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I was sitting in a comfy chair at home this weekend and spinning through my FriendFeeds as I do frequently to see what my peeps were up to.  I find it a brilliant use of a few moments when they present themselves because there are no […]

Jkotr_iphoneI was sitting in a comfy chair at home this weekend and spinning through my FriendFeeds as I do frequently to see what my peeps were up to.  I find it a brilliant use of a few moments when they present themselves because there are no shortage of topics being actively discussed on the Internet.  Steve Rubel, no question one of the most active tweeters out there (and a truly nice guy) posed an interesting question and asked his followers how they consume the web when away from the office.  Not to put words in Steve’s mouth but I took his question to really mean how do you consume the web when away from a computer?  Steve started getting answers to his question immediately and it was an excellent conversation and one that got me to thinking about how my own web consumption has changed.

The most telling change to my web consumption is evident with the above web session itself.  I was sitting in the comfy chair and following Steve’s conversation on my iPhone.  In the past I would likely have been using one of the ultra-portable notebooks or Tablet PCs at my disposal, or maybe the HTC Advantage PDA.  It didn’t take me long after getting the iPhone to gravitate to it when these brief web-browsing opportunities present themselves.  At first I figured I was grabbing the iPhone due to its portability and small size.  After all it fits in the hand and is flat easy to grab and go to the web.  Upon further reflection however I realized that while the portability is a strong factor in my increasingly heavier usage of the iPhone for web work the main factor is simply how good the browsing experience is on the device.  Mobile Safari is hands down the best mobile browser on the market and while many of us poked fun at Jobs’ "the real Internet" speech in this case he was telling us the truth.

Opera Mobile 9.5 on the Windows Mobile platform comes close toproviding a web experience to rival that of the iPhone but falls shortjust enough to keep me picking up the iPhone.  Maybe mobile Safari isbenefitting from the touch-optimized iPhone interface, in fact itprobably is.  Opera Mobile 9.5 might be good enough if it was runningon a device that had been built from the ground up to be manipulated bytouch, or maybe not.  The problem is we’ll never know because none ofthe iPhone’s competitors can approach the touch interface and theusability it provides on the iPhone.

I find myself, like a lot of those who responded to Steve’sconversation, grabbing the iPhone more and more when I want to jump onthe web.  I can easily do most anything I want to do on the web usingthe iPhone and it’s just plain easier to use than any other mobilebrowser platform.  Sure text entry is not the best with the on-screenkeyboard but let’s face it, how often do I really need to enter a lotof text?  Not as often as I might have thought at first.  So I amfinding the iPhone is changing the way I consume the web, and from whatI saw online this weekend I’m not alone.  You just can’t argue againstsomething that does what you want so well.

There are very few web sites that don’t work on the iPhone and thatsurprises me.  I guess I’m prejudiced by my past experiences with otherbrowsers but I find almost all sites work very well on the iPhone.  Theonly sites that don’t work well are those optimized for mobilebrowsers, an ironic situation.  A word of advice for webmasters, if youhave a stripped down version of your web site for mobile browsers wedon’t need it on the iPhone.  Having a second version of your site forother mobile browsers is great but don’t make your main site auto-checkfor a desktop browser and then force my iPhone to a stripped downversion of your site.  They don’t work as well as the full site and Iwon’t likely come back.

  1. James, I was looking at your site viewed by the iPhone and was wondering it were possible for you to halve the width of the right-hand orange column? This would allow the site to be viewed on many mobile devices without needing to zoom in and out.

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  2. All true… But the lack of any real keyboard makes it a consumer device…not business equipment. And lack of flash…I read your exellent post and right under it was the hated little cube which says “sorry…I can’t read this content”. Bluetooth keyboard and flash would answer these objections.

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  3. andy burnett Monday, July 28, 2008

    I have exactly the same experience. Despite having numerous alternatives, I keep reaching for the iphone, particularly for my google reader work.

    Having said that @PJE’s comment about Flash and the keyboard is very true. I find the keyboard great for relatively simple emails etc, but too slow for note taking. However, my N810 combined with the Logmein client and Nokia’s bluetooth keyboard seems to work as an excellent complement. If only I could have everything in one device! ;-)

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  4. I have tested myself and find I can type roughly as fast on my iPhone as my BlackBerry, Mogul, Treo, and Advantage. I have heard the ‘No Real Keyboard’ comment before, but, at least in my case, it is not a real criticism.

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  5. I agree with @PJE, your site could benefit from a little bit of reformatting since it is a mobile tech site. As for other people’s website, think about the growing use of mobile devices (WM and iPhone) and cut down on the use of Flash since I can’t see it on my mobile device. Also, some of the comment schemes on blogs are virtually impossible to use from an iPhone.

    Still, these are but niggles, and I heartily agree with the premise of your post.

    Taxman

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  6. turn.self.off Monday, July 28, 2008

    to bad its a locked down device that initiates this change…

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  7. I’ve been using Opera Mini the same way. With Opera Mobile 9.5’s release the Java browser has really been overlooked.

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  8. I did not know of your existence a while ago but when I heard the news that Gigaom brought you I thought of reading your blog jkontherun, now I am your daily visitor and find your writings really interesting and and and I love he iPhone too.

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  9. I think it’s good the general public is becoming more aware of the possibility to use the Web on your mobile device, but really, this has been possible for a few years. As mentionned above, Opera Mini has allowed me to do this for some time. Granted, Safari and Opera Mobile do offer a richer experience.

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  10. Nothing new here, I have been using a PDA/Smartphone for brief web surfing since 2001. I first started using a mobile device rather than a laptop with a HandSpring Visor PDA along with the Intel WiFi Springboard module. Since 2001, I have regularly used a Palm OS or WM device for short web surfing sessions. Although scrolling and panning a full desktop site from the small screen of an iPhone or other mobile device looks cool in the demo, it is a pain for regular use. I prefer a good vertically oriented mobile website any day on a mobile device with < 7" screen. The much maligned Pocket IE is one of best browsers for the mobile internet. Surprisingly, Mobile Safari is one of the least desirable browsers for generic (not iPhone specific) mobile web pages. About 85% of my mobile device browsing is using Pocket IE due to its fine rendering of the generic mobile web. For the other 15% (usually because the site does not have a mobile version) I use Opera Mini, or the latest versions of Mobile Opera / NetFront. I have found NetFront, and Opera Mini to be the equal of Mobile Safari for the full web (particularly on a 4" VGA WM device), and far superior to Mobile Safari for displaying generic mobile pages. I do not have an iPhone because it is too feature deficient for my needs, but I do have an iPod touch. I rarely use the touch for web browsing because I prefer the vertically oriented mobile web on small screen devices, and just about any other mobile browser does a much better job displaying the mobile web. It is a rare day when I have not used a VGA WM device (Toshiba e830 - 5 years old and still love it -, Dell X51v, or HP210) to check something on the web.

    One of the more popular trends on the web now is for iPhone specific webpages which eliminate the horizontal scrolling that looks cool in demos, and gets old very quickly, at least for me. I also find it a bit ironic that many mobile gadget sites on the web use the latest formatting standards which many mobile devices either can not render, or can only view with extensive horizontal scrolling. With the explosion of internet capable mobile devices, there should be more generic mobile sites. I much prefer using the mobile NYTImes site over the full NYTimtes site on small screen devices. Mobile Safari, NetFront, Mobile Opera, and Opera Mini can all render the full NYTImes site fine (except for the front page flash video), but too much horizontal scrolling is required to find what you want. The mobile site has basically the same info as the full site, but eliminates the dreaded horizontal scrolling.

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