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The life and times of james Hart: his family, his music, life in Luton and his occasional escapes onto the internet.

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Thursday, 18 December 2008

Skyfire browser for the i600 (and other Windows Mobile 5 Smartphones) comes to the UK

Using the internet on my mobile phone has been functional but frustrating; some sites (like the BBC, Twitter and Facebook) have versions of their pages suitable for mobiles, but on the whole they are extremely basic, and very limited in what they can do.

This is as much a limitation of the devices as anything (and I include the iPhone/iPod touch in this, despite the fact that it's possible to format pages to look really good on its screen) since the display is small and the processor is quite low-powered, but it's still irksome that platform developers (like Adobe with the otherwise almost-ubiquitous Flash) tend not to make a version for current or legacy mobile operating systems. In some respects, phones are considered commodity items; if you want a new operating system (like Windows Mobile 7) you have to buy a new phone.

Pocket Internet Explorer on the i600 is rubbish.

It's possible to install Opera Mini if you're willing to go through the hassle of installing the java engine, or you can buy (as I did) the full version of Opera Mobile, which gives you multiple windows and something approaching a usable browsing experience. But it's still not quite there.

As I mentioned in a previous blog entry, my HP iPaq hx4700 runs minimo, which is of about an equivalent standard to Opera Mobile, but even that's no longer being supported, in favour of Fennec, which isn't even available for Windows Mobile (yet?)

So you can imagine how pleased I was that - finally - Skyfire beta is now available in the UK, and can easily be installed on my i600!

It promises 'the full web' and, on the whole it delivers it, which is something of an impressive achievement given the small screen it has to do so! There's a mouse cursor, controlled by the direction buttons, to select elements on the page; it can zoom into sections of the screen, and, most importantly display video!

BBC's iPlayer works; justin.tv works; I can even use Facebook and all the silly applications it offers. I've had some trouble playing BBC News clips, and it has to keep turning the screen light back on when I'm watching something (or I have to keep fiddling with the mouse!), but this is honestly the best browsing experience I've had.

I'm intrigued how it works, though - there are some clues here. This is definitely in the top five things to happen to my i600, and I would very much recommend it to anyone else who's got one!

Posted by james at December 18, 2008 9:02 PM

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