One of the things that has always been really difficult to do on a small screened mobile device is browse the web. Many phones don’t even attempt to render full HTML web pages, and the ones that do generally try to reformat the page so that it’s easier for the user to read. Windows Mobile’s Internet Explorer has options to collapse the entire web page into one long-scrolling column. This is great for smaller pages, but it makes larger pages completely unbearable to navigate. You can also render them in regular desktop fashion, but you’ve still got a ton of horizontal and vertical scrolling to see the page. This is even more unbearable. That’s one of the reasons I generally stick to the mobile-friendly type websites on my Windows Mobile devices.
The Nokia N95, on the other hand, has a much more functional web browser based on the open source Webkit project which happens to be the same code that Apple based their iPhone’s web browser on. So that means web pages render, for the most part, just like they would on a desktop computer. Now, since the N95 does not have a touch screen, you won’t be pushing it around and zooming in with your fingers. You’ll have to use the D-pad to pan and scroll, and zooming is available in the menus. This may sound kind of annoying, but Nokia has added a web page mini map which pops up in the corner when you start doing some significant scrolling. This way you can see a thumbnail overview of the whole page and quickly move your zoomed-in view to different parts of the page.
The Nokia Browser actually shows the page’s unformatted HTML code first before it downloads the CSS. I wish they had added the ability to not use the CSS at all (like Firefox), because I actually kind of like only having to scroll through one column of unformatted nicely readable plain text.
Anyway, there are some other nice usability features in the Nokia Browser. Text within a column is re-ragged to fit within the width of your screen. That means you don’t have to scroll left and right each time you read a line. You only have to scroll horizontally to access other columns. Also, there is a mouse pointer in this browser and it has a tendency to jump to the next active link. This makes it easier to access the thing you want to click on.
A couple more final touches: the “Back” button doesn’t just load the previous page you were on, it brings up a thumbnail list of previously visited pages that you can jump to. Very nice! And lastly, you can set an automatic update interval for RSS web feeds that you’ve bookmarked.
If Microsoft is reading this, you better get that Deepfish technology built into Pocket Internet Explorer pronto, cause Apple and Symbian are way ahead of the game in the mobile browser department.
Chronicles of a Windows Mobile User Gone Symbian: Part 3
Chronicles of a Windows Mobile User Gone Symbian: Part 2
Chronicles of a Windows Mobile User Gone Symbian: Part 1
Nokia N95 in the House!