Screenshot Tour – Skyfire Browser on S60 3rd Edition
October 21, 2008 by Asri al-Baker
Skyfire browser is still in it’s very early beta for S60 3rd Edition smartphones. At the moment, it is available for closed beta testing ONLY for US residents. In this write-up, I just want to share my own experience using this new browser. I will use my own words to explain my thoughts about it and you can agree or disagree with me. Are you ready? Let’s go!
Skyfire uses proxy server, meaning all rendering are done by the server before the information are sent to your mobile client. The mobile client acts as the viewer. The concept is used widely by a couple of J2ME browser like Reqwireless Webviewer, Tigershark, UCWeb and Opera Mini.
In order to use Skyfire, you need to be authenticated. For users outside the States, Skyfire wont let you use it. The authentication process can sometimes make you pull your hair out. For example, in early October 2008, when Skyfire announces version 0.8 beta for Windows Mobile users, the firewall in their server was acting weirdly and many users are experiencing problems with the authentication. And if you are not authenticated, you cant use Skyfire at all!
Once Skyfire is loaded and authenticated, you will see the home screen which contains useful links to some famous websites like Google, Yahoo and so on. Personally, this is a nice touch and I would like to see more informations like the server status or how many Skyfire users are using it etc. The links are divided into tabs which consists of Media, Social and so on. And these tabs contain links for quick access. There’s also tabs to Bookmarks and History.
Because it uses server rendering to do most of it’s processes (if not ALL), and everything is saved in it’s server, I found it is frustrating to say the least. For example, in the home screen which contains bookmarks, sometimes it takes a few seconds to load all the bookmarks. And I havent yet added any bookmarks from my own browsing sessions. I only use the default bookmarks. And to add more salt to the wound, there is NO way to customise the bookmarks like deleting etc. You can only add bookmarks…
Many users said that Skyfire is a fast browser especially when using WiFi connection. However, i totally disagree. Yes, it’s fast when connected but it maintains connection to the server all the time and pages are loaded when scrolling and navigating, not all information are available when you open a web page for the first time. Scrolling page up and down reveals boxes/silhouette of un-rendered or unfinished parts of the page. And it’s slow…
Facebook is displayed okay but again, there are some errors saying like “Please install the latest flash components, bla bla bla…” … Again, not my cup of tea.
By default, Skyfire can zoom to texts on the screen and it can be accessed easily using number 1 and 3 on the phone’s keypad. This works without problem however, it is also the mechanism used to view embedded multimedia on webpages. There’s no way to view YouTube videos full screen like on Nokia S60 Browser.
You can also set Skyfire to display texts in a readable column. This function is useful to read lots of texts after zooming. When it is enabled, you can read texts without scrolling left and right. You only need to scroll down.
Youtube… it is one of the hype surrounding Skyfire saying it can give you full desktop experience when viewing videos. What a joke… It is not even close to real video, not as good as expected. Viewing YouTube videos is supported but it’s not really videos… it’s like watching slow slideshow where movements are displayed at 5-10 frames per second. And there’s no way to rotate the screen to view the videos in full screen. And the audio is too loud. No way to adjust the volume except to tune the Audio to Mute from within Skyfire.
In terms of speed, I think skyfire still has a lot to catch and learn from Opera Mini. Not only rendering of pages are slow but navigating around pages is also slow. And text entry could be very frustrating…
To be honest, i am not impressed at all with what Skyfire offers at the current stage. Yes, it’s beta. But some other applications did a lot better when entering beta. And I haven’t mention about stability, RAM usage and overall performance… IMHO, it is still not ready for primetime and I somewhat understand why the developer limited it’s access to the US only. With the current condition being unimpressive at all, I cant imagine how Skyfire will handle data from all over the global.
Those saying Skyfire is the best mobile browser, think again. To the developers, you did a great job and all can be improved.
Here are some screenshots of Skyfire in action, viewing different websites :
Asri al-Baker For SimplySymbian.Com, October 21st 2008