We Have 1,000 2,500+ Private Beta Invites To Give Away. Details Below!

* UPDATE 2: Gotta love Private Betas! From Bitstream...

Sometime after noon Eastern today, the server handling the downloads "blew up." We are now in the process of switching over to a dedicated server we're confident can handle the demand. We appreciate everyone's patience. We expect the new server to be online by 4:00 PM Eastern today. Also, to those who have already downloaded BOLT, a big thank you. From feedback we've received just since yesterday we've already made improvements to BOLT, and our beta is only about 24 hours old.

* UPDATE: John from Bitstream sent me an email with some updated information on the Bolt Browser Private Beta....here's the update:

We were overwhelmed by requests to participate in the private beta, so this morning at 9:00 AM Eastern we cut over from a manual process to an automated one. We've already exceeded 1000 downloads on the CrackBerry code, and we're continuing to distribute download links to those who use it. The automated system still takes about 2 to 3 hours to process these requests. But if anyone has applied for a link before 9:00 AM ET and have still not received a link they can either reapply and get into the automated queue or wait until tomorrow when the backlog will be completed by hand.

Thanks to beta testers the BOLT browser has also been upgraded, just since yesterday. Yesterday we were sending links to build 0.7 and now we're sending links to 0.73. Beta testers identified some issues and they've been corrected. Most notably, people will notice that the trackball will scroll much easier now; it won't take as many scrolls to navigate. If anyone wants to get the new version to replace the old, the process is fairly simple. I haven't done it myself but I'm told they will be prompted to replace the existing install with the new version and also ask if they want to keep their current settings (which they should reply "yes").

At this moment we're not shutting down the private beta and will try to accommodate all the requests. We have shut down outreach to more so it's just those we've already engaged who are getting referral codes. We greatly appreciate the enthusiastic response from your readers, as well as the invaluable data we're collecting from their use which has already led to software improvements!

* Original Post: I received an email from Bitstream letting me know about their new J2ME mobile browser called Bolt. the Bolt mobile web browser is in Private Beta mode right now (you'll need an invite to download it) and as the name suggests is built for speed. Server side rendering makes it uber-fast and it's based on the WebKit engine and Bitstream's ThunderHawk browsing technology so the pages render accurately. Bolt does not support flash, but it will display YouTube vids which you can then launch and watch.

The Miracle on the Hudson River had me distracted from my inbox for a few hours, so it wasn't until later in the evening that I installed Bolt on my Bold and gave it a go. As you can tell from the time of this post and if you watch the video above, this smok'n hot web browser had me too excited to sleep so I figured I'd better put the time to productive use and get this post up asap. You can check out the video above for a slightly loopy hands-on overview of Bolt and for full details can view the Bolt browser fact sheet after the jump. Our buddy Doug has spent a few hours on Bolt too and has put together some initial observations that you may want to check out. Bolt is definitely still in beta... but you can call me IMPRESSED. I like speed and Bolt delivers.

Private Beta Invites: Bitstream gave us 1,000 invites to get CrackBerry Nation rocking on the beta of Bolt. If you want to give it a go, hurry on over to BoltBrowser.com and sign up using the referral code CrackBerry. Please keep in mind it is not an instant download. Once you register, Bitstream will get back to you (could take several hours) with your one time use download link. *

If you're lucky enough to download the beta, be sure to report back in the comments with your observations and findings. In the meantime, I'll start bugging the folks at Bitstream to up our # of Invites... 1,000 just isn't enough! 


Bolt Browser
Bolt Seems to Render Pages Quickly and Accurately

BOLT is a free mobile browser that offers an uncompromised full Internet browsing experience even on entry-level mobile phones. BOLT is compatible with virtually any handset that supports Java ME (commonly referred to as J2ME); in other words BOLT works on lots of phones, even basic ones.

Rather than offering a simplified, mini-version of the Internet, BOLT provides users with an efficient, feature-rich way to enjoy full PC-style Web pages and rich media applications on all levels of mobile devices.

BOLT is built using Bitstream's award-winning and patented ThunderHawk mobile browsing technology. The BOLT browser is the fastest mobile browser available - routinely more than 25 percent faster and as much as 50 percent faster than the next fastest browser. The BOLT browser is not only fast, but it conserves resources to extend battery life and minimize data transfer. What's more, there are no requirements for web developers to optimize their websites for BOLT; developers can simply design their websites exactly as they would for a PC browser.

BOLT is available to consumers for free.

Supported Platforms
The BOLT beta is currently available for phones that support Java ME (also referred to as J2ME). These are typically phones used by GSM carriers such as AT&T and T-Mobile in the U.S., and Rogers and Microcell (Fido, Cityfone) in Canada.

BOLT's underlying ThunderHawk mobile browsing technology also supports BREW, Windows Mobile and Symbian and it is planned for BOLT to support these platforms in the future.

Phone Requirements

  • J2ME MIDP2 (virtually all J2ME phones produced in the last three years)
  • BOLT supports all common/standard screen sizes
  • Approximately 150k storage space for application
  • 500k of RAM to run application

BOLT utilizes client/server architecture to maximize the browsing experience on mobile handsets. This Client/Server approach allows BOLT to transcode multimedia to provide streaming video, compress images and other data to minimize data network usage (and therefore user cost), preserve battery life and dramatically increase the speed of web page downloads.

Geographic Availability
At this stage in the beta, the BOLT user interface is only available in English, however it can render web pages in any Western-European language.

BOLT is built for speed. The compression and rendering technology makes BOLT the fastest mobile browser available. In comprehensive speed tests that included all the popular mobile browsers, BOLT is routinely consistently 25 to 30 percent faster than the next fastest browser.

Bitstream measured download speeds of 13 popular websites including Amazon.com, CNN.com, ESPN.com and nytimes.com. The second fastest browser averaged download speeds in excess of 18 seconds across all pages. On the same phones, using the same networks, BOLT's average download speed was under 13 seconds, a full 5.5 seconds faster. For comparison, tests of a native browser on a popular handset averaged more than 2 minutes 40 seconds on these same pages, while 5 of 13 top pages wouldn't even open at all.

Quality of Website Rendering
BOLT was built using the WebKit rending engine to deliver the same web page layout as found on PC desktop browsers and includes high standards compliance such as AJAX.

Proprietary Bitstream mobile fonts and font rendering technologies improve readability, speed content delivery, and enable BOLT to fit more information into smaller screens.

Multimedia Support
At this time BOLT supports flash video. If the video has data embedded in 3gp format then it is sent directly to the device in 3gp. Otherwise the client/server architecture is used to transcode the video on the flv into 3gp format, then sent to the device. In some devices (e.g., Motorola RAZR), video is played directly in the browser window as it would be on a PC. In others (e.g., BlackBerry smartphones), the video is played through the device's native media player via the native browser. The device's capabilities determine the process used to display video.

Plug-in Support
The BOLT beta supports Ajax (except timer events) and Flash video. BOLT does not support Flash.

Full Page Display
Full pages are rendered on the server exactly as they are on a PC, and compressed by a factor of 23:1 before being sent to BOLT on a user's mobile phone. The page information is transmitted in a compact transport format, containing the information about anything that may appear on the web page (e.g., text, images, UI, etc.). The client receives this information and renders the pages and UI elements.

Navigation and Display Features

  • A simple keystroke toggles a patented split screen browsing mode to allow for quick navigation across a large web page (see below)
  • Easy keystroke navigation, including: 2 - up, 8 - down, 4 - left, 6 - right
  • Works with native navigation features (e.g., trackball, rocker switch, etc.)
  • Dynamic content adaptation automatically fits text to the width of any screen
  • SmartBar auto-completes URL entry based on history
  • Easy zooming (see below)
  • Pop up blocker
  • Click-to-call phone numbers from websites
  • Text and visible region of web pages rendered first, speeding content delivery
  • Proprietary Bitstream fonts and font rendering engine improve readability and usability

BOLT features five levels of magnification and smoothly scales text and images.

BOLT's patented split screen mode features a rectangular magnifier floating over a zoomed out mini-map of the entire Web page on the top 2/3 of the screen and a magnified view of the content under the magnifier on the bottom 1/3 of the screen. Content beneath the magnifier is always readable and is selectable with a single click. This technique provides users far more utility than mini-map features in other mobile browsers.

Bookmarking & Favorites
BOLT supports bookmarking, history (by day/session), single click access to recent history (hold back button for 2 seconds), and RSS subscription.

Easy Search
One click Google search is integrated into URL entry bar.

Content & File Downloading
Images and files can be downloaded to device through BOLT which can then be shared using email.

Requirements for Web Developers
Although BOLT can be detected by websites, there are no special requirements for developers to optimize their websites for BOLT. Web developers can design sites exactly as they do for PCs.

More Information