Times change. If Internet was the main tech revolution of 1990’s, mobile communications is the revolution of our time. The next step will be to fully merge these two concepts and allow users to browse the web via their phone at very cheap rates. Today, we look at the various offerings found on most phones. Our hope is that we will familiarize you with some of these solutions and so the next time you buy a phone, you actually also check what browser it’s using. That will be a good step towards making carriers and phone manufacturers aware that the mobile web users exist!Note: There are many mobile browsers out there, but we will focus on the most important ones. The ones we mention below make up to 99% of the phone market. The browsers below are in an order that we believe represents the best-to-worse (in our personal experience with them as both users and web developers).
Sample user agent: Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 6.0; Symbian OS; Nokia 6600/4.09.1; 6936) Opera 8.50 [en] (Nokia 6600 Series 60 phone)
Sample user agent: Mozilla/4.0 (MobilePhone MM-8300/US/1.0) NetFront/3.1 MMP/2.0 (Sanyo MM-8300 phone)
Nokia’s S60 Browser
Sample user agent: Mozilla/5.0 (SymbianOS/9.1; U; en-us) AppleWebKit/109 (KHTML, like Gecko) Safari/109 (this is not final, it’s going to change)
Pocket Internet Explorer
Sample user agent: Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 4.01; Windows CE; PPC; 240×320) (any Pocket PC phone)
Disclaimer: My husband works for Openwave Systems Inc, whose browser is reviewed below.
Sample user agent: SIE-M65/50 UP.Browser/22.214.171.124.d.3(GUI) MMP/2.0 Profile/MIDP-2.0 Configuration/CLDC-1.1 (Siemens M65 phone)
Sample user agent: Samsung-SPHA920 AU-MIC-A920/2.0 MMP/2.0 (Samsung SPHa920 phone)
Sony Ericsson’s SEMC-Browser
Sample user agent: SonyEricssonK750i/R1N Browser/SEMC-Browser/4.2 Profile/MIDP-2.0 Configuration/CLDC-1.1 UP.Link/126.96.36.199.0 (Sony Ericsson K750i phone)
Nokia’s Series 40 Browser
This is Nokia’s older browser for their non-smartphone Series 40 line. It was also ported to Series 60 at one point, usually used when Netfront or Opera were not bundled with a given smartphone. In terms of capabilities is similar to the Sony Ericsson’s latest browser. Nothing impressive about it, but it does work well on simple cHTML pages and WML.
Sample user agent:
Nokia6230i/2.0 (03.23) Profile/MIDP-2.0 Configuration/CLDC-1.1 (Nokia 6230i phone)
Opera Mini has been greeted with lots of enthusiasm. But it’s not suitable for all users. The browser’s strong point is the fact that it’s server side which optimizes the download process of pages, resulting in paying much less in GPRS charges. For example, OSNews’ mobile front page is 30 KBs normally, but Opera Mini’s server can bring it down to 10KBs with special compression. This means that (with Cingular’s GPRS rates) it will cost the user about $0.10 instead of $0.30, and this is a very welcome feature. On the down-side though, Opera Mini can not offer all kinds of interaction between the user and a remote site because of the server used in the middle. So to buy a ticket or have heavy Ajax, JS or CSS support you will also need some luck. The consesus is that if you are using a smartphone or good-enough browser, stick with it, except if you pay lots for GPRS or your native phone browser is really bad, in which case use Opera Mini.
Sample user agent: Opera/8.01 (J2ME/MIDP; Opera Mini/1.2.2958; en; U; ssr) (undisclosed Java-capable phone)
Motorola’s Native Browser
This is the worst browser of all, and unfortunately it’s used a lot because Motorola’s GSM phones sell a lot. It’s not only restrictive and refuses to load most pages, but even its plain WAP support is problematic some times. I don’t know how Motorola is getting away with such a terrible application. Stay away at all costs, or install Opera Mini if you must have one of their GSM feature phones (their Linux phones come with Opera and their NexTel ones come with Openwave, usually).
Sample user agent: MOT-E398/0E.20.59R MIB/2.2.1 Profile/MIDP-2.0 Configuration/CLDC-1.0 (Motorola E398 phone)