The number of browser settings is very limited. You can set the homepage, the amount of time you have to wait for the menu to appear, the keyboard layout, and you can also view the help and about pages.
As mentioned, TB just uses Internet Explorer to render webpages so viewing complicated websites like TrustedReviews can result in some very odd layouts. More importantly, though, IE doesn’t have a way of zooming in and out of webpages so you’re always stuck viewing one tiny portion of the page at a time, which can lead to frustrating amounts of scrolling.
Of course, this is where TB’s biggest weapon comes into play as you can move the page around with your finger just like it were a piece of paper and, best of all, you can flick the screen to set the page free scrolling just like on the iPhone. This enables you to scan webpages very quickly and makes the task of navigating fullscreen pages much easier. However, when we first tried this we found the movement to be completely erratic and after a bit of research and some headscratching we found that the TouchFlo features on the two test phones were interfering with the finger scrolling.
Indeed, a quick go on an older HTC TYTN that doesn’t have TouchFlo confirmed our suspicions, so we set about working out if there was a way to get TB working on the TouchFLo enabled devices. It turns out you have to turn off TouchFlo scrolling in the Windows Mobile registry – which you can only access by downloading some special software. Once we’d done this TB worked as expected.
Just as the video on youtube demonstrates the scrolling really is very smooth and much better than anything that’s come before. However, it’s not without its problems. Flicking the screen requires far too precise and quick a motion for it to be consistently and easily performed one-handed and all too often I found myself accidently activating links or only moving the page a short distance.
(centre)”TouchBrowser on the left, Opera Mobile centre, cropped sceenshot of Firefox desktop on right.”(/centre)
Also, while the motion is smooth, it still regularly lagged behind my finger movements and would every now and again seem to have a mind of its own. Don’t get me wrong, the motion is better than any other browser out there and switching to mobile view made viewing simpler pages an absolute breeze. However, the issues it has with complicated pages and the resulting (and tiresome) flicking around the page to compensate make it frustrating to use on a regular basis. By just adding the ability to zoom out, TB would have nailed it.
There are plenty of other frustrations as well, like the fact you can’t exit the URL entry page without following the link – something that is made doubly annoying by the fact you can’t stop pages loading. Furthermore, not only does TB not have a history, it doesn’t even save URLs you typed in so the only way to revisit a page is to save it in the favourites. Ultimately, while TouchBrowser comes far closer than any other browser to enabling stylus-free browsing on Windows Mobile devices, it lacks too many fundamental features to be recommended.
Makayama has created a far superior interface to the standard Internet Explorer browser, bringing true finger-friendly navigation to the Windows Mobile platform. However, as well as having a few self-made annoyances, TouchBrowser is fundamentally flawed by the fact that it’s based on IE and has to work with the browser’s restrictive and limited foibles. Even though it’s cheaper than Mobile Opera, we’d still stick with the latter.
Following my review makayama contacted me and informed me that a number of the issues raised, like no URL history and no hyphen on the keyboard have been fixed in the latest version and they also inquired about the TouchFlo issues I raised. Pointing out to them what needed to be changed, they said they would try and make it so the TouchFlo abilities could be turned off when the browser open and turned back on again when the browser was closed.
A few weeks later, I’ve now had the chance to test the latest version and it would seem all the little annoyances I mentioned have indeed been fixed so the browser is considerably more user friendly. Currently the only TouchFlo solution is a tickbox setting in the browser that requires the phone to be rebooted, so it’s not ideal but better than nothing. Of course, none of this really changes the fact that the underlying browser is a load of rubbish but the added usability and low cost would now earn this software an ”’8/10”’ in my eyes. I.e. it’s definitely worth considering if you haven’t already bought Mobile Opera.
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