RANT: Not Much To Love in BlackBerry's Web Browser

Rant!!
By Kevin Michaluk on 11 Jan 2008 09:14 am EST
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I couldn't help but laugh and cringe when my BlackBerry Connection Newsletter arrived in my Inbox yesterday. Inside is an article about BlackBerry's recent web browser makeover. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE my Curve and am a diehard BlackBerry fanatic, but RIM really shouldn't be touting "You're Going to Love What Your Browser Can Do Now!" to the BlackBerry/smartphone using public. When it comes to mobile web browsers, I guess you can say I have become a little bit jaded towards BlackBerry's browser having used most of the mobile web browsers in existence thanks to the Smartphone Round Robin we conducted a couple of months back.

With the introduction of the iPhone into the smartphone world a new standard has been set for mobile web browsing - the Full Internet. None of this mobile-optimized (err..limited)/wap browsing garbage of the past. Granted, the iPhone's Safari mobile browser isn't perfect - it doesn't do well with plugins yet (i.e. Flash), but the fact I can pretty much see websites as they are meant to be seen is huge. For myself, full web browsing on my BlackBerry would mean I could go away for a weekend and not need to take a laptop with me. As it stands now, that's not the case. It doesn't matter how many improvements RIM makes to the existing BlackBerry browser... as long as it's the trimmed-down, low-budget Interweb we're talking about I don't think there is anything here to brag about.

Yes I can visit Yahoo, Google, AOL, Facebook and YouTube from my BlackBerry's browser as the Newsletter suggests, but I'm not *actually* visiting these sites. They load quick, don't use much bandwidth, but they're ugly mobile versions of the real sites. That's why I laughed when I read "...your browser is giving you the best visual experience possible." I know full web browsing isn't necessarily a good thing for everyone, at least not yet - those who don't have unlimited data would be screwed come their monthly bill as full webpages soak up lots of data and big web pages can take a while to load over an EDGE connection (though on my time with the iPhone's web browser I was impressed with just how fast sites loaded). There still is a need in the world for mobile-optimized websites. Regardless, wouldn't the option to have full web browsing vs. standard "wap" browsing be considered superior as to just being stuck with crappy mobile-optimized/minimized browsing?

I've been talking about the iPhone's Safari browser as being the new standard for mobile web browsing, which doesn't do much for us BlackBerry users. But there is a full web browsing alternative available now that's a heck of a lot better than the BlackBerry Browser - Opera Mini. If you haven't tried Opera Mini 4 yet, I'd recommend downloading it (it's free!) and giving it a go - just point your berry's browser to www.operamini.com. I don't think it's quite as fast nor offers as robust of a full web browsing experience as the iPhone's Safari browser, and it's not quite as tuned into the BlackBerry as it could be (BB shortcuts aren't treated very well), but it's still pretty darn good. When you visit Facebook.com on your BlackBerry using Opera Mini, you get the real Facebook site. I don't think many would argue with me in saying that Opera Mini blows away the default BlackBerry web browser.

The reason I cringed after I laughed when reading the Newsletter is because if RIM really thinks the improvements made to its web browser are that worth bragging about, then RIM might find itself in for a surprise! Mobile-optimized web browsing may have sufficed in the enterprise market, but RIM is trying to penetrate the consumer market. For consumers to pay for data plans (which is something I gather the carriers and RIM want to see happen more often than not), consumers are going to expect a better web browsing experience that the one RIM offers by default. Hopefully RIM is cooking up an entirely new web browser that will blow away everything currently available, but if not, at the very least they should be working in partnership with Opera to have all newly sold BlackBerrys ship with Opera Mini pre-installed. That might tide the masses over. Oh, and here's an idea...if RIM is really sold in keeping mobile-optimized browsing in its offerings, why not work with Opera to develop a "Speed Browsing" option - select the option within the web browser, and if an RSS feed is available for a page it loads that instead of the full web page. I'm sure it wouldn't be that hard to take a full web browser like Mini and enable the option to prune it down to be an optimized browser like the BlackBerry browser currently is.

While I'm on the rant of the BlackBerry's lack of full web browsing, let me throw in again (I've brought it up before) that RIM also needs to implement full email viewing. RIM is the undisputed KING of EMAIL, yet it's really sad that the BlackBerry Connection Newsletter (or CrackBerry.com Newsletter for that matter) looks a helluva lot better when viewed on an iPhone vs. on a BlackBerry. On the BlackBerry it just looks like a mess. Email Viewers like the ones available from BBSmart and Empower help to improve the email viewing experience, but still don't display emails (like newsletters) on the BlackBerry the way their designers have intended them to be displayed (i.e. the way they would look when viewed in Outlook or Gmail).

All I want is for RIM to give me a browser that I want to use...nay..that's an absolute pleasure to use, and email viewing that displays emails the way they were intended to be viewed. Hopefully that will happen in 2008! That's my Friday morning rant. Enough Said.

As always, I'm looking forward to hearing what you think on the matter!

Topics: Editorial

Reader comments

RANT: Not Much To Love in BlackBerry's Web Browser

35 Comments

Been looking for the actual download link. Can't seem to find it. Anyone got the link they can post?

Err on the side of thin. Several lightweight thin coats of paint will stick to your tile better than one single heavy coat. Be sure to follow directions on your paint's label for thinning; it is possible to thin it too much.

and racked up enormous bills buying the books, comp markers and anything else my professors deemed necessary to my education. My reward? A book of stubs that I tear out each month and send to Citibank for 10 years.

I agree totally with your comments! I tried to find this new BB browser and still haven't located it. I only use Opera Mini now on my Pearl and love it, I even hide the browser button because it is just a lousy browser. RIM really needs to step to the plate on their browser and email apps.

As a new blackberry user, it is sad to see how far behind RIM really is in terms of web browsing and yes, media management capabilities. Lack of HTML email is also pathetic at best.

To be perfectly honest, I am seriously regretting committing myself to a blackberry at this point in time. I've discovered that it's great for plain text email but not much else (and the slew of outages lately are even putting that in doubt).

RIM needs to really step up and catch up with what Apple and other devices running Windows Mobile can do. As it stands, I don't give RIM much credit and the future looks very bleak for Blackberry as more and more users start to realize that if they don't want to be stuck in the early 90's, they need to get a different phone.

I have multiple phones. 3 Blackberries, 2 Moto Q's, 1 iPhone and some Junkers I retired long ago. The web browser in my BB's isn't that impressive but we can install Opera so the web browser isn't an issue for me. That is my only complaint about Blackberry. I play with my phones enough to know my blackberries puts my other phones to shame. Ok, so paying $500.00 for an iphone just to surf the web wasn't exactly an investment opportunity.

Hands down, the iphone web browser is the best I've even seen. Its so good I paid 500.00 bones just to say I have it. But please take note, that's the only reason I bought it and believe me, I'm not the only one. The moto Q's are nice but plan on spending allot of time trying to trouble shoot 3rd party software. My biggest complaint is the offset screen on the Moto Q. Simply ugly!

I really hate to talk bad about other phones because all phones created today are stepping stones for tomorrows greats but its almost heart breaking to see someone with a BB and not know its capabilities. Give it a chance and push it to its limits before passing judgment and I assure you, you will discover why we call them Crackberrys.

My rant was just on the BB's web browser. After having used "the competition" - iPhone, Windows Mobile, Treo... the BB is the best all in one get it done machine out there.

So reading back my comment I see I was rather grumpy this morning. That's what lack of coffee and my emails being delayed lately will do (even as I type, I just got an email that was actually received on my gmail account about 13 mins ago...) but I digress.

I do like my Blackberry; I think it does a lot of things right. However, I think RIM has the potential to knock every other device out of the water if they tried a little harder. Even my older phones had better web browsers than my 8300 not to mention HTML email wasn't a problem.

When i go onto operamini.com on my BB it says it doesnt recognize my phone device and wont let me DL the new opera mini 4. i beleive i can DL the old version 3, but i was going to see what you guys thought i should do first. I have a Curve 8310 with AT&T. Anyone have any ideas that might help?? thanks

Other than the 9 or 10 fast dial options in Opera Mini, I wasn't able to save any bookmarks. I found that to be the deal breaker on the Opera Mini. At least with the BB Browser, I can add as many bookmarks as I want.

While, the BB browser is far from perfect, Opera mini still feels like a browser that was designed for another device, and then crammed onto the blackberry (which, if I'm not mistaken it was). I will say the latest version is an awesome improvement.

1) One handed browsing: The shortcut keys don't seem to work very well and it sways to far from standard keys on the blackberry. 'space' page downs more than one page. I can't find page up. I know there's other keys, but they aren't exactly intuitive.
2) Input: Having a separate window pop up when entering addresses, filling out forms, etc... means extra clicks.

For me, while the rendering is nicer, overall the whole experience isn't. Also, there are occasions when viewing a scaled down page is preferred for me. It's faster, and gets me to the meat of a page quicker. I don't need the fancy page layouts.

The ideal for me would be for RIM to partner with Opera and make a browser that mixes the best of both worlds.

While I have gotten Opera Mini to d/l and work on my Verizon 8130, and I do enjoy its interface, I have to agree with tal0n: using it leaves one with the impression that it wasn't designed for the BB, at least not the 8130. Many of the shortcut ideas from the BB browser do not work here. I don't like that trying to enter a URL into the address box brings you to another window. And the mobile versions of the web pages are faster loading and sometimes easier to navigate. If you want to get to the information faster, opposed to having a prettier interface, the scaled-down browser is best.

One question: is there a way to make Opera Mini the default browser? Many searches automatically bring me back to BB's browser even when I've started in Mini.

I agree about the email viewers not displaying emails the way they should look-especially newsletters. it's so annoying! Like i receive the Sephora newsletter every week and it always says something like "if you are having trouble viewing this email please click on this link to be redirected" and it will give me a link to click on to go view the newsletter the right way. I don't even know if it works or how it looks if I go to the link because I don't even bother because it's just aggravating so I end up just doing it on my laptop. I'm going to try that Opera thing now and see what happens. Thanks for the tip about that!

...to add to my previous comment ("SUCKY EMAiL ViEWER") I also hate that it like stalls for a second when you're trying to scroll to the bottom of a long email while it loads the rest of the email (if you know what i mean i didnt explain that very well lol) and it takes forever to send emails that have any kind of attachment-especially picture attachments. and if u try to send one with more than one pic attached it literally never sends it and usually says some kind of error occurred. sooooooooo annoying! lol. let me know what you guys think!

p.s. does anyone know if there's a way to cancel an email while its in the process of sending? like if its taking too long and you just dont even want to bother sending it anymore? i usually just delete it from my messages list but i dont know if that actually stops it from sending or just deletes it so it doesnt show up on the list but is still trying to send it thru. if anyone has any suggestions please let me know. my email is bartlettm@att.blackberry.net - Thanks!

Believe me I had the same feeling about the browser when I received the same email. I wanted to post the blog but the credit goes to Kevin.

Having used Nokia E Series devices extensively, before blackberry, BB browser is useless.

I had installed opera mini 4 also, but was disappointed, as it cannot be set as default browser, secondly it uses proxy server to render websites (good for browsing speeds) but if you want to work on secure sites like banking, it simply dosen't work. Links expire immediately and secure sites do not work.

As far as speed browsing (open rss feeds if available instead of full site) is concerned it's a welcome feature.

I would love RIM to integrate Safari browser which is present on iPhone and Nokia E Series Phones though not a perfect browser but the best in the market, if not then At least Opera which is always my second choice to Safari.

Integrating BBSmart email viewer or Epower email viewer will certainly help, this should have been done by RIM long time back when nokia communicators like 9500, 9300 and 9300i supported html emails.

Weather it's consumer market or Enterprise market, RIM should understand times have changed so as the demands of the customer.

Wake up and implement these things RIM, We as customer know you people are slow at implementing new technology, but you people do it BEST

happy crackberrying

What's wrong with the BlackBerry browser? There are OPTIONS as to other browsers to use??? I feel so blind.

My 8830 wakes me up with its alarm every morning. It gives me my email, which looks great with the new Empower Pro. Thanks to PocketDay personal, I get the weather, news, appointments, to-do's, etc., on my screen at the same time, color-coded to my choosing. When I want to use the Internet, the BB browser leads me right there, and I do what I have to.

I don't understand the dissatisfaction. Maybe the less I know about what the BB can really do, the more content I am? How much should we expect from the BB? When I was growing up, we didn't even have cell phones or computers. To me, this device is a miracle all its own! :o)

@ Rant, in your post you have mentionned that you were able to go on Youtube, are you able to view the videos? As for the ones who wants to try opera mini go to operamini.com with your BB and downloand opera mini 3, the mini 4 is not working on my BB 8130.

Just an FYI about Opera Mini. I just found out from the most recent Security Now podcast that Opera Mini does not offer end to end encryption. Data is encrypted from your phone to Opera's server. For the OperaMini software to translate the HTML/CSS into a format suitable for the phone, OperaMini needs to access the unencrypted version of the website. So your data is not encrypted when it travels from Operas servers to its destination website. Check out their FAQ about it, it probably explains it better than I can :

http://www.operamini.com/help/faq/#security

or

http://www.operamini.com/help/faq/#encryption

For some it may not be a big deal but if you are logging into your banking account online it may be.

the thing that made me stay with opera mini is the the way it integrates with the desktop opera. that alone actually made me switch from firefox to opera desktop. im talking about how you can save bookmarks and speeddials from your desktop browser and they'll automatically sync over the air with you bb's opera mini, or surf on mini to do it vice versa. its really nice for when you found something really cool at home, bookmark it, then know you can pull it up whenever you want on the bb without having to look for it again....which can sometimes drive you nuts on opera mini.

more like the other way around. Other phones had touch screens before the iphone (GASP!) And if those are what you claim are the "good features of the iphone", that's just pathetic. the iphone still can't send a PICTURE MESSAGE, still can't take VIDEO, still can't copy text. Are you serious? Blackberry is actually trying to innovate with clickthrough. And all you say is it will just fail, but give no reasons to back it up? Every person i've met who had an iphone wished it had some way of confirming your touch like my LG Dare does (vibration), so Blackberry came up with another idea. Verizon sucks eh? that's why their network is the best rated overall and is number 1 in customer support. Don't be upset that another company has come up with something good that's not even designed to compete with the Iphone but will be able to anyway.

On the BlackBerry it just looks like a mess. Email Viewers like the ones available from BBSmart and Empower help to improve the email viewing experience, but still don't display emails aoc gold ..rock!

I have an iPhone but then again, I am thinking of getting a Blackberry. Would love to have a curve too so I can try this new browser feature.

Hi nice blog and with the advancement in technology you can send SMS and messages to your dearone while sitting at one place via phone and browser....

That isa nice and funny name that you have given to this. Infact i totally agree with your opinion.Even after spending so much on this silly gadget the pleasure that it is giving is useless.

I beleive i can DL the old version 3, but i was going to see what you guys thought i should do first. I have a Curve 8310 with AT&T.When i go onto operamini.com on my BB it says it doesnt recognize my phone device and wont let me DL the new opera mini 4. Anyone have any ideas that might help?? thanks