how are good are mobile browsers? can I try them out on the desktop?

the Wikipedia article http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mobile_browser lists a whole bunch of them. So, how good are they in displaying the typical non mobile, Javascript heavy page like Google News, counting both by user experience and by impact on the battery?

If I want to study this issue, can I install any of them on my desktop machine or else access an emulation online?

You can download the Android Development SDK, which includes an Android emulator.

http://developer.android.com/sdk/index.html

The mobile browsers are mostly based off the same rendering engines as the latest desktop browsers, so in rendering fidelity they are pretty good if not excellent.

However, beyond the browser itself, mobiles in general leaves much to be desired in terms of usability due to their general lack of usable keyboard, inability to hover, need to constantly zoom in and out, usable-but-not-perfect text reflow, relatively slow processor and connection speeds, limited RAM, imprecise digitization coupled with a screen-blocking finger, etc.

That said, many websites, including most Google services, have mobile-specific versions for iOS and Android, with interfaces redesigned for touch-screen use. Those tend to do much better. Well-designed apps do even better, but they’re not always available for all the services you want, and sometimes even when they are, they’re crappier than the website (Facebook for Android, I’m looking at you.)

In other words, I think the mobile browsers are doing great considering how much they have to try and adapt to websites that weren’t designed for them.

The Facebook mobile site sucks as well. I constantly have to tell it to go back to the full website. I wish that I could make it so that it doesn’t know I’m mobil.

Reply, is your experience with mobile browsing based on viewing websites directly or on viewing websites preprocessed on server in order to compress them, scrub parts of javascript and in general somehow modify them for more convenient display on the browser, such as http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Opera_Mini ? If the former, do you (or any other reader here) have a negative experience with that that you may want to share?

Also, I find it interesting how you mentioned the zoom in and out bit (you are doing a much better job fighting ignorance here than the light-on-facts Wikipedia article does :slight_smile: ). So do these browsers have a notion of “visual bookmark” of some sort to help you come back to a place where you have recently zoomed in?

Are there other such “obvious” aspects to mobile browsing that may be totally unobvious to the ignorant people who have never browsed on a mobile device or else who have never browsed on a particular browser (sort of like many IE users used to be ignorant of the “obvious” Mozilla tabs)?

I can say the android browser (I’m on a Xoom, here) is … ok.

Yeah, it got flash support a couple of weeks ago. Flash is still…well, functional, but not optimal.

Most pages load and run well. Some of the more data heavy flash sites (streaming video, mostly) are still a bit slow.

I’m a bit disappointed, since the Xoom is supposed to be the dual-core, furiously fast tablet. It’s not there yet, though it’s still pretty good and perhaps updates will bring it up to speed.

And still no Netflix streaming. WTF? C’mon, Xoom.

correction to my previous post, the “negative experience with that” meant “negative experience with the latter, i.e. compressing proxy”. Incidentally, this question may well be ignorant because maybe all mobile browsing nowadays is done through compressing proxies. I am clueless about this, and wikipedia is not helpful beyond glittering generalities.

My experience was with the regular browser (which didn’t compress), not with Opera Mini. I didn’t find the speed improvement in Opera Mini to be noticeable so I didn’t bother with it.

how about battery consumption? So there is no real difference in that between regular browser and Opera Mini / similar systems as well?

I ask because wikipedia article seems to imply that these proxy systems reduce amount of data transferred and do part of the processing on the server, so presumably saving battery power for both transfer and cpu. Or is the battery in modern mobile devices so good that it just makes no difference?

I don’t know. I didn’t test that part.

And it’s entirely possible that there might be a huge difference in speed or battery life; don’t just take my word for it… that was just my own, short, subjective experience.