A lightning Bolt?

One of the hazards of fiddling with new technology, as I do, is that you become prone to sudden urges to spend large sums of money.

There I was experimenting with a couple of mobile Internet browsers, when I came to the sudden realisation that I need a mobile phone with a bigger screen and which doesn’t connect to the Internet via the treacle-slow GPRS network.

My bank manager doesn’t agree with the ‘need’ part so my upgrade plans will have to wait. Luckily, I found that, using one of the mobile browsers, both free, will go some way to improving my mobile Internet experience in the meantime.

Last week, I said that my Blackberry 8520’s built-in browser left a lot to be desired and so I popped along to get GetJar.com and found and downloaded two new browsers to play with. The first was Opera Mini, a mobile version of the Opera desktop browser that I’ve mentioned before, and the other was a program called Bolt, which is developed by Bitstream.

Both browsers will work on just about any Web-capable mobile phone and, when installed, put an icon on the phone’s menu or home screen. Clicking the icon fires up the browser with both the interfaces being of so familiar, that one can get straight on and start surfing the Web.

Both have very minimal clean-looking interfaces with, at the top, fields for entering a Web address or keywords to search for. Right underneath, Bolt has a number of tabs you can click on to access your browsing history, favourites and feeds.

Opera Mini uses its front page to display subheadings for bookmarks and history and, although it looks slightly different to Bolt, there isn’t much functional difference between them. The prohram controls are easy to access although the exact means will vary from phone to phone.

On my Blackberry for example, you press the Menu key and get a pop-up menu with the options and commands available to you.

Opera allows you to select History, Enter Address, Start Page, Bookmarks and Help. Bolt has a few more options to do with saving webpages and creating folders on your phone.

Both browsers have keyboard shortcuts listed in their Help sections and I feel that it would be very useful to note these down because it is sometimes is a bit time-consuming to keep going to the Menu to access the commands you want.

I used the browsers for surfing largely text-based websites, including reference and news sites that I visit regularly, and they worked perfectly for that. Both can be set to render webpages so that they fit into the width of the screen available, making them easy to read through.

Opera and Bolt both have a scheme whereby their company servers compress web pages before they are sent to you, which has the result they are only 10%, or less, of the size they would be if viewed with a conventional desktop browser.

The dramatic reduction in the amount of data sent to the phone results in quicker download times and reduced network data costs. Unfortunately, even this wasn’t enough to make my phone viable for looking at videos and listening to music online.

I have been thinking about which of the two browsers I prefer but I haven’t managed to answer that. A report issued in April 2010 said that 69% of the worldwide mobile Internet traffic was then being carried by Bolt, which means that more people seem to prefer it.

On the other hand, I think Opera Mini is pretty good too.

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