I just blogged that 88% of my mobile device usage is with a browser. I dare say that if I had a device that was fast enough, had a good enough touchscreen and offered a real, http-based client browser then i’d be happy. Indeed, my own ideal device specifications from Feb 2006 run along those lines with the definition being open to any processing platform as long as it delivers a quality Internet experience.
This is the reason that I’m very interested in seeing how good Opera Mobile 9.5 is on the ARM Smartphone platforms. If it’s good enough its going to elevate big-screen smartphones into devices that I’d consider alongside an Intel MID. Take the iPaq 210/214 for example. Its only got a VGA touchscreen and no 3G but with Opera Mobile 9.5 it really could satisfy a lot of peoples mobile Internet requirements for a Nokia N810-beating price.
Matt Miller of ‘The Mobile Gadgeteer’ says Opera 9.5 is the ‘Best mobile browser I’ve ever used.’ and that it ‘provides more functionality than the rather revolutionary Apple iPhone browser.’ I say that this browser will make many people think twice about buying a MID because it not only looks and reacts well but its got some very nice advanced features. But there are clearly limitations. Google Docs didn’t work in Matts test which, although you may not use Google docs, should be a concern if you depend on complex sites like Meebo, iGoogle, Facebook etc. Flash-Lite is included which is good but how are other media types presented and supported? How fast can it render the full-fat Google Reader webpage? I know it takes a low-power PC about 15 seconds to render my Google Reader page. Any smartphone on the market today is going to have trouble doing that in under 25 seconds.
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Putting it all into perspective, I think this is fantastic progress for mobile Internet users and may encourage OEMS to think more about the mobile Internet in their Windows Mobile device designs by including faster processors and bigger screens but for a real mobile Internet experience there shouldn’t be any compromises or limitations in the browser and any knowledge of such limitations is going to be a concern, especially if your business work depends on it. That’s why I still use a PC-based mobile device when I’m on the go.