Last time we covered Skyfire, those who wanted to browse the Internet on their phones in the same way as on their PCs had to sign up on a waiting list.
Well, now you can kick that wait time to the curb, because Skyfire has upped its game and left private beta. It is now available to anyone in the U.S. with a phone running on Windows Mobile, and it's still absolutely free.
One of Skyfire's new features -- Super Bar -- acts a lot like Google Chrome's Omnibox with its auto-suggest and search capability in one address bar.Skyfire, which supports all Web 2.0 standards like Ajax and full Flash, is also available in version 0.6 on the Symbian S60 platform. The 0.8 version for Symbian will be released shortly.
Chrome-like Browser Experience
One of the feature additions in the latest release is a tool called Super Bar, which allows for both URL and search entry in the same bar. It also features auto complete, so you can find what you’re looking for by only typing a few letters. Google's Chrome is using the same approach with its Omnibox that has access to all your keystrokes and stores previously entered information. It is also capable of detecting site-specific search engines. We wonder if the similarities will go as far as to provoke the same privacy concerns.
The 0.8 version comes with other new perks, all aimed at improving the mobile browsing experience on media rich sites like MySpace, YouTube and Facebook, including:
* Share Content: Now you can text message web pages to your contacts
* Better video quality
* Improved video streaming
* Download capabilities (Word, PDF, MP3, Gmail attachments, CAB and more)
* Faster launch and auto-reconnect
* Better zooming
Does Newer Always Mean Better?
ReadWriteWeb reports that a drawback to the auto-reconnect feature is that in the event Skyfire cannot find a connection, the only way to escape a mind-numbing continuum of reconnect attempts is to completely exit the browser and restart it.
Additionally, Skyfire is server-assisted, which means a web server collects whatever content you browse, renders it, shrinks it, reformats it and then sends the interactive bits to your phone. This is a great development for quick loading time, decent video playback, zooming in on text, dealing with Flash ads, streaming music, etc. There is no doubt that this is what makes Skyfire shine as a mobile web browser, but this also means Skyfire knows what you're doing whenever you're doing it, as you must log in to be able to surf the web. Is that too invasive? Another side effect of this is that depending on the speed of your mobile connection that server-side rendering business can slow things down.
Overall, we'd say it's a bit of a mixed result really. And in the end Skyfire does sort of feel like a stop gap measure. Better mobile browsing experiences are certainly on the horizon.
Register to download Skyfire here and then tell us what you think.