Thursday, November 13, 2008

Understanding the Differences between Mobile Platforms

A study done in 2007 on mobile platform usage found that Symbian (used in Nokia phones) had 70% of the mobile OS market. Linux (used by multiple vendors such as Sharp and Samsung) had 15% of the mobile OS market. Research In Motion's Blackberry had 5% of the mobile OS market, while Microsoft Windows Mobile and CE (used by Palm, Compaq, Samsung) had 5%. Since this study came out, new players including Apple (iPhone) and Android (Google's operating system) have been introduced. In many countries outside of the US, cell phones are used 100 times as often as desktop computers.

The window size in different mobile browsers can vary from 320x160 to 600x480, or even landscape mode of 480x600. Beyond the screen size, there are different levels of support for visual elements such as styles, dynamic content (JavaScript), and images. I predict that over the next few years more mobile devices will support multi-media. The question will be if they will support the same multi-media formats you currently have on your desktop computer or if they will develop their own plug-ins. Here is a summary of the features (and limitations) found on mobile systems today:

• Blackberry has a custom mobile browser. Their browser has poor JavaScript support, does not support Flash, supports zooming, but provides no special handling of frames, and ignores style sheets (CSS). This means that content cannot be "hidden" through style sheet control. This is a problem if you wish to provide both textual and graphic links.
• Microsoft has a number of different mobile operating systems. Windows CE is found on devices built prior to 2005. Windows Mobile 6 was released in 2007, and Windows Mobile (Next) is under development. All of these platforms contain browsers that are versions of IE4/IE5/IE6 resulting in many limitations. On Windows Mobile 6, the browser is better, but it is a limited version of IE6. The Microsoft browsers have poor JavaScript support, do not support Flash, do not support zooming, and ignore style sheets (CSS). Windows Mobile 6 supports CSS but does not provide any special handling for frames. (See Minimo for an alternative.)
• Minimo is a port of the Firefox (Mozilla) browser for Windows Mobile devices. The Minimo browser is available for Windows Mobile 5 and later. It is easy to install and fully JavaScript enabled. This means that dynamic content works well. The Minimo browser is capable of performing decent zooming, and has good style sheet (CSS) support. Minimo is one of the best browsers available. The only downside is that it needs to be downloaded and installed on the Windows Mobile platform before usage - but it is free.
• Symbian is the name of Nokia's operating system that includes a browser. The browser is a good browser with reasonable JavaScript support and provides excellent zooming.
• Apple's iPhone uses a proprietary operating system and the Safari browser. iPhone supports multimedia separately from the browser. Overall, this is an excellent platform since it has good screen size, good style sheet (CSS) and JavaScript support, and the touch screen makes it easy to use.
• Palm's operating system is called Garnet. It includes a browser. The Garnet browser has poor style sheet (CSS) support, but it does a nice job with frames by putting them at the bottom of the page. It has weak support for dynamic HTML. Like Apple, Palm’s devices have touch screens to make navigation easier.

1 comment:

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