Iris Browser Review – The Mobile Web Redefined?

A few days ago, we published a news item on the release of the latest version of the Iris browser, developed for WinMo devices. The statement from TorchMobile about the new release reads:

The Iris Browser is an advanced, high-performance and versatile Web browser application for mobile and embedded devices. Based on the WebKit rendering engine, it is specifically designed to function in resource-constrained environments. It brings the full Web experience to mobile phones, set-top boxes, mobile Internet devices, portable media players, Ultra-Mobile PCs and other embedded devices – in a fast and user-friendly manner.

I have taken the browser for a spin over the last couple of days, and hereby present my review:

The Iris pre-configured homepage
The Iris pre-configured homepage

The default homepage is a custom page by TouchMobile that includes a search box. Tap the “Navigate” softkey on the right, and choose “Show address” to pop up the address bar at the top of the screen. Other options include “Home”, “Back”, “Forward”, “Stop”, and “reload”.

The left softkey is labelled “Page”, and under that menu are options to access bookmarks, history, zoom, tabs, set screen view, tools, and options (settings).

The browser allows the opening and running of up to 4 tabs.

Under “View”, the options to choose include: Mobile Mode, Desktop Mode, and Column Mode. Then there’s a full screen option applicable to whatever mode you choose.

Left: Mobile Mode; Right: Column Mode
Left: Mobile Mode; Right: Column Mode

Personally, I am comfortable the most with Column Mode. In this mode, the entire page is fitted into the screen and you only scroll up and down. This is by far the most user-friendly way to browse on a mobile device. The other modes will leave you having to scroll horizontally to read page contents.

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When a page is loaded, by default you get an overview of the whole page, really zoomed out so you can see the entire page. You then zoom into the section you want to read.

Zooming in can be done by simply double-tapping on the section you want. It works well. Alternatively, you can use the left softkey to access a Zoom menu.

But in all modes apart from Column Mode, zooming in messes up usability, because the content you have zoomed into is not fitted to the width of the screen. To read text, you have to scroll horizontally. This is a no-no. My advice: stay in Column Mode. Don’t touch the dial.

Iris offers a nice page transition effect, with the pages sliding in and out and dropping in and out.

History function
History function

The History function is neat. You get three images of the pages in history on the screen at any time, and you can simply move through your history with finger swipes. Tap the central image and that page loads.

Unfortunately, Youtube videos not supported
Unfortunately, Youtube videos are not supported

Still, there are limitations on this browser. One of them is flash support. A visit to Youtube and attempting to watch videos resulted in a “Get the latest Flash player” error message.

Besides that, it loads images well, gives you the option to save them, save pages, search through text on pages, and also track your internet usage.

Iris handles secure sites well, and I was able to login to my bank’s internet platform.

The Iris browser is a good job. It leaves Mobile Pocket Explorer in the dust (which is not saying much), but it also gives Opera Mobile a run for its money. I’m not sure which of the two I prefer yet; just a few days is too little time to choose between these highly capable browsers.

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Thumbs-up to TorchMobile. But while the browser proves itself capable, I am not too sure that what it offers redefines the mobile web as the developers claim.

Mister Mobility

I started blogging about mobile in 2004 as a fun way to share my passion for gadgets and mobile services. My other interests include digital media, speaking and teaching, photography, travelling, and dancing.

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