On web browsers for BlackBerry devices

The browser with which my BlackBerry Curve 8520 came is called Web’n’Walk and, while it does have its limitations, it works well enough for much of what I want to do. Many of the sites that I want to visit while away from a PC have mobile versions that are sufficiently functionality for much of what I needed to do. Names like GMail, Google Reader, Met Office and National Rail come to mind here and the first two are regularly visited while on the move. They work well to provide what I need too. Nevertheless, one of the things that I have found with mobile web browsing is that I am less inclined to follow every link that might arouse my interest. Sluggish response times might have something to do with it but navigating the web on a small screen is more work too. Therefore, I have been taking a more functional approach to web usage on the move rather than the more expansive one that tends to happen on a desktop PC.

For those times when the default browser was not up to the task, I installed Opera Mini. It certainly has come in very useful for keeping an the Cheshire East bus tracker and looking at any websites without mobile versions for when I decide to look at such things. Downloading any of these does take time and there’s the reality of navigating a big page on a small screen. However, I have discovered that the browser has an annoying tendency to crash and it did it once while I was awaiting a bus. The usual solution, rightly or wrongly, has been to delete the thing and reinstall it again with the time and device restarts that entails. While I got away with it once, it seems to mean losing whatever bookmarks or favourites that you have set up too, a real nuisance. Because of this, I am not going to depend on it as much any more. Am I alone in experiencing this type of behaviour?

Because of Opera’s instability, I decided on seeking alternative approaches. One of these was to set up bookmarks for the aforementioned bus tracker on Web ‘n’ Web. What is delivered in the WAP version of the site and it’s not that user friendly at all. When it comes to selecting a bus stop to monitor, it asks for a stance number. Only for my nous, I wouldn’t have been able to find the ID’s that I needed. That’s not brilliant but I worked around it to make things work for me. The observation is one for those who design mobile versions of websites for public use.

Another development is the discovery of Bolt Browser and, so far, it seems a worthy alternative to Opera Mini too. There are times when it lives up to the promise of faster web page loading but that is dependent on the strength of the transmission signal. A trial with the Met Office website showed it to be capable though there were occasions when site navigation wasn’t as smooth as it could have been. Up to now, there have been no crashes like what happened to Opera Mini so it looks promising. If there is any criticism, it is that it took me a while to realise how to save favourites (or bookmarks). While the others that I have used have a button on the screen for doing so, Bolt needs you to use the application menu. Other than that, the software seems worthy of further exploration.

All in all, surfing the mobile remains an area of continued exploration for me. Having found my feet with it, I remain on the lookout for other web browsers for the BlackBerry platform. It is true that OS 6 features a Webkit-powered browser but I’m not buying another device to find out how good that is. What I am after are alternatives that work on the device that I have. Porting of Firefox’s mobile edition would be worthwhile but its availability seems to be limited to Nokia’s handsets for now. Only time will reveal where things are going.

A new phone

Nokia 1661

For someone with an more than passing interest in technology, it may come as a surprise to you to learn that mobile telephony isn’t one of my strong points at all. That’s all the more marked when you cast your eye back over the developments in mobile telephone technology in recent years. Admittedly, until I subscribed to RSS feeds from the likes of TechRadar, the computing side of the area didn’t pass my way very much at all. That act has has alerted me to the now unmissable fact that mobile phones have become portable small computers, regardless of whether it is an offering from Apple or not. After the last few years, no one can say that things haven’t got really interesting.

In contrast to all the excitement, I only got my first phone in 2000 and stuck with it since and that was despite its scuffs and scratches along with its battery life troubles. Part of the reason for this is a certain blindness induced by having the thing on a monthly contract. As that is not sufficient to hide away the option of buying a phone on its own, then there’s the whole pay as you go arena too. The level of choice is such that packages such as those mentioned gain more prominence and potentially stop things in their tracks but I surmounted the perceived obstacles to buy a Nokia 1661 online from the Carphone Warehouse and collect it from the nearest store. The new replacement for my old Motorola is nothing flashy. Other phones may have nice stuff like an on-board camera or web access but I went down the route of sticking with basic functionality, albeit in a modern package with a colour screen. Still, for around £35, I got something that adds niceties like an alarm clock and a radio to the more bread and butter operations like making and taking phone calls and text messaging. Pay as you go may have got me the phone for less but I didn’t need a new phone number since I planned to slot in my old SIM card anyway; incidentally, the latter operation was a doddle once I got my brain into gear.

Now that I have replaced my mobile handset like I would for my land-line phone, I am left wondering why I dallied over the task for as long as I have. It may be that the combination of massive choice and a myriad of packages that didn’t appeal to me stalled things. With an increased awareness of the technology and options like buying a SIM card on its own, I can buy with a little more confidence now. Those fancier phones may tempt but I’ll be treating them as a nice to have rather than essential purchases. Saying all of this, the old handset isn’t going into the bin just yet though. It may be worn and worthless but its tri-band capabilities (I cannot vouch for the Nokia on this front) may make it a useful back up for international travel. The upgrade has given me added confidence for trying again when needs must but there is no rush and that probability of my developing an enthusiasm for fancy handsets is no higher.