iPhone's web browser display method: Dumb?

Scott R

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Jobs likes to claim that the iPhone can deliver "the real web," and it certainly sounds like the browser itself is quite powerful, but there are several problems here:

1) The iPhone has a maximum screen width (when held in landscape mode) of 480 pixels. The majority of web sites are optimized for an 800-pixel-wide screen. The iPhone doesn't seem to reformat pages to fit the screen (i.e., rescale graphics and wrap text). So that means that with the iPhone, you're either going to be looking at a "10 mile view" of a web page where you can see the entire width of the page but can't read the text, or you'll zoom in to read text and need to scroll horizontally. Jobs touts this as some sort of innovation. Correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't many early (and even later) web browsers for the Palm OS and PPC work this way? Most people (and the companies behind them) decided it sucked and changed course to instead reformat web pages to fit onto the smaller screen.

2) Even if the iPhone had an 800-pixel-wide screen, the only time it could deliver on its promise to provide a "desktop-quality" web browsing experience would be when you were connected via WiFi. Well, this is a phone primarily, not an internet tablet, and much of the time you're going to need to connect to the web via the cell carrier's data network. In this case, we're talking EDGE, which will be exceptionally painful. This pain is only increased because of point #1.

Sorry, but you can't change physics. The phone lacks the minimum desktop resolution width to deliver a readable no-horizontal-scrolling-required web page, and the data network it's tied to lacks the speed required to deliver these web pages in an acceptable timeframe. IMO, the current Treo, WM, and Symbian S60 browsers have the better approach. If a phone comes out with an 800-pixel-wide screen, I would agree that offering a full-size-view would make sense, but even then it should offer some sort of "fast" view which attempts to reduce page retrieval times when accessing the web when using a slower cell data connection.

Thoughts?
 

surur

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The iPhone is all about style over substance. What looks cooler - having a full web page and then having to zoom to read, or reformatting the web page for easy reading without horizontal scrolling?

On another website some-one said why is there no picture dialing on the main screen of the iPhone? That would enable one touch dialing of your most common contacts. Guess that wont be cool enough for Jobs.

As another poster said:

The iPhone only looks cool. You didn't think it would actually be cool, did you?

Surur
 

skfny

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Opera Mini 4 offers the mile view with zoom, and the formatted view. I agree that the lack of a fit-to-width option is silly.
 

TomUps

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On another website some-one said why is there no picture dialing on the main screen of the iPhone? That would enable one touch dialing of your most common contacts. Guess that wont be cool enough for Jobs.

There is a favorites screen in the phone app for most used contacts. But, it is atleast two taps away from the homescreen.
 

Certs

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There have been some attempts to make a browser like this. Picsel Browser is one of them, and I must say it works beautifully, although it is a FEW YEARS old it works the same way as safari. That being said, its still easier (although certainly not cooler) to use PIE with optimized web pages for the small screen.
 

surur

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Opera Mini 4 offers the mile view with zoom, and the formatted view. I agree that the lack of a fit-to-width option is silly.

I think the difference is that with Opera Mini the full web page gets rendered remotely, and the compressed image of sorts gets sent down, vs having to download the full-sized whole page, then render it at full size.

Obviously the browsing by proxy method used by opera mini is a lot faster, and uses the horsepower of a server somewhere else, vs the thick client-based iPhone approach.

Surur
 

bruckwine

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Jobs likes to claim that the iPhone can deliver "the real web," and it certainly sounds like the browser itself is quite powerful, but there are several problems here:

1) The iPhone has a maximum screen width (when held in landscape mode) of 480 pixels. The majority of web sites are optimized for an 800-pixel-wide screen. The iPhone doesn't seem to reformat pages to fit the screen (i.e., rescale graphics and wrap text). So that means that with the iPhone, you're either going to be looking at a "10 mile view" of a web page where you can see the entire width of the page but can't read the text, or you'll zoom in to read text and need to scroll horizontally. Jobs touts this as some sort of innovation. Correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't many early (and even later) web browsers for the Palm OS and PPC work this way? Most people (and the companies behind them) decided it sucked and changed course to instead reformat web pages to fit onto the smaller screen.

2) Even if the iPhone had an 800-pixel-wide screen, the only time it could deliver on its promise to provide a "desktop-quality" web browsing experience would be when you were connected via WiFi. Well, this is a phone primarily, not an internet tablet, and much of the time you're going to need to connect to the web via the cell carrier's data network. In this case, we're talking EDGE, which will be exceptionally painful. This pain is only increased because of point #1.

Sorry, but you can't change physics. The phone lacks the minimum desktop resolution width to deliver a readable no-horizontal-scrolling-required web page, and the data network it's tied to lacks the speed required to deliver these web pages in an acceptable timeframe. IMO, the current Treo, WM, and Symbian S60 browsers have the better approach. If a phone comes out with an 800-pixel-wide screen, I would agree that offering a full-size-view would make sense, but even then it should offer some sort of "fast" view which attempts to reduce page retrieval times when accessing the web when using a slower cell data connection.

Thoughts?

Wouldn't say 'dumb" but I agree esp point 1. - it's why we have mobile sites..not because thy have never (or couldn't make) full content browsers, but because at the speeds of GPRS, EDGE thy weren't veryuseful useful. Uncluttered mobile sites are easier to load them and even on UTMS using a ful webpage would be a pain due to the (lack of) screen size. It's hard enough using a 12" laptop monitor or 15" desktop one (who stil has one of those) but it sounds as if to get the same news on the iPhone will require constant zooming (pinching) in and out and sliding side to side. I think if they made it a REAL browser they should have def. included flash and java - that may balance the incovenience of real browsing. The only plus is you can visit the sites not formatted for mobile phones but it's still a pain to browse them like that I'd reckon.
 

marcol

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The way the Nokia S60 browser does this is it squeezes the text to 320 wide (on a 320 wide screen). So for instance on a page like the TreoCentral home page the central text fits perfectly across the screen (no sideways scrolling is required) and the adverts and stuff are out of view. That's how it looks when you first view a page, but you can also zoom out or scroll sideways etc if you wish. It may not sound that great from that description but it actually works extremely well and the browser has been widely praised as the best mobile browser around.

Safari on iPhone is based on the same core (WebKit) and I think works in a very similar fashion, except that you start in the zoomed out view. Notice that in the the demo on the Apple site and the Mossberg/Boehret tapping to zoom in leads to the tapped element filling the screen. I'd like to see more evidence but that seems to be how it works.

I will say this, in my opinion the Nokia browser is massively better than either Blazer or PIE. I'd rate it the standout feature on my E61. From what I've seen (caveat: not quite enough yet) I'd say iPhone Safari looks even better (much more fluid, and probably 'zoomed out' is the best way to start). Read the the reviews, they think the browser's a total wow (with Wifi!):

David Pogue, New York Times
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/06/27/technology/circuits/27pogue.html

Walter S. Mossberg and Katherine Boehret, The Wall Street Journal
http://solution.allthingsd.com/20070626/the-iphone-is-breakthrough-handheld-computer/

Steven Levy, Newsweek
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/19444948/site/newsweek/page/0/

Edward C. Baig, USA Today
http://www.usatoday.com/tech/columnist/edwardbaig/2007-06-26-iphone-review_N.htm
 

dstrauss#IM

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...Read the the reviews, they think the browser's a total wow (with Wifi!):

David Pogue, New York Times
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/06/27/technology/circuits/27pogue.html

Walter S. Mossberg and Katherine Boehret, The Wall Street Journal
http://solution.allthingsd.com/20070626/the-iphone-is-breakthrough-handheld-computer/

Steven Levy, Newsweek
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/19444948/site/newsweek/page/0/

Edward C. Baig, USA Today
http://www.usatoday.com/tech/columnist/edwardbaig/2007-06-26-iphone-review_N.htm

And that's my concern...WITH WIFI. I've been using a Blackjack with AT&T/Cingular since 11/06, and I'll tell you the difference between HSDPA and EDGE is the same as DSL and ISDN. EDGE is better than the old dial up standard, just a ISDN was, but it is a snail on web browsing of non-optimized sites. It works just fine for email and lite Googling though, and surprsingly well with Googles maps for mobiles. But trust me, you do not want to wait two minutes for the NYTimes real homesite to load.

WiFi is far from ubiquitous, particularly "free." Sure, if you want to subscribe to T-Mobile, load up on AT&T WiFi (if you have their telephone and internet at home), maybe get an Admiral's Club membership, then some of the places you frequent will be accessable. Until then, waiting for iPhone II and HSDPA may be your only solution.

That all said, I still lust for that screen. Mossberg's short video demo makes me believe you really can see the screen just like the Apple demos - nearly laptop screen quality. I just love the way my Blackjack start searching contact names the minute I type on the keyboard, but that screen on the iPhone is so good for old eyes. I just wish I could get past my personal experience with EDGE.
 

skfny

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I think the difference is that with Opera Mini the full web page gets rendered remotely, and the compressed image of sorts gets sent down, vs having to download the full-sized whole page, then render it at full size.

Obviously the browsing by proxy method used by opera mini is a lot faster, and uses the horsepower of a server somewhere else, vs the thick client-based iPhone approach.

Surur

You are correct, but with Apple's virtual ownership of AT&T, I would think a proxy server would not be too much to ask for. :)
 

Scott R

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I posted this in a recent thread, but I wanted to post it back here since this thread is specific to the topic and thought it would be good to get some new thoughts from people who either own or have played with the iPhone's browser. Anyways, here's the recent post I made in another thread...

********

I played with an iPhone at an Apple store on Saturday and played a bit more extensively with the web browser today with my brother's iPhone. After playing with it more, I confirmed my concerns. The browser is cool for showing off to others (when in a WiFi zone, in particular). The idea of displaying a desktop-optimized web page as-is sounds like a great idea in theory. Unfortunately, the iPhone doesn't have an 800-pixel-wide screen (which is what the majority of web sites are optimized for), so what you're left with is a mile-high view of a website where much of the text is unreadable. You then have to zoom in to certain portions of the page to read the actual text (often requiring horizontal scrolling).

What really surprised and disappointed me, though, was how it "handled" mobile-optimized websites. I navigated to one of mine and found that the iPhone wanted to display it as if it was a full-size website. So what I got was a mile-high view of unreadable text.

So one of the big things I would change (and I fear Jobs will be too stubborn to change, since it would require him effectively admitting that the mobile browser majority were already doing it right) would be to offer a "mobile optimized" mode which rescales graphics and wraps text to fit the iPhone's 320-pixel-width or 480-pixel-width (depending on how you're holding it) screen, eliminating the need for zooming in/out or scrolling right/left.
 

AnteL0pe

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You are correct, but with Apple's virtual ownership of AT&T, I would think a proxy server would not be too much to ask for. :)
I'm pretty sure that would make it slower, the EDGE network is actually pretty snappy in my experience. WiFi is obviously faster, but browsing at 120kbps (about 15KBps) is acceptable for browsing.
 

MacUser

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And that's my concern...WITH WIFI. I've been using a Blackjack with AT&T/Cingular since 11/06, and I'll tell you the difference between HSDPA and EDGE is the same as DSL and ISDN. EDGE is better than the old dial up standard, just a ISDN was, but it is a snail on web browsing of non-optimized sites. It works just fine for email and lite Googling though, and surprsingly well with Googles maps for mobiles. But trust me, you do not want to wait two minutes for the NYTimes real homesite to load.

WiFi is far from ubiquitous, particularly "free." Sure, if you want to subscribe to T-Mobile, load up on AT&T WiFi (if you have their telephone and internet at home), maybe get an Admiral's Club membership, then some of the places you frequent will be accessable. Until then, waiting for iPhone II and HSDPA may be your only solution.

That all said, I still lust for that screen. Mossberg's short video demo makes me believe you really can see the screen just like the Apple demos - nearly laptop screen quality. I just love the way my Blackjack start searching contact names the minute I type on the keyboard, but that screen on the iPhone is so good for old eyes. I just wish I could get past my personal experience with EDGE.
You should take a trip to an Apple or ATT store and check one out first-hand. As some others have posted, the EDGE service has not been THAT bad. Perhaps it's because you know that the extra seconds you wait are going to pay off in the beautiful rendering of the site you're visiting. We'd have to ask a psych major or do a study perhaps... At least, it make sense to me.

As they say, try it for yourself. And try to "bump" into someone and catch some video. That's where you get the most "wow's".
 

Scott R

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FWIW, in my limited play-time, I didn't find the EDGE speeds to be unbearable. My general philosophy is that any mobile device with a screen size less than 800 pixels wide (which is pretty much all of them), provides the optimum web browsing experience when browsing mobile-optimized websites. And when you're accessing sites like those, EDGE speeds are acceptable. The big problem I have with the iPhone is that it thinks it's "too good" for mobile-optimized websites and tries to display them as though they were desktop-optimized websites, resulting in too-tiny fonts in its default mile-high view.
 

Certs

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Yeah but a little pinch and the mobile text is readable. I actually think safari is the best part of the phone.

If edge kils you, most sites have mobile options that load faster. But it doesn't kill me, and I don't find it much slower than 3g (the WM device has to render the page and refit it to the small screen, while the iphone shows the page without those steps. Its definitelky slower, but not as much as you would think. Those 2 minute times I read are absolute BS.

You really have to use it to get the feel for it. Treocentral for instance, viewed in full is great. If I double click on apost, the browser:detects the text box, and zooms in precisely to where only that text box is on the screen. Very readable, and it takes a millisecond, literally. Trust me, there are many things that MSFT will copy here with their new OS