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Mobile Browsers Alternatives Compared

samzenpus posted more than 2 years ago | from the compare-and-contrast dept.

Handhelds 47

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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47 comments

Mobile browsers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36535080)

The remark about the role that applications like Evernote have taken is pretty interesting. There seems to be a real crossover taking place between social media applications and content acquisition in the mobile space.
-ash
appguppy.com

Re:Mobile browsers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36539400)

Crossover? check.
Social media? check.
Content acquisition? check.
Mobile space? check.

Halfway to a full house in bullshit bingo!

So? (4, Interesting)

rjstanford (69735) | more than 2 years ago | (#36535144)

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.

Re:So? (2)

Sonny Yatsen (603655) | more than 2 years ago | (#36535226)

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 allowing it to be used as default browser when clicking on links - see Skyfire or Opera, or by just not allowing it into the marketplace, see Firefox).

Re:So? (1)

Fusen (841730) | more than 2 years ago | (#36535406)

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.

Re:So? (1)

Anarki2004 (1652007) | more than 2 years ago | (#36537626)

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? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36538132)

Err... Unlocked and jailbroken are two completely different things. Seeing as you're getting an i-device, that's not surprising that you confused the two. Unlock means you can use the phone with any SIM card, and not just one carrier. Jailbreaking is gaining administrator rights to your own device (I believe you can unlock if you have JB).

JB / root is something you'll never have out-of-box with most consumer devices. JB happens to be required if you want to run your software of your choosing (and not filtered by some mega-corp) for certain companies (take a guess which two happen to be the big culprits?)

Re:So? (3, Funny)

interkin3tic (1469267) | more than 2 years ago | (#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?

Re:So? (1)

thetroll123 (744259) | more than 2 years ago | (#36539092)

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.

Don't use opera mini! (-1, Troll)

dotmobfan (2297104) | more than 2 years ago | (#36535170)

It spies on the users! and sells that to whatever wants to.
This browser passes all your traffic through their servers. Thats why [thoughts.com] !

Re:Don't use opera mini! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36538718)

It does what it's told!
And it puts the lotion on its skin!

Don't use opera mini! (-1, Troll)

dotmobfan1 (2297120) | more than 2 years ago | (#36535236)

It spies on the users! and sells that to whatever wants to.
This browser passes all your traffic through their servers. Thats why [aeonity.com] !

Re:Don't use opera mini! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36535302)

They don't spy on you. It uses turbo to compress images and you can turn it off if you want.

Where is your evidence that they are using the information for anything other than what they say they are using it for?

Re:Don't use opera mini! (0)

WrongSizeGlass (838941) | more than 2 years ago | (#36535352)

Goatse??

Re:Don't use opera mini! (0)

dotmobfan1 (2297120) | more than 2 years ago | (#36535484)

Its you again?
Meanwhile I got ~13,000 victims and lot of food.
Just look:

Funny:
"Parent post is a goatsex picture. Do not follow. You're an asshole of the proportions in that picture."
"Link above is to goatse. Fuck you douchebag."
"After all these years, I finally fell for it. Just off to bleach my eyes.. thanks for that."
"Turn on TinyUrl previews. It saves lives."
"Ugh. Goatse. NSFW. Asshole (poster and picture, both)."
"Seriously ... new account to post that ... what a douche!"
"You're a fucking douchbag." - "That is the most accurate comment yet"
"Not gonna click it to find out, but I'd be surprised if parent's link wasn't goatse... It appears you would be correct sir. Why oh why do I always forget.."
"My word, what is wrong with your anus? I'd get that checked out."
"Damnit! nearly 15 years reading /. and I still fall in a goatse.cx trap !"
"It's because of Assholes like you that I can no longer trust URL shorteners"
"Didn't click it, but the magic 8-ball says goatse."
"Would advise against clicking the link in the troll post above. Especially if you're at work atm."
"Thanks, I'm reading slashdot in class like a good student and just got tubgirl'd."
"Watching second monitor, there was something wrong with the other screen. Control + w. Phew..."
"Hey family! Come look! They're opening the Google Talk client! Now, click here......" (sees goatse)
"I tried to post warnings about the goaste loving jerk yesterday but was modded into oblivion as a karma whore"
"Posting your picture online again?", "Really? Are you not tired of this yet?"
"High likelyhood of being a Goatse link. Proceed with caution"
(Me posts goatse link and tells it is SFW): "You mean NSFW asshole."
"Can you not afford normal entertainment?"
"This is grown up talk, 4chan is that way ->"
"One of these days, this asshole gonna have a hard drive crash and lose his precious list, consigning his life's work to oblivion. He'll probably kill himself."

Hate:
"Death to all assholes - Let's put you first into the guillotine"
"You fucker" - "I had the same thought as you. What a fucking asshole. The link is nsfw."
"Motherfucker. Some of us are at work and don't want to have a drilled out anus pop up on their fucking screen. Christ."
"I hate your guts.", "WTF you fucking asshole.", "Fucking troll, do not click there"
"I hope you die in a fire before you are old enough to contaminate the gene pool."
"It would be more interesting if I had a piece of pipe and your face, in close proximity so I could smash your face beyond recognition,"
"Bravo teeny bopper. You're a really mature mother fucker (or do you prefer father fucking? Damn you homo erotic shittter)."
"Wait! I think I hear your mommy calling to give your tongue a good soap washing. And maybe she'll execute you too"
"I did not even bother to look, but this same idiot has been doing this for weeks now. Fuck off asshole."
"Asshole. literally. Goatse is so old. Grow up you fool."
"Asshole... Ginormous asshole, in fact."
"Ugh. Goatse. You asshole."
"Better than you, you arse bandit."
"You're a lowlife faggot piece of shit."
"Ah, a sheep troll. "Baaa! I post disgusting photos! Baaa!"

Dumbassess talking:
"Hey moron, try using different links."
"You fucking piece of shit!" , "You sorry piece of shit.", "You cunt.", "Fuck you." "Get fucked"
"What a retard..... enough said...."
"Yup, this is what your life amounted to. Posting goatse on Slashdot and collecting comment trophies."

Strong emotion:
""No ads? Kwel!" click... "WTF!! My eyes!!!! rip.... them.... OFF!!"
"FUCK.YOU.ASS.HOLE."
"i WAS eating lunch you ass!"
"Oh dear god my eyes. Haven't seen THAT awful image in a while."
"My eyes are burning... argh! Damn you!"
"MY EYES... dude i am at work here "S "
"WARNING: Don't click on the parent's link! Damn goatse! The first I experienced, no less.
"Oh goddammit. I didn't need that right before bed."
"Goatse warning! I'm still recovering."
"Please friends, I beg of you, do not click that link! Do not look at that image, whatever you do! It is a bad image! It is a goatse image."

Frustration:
"Can someone make a fucking goatse blocker firefox plugin please? This is pissing me off now."
"I am sick and tired of that crap on /. "
"Don't visit the link above, everyone. -sigh- Especially at work."
"Doh! One has to also recognize data urls. *sigh*"
"Damn! Mod this fucker to hell"
"*sigh* Goatse alert..."

Philosophy:
"Goatse trolls are getting better these days..."
"Why the sudden coordinated campaign for Goatse? Is someone making money off this?"
"You're right, this is the most coordinated troll campaign in a long time. Multiple accounts, multiple pages."
"Urgh...dammit, am I the only one thinking the goatse trolls are getting worse lately than they have been in the past five years?"
"Who found a way to monetize goatse at this late date? If we got half the effort of that campaign on real stuff we'd all have better software by now."
"Boy Goatsex is out in force today... - Every topic is littered with them..."
"You can't actually expect the Slashdot users to actually know enough not to respond to a goatse troll, right ?"
"Can we start banning people who post that hiding it behind a url shortening link like goo.gl?"
"How many times are you going to spam this link? Like we don't know where that goes......"

"Wow, all these years I managed to avoid seeing the goatse.cx guy, priding myself on my resilience to clicking on random image links from friends and trolls alike, taking comfort in the fact that I could identify a shock JPG based on a few lines of pixels while the holding the clipped window at the edge of my screen, and yet... now it's all for naught."

Admiration:
"Giggles. That made my day. Thank you."
"You are one dedicated troll."
"Well played, sir. Well played."
"A link that redirects to a page containing goatse? How clever of you!"
"Congrats. It's been a long time since I saw goatse."
"Thank you for that informational link"
"Interesting use of Data URLs for Goatse linking."
"Well played, sir. It's been a while since I've been Goatse'd"

Misc:
"The GP's post is just to get you to click a link with the Goatse man's picture on it."
"WARNING! Above link is not something anyone wants to see!"
"That's somewhat clever, but some of us do know what base-64 encoding is."
"Nice. Asshole."
"Long time since I've been rickrolled with goatse!"
"Goatse URL - Haven't seen that guy in a while"
"The fuck is a goatse? it's some dude pulling his arse open."
"Could not someone at slashdot write a small script to blacklist url's that have been flagged troll? I'll do it if you pay me a slave wage..."
"Parent should be modded down. Link is NSFW and mentally scarring."
"Just post the damn url, i'm not going to click on a tinyurl link and get goatse'd or something.."
"Someone please mod this guy down... Don't click his link."
"Mod to -1, please. this guy is an 'asshole'.... (yes, you guessed it)"
"Don't click the link! Goatse wannabe."
"Danger, goatse"

Not really (1)

Trufagus (1803250) | more than 2 years ago | (#36535258)

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.

Re:Not really (2)

Fusen (841730) | more than 2 years ago | (#36535438)

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 the standard browser bundled with the phone.

Re:Not really (2)

johnnysaucepn (1263108) | more than 2 years ago | (#36539108)

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. That allows it to save the heavy lifting of page processing, but still reflow and resize the page once downloaded.

Re:Not really (1)

Fusen (841730) | more than 2 years ago | (#36539930)

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.

Re:Not really (1)

Repossessed (1117929) | more than 2 years ago | (#36535540)

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.

7 fucking pages? (0, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36535526)

7 pages for a list of 10?

I guess I'm supposed to be grateful it's not 10 pages?

I'm not reading that shit. There should be a law against submitting these to slashdot.

Re:7 fucking pages? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36540216)

7 pages for a list of 10? I guess I'm supposed to be grateful it's not 10 pages? I'm not reading that shit. There should be a law against submitting these to slashdot.

I happened to be using Safari so I just clicked the "reader" button in the URL bar and it consolidated it all into one page. There are plugins or built in features for most browsers to do the same. Are you still using IE or something?

Firefox on Android (2)

drgroove (631550) | more than 2 years ago | (#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:Firefox on Android (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36535824)

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

Re:Firefox on Android (2)

Skuto (171945) | more than 2 years ago | (#36536168)

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).

Re:Firefox on Android (1)

JimboFBX (1097277) | more than 2 years ago | (#36538052)

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 up tapping, instead of what is dead center of your touch zone. I mean, I sort of see why that is, but there were numerous occasions when I first got it when I couldn't get the damned thing to follow a link squeezed in between two other links.

I don't mind the no flash

I have an atrix 4G so I dont notice any speed problems...

Re:Firefox on Android (3, Insightful)

bemymonkey (1244086) | more than 2 years ago | (#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...

Re:Firefox on Android (1)

L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) | more than 2 years ago | (#36538904)

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.

Important features missing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36535598)

None of them support my gopher homepage !
Nor do they support wml, for that matter...

WP7 (1)

bhcompy (1877290) | more than 2 years ago | (#36535638)

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.

Re:WP7 (1)

Billly Gates (198444) | more than 2 years ago | (#36536698)

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.

Re:WP7 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36542798)

It was written in native code, and Microsoft decided to disallow native code apps on WP7. There never was a ".NET port" of Firefox.

Write once, debug everywhere (1)

Animats (122034) | more than 2 years ago | (#36535662)

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.

Re:Write once, debug everywhere (1)

Edam (911039) | more than 2 years ago | (#36538948)

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!

Re:Write once, debug everywhere (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36540782)

SMS on a teletype -- that is very cool!

The stupid, it burns! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36535716)

First sentence of the last paragraph on the first page: "Firefox, for instance, runs only on Android and Nokia phones. On the iPhone, Firefox synchronizes only bookmarks..." How does Firefox do anything on the iPhone if it only runs on Android and Nokia phones?

Re:The stupid, it burns! (1)

Skuto (171945) | more than 2 years ago | (#36536216)

There's a separate Firefox Sync app. But that's not the full browser, obviously.

QVGA Screens (1)

asdf7890 (1518587) | more than 2 years ago | (#36539598)

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 pixels which QVGA does not have in either orientation.

Obviously you are never going to do an awful lot on a QVGA display so I can understand it not being a priority for the developers, but I find my phone surprisingly useful for reading some of the morning's news when I'm on a bus or train and there are things I might like to have FF on my poor little phone for. There are many people out there with such low-res devices so it would be nice for the developers to at least do cursory tests on them so they can state in the system requirements "may not be entirely usable on a display less than 480 pixels wide".

Re:QVGA Screens (1)

asdf7890 (1518587) | more than 2 years ago | (#36572372)

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.

Skyfire only plays Flash VIDEO (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36547160)

The one paragraph in that entire article that the summarist chose to quote is the one with errors! Skyfire browser only plays Flash video. Their app description actually says that it does not play flash content ("games and apps").

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