A Preview Of The Skyfire Web Browser
As I just got an email saying that Skyfire is about to release their browser to a wider audience, I figure now would be a good time to post my initial thoughts on the Skyfire browser. I don’t have a Windows Mobile device, but the folks at Skyfire lent me one for a couple of weeks preloaded with an early beta version of their software.
The demos I saw were real. It renders a page very much like Firefox on my desktop. The main issue, of course, was the screen size. I could scroll around the page and zoom-in on the sections I wanted to see. I was told the page renders at 1024×768 internally, which is great for getting an overall view of the page, but it does mean a lot of scrolling on a 320×240 screen.
Reading text on the browser was hard until I was told about the SmartFit feature. Much like the Webkit-based Nokia S60 web browser, it was able to resize the main text on the web page to the size of the browser window.
Flash-based videos worked on the page at an acceptable frame rate. The main problem I had was getting the “zoom” positioned on the screen so I could see it more or less full screen.
There were a couple of text entry niggles. The text entry actually happens in a window at the bottom on the screen–not on the web page like I would expect. It also, at least in the version I played with, did not mask the password fields. It also did not allow me to enter a zero on one particular page.
I don’t know if this is a Skyfire browser issue or an issue with the phone I was using, but I found it tricky to do the touch the screen and zoom thing. My guess is the phone wasn’t always recognizing my double-tap. It was kind of neat when it worked, though.
One other issue I noticed is that the app is not terribly tolerant of changes to the network connectivity. Verizon is not exactly a reliable carrier in my neck of the woods, so it drops out of EVDO and/or 1xRTT range on occasion. The app tends to want to be restarted when this happens. I thought Windows Mobile handled this situation gracefully–perhaps moreso than S60 does. I’m told this will be better in future versions–maybe the beta that’s about to be released will be better.
One other bummer is that S60 support for Skyfire has been pushed back to the summer. I was originally told later in Q1, but Q1 is basically over. It will be interesting to see if they manage to make this work as well or better on my Nokia N95.
Of course, all of the above may be fixed by the time you get your copy of the browser. Let me know what you think if and when you do get your hands on it.