Phone Fan Sites

I’ve added several mobile sites to the WapReview directory and mobile portal. These are all “Phone Fan” sites which cover mobile technology from the point of view of a enthusiastic end user, phone hacker or developer. This is a very active and vibrant part of the mobile web. The portal currently has 73 sites listed under the “Mobile Phones” category and another 27 in the “PDA” group. Together the phone and PDA sites account for nearly of a quarter of the 440 total sites in the directory/portal. Incidentally, the Phone and PDA distinction really doesn’t make sense any more as sales of standalone PDAs are dropping rapidly with a corresponding rise in shipments of Smartphones running what used to be considered PDA operating systems (Palm, Windows Mobile and Symbian). I think I need to move most of the sites in the PDA section (the ones that now also cover Smartphones) to the Phones section.

I believe that the popularity and quantity of phone technology sites is a natural result of the relative newness of this technology compared with the Web. While mobile browsing is rapidly becoming a mainstream activity, for a long time it was more the realm of the early adopter. It’s only natural that there are a relatively large number of phone technology sites at this stage in the development of the mobile web. In addition, the low quality of the carriers’ end-user technical support and the fact that phones tend to be locked down and crippled by the providers means that users have a real need to research and share tips and hacks using these sites.  SmartPhone2000 is interesting in that exists as a mobile site only with no corresponding desktop site. Of course, the cHtml site is perfectly usable in the desktop version of Internet Explorer.

Smartphone2000 focuses on the SPV series of Smartphones on the UK Orange network but much of what’s on the site is of use to owners of any Microsoft Smartphone device. The main areas of interest are the help and download sections. Help has clear, detailed instructions on how to install various types of media and applications, how to unlock the SPVs and dozens of tips to help you make your Smartphone faster and more usable. The download section includes unlocking tools and a good selection of free and demo software, videos, sound files, skins and background graphics. The site has a nice selection of mobile links too.

I noted a few relatively minor usability issues. On some browsers (but not on PIE or Opera including Mini) there was some text overlapping. There are a number of image links without alt text which could pose a problem for anyone who turns off images in their browser to reduce data charges.

All in all, a very nice site – particularly for anyone with a Microsoft Smartphone or researching the purchase of one. At around 20 KB including images the site’s page weight should not be a problem for most WAP2 phones. You can find Smartphone2000 in the Technology/Mobile Phones/Smartphones/Microsoft section of the directory and the portal.

SmartPhone2000: cHtml
Content: **** Usability: ****


  CoolSmartphone  CoolSmartphone is another Microsoft Smartphone focused site. The mobile version has a collection of mobile friendly links as its front page. Look carefully and you will see two links to the site’s own mobile content. The first, labeled Latest CoolSmartphone News is basically a blog containing new product announcements and Windows Mobile tips and tricks. Then there is “My Blog” which is the mostly off-topic and rather entertaining blog of Gears, the site’s webmaster. Gears is currently on honeymoon so things are a little slow at CoolSmartphone right now.

A word of warning to those of you on lesser phones, both the News and Gears blogs are rather heavy (40-50 KB worth) on graphics for a mobile site. The Openwave browser on my Moto i855 threw up it’s hands at both pages and refused to download most of the images. Opera Mini had no problem loading the pages in seconds, including all the images, over a slow 40 kbs connection. I can’t say it often enough, if your phone can run Opera Mini, get it. Opera Mini will completely change the way you look at the mobile web.
CoolSmartphone is also under Technology/Mobile Phones/Smartphones/Microsoft in the directory and the portal.

CoolSmartphone: cHtml
Content: **** Usability: ***


  TamsPalm  TamsPalm-the Palm OS Blog is an interesting blog by Palm developer, Tam Hanna. The site is updated several times a day by Tam and a number of contributors and includes Palm OS tips and secrets, product reviews, general musings on the future of the handheld scene and the process of software development along with a number of technical pieces replete with code examples. Tam’s the guy who wrote the utility that lets the Netfront browser (which normally only works on Sony Clies) run on Palm branded devices.

Tam is using a WordPress theme called Lesbar to create the PDA version of the blog. Lesbar strips the blog down to a single column containing just the blog items along with a search box at the top and a form for writing to the “shoutbox” at the bottom. In general, Lesbar does it’s job allowing a mobile user to read sequentially through the blog starting with the most recent post. Like CoolSmartPhone, the pages are big – so you need something like a Palm Treo or Opera Mini to fully appreciate the TamsPalm site. TamsPalm is in the Technology/Mobile Phones/Smartphones/Palm section of the directory and the portal.

TamsPalm: xhtml
Content: **** Usability: ***


  Slashphone on the web is a general phone fan site with news, reviews, a tips section and an active user’s forum. The mobile version only has the news items, which tend to read like press releases. I’d really like to see Slashphone mobilize their reviews and forums as I think those are the best part of the site. Unlike the some of the other phone sites, Slashphone keeps the mobile page weight low, under 10 KB, so almost any WAP2 browser should be able to display the entire site. There is one strange feature of Slashphone’s pages. When you click on a headline, you don’t go straight to the article. There’s an intermediate page that displays a brief (no more than 30 words) synopsis of the article, a 60px wide image and two links; More and Warning. More takes you to a nicely mobilized copy of the article with images resized to 150 px wide. The warning is

“The formatting in the “Read More” link might have problems because of incomplete formatting conversion.”

The warning seems superfluous and adds a extra click and page load to the process of getting to the content. I didn’t have any problem reading any of the articles on any emulator or device, other than a few double-byte characters that displayed as gobbledygook, a common problem with mobile pages, BTW. The problem is that even if you specify UTF-8 encoding, most mobile devices can’t handle literal double byte characters like left and right quotes, the em-dash or angle-quotes. It’s a good idea to avoid these characters altogether when generating mobile markup. Representing them as decimal character references like ‘ for left single quote (‘) will also work with most modern mobile browsers. This a cosmetic issue and doesn’t effect the usability of the site. Filed under Technology/Mobile Phones/News – Reviews in the Portal and Directory.

Slashphone: xhtml
Content: ** Usability: ****

-+- is a Nokia owned site promoting the S60 smartphone platform. In addition to a web site, S60 also has an attractive mobile site which has some interesting and useful content for current and prospective S60 users. I like that there is a complete database of all S60 devices, past and present, with fairly detailed specifications. There is also a short page of hints and tips, a page of news releases, another one highlighting several recently released applications, a download section, an event calendar and links to a couple of other Symbian themed mobile sites. The site is unusual in that it uses a background image, rare on mobile sites and not widely supported by mobile browsers – but it sure looks good on the Openwave V7 browser on my Motorola :). is in the Technology/Mobile Phones/Smartphones/Symbian section of the directory and the portal. xhtml
Content: *** Usability: ****

Emulator image courtesy Openwave Systems Inc. Openwave and the Openwave logo are registered trademarks and/or trademarks of Openwave Systems Inc. in various jurisdictions. All rights reserved.