Building simple cHTML sites for the less-capable Phone/PDA/textmode browsers seems to be my passion lately, and so I thought I share some statistics with you. As you might know, the new OSNews “mobile” pages went live last weekend and we got some preliminary results: Around 0.85% of all OSNews impressions browse with at least one of the supported mobile devices (about 2,000 daily page views out of an overall average of 170,000). About 1,100 of these 2,000 page views are unique hits.
The most used browsers are the text mode Lynx and Links, followed by AvantGo. These three browsers account for more than 65% of the browsers using the mobile site.
The rest are usually PocketPCs or Smartphones, a Siemens M55/S55 phone user (you know who you are 🙂 who seems to browse a lot with his UP.Browser, w3m, ELinks, JPluck, Plucker, PalmOS online browsers, Opera on Symbian & on Zaurus (please turn off the “small rendering” Opera feature when browsing OSNews.com, renders better without it), a few Danger HipTop/Sidekicks, some BlackBerries and many more different phone/embedded/TV browsers. (Note to new users: WAP-only browsers should use our WAP site instead of our c/HTML one. Also, J-PHONE and non-Opera SonyEricsson browsers will be redirected to another special page which is even lighter than our normal mobile page).
The latest gem found in our stats was this one: tSi Mozilla/5_EXPERIMENTAL (AmigaOS 4.1 ALPHA; PowerPC).
I would like to urge webmasters on other sites to start building a simple version of their site (easy to render, no complex tables, no nested tables, no frames, your best bet is cHTML for best compatibility with such browsers). In Japan many people are using their phones as the only way to get information, while more capable PDA browsers are now around and people are buying PDAs with Wi-Fi built-in, so it becomes even more important to be able to serve pages that are “compatible” and render well on small screens (120×100 is OSNews mobile site’s minimum requirements).
Usually the way to test these browsers is via emulators (and Linux/Unix for the textmode browsers), which in most cases are available for a free download. I have compiled a comprehensive list of mobile/textmode/embedded user agents not found elsewhere in one place (there are many user agent lists online (including browscap.ini in use with get_browser() PHP function) but none focusing directly on mobile/text browsers — this one is good but still incomplete for example) and I am willing to share our PHP mobile detection code with any webmaster truly interested in adding a mobile version to their site (just send me an email).
POST/PHP-Nuke webmasters can activate their AvantGo module to automatically create easy-to-render pages, however Nukes don’t automatically redirect the user to the right page based on the user-agent, neither they recognize any other mobile browser except AvantGo itself.