Why the Windows Phone browser has no tabs. Should it?

Windows Phone 7.5

Microsoft’s newest Windows Phone browser (coming soon via the Mango software update) shows improvements, but tabs aren’t part of the redesign. According to the official Windows Phone blog, by way of Gotta Be Mobile, Microsoft’s research shows that an overwhelming number of smartphone users type out web URLs in the address bar, and that tabs and favorites are barely used at all. Both are still available through the browser’s menus in Mango, however.

With a relatively small screen to work with, I can understand the design trade-off to some degree, but it still feels like an omission to me. Perhaps I’m outside the normal user base of mobile devices, but my go-to browser on Android devices, Dolphin HD, does support traditional tabbed browsing, just like a desktop browser. I use the tabs feature extensively — as well as the favorites — even on the small screen of a smartphone. It’s support for tabs that first drew me to this third-party browser, although there are a number of other reasons I think every Android owner should try it.

While the IE9 browser in the newest version of Windows Phone has impressed me, it’s a little disappointing that Microsoft didn’t go further with the redesign. There’s a number of design options that would have allowed for tabs, favorites or other features in way that doesn’t require a menu button. We’ve seen this with Firefox Mobile, for example; swiping the screen left or right shows open tabs, favorites and settings through the clever use of virtual screen space, similar to Dolphin HD. Even a user-configurable option for tabs would be nice. Instead, IE9 in Mango replicates much of Safari’s look and feel on Apple’s iOS platform.

Again, maybe I’m in the minority. Perhaps most mobile users prefer to type their website addresses in or would rather have the small screen of a smartphone focus mainly on web content as opposed to tabs or on-screen menu options.

It likely depends on the display size on a device: A larger or higher-resolution screen — which new handsets are generally trending toward — may provide enough “room” for tabs and such. What’s your take? Do you want tabs in your mobile browser, or are you happy with tapping a menu option to switch between open sites?

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