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SkyFire review

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With mobile browsing becoming so popular, it’s no surprise to find that there are more mobile options becoming available. The Microsoft browser included with even the latest version of Windows Mobile still isn’t up to much, so the vast majority of handsets ship with an alternative and most go with Opera Mobile.

The Mozilla foundation is getting ready to launch its Fennec Mobile browser but another alternative is already here in the guise of SkyFire. As well as Windows Mobile, SkyFire is also available for some Symbian phones.

SkyFire’s selling points are its speed and ability to play back media content, which currently isn’t possible in the competition. It’s been available as a limited beta in the US and Canada for some time, and a few months ago in the UK as well. Having just hit version 1.0 we thought it was a good time to take a look at it.

SkyFire says it wants to recreate the desktop browsing experience and it touches such as auto completing addresses as you enter text it does help towards that. 

The browser has a clean look, with an arrow at the top left, which you tap to hide the address bar. A back arrow has been placed just to the left of the address bar and the home button is to the right. At the top right is a zoom icon indicated by a Plus and Minus and tapping this brings up large Plus and Minus button for scrolling in and out – but you can do the same with a double tap. A status bar at the bottom shows yet another zoom button and a Menu button for getting to options.

When you first start up Skyfire home page is already populated with news RSS feeds from popular sites such as Yahoo News, Hulu, though clearly they are US centric. However, you can easily activate or deactivate these or manually add your own.

Press the home button and you are shown Bookmarks and history tabs. You’re also invited to plum in you Facebook and Twitter sign in information, and it will then show you the Tweets from those your are following. You can update you status right from the browser, but nothing more so no checking @replies or Direct messages. You can also create a SkyFire account, which will then save your cookies and your bookmarks, which is great when you move onto your next phone.

Another nice touch is that you can easily share links via SMS or via Facebook and Twitter, just by selecting the share menu.

Pages load subjectively quickly in the browser, but text and images proves to be not that clearly rendered, while images were often soft. It also does not reflow that text to fit the size of the screen as you zoom as Opera Mobile does. Another bugbear is that the when clicking in a text filed the browser keyboard doesn’t automatically pop up.

The ability to play mobile video content such as Flash is the biggest draw, and as long as you’re in a strong HSDPA coverage area of using Wi-FI, it was truly great to finally be able to play this in sites such as YouTube and the BBC. Performance isn’t wonderful however, with a low frame rate and some stutter. This was mainly because SkyFire can’t properly tap into the rendering hardware of the Touch HD, a problem it’s going to share with most devices.

By the same token it was disappointing that it wasn’t able to use the accelerometer inside the device and so wasn’t able to rotate into landscape mode, which makes it hard to use for some sight.

Overall, SkyFire is an interesting effort, and has some potentially useful features. Its integration of RSS feeds, Twitter and Facebook is also appealing for one.

It’s certainly not there yet as replacement for your default browser, but by dint of the fact that it enables you to finally watch online videos on your phone, it certainly deserves to be installed along side. And as it’s only just reached 1.0 status, we can look forward to further enhancements in the future.

Skyfire info

Ease of use: [[{“type”:”media”,”view_mode”:”thumbnail_60x60″,”fid”:”21620″,”attributes”:{“alt”:””,”class”:”media-image”,”height”:”60″,”width”:”60″}}]]
Value: [[{“type”:”media”,”view_mode”:”thumbnail_60x60″,”fid”:”21621″,”attributes”:{“alt”:””,”class”:”media-image”,”height”:”60″,”width”:”60″}}]]
Features: [[{“type”:”media”,”view_mode”:”thumbnail_60x60″,”fid”:”21620″,”attributes”:{“alt”:””,”class”:”media-image”,”height”:”60″,”width”:”60″}}]]
Overall [[{“type”:”media”,”view_mode”:”thumbnail_60x60″,”fid”:”21620″,”attributes”:{“alt”:””,”class”:”media-image”,”height”:”60″,”width”:”60″}}]]

Platform: Windows Mobile

Price: Free

Developer: Skyfire

Website/Demo: Skyfire website

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