Mobile Browsers Part 2 | User Installable Browsers

This post is a continuation of my Mobile Browsers series. In the first part we covered What Mobile Browsers are and mentioned the categories of Mobile Browsers as Pre-Installed Browsers and User Installable Browsers. We covered Pre-Installed browsers, which mobile operating systems platforms they are available to and the features they each bring to the table in relation to the level of the mobile device they run on.

Today, we will continue on and cover User Installable browsers. You might wonder why we are learning more about mobile browsers, this is because if you are a mobile web programmer or designer you need to know how the different browsers display information and which features are available to them. This way you will be able to design and develop a more efficient and user friendly mobile web.

User Installable Browsers

User Installable Browsers are basically free and commercial web browsers that you can install after you purchase your mobile device. In some cases they might be included on the mobile device depending on the locale of the mobile vendor or the mobile operator.

Opera Mini

First on the list is obviously Opera Mini. Opera Mini has been a favorite mobile browser because of its speed owing to proxy browsing and its efficiency. Where Opera failed in desktop browsers it made up for in mobile browsers. Their experience in mobile browsers enabled Opera Mini being installed on over 125 million smart phones not to mention the low and mid end mobile devices.

Opera Mini is a full browser with tab and cursor navigation that at times comes pre-installed on devices replacing the device default browser. Opera is also available for download, the latest versions have been designed for high end devices with touch capability hence supporting smart zoom and more advanced features like widgets.

Opera Mini continues to be the best Java ME applications ever produced, being that it is a free browser that works almost on any device. Opera Mini supports “the full web” through proxy browsing, meaning you do not access the websites directly, instead the application will contact an Opera Mini server and will compress and pre-render the websites. This allows very speedy full web navigation for all devices whether low-end or smart phone.

Version 4 onwards supports video playback, Ajax, offline reading and smart zooming even on low-end devices. Version 5 supports tabbed browsing, a password manager and touch navigation in devices with touch support. You can download Opera Mini n your device by browsing to http://m.opera.com. For Android or iOS devices you can find Opera Mini in the Android Market and the App Store respectively.

Firefox for Mobile

Mozilla Firefox has been a giant in Desktop browsers and has failed miserably in the Mobile Browsers world. However, it is not too late for The Mozilla Foundation and its arrival in the mobile world can be a good thing for Mobile Web programmers that is if its reputation with Desktop Browsers follows.

Mozilla Firefox Mobile has been released for Maemo devices like the Nokia N900. Mozilla Firefox Mobile uses the same Gecko Engine as the Firefox Desktop Browser. An Android version has also been released and more information is available at http://www.mozilla.com/mobile. Nothing much can be said on this Mobile Browser, since it is still a relatively new mobile browser.

UC Browser

UC Browser formerly known as UCWEB is the #1 browser in the Chinese market and is now available in English for other markets. Similar to Opera Mini it is also a proxy-based browser supporting full HTML and JavaScript, multiple windows and many more advanced features. Free downloads are available for Java ME, Windows Mobile, Symbian and even iPhone devices (only those with jailbreak). You can download the browser from http://www.uc.cn/English

SkyFire

SkyFire is a free proxied browser for Windows Mobile, BlackBerry, and S60 devices with full web support, Flash and video streaming. Websites are pre-renderd on the SkyFire Server, using the Gecko rendering engine same as Firefox. You can download it from http://www.skyfire.com.

Bolt

Bolt is another free proxied browser that allows the user to see full websites, including video and audio content. It is based on Java ME, like Opera Mini nad it’s also compatible with BlackBerry devices. Bolt Lite is a low-end version without multimedia support. You can download Bolt from http://www.boltbrowser.com

Chromium

Chromium is the name of the Google Chrome Desktop open source project. As it is an open source project, anyone can create a port for different mobile devices. Chromium has been ported non-officially for the Nokia smart phone N900 (Maemo). Google has not officially ported the browser to any mobile devices.

Other browsers also available are the Blaze for Garnet OS (formerly known as Palm OS); ibisBrowser, a Japanese Java ME-based browser; Konqueror embedded for Linux devices; Steel, a free Android alternative browser; Phantom browser for new LG devices; and ThunderHack for Windows Mobile, Symbian and Java ME devices.

If there are any other favorite mobile browsers that I might not have mentioned or if you need to provide some extra information on these mobile browsers then feel free to drop a line or two below.

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