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March 11, 2012

Nokiapp Showdown #5 – browsers

We all use them, more in some cases than in others, and there’s a wide choice out there, so here at Nokia Connects we decided to let a couple of our friends decide which mobile browser is best.

Dennis and Izzi share their take on mobile browsers. By the end of this post, you’ll have everything you need at your fingertips to make an informed decision on which to use – or maybe you already have your favourite.

Opera Mini on the N8

From Dennis’ Twitter profile

Opera Mini is my primary Web browser on the Nokia N8. I prefer it because it’s the fastest browser I’ve found.

The secret of Opera Mini’s speed is that it’s a proxy or server assisted browser. The Symbian app is a thin client that talks to an Opera server in the ‘cloud’. The server is running a full blown desktop browser that retrieves, parses and renders the requested web page. The page is then compressed by up to 90% and sent down to the Opera Mini client on the phone.

That means large complex pages load quickly even on slow, overloaded networks. How much faster? Check out the video below which shows Opera Mini loading a Wikipedia page four times faster than the Nokia browser. Opera Mini also reduces data consumption by as much as 90% saving users on metered data plans lots of money. It has a lot of other advantages over the built in browser including low memory consumption, bookmark sync and backup, user customizable search engines, easy text copying, offline browsing and for phones with keyboards, lots of one and two key shortcuts.

Nothing is perfect and that includes Opera Mini. The proxy architecture imposes some compromises. There’s no Flash Lite or geo-location support, animated GIFs are displayed as static images and JavaScript and HTML5 support is somewhat limited.

I think the trade offs are worth it and for 95% of the pages I visit Opera Mini gives a better browsing experience than any other browser. For the other 5%, the Nokia browser or Mini’s big brother Opera Mobile is a click away.

Opera Mini is available from the Nokia Store or (PC).

Dennis’ scores for Opera Mini:
Usability 5/5
Features 5/5
Longevity (would you keep it on your phone?) 5/5
Fit for purpose 4/5 (a few pages don’t work)

MiniBrowser 4.0 PLUS on Nokia Belle phones

MiniBrowser Mobile 4.0 PLUS could easily serve as an alternative to any browser you have on your Nokia Belle device.
It will catch your eye the first time you use it – its UI is responsive and intuitive and so easy to understand even for first time users. It’s fast and has a nice set of features.

I’ve used Nokia’s native browser and the popular Opera Mini, but I’m always in the hunt for undiscovered talent in the Nokia Store, and I hunted down MiniBrowser 4.0 PLUS. It’s a relatively unknown browser, but it is really good nonetheless and FAST with responsive controls. While it doesn’t have all the features in other browsers, it does have the necessary ones you’ll need.

Using MiniBrowser Mobile 4.0 PLUS is also like Firefox on mobile, with its tabs (don’t know just how many tabs you can have on this) you can open as many concurrent webpages without affecting the browser’s performance, and it has a really good caching featuring too. Its auto-hide menu also allows you to utilize the entire screen when viewing pages and the little icon on the bottom right pops the menu back up allowing you to do things from turning off images (saves you data consumption), ad-blocks, scripts, bookmark a page, enter new URL or even access your settings.

includes tabs with thumbnails
multi touch support: pinch to zoom
auto hide menu
easy translate from address bar
wikipedia access from address bar
Quick launch time
full editing options in web page (copy text, links, images and save to phone)
Easy access to bookmarks + creating bookmarks is 2 touches away!
turn on/off images
turn on/off scripting
display pages in desktop or mobile mode

no flash support (yet!)
no home-page
Laggy sometimes
no split screen QWERTY keyboard (still Anna style)

There’s a lot of potential with this browser and most of its shortcomings are nothing a couple of updates can’t fix.

Izzi’s scores for MiniBrowser Mobile 4.0 PLUS:
Usability 4/5 (it does lag/freeze on occasion)
Design 5/5
Features 4/5 (has necessary features, but no way to configure your own homepage)
Longevity (would you keep it on your phone?) 5/5 (updates are coming, so you’ll want to keep this)
Fit for purpose 3/5 (no flash and lack of split screen QWERTY k/board makes it NOT a 1st choice browser)


So there’s two different takes on mobile browser choice. Which browser do you use? Let us know by leaving a comment or condense your thoughts into 140 characters and send them to us @Nokia_Connects