AOL Mobile Search

Img. 1Img. 2In my last entry, I hinted that there is an another mobile search site that did an even better job of making “real” web sites usable on WAP browsers. That site is AOL’s mobile search portal. You use it just like Google’s mobile search and like desktop search engines by entering your search terms and then picking a site to browse from a list of sites that match your query. Like Goggle, but unlike all the other mobile search/transcoding sites except Skweezer, AOL’s implementation breaks long pages into a series of mobile browser friendly smaller pages. I can’t stress enough how important that is, although smartphone browsers on Treos, Microsoft Mobile devices and Symbian phones can handle very large pages, popular mass-market phones like the Nextel i860 and Motorola RAZR are limited to accepting a maximum page size of around 10KB.

But what is really special about AOL is that it also resizes images to fit the mobile screen. This is also really needed as large images take a long time to load on a GPRS connection and are expensive if you pay for mobile data by the KB. Another nice touch is that the sites original background and text colors are preserved in the mobile version. Web forms generally work in the mobilized page although secure sites do not.

Incidentally, if you visit AOL search with a WAP1 phone, you will be served a wml version of mobile search. Forms are supported but no images. The bad news is that the wml has syntax errors that prevent most pages from loading on any of the wml only phones and emulators I’ve tried.

If you have a WAP2 capable phone, I highly recommend AOL Mobile Search. It’s not that it’s a better search engine (it’s “powered by Google” so it’s good) but because of the wonderful job it does in transcoding web sites to mobile. You can bookmark and return to the mobile versions without having to search again. It’s the next best thing to having the Opera browser on your phone.

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