There’s a lot of excitement about the release of the iPhone in the US. People queuing up all night, selling out 500,000 units a week, that sort of thing. One of the most important aspects from our perspective, is the web browsing experience. This is what could have a major effect on what is being termed the mobile web.
I’ve been using Windows Mobile Pocket PCs for a few years now “ currently using a HTC Tytn. It’s only recently been really worthwhile using the web on the phone as the mobile phone networks have started to be a little more reasonable with the amount of megabytes you can download per month. This used to be so expensive as to warrant using the web on the go pointless “ some still get away with charging up to £7 per megabyte downloaded (to put this in perspective, it would cost between £200 and £300 to download an average album of music). Networks such as 3 and T-Mobile are now bundling sensible amounts of data downloads with their tariffs (up to 1 GB a month).
Windows Mobile 6 does most of what the iPhone can do, but perhaps is not as user friendly. The Mac vs. Windows war has moved onto the phone, and without getting drawn into that, it can be said that Pocket Internet Explorer is not the best web browsing experience you’ve ever had. Opera’s browsers go some way to improving usability on small screens, but I have had nothing but problems with them failing on my Windows Mobiles, requiring reboots, taking an age to load pages. Also you have the dreaded horizontal scrolling as the pages do not fit properly on the screen. Mowser tries to fix that it takes HTML pages normally viewed on a computer and translates them so that you can see them when you’re on the go for instance, see the Reverse Delta site on Mowser.
All in all, I do not think that web on the mobile is currently a worthwhile experience and I hope that the iPhone will change that. It’s the first phone to offer a full web browser, and Apple has even introduced new ways of interacting with the web pages, through showing the full web page and allowing you to zoom into an area of the page using gestures.
It opens up an amazing opportunity for website owners and publishers, and is an area we will be looking at a lot more closely.
For a slightly different and most likely better browsing experience than your average phone, the Nokia Internet Tablet is now a good deal at just over £70. This will work over Wifi or you can use your mobile phone as a modem to connect to the web via Bluetooth.
Location Based Services
Coupling the mobile web with a GPS unit, and you have a new breed of very useful location based services. I’ve been using Windows Live Search recently, with a GPS enabled phone and it really is useful. Aerial photos and street maps help you find your way; directions from A to B, search near here for pubs, restaurants, shops. Google Maps is similar (although apparently not as good on Windows Mobile devices due to reliance on Java but runs well on other phone types).
SatNav is also great on the phone at least as good as a standalone unit, but with the benefit of being able to phone ahead to your point of interest (POI) be it a restaurant, hotel. Many people have become so reliant on their TomTom, that this does seem a natural extension of that. Unfortunately, the iPhone does not have built in GPS and cannot use Bluetooth to connect to an external one I think Apple have either missed a trick or have deliberately hobbled it (maybe so that people will upgrade to next years model?)
As with the launch of the iPod, many companies are now copying the iPhone. Here’s a roundup of some of the ones we’ve discovered so far: