The Mobile Web for Basic Phone Browsers

I am a geek. I love super gadgets, especially internet-connected super gadgets. In plain English, that means smartphones. Having used fourty different mobile phones in about seven years, almost all my primary devices at any point in time have been smartphones, and we are talking about the cream of the crop: The Ericsson R380s, Motorola A008, Nokia 9210, Sony Ericsson P800, Nokia 9500, and Nokia E90, among others.

And these super gadgets have more than proven themselves capable as laptop replacements where necesarry. With their powerful processors and advanced browsers, I have been able to consistently get 60% to 80% of my web tasks done on my smartphones.

Those tasks include:

– administering reseller hosting accounts via WHM and RC
– administering hosting accounts via Cpanel
– administering WordPress accounts, and
– online banking on various platforms
– watch movies and video podcasts

For years, I lived in the world of mobile bliss – the very cutting edge.

But something happened recently to stop me dead in my tracks. I purchased a lower mid-range QWERTY phone – the LG KS360. I wanted to see how well it could replace my E90, for example.

Showdown: The high-end Nokia E90 Symbian-powered smartphone against the lower mid-range LG KS360
Showdown: The lower mid-range LG KS360 (right) up against the high-end Nokia E90 Symbian-powered smartphone (left)?

As I used this device from day to day, gradually has it dawned on me that totting smartphones around meant I was living in a world that is not the reality for the majority of mobile phone users.

The KS360 could not play certain video resolutions that I had taken for granted on devices like the E90 and the 5800. Its more basic browser could not handle the huge and complex Ajax-ridden pages that WordPress runs on. And as for WebHostManager and Cpanel… don’t even go there.

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So, Dayo and I tried out some of these tasks on a few other basic phones to be sure. For example, the first two editions of my Venture Show video podcast were beyond the capabilities of devices like the KS360, Sony Ericsson T650i, and the Nokia 3600 – all phones that are likely to be found in the possession of the average Joe.

Reality check: the majority of mobile internet users, who fall within the bracket of low to mid-range phone users, would never be able to identify with my claims of being able to run my entire work schedule from the screen of a phone. Their phones simply do not possess the same capabilities as the phones that we geeks carry around.

We had been producing video and web content for smartphones. And we had ignored the majority of phone users.

It is my opinion that until mobile web designers and developers target the more basic phones, such that the majority of phone users can use their basic phones to access vital web services, the mobile web won’t really succeed in mainstream society.

Opera Mini is the success that it is because it afforded the guy with an average phone to access certain websites that he would otherwise not have been able to access on his mobile. Opera Mini put the mobile web in the hands of the masses.

Do we then leave it to mobile browser developers alone to address site accessibility? That sounds like a bad idea. A better approach would be for mobile website designers to take the more basic mobile browsers into consideration in the design process, such that regardless of the capability of the browser being used, there is a guarantee that a site would work well on that browser.

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Being a geek can be an illusion. Because we enjoy playing with advanced toys, we often forget that the world is more acquainted with more basic toys, and that it is such lower-end toys we should target and test on.

No; I am not throwing away my smartphone. And I am not advocating against smartphones and high-end, high-capacity mobiles.

I must admit that coming from a background like mine, using a mid-range non-smartphone like the KS360 as my primary device is terribly a little painful. But it is a move that is helping me face and identify the real problems that those I am designing for face when accessing the web on their mobile phones. Perhaps then, this new pain, albeit temporary, is one that is worth it.

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.

4 thoughts on “The Mobile Web for Basic Phone Browsers

  • May 20, 2009 at 11:54 am
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    Amen. I agree with the sentiments you have expressed here and it is the first time I noticed you describe yourself as a geek.

    You have to realise that most Internet tasks are still focused around PCs and so creating content content and applications has not always been feasible. Things are changing fast but the challenge now is being able to support the wide variety of mobiles devices and platforms avaiilable today ……

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