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Surf's up: Tips for better mobile browsing

Surf's up: Tips for better mobile browsing

A recent study by Web-browser firm Opera tried to understand the browsing habits of the millions of people who were using Opera Mini. The popularity of mobile browsing can be gauged from the fact that over 44 million people have downloaded the Opera Mini browser for their phones.

Other interesting figures show that more than 11.9 million People used Opera Mini to view 2.4 billion pages in March 2008 itself. India with over 167 million mobile users ranks among the top mobile browsing countries in the world.

But despite the fancy numbers, there seem to be an equally staggering number of smartphone users feeling exasperated that their phones are not as smart as they thought --whether it is for running office applications or for browsing the Net. With the small screen display, limited processing power, slow data rates, and cramped keypad, it is almost impossible to compare it to a device like the iPhone, which is optimized, for Web browsing. But all is not lost yet, you can still browse the Net comfortably enough with your smartphone if you know how. With a few tweaks, services, and utilities, you can really boost your mobile browsing experience. Here are 10 ways to extract maximum benefits from your phone while accessing the Net.

Before you start tweaking the phone for Web browsing, you need to know what features you need for a Smartphone to browse the Net effectively. First up, a good QWERTY keyboard is an essential requirement for common Net browsing activities like e-mailing and chatting. Alternatively, a touchscreen interface can be a very handy feature if you don't want to type in from the relatively small keypad. A reasonably fast processor and a speedy network connection are also needed for faster and smoother rendering of Web pages. You also need your mobile service provider to enable Net access for your smartphone.

Just changing some settings in the phone will not help boost up mobile browsing but you need to utilize other services, resources, and applications to complement your smartphone functionalities. So let's look at some of the ways by which you can optimize your mobile browsing experience.

A Smarter Browser

A very important component to surf the Net smoothly on your PC is a good browser. The same holds true for your mobile handset; you need a browser specially optimized to display and render Web pages on your smartphone.

Almost every smartphone comes with its own default browser but, more often than not, users find it hard to use or they are not really up to the mark because of the poor utility and design factor. So, in this scenario, upgrading to a better browser will definitely push the browsing experience up a few notches. In India, Opera Mini is the most popularly used Web browser because of its advanced technology like Small Screen Rendering (SSR) engine, smooth scrolling, full-screen browsing, seamless integration with the current Internet settings, and its ability to run on almost any phone. For a more loaded Web browser, you can go for the more advanced version -- Opera Mobile which has almost all the features found in the highly regarded PC desktop version but optimized for mobile phones. There are other contenders you can try out like Skyfire, a new yet impressive browser with cool features similar to Opera Mobile. TeaShark is another impressive browser you can check out. These browsers also help you load Web pages faster than the default browser.

Be Selective and Specific

The biggest gripe while browsing the Net with mobile phones is that they often don't display Web pages properly or it is very hard to navigate through the sites. What you need to know here is that almost every site have been designed for a bigger screen interface like the PC desktop or a laptop and when you try to open it on your phone with its relatively small display screen, it doesn't comes out as nearly as well.

So a very good way around would be to use Websites or services specially optimized for viewing and surfing with a mobile phone. There are many sites that have separate pages or a different version of the whole site specially designed to work well for mobile devices. These sites usually have "mobile", "mobi", or "m" in the URL. Popular sites like Google, MSN, Yahoo!, and AOL offer portal pages for mobile devices with linked lists for easy accessibility to their various services.

There are even Website portals dedicated for mobile devices like Mippin and Mowser which comes with a variety of services that a normal portal may carry -- like News, Sports, Movies, Gaming, etc. And for a directory listing of mobile sites you can check out http://phonefavs.com/.

Get It the Way You Want It

Specialized versions of websites for mobile devices ease a lot of trouble for browsing with your phone but what about websites that don't have an alternate edition for mobile devices? The solution to this would be to reformat the pages before they are displayed on the device. You don't need to manually reformat the pages to view them. There are various services that will do that for you by using a proxy server to retrieve the page and process it to be displayed properly on a mobile device. Skweezer is such a site that will easily and quickly give you an optimized version of any site on your phone. Just open Skweezer on your device and type in any URL in the search box and it will display the reformatted pages on your phone.

This is the best way to view and navigate sites that don't have their own mobile version. There are other sites that offer you this service but Skweezer is by far the best in terms of speed and simplicity.

Access E-mail on the go

For someone who is always on the move but would want to access mail regularly without the hassle of lugging around a laptop, a smartphone always seems a good option. But if you don't set it up properly, for access both from your PC and smartphone, it can be more of a burden than a boon.

If you have a POP3/IMAP capable e-mail account like Gmail, Yahoo!, Hotmail, etc, you can set it up to access your e-mail account through the phone's Web browser. For Gmail you could install Gmail for Mobile if your phone supports Java. To know more on how to access your e-mail account from your phone, just head to the respective mobile section in their site and follow the procedure listed

there of how to set it up.

You could also use mobile e-mail client Flexmail for Windows Mobile and ProfiMail for Symbian phones to access and manage your e-mail easily and effortlessly. These e-mail clients give you the ease and flexibility that you get from your PC or laptop.

Take Shortcuts

With the absence of a proper keyboard and mouse, navigating around websites with your mobile device can be a pain. using shortcut keys on your keypad can considerably improve your surfing experience thus making it easier to navigate around without the need of the phone's joystick or navigation pad which is usually difficult to use. The shortcut keys will differ according to the browsers you are using but it will generally work on different mobile devices. For all the shortcuts available for a particular browser, check the browser help file. (Refer to box for a listing of shortcut keys for the most common Mobile browsers -- Opera Mini, Opera Mobile, and Internet Explorer Mobile).

Widgets at Your Service

When you want to access content and services without the hassle of opening a Web browser, widgets can come in very handy. They are individual modules that deliver a particular service on your desktop. It is also very helpful for someone on the move for quickly checking on various services and information on their smartphone like weather forecast, news, photo sharing, music, games, Wikipedia, etc.

Thousands of widgets are available that you can select according to your needs. With an impressive library of more than 6,000 widgets, WidSets is a very good utility to install on your phone. After registering on their site, and downloading the client software to your phone, you can access their huge collection of widgets. For registering, downloading, and a list of all the widgets, you can check out their site -- www.widsets.com.

Adaptability Matters

Surfing the Net on your phone has two obvious disadvantages -- it's generally very slow and the cost factor is normally high. This happens because of the kind of network being used, to access the Net. Your phone usually utilizes the GPRS or EDGE service which is not powerful enough for smooth Net browsing and the phone service provider usually charges for any downloads or services that you use.

If you have a Wi-Fi capable phone, you can utilize all the benefits of a normal wireless connection, just as you would do with a laptop. You just need to change the settings in your phone network setting to access Wi-Fi wherever wireless hotspots are available like hotels, restaurants, malls, airports, etc The connection is much faster and you will also cut down a lot on the cost factor. When you are out of range, just change it back to GPRS/EDGE network and you will be able to surf normally as before.

Manage Your Downloads

With download managers available by the dozen, it is a breeze to download application for your PC. Smartphone users don't need to despair because there are good download managers for downloading stuffs from your Smartphone. HandyGet for Windows Mobile Smartphones and SmartGET for Symbian Smartphones are two good download managers that you can use to get away from the hassle of trying to download from your mobile browser. There are other good apps that can do the same, just check online to find a suitable one that runs perfectly on your mobile device.

Blogging Goes Mobile

While every Net savvy user can't maintain a website, it is very easy to set up a blog. That's the reason blogs have become very popular in a short span of time. So if you have the option of blogging via your phone it would be a great bonus if you are someone who cannot spend much time on your desktop. There are lots of services using which you can blog directly from your phone.

Popular blogging clients like Blogger and Wordpress has their own mobile version and you can use their service to blog from your smartphone. But there are other sites offering a better way to blog from your phone like posting photos and videos to your blog. Vox and Shozu are some of the good moblogging sites.

The Extra Essentials

The vastness of the Net is what keeps it fascinating to most users and accessing a huge variety of services online is something you can do easily on your desktop PC and laptop. You can also bring a lot of these services to your phone by adding in third-party utilities that will enhance your online experience.

Chatting online is something everyone likes to do but it is not that common in mobile devices because this utility isn't normally installed in smartphones by default. There are lots of Instant Messaging client for smartphones that you can install and start chatting away instantly instead of sending static messages. Mundu IM is a good application which supports multiple services like MSN, Yahoo!, AIM, Google Talk, etc. The downside is that it currently doesn't work with Symbian phones so if you are on a Symbian phone, you can install another impressive chat client -- Agile Messenger. And in case your phone doesn't come with FM radio feature, you can also use the services of the Net to tune in to online radio channels with the help of various apps like Mundu Radio or Resco Pocket Radio. Mundu Radio is particularly impressive because it supports thousands of stations. Even a vast number of Indian stations can be accessed.

What about the latest craze of watching video clips on the Net like YouTube? Yes, it is also possible by using apps like Avot mV (Windows Mobile only) or vTap. And surprisingly there are applications for peer-to-peer file sharing from your mobile phone like MobileMule (for eMule users), PeerBox Mobile (Symbian phones only).

There are other online services that you can access easily from your phone like Google Maps to easily navigate around different places with the help of your phone and RSS feeds can also be accessed from your phone with feed readers/browsers like BuddyBuzz, FreeRange, etc. In July 2007, a leading financial daily carried a report that India had 9 million Internet subscribers as opposed to 31 million mobile Internet users who use the mobile Internet "to read and reply to mails, download content and for online transactions". With that number only having grown, is it not high time you joined that demographic and truly have the world in your hands?


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