Review of Bolt Mobile Browser

boltBolt is the name of a new java-based browser for mobile phones. The browser uses the WebKit rendering engine (s60 and iPhone built-in browsers come to mind, anyone?) and a proprietary font engine.

Bolt is developed by Bitstream, the guys behind the niche ThunderHawk Browser.
The developers of Bolt have made the following claims about Bolt:

* Full PC-style browsing on all types of mobile phones
* Web content is never reformatted, repurposed or removed
* Loads pages faster than competing mobile browsers
* Patented navigation and display technologies get you where you’re going faster
* 23:1 over the air data reduction speeds delivery of pages to your phone
* Consumes 1/3 of the battery power of other mobile browsers

Furthermore, the developers say:

Rather than offering a simplified, mini version of the Internet, BOLT provides users with a fast, efficient, feature-rich way to enjoy full PC-style web pages and rich media applications on all levels of mobile devices.

Built on Bitstream’s ThunderHawk browsing technology, BOLT is the result of 5+ years experience developing mobile browsers that optimize usability, speed and performance on resource-constrained systems with limited memory, processing power and screen space. (Source: Bolt Browser – About)

But does Bolt live up to these claims? I have taken the browser for a spin over the last few days, and here I present my findings in this review.

Interface

startpage
The Bolt interface is beautiful. Opera Mini looks bland in comparison. With Bolt, you get the feeling that you are actually browsing on PC. The startpage is especially well-organised and laid out, with three main tabs, History, Favourites (bookmarks), and Feeds. There’s also an address bar (with word auto-complete function) at the top of the page. Loading the startpage presents you with yourlist of bookmarks right away.

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Bolt sports an arrow pointer similar to navigation with a mouse on a PC. The arrow pointer changes to an active pointer (hand-icon) when it moves over a clickable item.

Full PC-style Browsing

alireta
Bolt pulls this off well. In other words, what you get is what you would see if you were browsing on PC. I found the text still quite readable in this format, though I had contrary expectations.

But, beautifully, there’s a “Mobile View” option under “Settings” allowing you switch to accessing the mobile formats of mobile-friendly websites. If the website does not have a mobile version, Bolt simply displays the desktop version of web page – without reformatting anything – even if Mobile view has been selected.

Excellent job!

Speed

Bolt is fast. Very fast. I didn’t do any scientific comparisons, so I am very sure that I cannot give figures. Still my experience is that Bolt matches Opera Mini in speed. I leave it to others to give us the specific statistics that will proclaim one as the faster.

Data Compression

Bolt uses compression technology to deliver web pages to the user. Bolt claims that content is compressed 23:1 before being sent to the handset, reducing data traffic and page load times.

Video and Flash

utube-1
Bolt has limited flash support. You cannot watch Youtube clips directly on the browser, but it allows you to watch them via RealPlayer. For those on an expensive data plan, here’s the good news: Bolt compresses the video into very manageable sizes (most I tried ended up between 300kb and 600kb – I think the 23:1 compression ratio is believable). Of course, viewing quality suffers.

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Other Features

– Find text on page
– Back/Forward
– Pop-up blocking
– Magnification (zooming)
– Image download (download is transferred to the built-in browser)
– Navigation shortcuts
– FTP (I haven’t been able to get it to work yet)

In all I have found Bolt a very refreshing application to use. It has replaced Opera Mini as my backup mobile browser. Now, if only I can get that FTP feature to work…

If your mouth is watering a bit by now, please go ahead and download your copy of Bolt.

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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