Windows Mobile Browser Battlemodo: Can You Get the Real Internet?

Many of you asked for a re-do of Windows Mobile browser testing after our Battlemodo declared the platform beyond worthless for surfing. So here it is, the internet running on Windows Mobile's finest hardware.

Before we get started, a quick note on the last Windows Mobile test, and what we're doing differently here. Some of you guys complained that the Samsung Epix was a crappy, slow piece of hardware. However, according to Laptop, its 624MHz Marvell processor and 128MB RAM are specs that just about on par with the three phones clamoured for in the comments. Still, you get your wish: Here we lined up the Sony Xperia X1, HTC Touch Pro (AT&T's Fuze) and the Samsung Omnia, and put them through the same tests. On the Epix, for Opera testing, we went with v8.65 in order to not use beta software. (Opera's own site lists 8.65 as its most recent stable version.) Here, all the Windows Mobile hardware we've added to the test have Opera 9.5 built right in.

So without further explanation, here are the numbers—time to load the page, and how accurately it was rendered using Firefox 3 as a reference:

As you can see, the Xperia, Fuze and Omnia are about on par with the Epix when it comes to IE (they suck!), though Opera Mobile 9.5 obviously crushes 8.65 when it comes to speed and competency. I asked Opera why I saw the performance differences between the three phones and they admitted that there are some tweaks, which "are mainly with making our browser work best on the different devices." So, let's look at the new phones and see how they rate against the Epix:

Xperia X1
You probably noticed in the chart that load times are longer over Wi-Fi in a few spots. This is because it would randomly hang, not loading data, for up to 20 seconds. The Xperia was aggravating because its touchscreen seemed to be the least responsive of the three, making navigation a pain, though its optical mouse came in handy for zipping around pages, and it worked better than the Omnia's. One other annoyance is that Opera blocked its virtual symbol keyboard from coming up, which made it hard to enter one of the URLs. It falls smack in the middle.

HTC Fuze
I had the smoothest overall experience with the Fuze, and would be my closest thing to a recommendation. Its touchscreen was responsive, which made double tapping to zoom and pan around pages fast and mostly intuitive in Opera Mobile. Having symbols mapped directly to the keyboard is a big time saver while punching in URLs. This is good, since it seemed to be the slowest of the three, both over 3G and Wi-Fi. Sluggishness aside, the web experience is markedly more usable than the other two new phones.

The all-touchscreen Omnia, despite being the fastest over 3G in a number of cases, was a nightmare. During the 3G tests, it managed to crash Opera on three of the six pages tested. I also had tons of Wi-Fi issues. Eventually I was told by Samsung that VZAppZone, Verizon's pseudo-app store that's all but pre-installed on the phone (after you fire it up, it installs), was breaking the Wi-Fi. (On the Epix in the previous showdown, I was later told by Samsung that installing Opera is what broke Wi-Fi for IE. So, uh, Samsung maybe...oh, whatever.) Also, its portrait keyboard has keys so ridiculously skinny, they'd remind anorexic models not to eat. When Opera did work and a page was actually loaded, it was the snappiest at moving around the page. But overall, yeesh.

So where would I slot Opera 9.5 overall if I were to slide it into the previous browser battle? I'd give it a B-. It has a great, desktop-y UI (though I wish a few of the buttons were a smidge bigger, taking into consideration fat fingers and the inadequacies of resistive touchscreens). It's really competent, and it has a solid zoom metaphor, with the double taps usually working like a charm. And it has extras like tabs. But, and this is the big but, it still doesn't feel quite as smooth or instantly responsive as Safari or Android's browser. It's clearly an OS issue, though, not an Opera one.

Speaking to that, testing these three phones actually took longer than it did to test the six in the original Battlemodo, entirely because of how much wrestling I had to do with Windows Mobile. I've used close to a dozen Windows Mobile devices over the last year, and it's still a bitch.

If you haven't noticed in our reviews of Windows Mobile phones, we've basically ceased comparing to them anything but other WM phones, in a wishful attempt at dulling our totally appropriate disdain for the OS, lest the review essentially turn into one giant bitchfest. They're clearly off in their own world of performance and function.

Even ceding the point that Windows Mobile is somehow more functional than the iPhone or Android, it's like comparing one of those 100-in-1 kitchen gadgets that'll blend, slice, dice, toast, saute, braise, set the table, clean the dishes AND suck you off while it's doing all that to a Waring MX1000 blender. It doesn't matter how much the all-in-one gadget can technically do if you can't figure out how to use it, and it performs every task with only mediocre results.

If the iPhone ran half as poorly as Windows Mobile phones, Apple haters would (rightfully) scream as loudly as Apple fanboys do about Vista. If any BlackBerry was as much of a flustercuck, reviewers would trash the crap out of it. I'm sorry, but at this point, any apologist left defending Windows Mobile is either delusional or full of crap—either way, not worth listening to.

I won't touch another Windows Mobile phone until WM7 or at least 6.5, no matter how awesome the hardware looks. Call me when it runs Android.

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