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Handhelds Technology

Mobile Browsers Alternatives Compared 47

Posted by samzenpus
from the compare-and-contrast dept.
snydeq writes "InfoWorld's Peter Wayner provides a look at 10-plus mobile browsing alternatives, from Firefox, to Opera, to SkyFire, to Mercury, and more — a rapidly evolving area fraught with confusion, especially for developers seeking to target the mobile Web. 'All of this turmoil is creating opportunities. On the iPhone, the formerly unknown browsers are quite nice. They run quite well and sometimes offer the ability to run Flash content directly because they have compiled Flash into the stack. There are a surprisingly large number of new names appearing, and some are beginning to be mentioned in the same breath as the big browsers that dominate the desktop,' Wayner writes. 'The turmoil is also changing the definition of what a browser might be. A number of small applications such as Instapaper, Flipboard, and Evernote never set out to be browsers, but people are using them to read Web pages.'"
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Mobile Browsers Alternatives Compared

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  • So? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by rjstanford (69735) on Wednesday June 22, 2011 @05:29PM (#36535144) Homepage Journal

    As a web developer, I'm going to make sure that my site works well in the "lowest common denominator" of mobile browsers, basically just basic Webkit functionality and standard sizing.

    As primarily an iPhone user, I'm probably going to stick with whatever's built in, because the last thing that I want to do is to actively change my convenience-gadget to match someone's fancy website; the same reason that I'll never change my DNS servers to a random root server set just to access a .ihateicann domain. Sorry, don't care - your content is actually not that important to me.

    Websites are, and should be, generally seen as a convenience for the user.

    Oh, and extolling the virtues of changing the theme of a browser that runs on my phone? If I even see the browser itself most of the time, that's a big bucket of fail. The last thing I want to have to do is try to figure out the best way to see it.

    • As primarily an iPhone user, I'm probably going to stick with whatever's built in, because the last thing that I want to do is to actively change my convenience-gadget to match someone's fancy website; the same reason that I'll never change my DNS servers to a random root server set just to access a .ihateicann domain. Sorry, don't care - your content is actually not that important to me.

      Well, you really don't have much of a choice, do you? Apple cripples all other third-party browsers (for example, by not

      • by Fusen (841730)
        I'm an iPhone user that uses Atomic Web as my default browser and uses the Cydia tweak 'BrowserChanger' to make the phone open all URLs with Atomic Web instead of Safari. But then I'm of the opinion that if I wasn't able to jailbreak my phone and install the useful tweaks I probably wouldn't have an iPhone at all. Until the time that there is no available jailbreak, you shouldn't view the iPhone through the eyes of what it can't do out of the box.
        • That's all well and good, but some of us like to keep our warranties intact. I'm about to get an iPhone4 (not my first choice honestly, but AT&T is the only provider in my area with decent service ATM and the jesus phone seems to be the best phone they offer) and I would love to unlock it and be able to do with it as I please. I know you can buy an unlocked iPhone from Apple now, but why do that if I'm going to be paying the same rate (i.e. no discount for bringing my own phone) either way?
    • Re:So? (Score:4, Funny)

      by interkin3tic (1469267) on Wednesday June 22, 2011 @06:52PM (#36536028)

      because the last thing that I want to do is to actively change my convenience-gadget to match someone's fancy website...
      If I even see the browser itself most of the time, that's a big bucket of fail. The last thing I want to have to do is try to figure out the best way to see it.

      Now I'm confused which is REALLY the last thing you want to do? Change your machine or identify the best theme for your browser?

      • You know full well the last thing he wants to do is change his machine. Identifying the best theme for his browser is the last thing he wants to HAVE to do.
  • I thought iPhone mobile browsers were all just wrappers around Safari but without access to the latest optimizations (there was some hubub a few months ago that the alternate browsers were all slower then Safari)?

    So, this would have no relevance for developers targeting the web since they all use the same core and have the same user agent (we are still talking iPhone).

    Android, of course, is a different story.

    • by Fusen (841730)
      You're sort of right. Opera on the iPhone doesn't use WebKit, it handles reading the page on the Opera server and then sends you the image of the page to your phone. The majority of other third party web browsers do get forced to use WebKit but there is a very good reason to use them over the default Safari app. I use Atomic Web and it's got adblocking built in as well as a true full screen mode. That's just 2 of the 10's of little additions that make it such a more enjoyable/feature rich experience than th
      • It think it's worth pointing out, for anyone who might be confused, that's it's only Opera *Mini* (on any platform) that does this, not Opera Mobile (which isn't available on iOS anyway). I know it's pedantic, but I've seen plenty of people confused about this in the past, so I wanted to clarify in case anyone got the wrong end of the stick. Also to be pedantic, it doesn't return an image of the page, it returns a compressed binary format of the content - it still renders using the browser's own fonts, etc
        • by Fusen (841730)
          yeah, maybe the pedantry is needed :P I didn't mean a literal image as in some png file. I meant it more like you'd say an image of a backup you've done or a snapshot.
    • Well, that assumes that web developers are bright enough to target the backend instead of the name of the browser. I see a lot of 'please use firefox' messages while using Iceweasel.

  • by drgroove (631550) on Wednesday June 22, 2011 @06:03PM (#36535570)
    I'm a Firefox user on my laptop, and decided to download it for my Droid X. It runs so painfully slow, however, as well as having some odd behaviors (double-tap to zoom causes it to zoom WAY in, rather than the more measured zoom approach of the default Android browser) that I uninstalled it. Wish Mozilla would release a lighter weight, faster, more user friendly browser for mobile...
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Try the beta or aurora release of Firefox mobile. I found a speed improvement. Oh, and turn automatic updating on.

    • by Skuto (171945)

      What parts did you find user-unfriendly?

      (No arguing about the speed, but as the other poster said, it's worthwhile checking the betas/nightlies. It's under pretty heavy development).

    • by JimboFBX (1097277)

      I problem with firefox is that I left a page open that auto-refreshes and firefox ate up my battery. So I tried auto-killing it when I lock the phone. But then I have to deal with that 2 1/2 seconds of loading on initial start and have to reload all my pages that I could have left open.

      Then firefox doesn't super Eagle the image rendering, so images are pixelated instead of interpolated like it is on the stock browser

      Oh and the clicking is weird. Whatever is at the bottom of your touch zone is what you end u

    • by bemymonkey (1244086) on Thursday June 23, 2011 @03:34AM (#36538780)

      I had the same experience. Firefox is without competition on the desktop (Chrome still doesn't come close, unfortunately), but on Android it's a big pile of crap. Slow and bloated...

    • Dolphin HD is the way to go. Used it on both a Desire and Desire HD, very rarely have rendering issues, not slow at all (excluding Flash-heavy sites, but that's Flash for you). Gestures are useful once you're used to them, and customisable.
  • by bhcompy (1877290)
    Would be nice to get some alternative browsers in WP7. Opera Mobile was announced by Opera, then ????? No Skyfire, either. Granted the built in browser works well, but the landscape view doesn't have the options for switching tabs and the zoom threshold is fixed so you cannot zoom in or out past a certain point if it doesn't zoom correctly. It doesn't reformat the text to fit the screen, either, which is one thing I've had a lot of luck with the Android browser.
    • by Skuto (171945)

      WP7 doesn't allow native development. That will stop many alternatives.

    • Mozilla's original mobile was for Windows Mobile. I wonder if it got canned or if it is still in development? I remember reading rumors about Microsoft's .NET mobile EULA causing issues and it made have killed that port.

  • The days when you only had to special case for IE and Netscape now seem nostalgic.

    I'll use some exotic features on my fun sites, like the Aetheric Message Machine Company [aetherltd.com], which makes heavy use of downloadable fonts. (This requires making the fonts available in four different formats.) But if it has to work, it's back to vanilla XHTML 1.1.

    • by Edam (911039)
      After writing new pages for a site, I still to this day have to spend extra time getting it to work on IE7/8. All the other browsers (pretty much) work the same. But I regularly have to do things slightly differently so that IE renders pages the same as the other browsers. So, not so nostalgic for me!
  • On thing you don't often see mentioned is how well the UIs of the browsers work with very low resolution screens. There are a lot of Android devices out there with QVGA screens and Firefox's method of managing multiple open pages does not work on these devices (with more than two tabs open there is no easy way to get to the page you've selected from the thumbnails, and there is no fallback akin to the "open windows" list that the built-in browser users). It seems to require a display width of at least 480 p
    • by asdf7890 (1518587)
      Just in case anyone cares, I've just given Opera Mobile a spin, and it seems to work pretty well at QVGA resolution. Firefox may have just lost the chance to be what replaces the built-in browser on my poor little smartphone.

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