Yeah I jumped on this one a bit too quick. Now Im out $15,
Web browsing is one of the major application areas of portable devices – no wonder the iPhone is also Web-centric with its excellent Safari browser.
The “accelerated” scrolling mode of Safari is widely copied in the Windows Mobile world. The latest title to support this kind of screen dragging mode is Touch Browser by Makayama available for purchase and, now, trial download HERE (manual HERE).
It’s an external wrapper to Internet Explorer Mobile (IEM), just like Webby and unlike traditional IEM plug-ins like Spb Pocket Plus, PIEPlus and MultiIE. This also means it has some of the inherent problems common to all these solutions; more on this later.
OK, enough talk, let’s get straight to the facts: frankly, as of version 1.0.2, I’m not at all satisfied with this app. Currently, there are far better alternatives. Why? Let’s take a detailed look. (Note that this list is pretty much terse. If you don’t understand it, make sure you read my other Web browser reviews and Bibles; in them, I’ve thoroughly elaborated on all the issues I’ve referred to in this review.)
- The keyboard is either vowels on top or numbers – there’s no QWERTY layout, unlike on the iPhone or with, say, Spb Full Screen Keyboard. This itself makes URL input very hard – iPhone’s QWERTY inputting is just far better and, if you’re (as most people) used to QWERTY, faster. Screenshots showing this: Landscape 1 2, Portrait 1 2. System-level auto-completion works in URL input mode (see THIS), but there’s no address completion (based on the history / the favorites) the like in Opera Mini 4.1 or all versions of Opera Mobile. Also note that it’s impossible to enter symbols like ~, ? and & - this is a MAJOR problem too! All you can do is assigning a hardware button to <Input Panel> and use it to quickly bring up the keyboard and enter anything on it, unrestricted.
- It’s in no way possible to access the standard menu. Fortunately, it’s possible to access favorites via the context menu and the usual PIE / IEM context menu items, including for example Save Image for images (which doesn’t work?!), are all accessible. The lack of menu access results in, say, the inability to switch between low and hi-res modes on VGA Pocket PC’s on the fly. What is worse, it’s not possible to access the three (One Column / Fit to Screen / Desktop) different rendering modes in View, should you want to switch between them on-the-fly. Yeah, sure, ZB does have an entire button for one-column view, so, the problem is mitigated to some degree. Nevertheless, the default mode seems to be the desktop (!!!) view, which is, in most cases, completely useless and to-be-avoided. That is, you’ll end up having to switch to the one-column view, which, with some kinds of content (for example, charts) results in a huge decrease in readability (in general, the “Fit to screen” mode, which isn’t supported by Touch Browser, is the best of the three modes).
- Speaking of the (W)VGA hi-res mode switch introduced in WM5 AKU 3.5, independent of its state, documents will ALWAYS be rendered in low-res. This is not what you may want to prefer if you have a hi-res device and want to take advantage of the resolution to fit as much data into the screen as possible.
- The Settings menu has been hastily designed for Portrait devices and needs scrolling in Landscape – (this is, of course, a minor issue, compared to the major problems of the app)
- No tabs or other enhancements; the only enhancement is the one-column mode, which doesn’t add much to WM2003SE+ devices (it was in WM2003SE that One Column mode was introduced). Compare this to the tab support of Spb Pocket Plus
- No way to switch to text copy/paste mode – VERY bad!
- No hotkey support at all – all you have is the D-pad (and, of course, the on-screen menu) for shortcuts
- Dynamic scrolling is just far less spectacular and far slower than with Spb– mostly because of the slow CF-based engine
- The D-pad can’t be used for scrolling and the Action button to select links – it’s strictly for bringing up / hiding the menu (up/down), navigating to the previous/next page (left/right) and showing the actual position of the viewport in the page (Action). The latter (displaying the actual position with scrollbar-alikes) doesn’t let for scrollbar-based scrolling and is far-far inferior to, say, Opera Mini 4’s or NetFront’s minimap / page overview solution. That is, there’s absolutely NO way of scrolling the page without using the touchscreen, only via the buttons. This is a REAL disadvantage compared to ALL other browsers or PIE plug-ins, where you can not only use the D-pad for scrolling, but you can also configure how scrolling should be done (link / line / page-based scrolling) or, in cases, can even use other hardware buttons for scrolling. Touch Browser doesn’t allow for the latter (that is, assigning scroll or page down functionality to hardware buttons as is explained in the Button Enhancer Bible.) It isn’t compliant with SmartSKey either, configured to page scrolling using the volume slider – unlike with most other Web browsers (or plug-ins).
- Sometimes it just crashes – for example, when just entering http://www..com or the random URL given in the system input panel tip above. The latter can only be helped with the phone buttons. Also, upon exiting the app with the X icon, it always throws exceptions (like THIS and THIS). This certainly shows it needs some HEAVY, additional debugging.
- Absolutely no feedback on the state of loading pages – unlike with the underlying IEM.
While I pretty much liked Makayama’s past Windows Mobile-related software titles, all I can say is you’d better stay away from this title for the time being – that is, before it undergoes a real facelift and enhancement. It’s just worse than the alternatives. If you do need iPhone-like accelerated (!) scrolling, go for any of the newer browsers: Opera Mobile 9.x, NetFront 3.5 or, if you plan to stick with IEM, Spb Pocket Plus 4. If all you want to have is screen-based dragging (without the nice “acceleration”), then, other, even older browsers will do: NetFront 3.3/3.4, Opera Mobile 8.6x, Thunderhawk, Opera Mini (all versions) or the two traditional IEM plug-ins: PIEPlus and MultiIE. Technically, these browsers are ALL far superior – far more reliable, far more feature-packed, easier-to-use (buttons, fast scrolling, minimap etc.) and, with some of them (Opera Mini, for example) even free.
Also, this browser (as with Webby) certainly shows Compact Framework is just unsuitable for writing fast-scrolling apps. Use native C++ for implementing applications that rely on quick (!) graphics.
Knowing the Makayama folks are pretty adept and knowledgeable people, I really hope they do improve this browser and that, once, Touch Browser will become a decent alternative to screen-dragging solutions. For the time being, I don’t recommend it, however.
Thanks for the Makayama folks for providing me with a test version. This was about a day before the trial version has been released. Should I have known beforehand they were going to release a trial, I definitely wouldn’t have requested a test (read: registered) version, though – after all, I hate biting the feeding hand. Exactly this is why I’m asking ALL software developers to ALWAYS release trial versions of their titles. Then, I would have a far easier time writing bad reviews of titles I’ve received a test version (practically, a freebie) of.
What to come?
Now that I’m getting prepared for my W3C speech at Saturday, I plan to quickly update my YouTube playback & browsing-related stuff, particularly now that
1, CorePlayer 1.2.3 has just been released - with enhanced YouTube support;
2, a new and, according to the dev, somewhat faster compile of the YouTube TCPMP plug-in has been released
3, finally, firmware version v21 for the Nokia N95 has been released, adding Flash Lite 3 and, consequently, native YouTube support in Nokia Web. So far, I’ve found it excellent with its full features like stereo (!) audio playback, full screen mode etc – it’s certainly worth updating my Windows Mobile articles too to see how they compare to the native Flash Lite 3-based solution of Nokia.
JAMM’s review - definitely worth a read
Yeah I jumped on this one a bit too quick. Now Im out $15,
Me too. What a crappy app!Originally Posted by michaelflorio82
Visor Deluxe, Visor Prism, Casio EM-500, Casio E-200, HP Jornada 568, IPAQ 1910,IPAQ 4150,Ipaq 2750 (with Moto Razr V3),Imate K-Jam,Treo 750, HTC Touch Cruise, HTC Touch Diamond(US),iPhone 3G 16GB,iPhone 3GS 16GB
Glad to see you agree with me - given the popularity of the Makayama folks, at first, I was pretty reluctant to post such a bad review. Was really afraid of Makayama fanboys attacking me
UPDATE (04/23/2008): version 1.1 has just been released with the following fixes / enhancements:
- Qwerty keyboard option
- Button to turn TouchFlo on/off
- Improved animation algorithm (smoother)
- Sound on/off
- Saves custom home page
- Options page screen lag fixed
- (compared to pre-1.0.2 versions,) Added hyphen (-) on the keyboard
I keep you posted of the future versions. When most / all of my grieves are fixed, I post an entirely revised review.
Another flaw is that it cannot be set as default browser. So even if they do fix everything it is still a pain to use. Unless I missed that, I admit I did not spend to much time with it, it was that bad.
Originally Posted by Menneisyys
Yeah, I have it loaded. Still blows. There are known performance issues with TouchFlo that supposedly is being worked on for the next release. What I find strange is that even though it uses the PIE engine, TB does not render pages all that well. For example, PIE can render the mobile version of PPCT's just fine where TB can't render the entire page.
It wouldnt eben load hofo or google when i tried it. It needs ALOT of work if it wants to even be a bleep on the mobile browser front.