Things were a bit busy last week, and I’m still catching up on general happenings in the industry. A couple of items that caught my attention were the release of Mozilla’s mobile browser, codenamed Fennec, and the intention of Skyfire to release a version of their browser for the iPhone.
Why did these catch my attention? Well, earlier this year, Opera created quite a stir when it released its Opera Mini browser for the iPhone and then goaded Apple into approving it. Tech punidits were certain that Apple would reject it, but they didn’t. In hindsight, I’m not surprised.
I’ve used the Opera Mini browser on Android and seen it on the iPhone, and while it’s capable, it is not a replacement for the built-in browser. Over the last year, the stock Android browser has come a long way, and Safari for the iPhone has always been a good browser. Opera Mini can’t compete with either of these, and neither will Fennec or Skyfire.
The opportunity for third party browsers has passed. Today’s problem is not compressing web content for the mobile environment. The issue is providing the user with a relevant user experience over the mobile web. What do I mean by a relevant user experience? I mean a mobile website that takes advantage of the features of a mobile phone, such as the touchscreen and location-based capabilities, to present information and content that a user cares about when they’re mobile. For a real estate mobilesite it is searching for properties, for retail it is nearest locations and coupons, for restaurants it is reservations, directions and special offers. The point I’m making is pretty obvious: it’s not about trying to cram a website designed for a 24″ screen onto a 3″ screen, it’s about presenting content relevant to the mobile consumer in a usable manner.
Put simply, it’s not about the browser, it’s about the presentation of the content.
So while I am sure that the mobile browser technology from Mozilla, Skyfire, and Opera is top notch, my advice would be to stick with the stock browsers on your smartphone with one caveat. If your using a BlackBerry other than the Torch, any one of these three browsers is a huge step up from the old BlackBerry browser. The old BlackBerry browser can be summed up in one word – AWEFUL!
OK, enough of the rant. On a lighter note, a new smartphone app caught my eye this week called Bartab. It allows you to send an actual drink to a friend for a $1. You spend $1 to send your friend a mobile coupon for a drink that they redeem at the participating bar you specify. Your friend then has to pay an additional $1 to redeem the coupon. It’s been launched in New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles. I haven’t had a chance to use it yet, but I’d love to hear from anyone who has. In particular, does it work as advertised?