We started by loading TouchBrowser onto two smartphones we had lying round the office, namely the HTC Touch and HTC TYTN II. These both already had Opera Mobile on them and for the sake of comparison we also loaded them up with Opera Mini.
The installation process for TouchBrowser (OK, despite the questionable inference to a rather grim disease, I’m referring to it as TB from now on) is incredibly simple. Just one ”.cab” file is needed to install on Windows Mobile 6 devices, while the Windows Mobile 5 and 2003 versions require just two. Whichever version you choose it’s just a case of dragging and dropping the files to your phone, or even downloading them directly from the website, and setting them running. A couple of confirmations and an activation later and you’re up and running.
The first thing you notice when you start TB is that it immediately fills the entire area of your phone’s screen. It’s completely devoid of any controls so not one pixel of screen space is wasted. And, unlike some browsers that have a fullscreen ”option”, with TB it’s full screen or nothing. At first this can be a little disconcerting, especially as I couldn’t for the life of me initially work out how to exit the browser. Once you settle into it, though, you realise that this is how phone browsers should always have been. After all, when you’re actually viewing a page, why would you want to have menus, address bars, and all the other detritus that other browsers have cluttering the view?
A few seconds after you stop touching the screen, a row of large easy to press buttons will appear. Alternatively, pressing the up button on your phone/PDA’s controls will also activate this menu. The buttons are all large enough to be easily activated by a finger without fear of pressing the wrong one. From these you can enter a web address, exit the program (reading the help page doesn’t tell you that this requires a double tap), search Google (that’s the question mark), go back a page, open the settings menu, and switch between single column (mobile) and full page (desktop) browser modes.
When you enter the Google search or URL entry page, a keyboard of fingertip sized alphanumeric buttons fills the screen, enabling you to quickly and easily enter searches and web addresses. By default TB puts the vowels along the top row and lists the rest of the letters and numbers below it. This is a little strange at first but you get used to it over time. However, if you do want to switch to a more familiar layout you can choose to have the letters listed in standard alphabetical order. Oddly, though, there’s no option for a QWERTY type layout, which many people would prefer. Also there doesn’t appear to be a way of entering more uncommon symbols like ‘-‘, which is quite an unforgivable flaw.