7 Web Browsing Tricks Make Your Smartphone Act Like An iPhone - InformationWeek

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7 Web Browsing Tricks Make Your Smartphone Act Like An iPhone

If Web browsing sucks on your smartphone and you can't get an iPhone, there are some things you can do to make what you've got work more like what you want.

Admit it. The first time you saw an iPhone, the Web browsing took your breath away. It was to your smartphone's browser as the Mona Lisa is to your two-year-old's scribbles hung on your refrigerator. However, you don't have to live in a state of envy. If you can't afford or don't want an iPhone, you can improve your Web browsing experience on your smartphone (or even, in some cases, your plain old dumbphone).

The following seven mobile phone tweaks can help you at least maximize the potential of your Web browsing without forcing you to change your hardware or your service supplier. They range in complexity from bone simple to "Danger, Will Robinson!" None of them will make your phone an iPhone -- frogs only turn into princes in fairytales. But they just might make Web browsing more usable -- even enjoyable -- on your current phone.

Use Services Optimized for Your Phone

AOL's mobile portal page points to some very usable services -- MapQuest for mobile devices in particular.
(click image for larger view)

AOL's mobile portal page points to some very usable services -- MapQuest for mobile devices in particular.

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The Safari browser on the iPhone displays correctly just about any Web page you throw at it. The browsers on most handheld devices don't. So what can you do about it? Well, one exceedingly simple thing you can do is to feed your smartphone pages it has a better chance of rendering.

Many Web sites serve up special pages or even versions of the whole site designed to display well on mobile devices. Most of these have "mobile" or "m" in the URL -- like mobile.mysite.com, m.mysite.com, mysite.com/mobile, or www.mysite.mobi. Most of these sites detect the device and browser you're using and serve up the mobile version. But if a Web site you visit doesn't display well and doesn't seem to have a mobile URL, add some of those variations to its URL and see if any work.

Some mobile-related sites offer portal pages that collect links to these sites. For example, AOL gives you a links list of its information services. MSN serves a static page that gives you a little news, weather, sports, and access to Hotmail. Palm's mobile portal for its handheld devices deserves mention for the number and variety of links it carries, not to mention a nice, clean design. (It isn't restricted to Palm devices, either.)

Yahoo defaults to a list of links, but it's a good list -- it includes an online address book and calendar, Yahoo mail, and a very easy-to-use way to get driving directions. In addition to its basic mobile portal, Yahoo also offers Yahoo!Go, a fancier mobile service that's available for only some phones (Palm OS phones are notable for their absence) and does a reasonable job of turning a minimal amount of input into a maximal amount of information.

Google's mobile services are the most customizable and arguably the most complete -- you can arrange news/weather/sports info on the page to suit yourself, and have access to a menu of Google applications in mobile format, including Gmail, Maps (which gives you driving directions), Calendar, Photos (a nicely done interface to your Picasa Web albums), and Blogger.

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