My Mobile bookmarks

A quick list of the most frequently used sites on my mobile phone.

  1. gmail mobile: my “homepage”. attachments and images could be handled better, but still, a great mobile web-app.
  2. google reader mobile: too many blogs, too little time. reading up on my blogfeeds everywhere i can (and yes, that includes the loo)
  3. smartphone/pda version of bbc news; the beeb was one of the first to have a version for PDA’s and smartphone’s, still great stuff.
  4. deredactie mobile: I just love the mobile version of their awful “desktop-oriented” website. Guess they took a close look at the BBC’s mobile site, no? Anyway, it would be even greater if they added links to multimedia (i.e. not force-feed video as they do on their very-very-broadband-version) and if they optimized the color usage because the readability of the purple night-version is sub-optimal.
  5. facebook mobile: I never really liked Facebook, but I must admit I’ve found myself spending time on it on an almost daily basis. The mobile version is an important part of that usage pattern.

Less frequently used mobile sites include; Truvo’s yellow and white pages, Wapedia (as wikipedia doesn’t provide a mobile version, they should) and Linkedin mobile. And although the webkit-based nokia browser handles normal sites quite well, the only non-mobile-optimized site in my bookmarks is my blog’s dashboard.
And you, what sites do you visit on your IPhone, Blackberry or Nokia e71?

Is the web too fat for your IPhone?

So you have a spiffy mobile phone with a top notch browser that does a decent job at displaying “desktop-oriented” websites and you use it to surf the web regularly, visiting some of the bigger news-sites in Belgium. What does that mean, from the point of view of data transfer and bandwidth usage?

data usage for 4 pages on 5 sites (click on image for more, methodology see below)

That sure is a lot of data, Captain! What does that mean?

  1. You will have to be patient, because downloading 1 or 2 Mb for that initial page will probably be gruesomely slow (especially if you’re on EDGE because there’s no 3G-coverage)
  2. You will end up paying good money for all that data transfer, because data is money when you’re on mobile time
  3. You might even curse your handset or crashing browser (more on google), because all that data will end up in RAM and these devices do not come with tons of that.

In these broadband-times, website builders seem to have completely forgotten about best practices for download size of complete web pages (html + all js/css/images/…). This means that a lot of websites should be considered non-accessible on mobile devices.
If you want your normal website to be usable on IPhone’s, HTC’s and other Nokia’s, you’ll have to start taking download size into account again. That means taking some technical measures (using mod_deflate and mod_expires for example) and making hard functional choices to remove some stuff (on this blog dropping the rather useless mybloglog-widget saved me 210Kb, going from 10 to 7 posts per page another 200). And if you want to target mobile users specifically, you’d better invest in a mobile-specific version of your site!

The methodology followed to measure these download sizes;

  • disable flash (there’s no such thing on mobiles, with flash these figures would have been even far worse)
  • disable memory cache (in about:config), because it can’t be cleared easily
  • clear disk cache
  • open up firebug and click on ‘net’ to monitor downloads
  • download homepage, random 2nd page, random 3th page and the homepage again

The spreadsheet (on google docs) contains more data (compare above results with those for 2 mobile-specific sites)

Juichen voor light

Dat ik nooit bijzonder enthousiast was over en dat daar nu verandering in komt! Niet omdat ze op hun site de overdaad aan Flash en andere audio-visuele excessen hebben verwijderd (of nog maar optioneel hebben gemaakt), maar omdat ze een mobiele versie in beta hebben uitgebracht. Meer nog, er zijn 2 versies; één voor de “gewone” mobiele surfer en één voor de “iphone-elite”.
De “, die overigens ook perfect werkt op een iphone, is een no-nonsense mobiele site waar -zoals het hoort- de content centraal staat. Door middel van kleurgebruik (dat zich ook aanpast aan het moment van de dag) blijft deze mobiele versie het “deredactie-merk” trouw. Voorlopig (?) worden er geen multimedia-bestanden aangeboden, een video in 3gp-formaat of een audio-fragment in mp3 zouden nochtans niet misstaan. Indien de transcoding software van Mobixx mijn gewone PC-browser dan ook nog zou herkennen en de breedte van de “viewport” zou aanpassen, dan zou ook de perfecte “light”-versie van die overdadige grote broer kunnen zijn.
Over de “iphone”-versie ben ik minder enthousiast; mag dan wel die typische iphone look&feel hebben (met dank aan het framework), je verliest op die manier wel volledig die specifieke deredactie-identiteit. Maar wat belangrijker is; qua bruikbaarheid doet de iphone-versie het ook minder goed. Op de eerste pagina staan enkel navigatie-elementen, er is geen hoofdpuntje, geen fotootje, geen lettertje inhoud terug te vinden. Ook op de categorie-overzichtspagina’s staat er minder informatie; je moet het daar stellen met de titel en een kleine afbeelding, voor de samenvatting/ teaser uit de “gewone” mobiele versie (cfr. screenshot) is er in zo een sexy iphone-interface immers geen plaats.
Alle iphone-gekheid op een stokje; volgens zijn er mij slechts een heel beperkt aantal gevallen waarin een “mobile safari“-specifieke versie van een site zinvol is. Of wacht … Nee, toch niet, ik kan zo geen enkel geval bedenken. Een goeie mobiele site moet (middels wat transcoding om verschillende schermgroottes en andere verschillen op te vangen) op zowat elk mobiel toestel bruikbaar zijn, punt! scoort er alleszins eentje. Ze weten waar ze mee bezig zijn, daar bij The Reference (ontboezeming: “de ref” was tot februari 2007 mijn werkgever) en partner Mobixx!

Webkit Konquering the mobile world

With the nineties browser wars and the quasi MSIE monopoly that followed after the Netscape debacle behind us, the desktop browser scene can be considered a mature market, with some very good products vying for our approval. Time to shift our attention to the next battleground; mobile browsers. Netfront and Pocket Internet Explorer dominated this emerging market for quite some time, but as of late some newcomers are making great advances in this area. And apart from Opera Mobile and Mini (the Mozilla-guys are really ages behind here), these all share the same open source core; WebKit.
The history of WebKit in 10 1/2 sentences
WebKit is a fork of KHTML, the html rendering-engine that was developed by the KDE-community for its Konquerer-browser. In 2002 Apple decided to build it’s own browser based on KHTML and thus WebKit was born as the core-component of what would become Safari. Since it’s inception, WebKit has gained enourmous momentum; Safari now has a market share of approx 6% on the desktop, but smaller projects such as iCab and Epiphany (the Gnome browser!) picked up WebKit as well. But there’s more; Adobe decided to incorporate it in Air (the Flex-like platform for building desktop-software). And Trolltech, the company behind the Qt GUI-toolkit and one of the primary backers of KDE, announced they would include Webkit in Qt 4.4 as well.

WebKit 0wnz Mobile
But the mobile area is where WebKit is really taking the world by storm; it not only powers the mobile version of Safari on the iPhone and the iPod Touch, but WebKit (in its S60webkit form) it’s also the basis of Symbian’s S60-browser. Nokia ‘s Mini Map Browser, as it’s officially named, was first released in november 2005 and thanks to the succces of Symbian it’s probably the most widespread mobile browser by far. Being a proud Nokia e61i-owner myself, I can testify that it is a great browser indeed; I didn’t even bother with installing Opera Mini (which I used instead of Netfront on my Sony-Ericsson w810).
Next to these two well-established WebKit-derivatives, the lesser known Iris (for Windows Mobile), newcomer Digia (for Symbian UIQ-devices) and last but not least the browser of Google’s highly anticipated mobile Android OS are also part of the family.
Mobile Web, but there’s more then One
So thanks to KDE’s great job on KHTML and Apple’s (and Nokia’s) subsequent work, we are at a point where users of ‘smartphones’ and similar devices can access the internet almost as if they were using a desktop-browser. But screen-size, text-input, data transfer (bandwidth and price) and context remain very different from normal browsing, so don’t believe the “one web”-hype just yet. But still; these sure are great web times for building mobile(-ready) websites and -applications!

Whack your Flash-crazy boss on the head with his iPhone3G!

Whatever you may think about the iPhone-hype, you’ll have to admit that the fact that it doesn’t do Flash makes for great ammunition in the discussion against developing your site’s core functionality in Flash.
Next time your CEO or marketing manager wants a Flex-only website, you won’t have to talk about some obscure geek who doesn’t want to install the Flash plugin, about that poor blind woman who is not able to “read” those Flash animations or about how Google indexing SWF-files might be more of a problem then a solution. No, instead, you’ll only have to point out it won’t work on his iPhone (*). Period.

(*) It won’t work on other mobile devices either; Flash Lite, which ships on e.g. Symbian and Windows Mobile powered devices, is not able to display those millions of fancy animations out there on the WWW either.


Oude brol kopen, de nieuwe manier

nokia e61i

Allez, geïnspireerd door Dag Wiers’ nieuwe Nokia e71 heb ik me net een Nokia e61i aangeschaft. Die e71 is immers een heel mooi toestel, maar ik ben nog altijd 3/4 Hollander en het mocht vooral niet te veel kosten (daarmee kent ge direct één van de twee redenen waarom ik de iPhone3G liever van op afstand bewonder).
Op (en op die manier in één ruk op kapaza, hebbes, 2dehands, ebay, …) ging ik dus op jacht naar een gebruikte Nokia e61i. Koopjeszoeker biedt de zoekresultaten ook via RSS (goe bezig Pieter!) aan en ik voegde de feed van die zoekopdracht vorig weekend toe aan mijn Google Reader. 5 dagen, 4 mailtjes en 3 telefoontjes later was de verkoop gesloten.
Nu m’n nieuw oud speelgoed nog herflashen om de toetsenbord-instellingen perfect te krijgen (there’s no such thing as a goedkoop koopje) en we zijn weeral zoet voor een jaartje.