Ever since the launch of the iPhone, software companies and mobile device manufacturers alike have been tripping over themselves to bring the revolutionary web browsing experience of the iPhone to Windows Mobile/Symbian/Palm OS devices.
Obvious examples are the likes of Opera and Mozilla who have been busy updating the core functionality of their browsers to enable features like resizable fullscreen browsing. Also, Microsoft has quickly turned around an update to its Windows Mobile platform with more finger- (rather than stylus-) friendly navigation and a better Internet Explorer (IE) browser being the key improvements.
So far, though, only Opera has embraced the single most user-friendly feature of the mobile Safari browser; that of being able to move around a webpage by dragging your finger - even the updated IE has eschewed the idea. Unfortunately, while both Opera Mobile and Opera Mini are very capable browsers, their implementations of finger-scrolling are a little clunky. In particular, when scrolling, pages move with a stutter and there's no support for high speed scrolling by flicking your finger across the screen. To put it simply, there's definitely room for improvement.
So, with this lack of a completely compelling solution from the big-boys, smaller developers have had the opportunity to make a splash in this potentially huge market place. And the first out the door is Makayama, with its TouchBrowser (full marks for original naming) - a full screen, finger-friendly web browser for Windows Mobile.
The software was released only a couple of days ago and you probably saw Gordon's news story announcing that fact but, being software, all that's required to receive a review sample is a quick exchange of emails and a short wait for the files to download - no couriers getting lost this time. So, here we are today with a few devices loaded up with TouchBrowser and we're ready for a full assessment.
TouchBrowser is available for Windows Mobile 2003, Windows Mobile 5 and Windows Mobile 6 and all versions cost the same €11.95 (approx just under a tenner) for a time-unlimited single user license. In comparison, the current mobile browser favourite, Opera Mobile, costs $24 while Safari is obviously exclusive to the iPhone and iPod Touch and you get Internet Explorer free with all Windows Mobile devices. So, considering the options, it's not a bad price or at least so it seems.
Unlike all the other Mobile browser alternatives, TouchBrowser is actually just an extension of Internet Explorer so paying ten quid just for the sake of not using a stylus seems a little steep. Also, as a consequence of this it uses IE's (rather poor) rendering engine so you'll often find dodgily formatted web pages with pictures, tables and menus scattered all over the place. Having said that, if the browser provides a smooth, easy-to-use, truly finger-friendly browsing experience it will instantly go to the top of our web browser wish list, even if a few pages do look a bit odd.