One of the biggest advantages of the latest generation of cell phones and hand-held devices is the ability to browse any websites, check your e-mail, follow your RSS feeds, etc. While there are mobile devices, such as the iPhone, that are pay particular attention to the user’s experience with the web, the huge majority leave you the option without encouraging you to fully exploit it. For that reason, I’ve put together a quick tutorial on how to take full advantage of the web-surfing capability on your mobile running, running Windows Mobile or Symbian. I am using the Nokia E71 (which I’ve reviewed many months after, as well as compared to lower-end counterparts), but the process is the same for most phones of the same category.
Although 3G Internet access has become significantly cheaper, it is still more economical, as well as rapid, to access the web via wifi whenever available. Therefore, if at a wifi hotspot, it is imperative that you take advantage of the connection and add it to your list of regulars. Aside from free wireless connections, the average telecommunications provider automatically detects the type of phone, and sends a configuration file in shape of an SMS to get your mobile phone on the net in no time. As a result, whenever you open the browser that comes built in, you are prompted to select the access point of choice. Having said that, it is a bit of an inconvenience to make the choice every time, and the process because repetitive and rather tedious.
The solution is a free software available for most called SmartConnect from Birdstep. It carries out a simple task that could save you infinite time and energy. It allows you to create connection groups where you place your preferred access points, and then allows you to move them up and down the priority list. Logically, you would place all of the wifi networks of the places where you are frequently located, followed by the 3G connection from your provider. You can name the group any unique name, such as MyConnections.
After that, any program on your phone that accesses the internet can be configured to make the smart choice. Simply access the settings area of each, and make the default network of connection the group that you created (in this case, MyConnections – yes it appears as a network connection, even though it is merely a group of favorite connections, and that’s the beauty of SmartConnect).
As a result, whenever you access the Web, you will always be automatically on the free wifi if available, or your 3G network if not, without having to answer any questions or calculate the possibilities.
Browsing the web requires a good browser
Now that you’re on the right connection, you will notice that it is not very convenient to use your phone regularly for surfing, even if it’s via a free wifi connection. The reason being that with a small screen and limited functionality, you immediately realize that nothing’s worth so much sacrifice, and will consequently opt for a full browser on your computer. While the difference is too big to consider mobile browsing in any way a contender to the real deal, there are still measures that can be taken to ensure the most pleasant experience on the web.
The web browser that comes built in with the Nokia E71 and similar Symbian-based phones is not even good to be part of the past. Mainly due to the following:
- Below-par performance: takes ages to open simple text websites
- Not intuitive: no matter how much experience you have using it, you never get used to handling it
- Zoom: You can only zoom out at 50%, and you can only do so when the page is done loading. If you’re opening a large-sized website, it could take a solid few minutes before you are allowed to zoom out, when you still can’t see anything because the pages simply don’t fit
- Limited functionality: limited or no control over font size, image settings, RSS feeds, etc.
The Internet Explorer that comes with windows does not have much to brag about either (and let’s not get started on the problems of the desktop version). Needless to say, this needs to be taken care of. This is where Opera comes in. An experienced, open-source browser that has been specializing in mobile devices from the times of dial-up connections. The main advantages of the Opera browser on your mobile are the following:
- Performance: extremely fast and light-weight
- Usability: very easy to use, you become best friends at first sight
- View port: you initially get the entire website and can automatically zoom in to any section of the page. IT makes it very easy to spot info and get closer to fully view it
- Advanced options: you can control if you want to photos to be rendered at low quality (saves immense amounts of time, especially since you never notice the difference from a small display like that of your cell phone), default text size, and more
Above all, it’s free and open-source! To install Opera on your phone, simple open the default browser and go to http://www.opera.com/ and you will be automatically directed to the site optimized for mobile phones. Go to the download page and find your version (Windows or Symbian). If your phone is from a select few (the Nokia E71 included), then you can click on the corresponding link that allows you to download and install Opera Mini, which works like magic.
There you have it, the adequate connection automatically chosen and connected to on your behalf, combining with the best browser for mobile phones available, giving you the optimum solution for fully exploiting the web-surfing capability with the majority of cell phones offered through the market today.