Friday, March 27, 2009

New Life for old Pocket PC's

If you have an older HP IPAQ which comes with Windows Mobile 5, and if you have wifi built in, or have an older cell phone with gprs or something, or maybe even 3G who knows, and you hate the version of internet explorer that comes with it, as I do, then let me introduce you to a free (for non commercial use) pocket PC web browser.

The IRIS Browser for Pocket PC by Torch Mobile is optimized for small screens of those such as the Ipaq. It runs on most recent Windows Mobile platforms, and uses Webkit as its rendering engine. Webkit is the same engine used by Googles Chrome browser, and by Apple's Safari. And even by Nokia. It is fast, it is great, and far superior to the version of internet explorer on Pocket PC's.

Before I found this browser I mainly used my pocket PC with MobiPocket e-reader. I had assumed that once e-ink technology becomes affordable I would depart with my Pocket PC (Unless someone ports Google Android to it or something).. But now it has been reborn to do what it was originally designed for in the first place (if IE worked that is).

The Iris Browser offers zooming of windows. The implementation isn't perfect. I think having an onscreen + / - magnifying glass like the one in the latest version of the Google Maps Mobile application would be best. But it is cool to tap and zoom right to the perfect size to read the printed text. The browser offers mobile mode/desktop mode/and single column mode. I find myself looking at single column mode most. Perhaps an easier way to switch between the three would be an improvement. like a little box that changes shape depending on what mode you're in. Of course too many little onscreen icons would mar the precious viewspace, but its just an idea.

I do hate how you have to press a long time to launch a link. I'd rather just tap and go right away. It seems to have been done with thought to accidentally hitting a link when you just want to scroll using the touchpad. The touchpad scrolling is really fun to do, if you've used an iPhone its the same general concept. But even that is tricky to get the OS to register, and takes holding down your stylus or finger on the screen til it registers. I'm a very impatient person and find that the holdup bugs me.

Engadget had a review of an early preview that was lambasted by its users, but the version I had worked great. The only thing I couldn't figure out was how to get flash lite working. I still can't. I followed the FAQ on the torch mobile web page, and I installed it, but it just doesn't work. Ah well.

Now if only Rogers had better wireless 3G plans. I have a mobile internet stick, for my netbook (and while I'm on the subject, they should be selling netbooks at rogers with built in 3G already!) and while the flex rate plan works for me as I don't really use more than 500mb a month anyways, its still ridiculously overpriced. Once again Canadian media oligarchies have to be dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century. Plus theres no flexibility. I have a phone, I have an internet stick. If I want to use the phone I have to pay to add the internet to the phone plan. Why? I'm already paying for the internet stick. Why can't I combine the two? Why can't I tether? What is wrong with those people. No common sense.

Anyways that was a bit of a rant there, whatever. I recommend the Iris browser to anyone with a pocket PC based phone or PDA. It is really really really .. really good. And it doesn't use a server somewhere to compress the data, it does everything locally. Unlike Skyfire, which is another browser being launched for windows mobile devices.

I hope Iris has a deal with Google to get ad revenue from their search page. It's what Mozilla does, and they make a good profit. And as I haven't paid anything for this browser, I hope they make some dough somehow. The company seems to be based in Canada, which is an added bonus, for me anyways. Toronto, sadly, but nobodies perfect.

Still, the best thing for me would be if someone ported Google Android to this device. I truly hate Windows Mobile as a platform. I will avoid it in the future. Maybe go back to palm. Or if Nokia comes out with something good. In the meantime though, thanks Torch Mobile! I mean, seriously, I figured it was only a matter of time before someone ported webkit to the pocket PC and wrote a browser for it.

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