Tag Archives: Webkit
Opera Software has released an updated Beta of their Chrome/Webkit based Opera Browser for Android. According to Opera the changes in this version include:
- Chromium upgrade to version 29
- Compression method change in Off-road mode
- Improvements in download manager
- Improved NFC communication
- Various stability and performance fixes
Opera wants Beta testers to concentrate on testing Off-road mode, so it's enabled by default in this version. I switched freely between the two modes and didn't see any differences in rendering and performance between them. So it seems we are getting reduced data use "for free" with no loss in functionality.
I tested the new Opera Browser Beta on my somewhat dated Motorola Photon 4G, which although it has a dual core processor and 1 GB of RAM, is stuck on Gingerbread due a lack of display and camera drivers compatible with current Android kernels.
The Opera Beta ran quite well on the Photon except for an annoying and unexpected bug. For some reason the Opera Browser displayed all text on every page using a serif font (image below, left), completely ignoring the font-families specified by the page's designers. The font issue seems to be specific to either the Photon or Gingerbread as it didn't occur on my wife's Nexus S running Jellybean.
Except for the ugly font issue, Opera worked pretty well on the Photon with accurate rendering, mostly good usability and smooth scrolling, although the browser did sometimes freeze for several seconds while loading large pages.
On the Nexus, which has a single core processor and only 512 MB of RAM, performance was a bit degraded compared to Opera Mobile Classic or the Android browser. Opera Beta performed much like the Chrome browser on the same phone. It was usable but scrolling wasn't particularly fluid and moving between fields on some web forms caused the browser to freeze momentarily.
On the more powerful Photon, the browser was usable on every site I tried except Quartz's qz.com responsive site which is kind of an acid test for mobile browsers. The only browsers I've used that Quartz works properly in are iOS Safari and Firefox Mobile. Not surprisingly, the Opera Browser Beta struggled with Quartz, frequently displaying blank pages and freezing when I tried to scroll.
The latest Opera Browser was stable on both devices. In my testing I used the Beta for about 5 hours over several days. The browser never crashed or force closed but a couple of times it encountered an error and displayed a sad cat graphic. In both cases I was able to recover by refreshing the page.
Overall I'd rate the latest Opera Browser Beta a worthwhile upgrade from previous versions. Stability is improved and the new Off-road works properly with many more sites, although it doesn't seem to be as good at reducing data consumption as the old Opera Mini based one. Over the course of my testing Off-road mode reported that it had reduced data traffic by 60%. The old Opera Mini based Off-road mode typically achieved better than 80% data savings.
In spite of the improvements I'm not ready to make the Opera Browser my daily driver for for a couple of reasons. The font problem is an obvious show stopper but it it doesn't effect the majority of devices, just mine.
A bigger problem that effects everyone is Opera's lack of proper bookmark management. It's possible to bookmark the page that you are viewing but there's no way to edit bookmarks and that means no bookmarklets. I can't live with a browser that doesn't support bookmarklets, which I use multiple times every day for things like saving interesting content on pinboad.in, sharing it on social media, translating pages with Google translate, viewing a page's http headers or its Google Page Rank or a host's whois information or fixing a page's with unreadably low contrast text. You can partially work around the lack of bookmarklet support by installing a bunch of apps, but that adds unnecessary bloat to your device to support something that every other Android browser supports out of the box.
Opera Browser Beta 16 for Android is available in the Play Store for most devices running Android 2.3 or latter.
Opera Software has released an initial Beta of a new version of the Opera Browser 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 Browser 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 Beta 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.
The Web browser is the first thing I check out on any new phone. I've been using the browser on the N9 quite heavily for the last week. Read on for my extensive review including a video of the browser in action.
The N9 Browser User Interface: Like just about everything in the Swipe UI, the browser's interface is minimalistic but highly usable. There is a narrow, unmovable docked panel at the top of the screen (image above, left) that contains a combined address/search field and a menu button. Back, forward, stop and refresh buttons appear when applicable and disappear when they aren't. The rest of the screen is devoted to the current web page with no scroll bars, transparent buttons or other browser chrome to get in the way.
Tapping the menu button causes a touch friendly menu to appear at the bottom of the screen (image above, center). It offers the following choices:
- Open a new browser window.- Opens a new browser window displaying a "Top Sites" page showing a tag cloud of links to your most frequently visited pages. (image above, center)
- Share this page - Displays a dialog (image below, left) that lets you share a link to the current page in an email or text message and, if you've configured their respective accounts, to Twitter or Facebook. There's a sharing API that can be used by 3rd party apps although I haven't seen any apps that use it yet.
- Add to apps - Creates an icon in the N9's app launcher. The N9 browser doesn't use bookmarks, Add to apps is the only way to save a link to a web page on the device itself. I rather like this because it gives Webapps equal standing with native apps. However, I bookmark a lot of pages and I'm afraid that the single flat (no folders) app laucher page will quickly be overwhelmed by Webapp icons on my N9. The next firmware release for the N9 is supposed to include launcher folders. If the page has an apple-touch-icon the shortcut uses it, otherwise it displays a screenshot of the page. The image below, center shows a number of Webapps shorts. WapReview, Google+ and Identica are the only ones that have apple-touch-icons.
- Subscribe to feed - Appears if the page has a meta element referencing an RSS or Atom feed. It lets you add the feed the the phone's built in feed reader. The reader is quite complete. It displays thumbnails of item images in the timeline, opens complete item bodies in full feeds and remembers read and unread items. When saving a feed there's an option to display the feed's headlines on the N9's Events home screen.
The browser displays context menus when you do a long press on a link or image.
The link context menu (image above, left) lets you:
- Open in a new window - Opens the link in a new foreground window , hiding the current window (there's no option to open a background window). To close or switch windows you use the app switcher homescreen (image above, center) where open browser windows appear just like standalone apps. I really like this implementation which treats web apps as just apps rather than some sort of second class citizens that are silo-ed away in a browser Windows menu. If you have enabled "Swipe down to close app" in Settings > Device > Display (and you should as it makes using the N9 much easier and faster) you can close the current window and go to the app/window switcher with a single downward swipe.
- Share link - Uses the extensible system sharing service which currently supports sharing to Facebook or Twitter or in an email or text
- Copy link - Copies to the system clipboard
The image context menu (image above, right) provides the following choices:
- Save to Gallery
- Open image in new window
- Share image - To Facebook, Twitter, etc. or by Text message or Email
|Test||Nokia N9||HTC Evo (Froyo)||Nokia N9|
|Google V8 V.6 (bigger is better)||307||266||DNF|
|Webkit SunSpider V. 0.91 (smaller is better)||3526.6 ms||4709.4 ms||8868.6 ms|
Page Loading Speed Tests: I ran some tests comparing the same three phones speed in loading large desktop web pages . If you want to repeat the tests on a mobile browser, use the links below which override the sites' redirection to mobile formatted pages. The tests were all run using the same strong WiFi signal driven by a 1 Mbps DSL connection The N9's superior speed is obvious.
|Page||Size in KB||Nokia N9||HTC Evo (Froyo)||Nokia N8 (Anna)|
HTML5 Support: On htmll5test.com (image above, right) the N9 scores 272, second only to iOS' 296 and much higher than Android 2.2 and 2.3's 177, Window Phone Mango's 140 and the Symbian Anna browser's 96. Supported features include <video> with support for all four tested codecs (MPEG-4, H.264, Ogg Theora and WebM), <audio>, geolocation, local storage and many more.
Site compatibly and rendering are quite good. The vast majority of sites I tried displayed perfectly and worked as expected. The Blogger and WordPress (image above, left) administrative pages, which most mobile browsers have problems with, displayed correctly with all links and buttons working, although I found editing posts impossible as there is no way to scroll in the online editor.
I only noticed rendering issues with two pages. With the "Touch" mobile version of Facebook (image above, center), a text field and and the "+" image icon are incorrectly positioned and overlap other elements. The desktop version of Google Reader (image above, right) looks fine but it's not possible to scroll the main window which displays feed items so only the first page of items can be accessed. This isn't a show stopper as the Google Reader iPhone/Android Webapp works very well with the N9 browser.
Missing Features: While the browser's speed, site compatibility, stability and HTML5 support are all impressive, it is missing some core functions I that I take for granted in a browser. The N9 browser is currently lacking the following:
- There's no way to scroll the contents of a text input field or text area. If the text is too large to fit in the visible portion of the field, the hidden portion is unreachable. This makes makes writing or editing blog and forum posts impossible and also breaks many Webapps.
- Copying from or pasting to text input fields or text areas is not supported
- It's not possible to copy text from a Web page
- The <input type="file"> element isn't implemented so uploading an image or file using a web form is not possible
- There's no browser history or search for text in a page
I suspect these are features that were simply not really in time for the N9's release. Most of them are in the Nokia Developer bug tracker (free registration required) so hopefully they will appear in a future release.
Two other misssing feaures that I consider nice to have, but not essential, are Adobe Flash support and text reflow after zooming.
Flash is poorly suited for mobile devices and touchscreens. Thanks to Apple's refusal to include Flash in iOS, Web publishers are moving to using HTML5 for video and animation. However there are still a lot of videos on the Web that are only available in Flash. The N900 supported Flash quite well so I suspect this is another of those things that didn't make the cut for release 1.0 of MeeGo/Harmattan and will show up eventually
The N9 browser does a fairly good job of using readable text sizes when text is fit zoomed in to screen width but my 68 year old eyes do have trouble reading many pages in portrait orientation. Switching to landscape expands column width and text size sufficiently that I can read almost all pages easily. That's OK although I find portrait much easier to use one handed. I do wish that the browser would reflow text to screen width after zooming in to achieve a readable text size as the Android browser and Opera Mobile do. But as this isn't implemented in the Symbian browser i don't think it's likely to ever appear in Harmattan.
Below is a small gallery showing a variety of mobile and desktop sites in the N9 browser. Click an image for a larger view. If you have any questions or want to relate your own experiences with the N9's browser, please leave a comment.
This is a continuation of my Nokia E73 "Mode" reveiew. Here's a look at the built in WebKit based Nokia browser. I've been using an N95-3 as my main phone for years so I'm pretty familiar with the Symbian browser. But the browser in Feature Pack 2 (FP2) devices like the E73 is quite a bit newer. The E73's is version 7.2, based on WebKit; 525. The N95's browser is based on the much older WebKit 413. Here's the full User Agent for those who track such things:
Mozilla/5.0 (SymbianOS/9.3; Series60/3.2 NokiaE73/043.001; Profile/MIDP-2.1 Configuration/CLDC-1.1 ) AppleWebKit/525 (KHTML, like Gecko) Version/3.0 BrowserNG/7.2.6 3gpp-gba
The FP2 browser has gotten some good reviews. All About Symbian's Rafe Blandford did some speed tests and found that the browser on theN86, which is also version 7.2, was approximately three times faster than the one on the FP1 N95 8GB. On the other hand, the E75, another FP2 device which has a slightly older version 7.1 browser, was only 50% faster than the N95. In fact, its performance was only a little better than the FP1 E71. Based on my own testing, using the same sites that Rafe used, I found the E73's performance falls in between that of the N86 and E75. It was a bit over twice as fast than the N95, certainly a nice performance improvement. The table below has the raw numbers.
|Site||Nokia N95-3||Nokia E73|
I discovered a nice little usability enhancement in this version of the browser. There are three new default shortcut keys; the 6 key reloads the page, the 7 key toggles full screen mode, and the 5 key brings up a handy shortcut key map (image top, left). Plus all the keyboard shortcuts are now customizable (image top, right). You can choose 19 different actions to assign to the twelve keys available keys (the numbers plus * and #). My only beef is that there are still no shortcuts for page up and page down, two functions I consider almost essential for quickly scanning text on a page.
HTML5 and CSS3 support in the Symbian browser is still rather limited. It supports <canvas>, <figure> and <figcaption> and most of the text level semantic elements like <ruby> and <mark> but is lacking support for the sexier <video> and <audio> elements and the Web Storage and Geolocation modules.
While the Symbian browser does not have much in the way of HTML5 support I've always found it to render the majority of desktop websites very accurately. Symbian Webkit was one of the first browsers to reflow text columns to the viewport width when zooming. I still think its rendering is a little better than even the latest versions of the Android browser and Opera Mobile and Mini, all of which occasionally have problems with overlapping text and images or text columns extending beyond the viewport and requiring horizontal scrolling to read. These sort of issues seem to be much less common with the Nokia browser.
In summary, the 7.2 browser in the E73 is a nice incremental improvement. The speed boost is very welcome as are the new shortcut actions. Site compatibility and rendering are as good as ever.
Compared with the iOS and Android WebKit based browsers, the Symbian browser lacks support for a number of the advanced features in HTML5, including geoLocation, web storage and the video and audio elements. These are features that are increasingly being used in new mobile webapps. Help is on the way in the form of an entirely new WebKit based browser that will appear as part of Symbian^4, due in the first half of next year. I've heard that the Symbian^4 browser will support geolocation. I hope that it also supports much more of the HTML5 spec.