Way back when I began to use my mobile for surfing the internet and to catch up on my emails and news it was a very tedious affair. Browsing on Wap, GPRS/EDGE was difficult in itself and then combined with limited tools and browsers for the mobile it was an obstacle course no less. The browser was in fact limited to Opera Mobile and there was no NetFront or any other alternative back then. Opera Mini then burst onto the scene and had a lot going for it in terms of its speed, ease of use, and the fact that it would work on any mobile with java, and ended up becoming the browser of choice on my Nokia Smartphone which came preinstalled with Opera Mobile which does say a lot in favor of Opera Mobile.
I was introduced to Bolt recently and I’ve been using it quite extensively the past couple of days. Bolt is written in java, which means it will work in pretty much every mobile phone there is. Right off the block one thing it has going for it is that you can play videos on it and quite well too. It does not really play Flash videos or content, but the video is converted to a low bit rate variant, which does enable video streaming and you can watch videos on Bolt. Another great feature is that it renders the websites exactly as they are i.e. in other words no mobile formatting or mobile view or your browsing is limited to just mobile or Wap sites. This feature is also available in Opera Mini but with a zoom in and zoom out option. Bolt delivers this with horizontal scrolling enabled along with vertical scrolling, simple but neat and it really does work very well. In terms of styling though especially with CSS in terms of text and font it is pretty limited and it does not render all fonts and texts as they are visible in Opera Mini, Opera Mobile or NetFront.
Tabbed browsing is a no go still but Bolt does offer 3 tabs in “History”, “Favorites” and “Feeds”. Add to this a URL box and a search box on the default homepage of Bolt and you are all set to go. It is definitely not a full length browser like the ones on a desktop PC by any means, but it is certainly leagues ahead of most mobile browsers since most of the mobile browsers are limited to browsing only mobile or Wap sites or are especially adept at reformatting content to fit on the mobile screen or just plain suck at displaying the webpage exactly as it is on a desktop browser. The iPhone does succeed in making mobile browsing a breeze but then how many can really afford an iPhone. I’m yet to lay my hands on an Android powered mobile phone so cannot really comment there either.
Among other features is an option to choose between desktop mode and split screen, but split screen was a feature that I could not get to work very well on my touch screen mobile and had to stick to the desktop mode. Another minus was the inability to turn off the texting options and menu at the bottom of the screen. Having a touch screen mobile I would love to have as much screen real estate as possible especially in landscape mode and the bottom two lines of my screen going for the menu and virtual keyboard were sort of hampering especially with no option to turn them off. Hopefully this will be fixed in the later versions and that too with a hotkey combination to make it more usable.
In terms of usability Bolt is definitely a breeze to use, the learning curve is less than 2 minutes and all the menus and options are delineated clearly. Browsing speeds were pretty nifty on my GPRS connection and all pages loaded very quickly indeed. In particular Bolt did not crash or turn unresponsive at any time. I’ve not tried any forums or comments with Bolt as of yet so will update on that later, but I would say I use my mobile mainly for browsing Google News and other such stuff. Checking mail, forums and other functions where a high degree of texting is required is something I leave for the desktop PC unless of course there is an emergency and I’m away from a desktop PC.
All in all, Bolt does not reinvent the wheel here nor does it bring desktop browsing to the mobile (actually no one does it yet), but all things considered and especially when you consider web pages are rendered the same as in a desktop browser without any mobile reformatting and videos can be played on it meaning YouTube is pretty much accessible, Bolt is a definite go from me and a thumbs up all the way.