Justin Carter's madfellas.com

Opera Mobile 9.51 Beta 1 released

It has been a long time coming, but Opera Mobile 9.5 (beta) is available for download. It has been delayed a couple of times and saw a version bump from 9.0 to 9.5 to bring it into line with Opera 9.5 for desktops. It made it's first appearance on the HTC Touch Diamond (with support for the built-in accelerometer for screen rotation) and now is generally available for all touch-screen WM5/WM6 devices, with support for other mobile devices and operating systems to follow soon.

The browser itself is very slick and very full featured. It supports;

  • tabbed browsing (max 3 tabs at a time)
  • overview / adaptive zooming with extra zoom-in and zoom-out options in the context menu and configurable zoom settings (enter opera:config in the address bar)
  • intelligent text wrapping to avoid horizontal scrolling while reading
  • auto-complete list of previously visited sites when typing in an address
  • copy and paste mode and a Save image option
  • saved pages for viewing offline
  • "find in page" searching 
  • bookmark synchronisation between mobile and desktop using Opera Links
  • and a whole lot more...

Opera Mobile 9.5 is also powerful enough to use the "advanced" version of Gmail and applications built with the ExtJS library, which I think is pretty outstanding :) It is also supposed to be using the same engine as the desktop version of Opera with the same support for (X)HTML and CSS standards (though they note that this beta version doesn't currently pass the Acid 2 test). It will be interesting to see some JavaScript benchmarks, both now while it's in beta and after it's final release.

Here's a pic of Gmail on my phone in the zoomed-out overview mode:


Good times ahead for mobile browsing!

Cool on-screen keyboard for Windows Mobile

PocketCM Keyboard is a drop-in replacedment for the standard on-screen keyboard on Windows Mobile. Apart from the "iPhone-esque" revealing of letters as you press the screen, it has a some neat dictionary and auto-correction features, full keyboard customisation (even down to the individual images displayed on keys), a "keypad" type feature where if you hold down a key for 250ms a new selection of keys will pop up (such as a number pad or row of symbols), and a whole lot more... And it looks quite usable too! I wonder if Microsoft will catch on, or just be happy to watch the community build third party tools.... Personally, I'm happy with transcribing (hand-writing recognition) and a physical keyboard, but this could add another edge to the already versatile Windows Mobile products :)

Opera Mini 4 vs iPhone

This one is classic :) The Opera Mini 4 beta was recently released and Opera have a great Apple / iPhone spoof commercial to go with it. Enjoy! It's shaping up to be a great browser for all Java capable phones (that's a LOT, including Windows Mobile devices that have JVM's installed), and Opera have also annouced Opera Mobile 9 for Windows Mobile which will run natively instead of in a JVM. There is an official demo on the Opera Mini site, along with 10 reasons to love Opera Mini 4 and an online simulator as well! If that isn't information overload then there are also a couple of reviews that are worthwhile reading at ZDNet and Opera Watch. Go Opera go! :D

Upcoming 3G Windows Mobile 6 Devices

There are a number of Windows Mobile 6 devices due to hit the market in the next few months so I thought I'd do a mini-roundup of the ones I'm keeping my eye on; Eten X800, Toshiba G900 and i-mate 7150 (pictured in that order from left to right). Eten X800, Toshiba G900, i-mate 7150 I'm after a few key features that my next phone MUST have:
  • Windows Mobile 6
  • 3G (or 3.5G) / HSDPA connectivity
  • VGA (640x480) or higher resolution display
  • 2.5mm/3.5mm audio jack (mini-USB earphones are usually terrible quality)
  • WiFi 802.11b/g (standard in most devices now)
I'm also hoping to have as many of these features as possible:
  • 128MB RAM or higher
  • SD 2.0 compatibility to support 4GB and larger SD/miniSD/microSD cards (the SD 2.0 spec supports up to 32GB)
  • 2MP camera with auto-focus
  • QWERTY keyboard
  • Must be less than 18mm thick
  • Built-in GPS
  • USB host support (e.g. allows you to access the data on an external USB drive)
It's difficult to pick a device to go with in the Windows Mobile market because there is no such thing as the "perfect" device. Each device is lacking something that makes you think twice, and the three I've listed above are no exception. The Eten X800 looks like a great phone, and I think it's my current front-runner. It's specs haven't been fully confirmed, but from what I know its main pro's include:
  • VGA 640x480 resolution
  • Built-in SiRF Star III GPS
  • 15.8mm tickness
But it does have a couple of cons as well:
  • Unconfirmed whether the microSD slot supports SD 2.0
  • The microSD slot means that it could be a little while before larger sized media is available. It's the smallest and therefore the hardest to pack so much capacity into. Increases incapacity trickle down from SD -> miniSD -> microSD
  • Lacks a QWERTY keyboard
The Toshiba G900 is also a very sweet looking phone and has a couple of features that position it well in the market:
  • WVGA 800x480 screen resolution!
  • Finger print scanner for unlocking the device, which apparently doubles as a pointing device
It does however have a couple of cons which I think may rule it out for me:
  • Unconfirmed whether the miniSD slot supports SD 2.0
  • 21.5mm thick and weighs 198g
  • I've heard conflicting reports, but most say this device has only 64MB RAM (and 128MB ROM)
The i-mate 7150 is an interesting device with it's clamshell, flippy, rotatey screen thing, and has a second display on the outside for when the device is closed shut. Pro's include:
  • 3.5" 640x480 256K colour display
  • Great looking keyboard
  • 128MB RAM and 256MB ROM
There are of course a couple of cons with this device as well:
  • The "Ultimate" range is i-mates first attempt at building their own WM devices - previously they were rebranding the HTC devices
  • Unconfirmed whether the microSD slot supports SD 2.0, and as above with the Eten X800 the microSD sized cards are usually the last to have larger capacity storage cards become available
  • It is quite a bit wider than other devices (around 15mm wider on average)
Now I just have to wait for official confirmation on the specificaitons for each of these phones. The Eten X800 looks like it will be the first to market, and if it has SD 2.0 support I think I'll be grabbing one at the first chance I get :)

HTC Touch (watch out iPhone)

This is a pretty sweet looking Windows Mobile 6 device :) The HTC Touch is definitely going to be a direct competitor to the iPhone. It is quite thin at 13.9mm and very light at 112g, and I'm guessing they've made a consious decision to keep costs down by leaving out 3G (HSDPA) support (as did Apple with the iPhone) and also only spec'd it with 64MB RAM. HTC have added a slick customised "3D" user interface on top of WM6 which has 3 different screens for Contacts, Media, and Applications. The user can sweep their finger up the screen to bring up the interface, sweep across the screen to rotate between pages, and sweep down the screen to hide the interface again. These kinds of sweeping interactions will also work in the normal WM6 interface on long lists like your Contacts or your Email/SMS Inbox. As with other PocketPC type devices, you can also use a stylus with the HTC Touch to allow use of either the onscreen keyboard or hand writing recognition using Transcriber. Personally I never use the onscreen keyboard on my current phone as the Transcriber works perfectly well (except when typing in passwords, I use the keyboard to ensure accuracy). The only thing better would be a sliding QWERTY keyboard. Check out the HTC Touch site to watch some animations on how the device can be used. There is also 3 x HTC Touch's to be won if you sign up to their mailing list and it seems to be open to quite a few countries! A few more notes on this device versus the iPhone... The HTC Touch supports SD 2.0 which means it can support 4GB microSD cards, and 8GB cards have already been previewed by some manufacturers. This standard also supports up to 32GB so in the future it will be able to have a much larger capacity than the fixed capacities of 4GB and 8GB that Apple will initially offer with the iPhone. Upgradability is always a winner in my books. The big feature for business users is Exchange integration. Windows Mobile has had this for years, letting you sync your Inbox, Contact, Calender, Notes and other types of content with your device. However with Windows Mobile 6 you get new features for reading HTML email, flagging and searching, and with Exchange 2007 you can do remote searching for mail that is not even stored on your phone, as well as push email and more! On top of that, the huge array of third party applications for Windows Mobile make it a great platform to use. My favourite is probably TCPMP, a media player that supports a huge array of video codecs (including divx/xvid and now even FLV!). Other apps I frequently use include Messenger, PocketMusic and PocketSCUMM (a emulator for those classic LucasArts games. Playing games like The Secret of Monkey Island on your phone is just cool!). I have to admit I probably won't be lining up to get one of these phones because I'm after 3G, more RAM, a sliding QWERTY keyboard and a higher resolution screen (my current dream phone is a toss up between the Toshiba G900 and the i-mate Ultimate 7150), but if it was a choice between the HTC Touch and the Apple iPhone I'd go for the HTC Touch hands down. UPDATE: There are a number of vids popping up on YouTube with the HTC Touch in action. I found one which gives you a fairly good idea of how smooth the interface is, even if the reviewer hasn't quite worked out how to sweep his finger across the screen properly :) And here's another, with marketing hype and all!