Pages load quickly, the bandwidth savings are real and UC can load some sites that fail in Opera Mini. There's a robust bookmark backup and restore feature and an excellent download manager that supports multiple downloads and pause and resume. And, unlike Opera Mini, UC Browser Mini supports animated GIFs.
UC Browser Mini 8.6 is available in the Android Play Store for devices running Android 2.1 or latter. For users of non-Google Experience phones that can't access the Play Store, the .apk can be downloaded directly from UC at ucweb.com/English/UCbrowser/product_choose_browser.html using phone or PC.
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.
Today Opera Software released new versions of the Opera Mini Browser for feature phones with Java ME support and for BlackBerrys running OS 4.2.1 for latter. The new release adds several of frequntly requested features to Opera Mini's download manager. The new features in the release are:
- Downloads can now be paused and resumed. You can even pause a download, exit Opera Mini and resume the download the next time you launch the browser.
- Smaller files (up to around 15 MB) are downloaded faster.
- When you download a file you can now change its file name before saving it.
- The last used download folder is remembered for various file types and the browser will default to that folder on future downloads of the same type of file.
- There's a new option to pass files to the device OS to handle instead of downloading them through Mini.
- Stability and performance improvements.
I tried the new Opera Mini on two feature phones, a basic and rather old Motorola WX400 "Rambler" QWERTY phone and a "Type and Touch" Nokia 302, also a QWERTY. The browser performed well on both phones.
As with previous Opera Mini releases there were some minor key mapping issues with the Motorola. I wasn't able to play YouTube videos using Opera Mini on the Motorola even though the phone's built-in Myriad browser was able to play the same videos. I wasn't offered the option to open the videos using the phone's OS either. Even with these issues I greatly prefer using Opera Mini over the Myriad browser which is slow and generally does a horrible job of rendering even simple mobile sites.
I had no such problems using the new Opera Mini on the Asha. The QWERTY keyboard worked without issues and videos from a variety of sites including YouTube played without error.
Opera Mini 7.1 can be installed by visiting m.opera.com using your phone's browser. If you prefer to sideload, the .jad and .jar files or a .zip file containing the BlackBerry .alx and .cod files are available at www.opera.com/mobile/download/versions/