Mobile Transcoding Sites Part 2

Part 1 of this series of posts covered two mobile transcoding sites, loband and Phonifier. In part two we will look at two more, IYHY and MobileLeap. In case you missed Part 1, I define a mobile transcoding as “an application (usually a web service) which when given a request for any web page, does some sort of on-the-fly edit of the page to make it usable on the small screen of the a mobile device.”

IYHYImg. 3Img. 2Img. 1
IYHY is another relatively new service that promises to make most web pages viewable on mobile phone browsers. It does not live up to this promise as it does not break up large pages and most web sites are too large to be loaded on phone browsers. I can get to the IYHY homepage with all my test browsers except one (Sony-Ericsson). The screen is hard to use because the site overrides the browser’s default fonts making them too small for easy readability. Horizontal scrolling is required to see the entire logo and text box on a typical 128 x 160px phone screen. After entering the url of this blog, I get either a browser hang (Nokia) or crash (Motorola) or an error ‘insufficient memory for this operation’ on Openwave which means the page is over that device’s maximum page size of 10KB). For the Southwest site I can do a little better, as I am able to load the homepage on the Nokia, Motorola and Openwave simulators. But when I click the “Book Travel” button I get an error (Page too large on the Nokia and Openwave, “page cannot be loaded on the Motorola). Even using The Access Netfront mobile emulator, which has all the capabilities of a desktop browser, I cannot complete the reservation – when I click the “Book Travel” button, IYHY redirects me to the full Southwest web page which is unusable on almost any phone. IYHY also strips out all of a site’s images, colors and even simple formating like bold and italic. At least IYHY is fast and seems to be reliable.

Content: ** Usability: ***xhtml

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Mobileleap is a commercial site which is “currently free for personal, non-commercial use.” It resizes images (to 224px wide, better suited to pda’s than phones) but doesn’t doesn’t break large pages into multiple smaller ones. On the SE and Nokia emulators Mobileleap refused to work, telling me to “enable cookies” although both browsers do support cookies and cookie support was enabled. The Openwave emulator was able to load part of this blog before throwing a page too large error. I was unable to load the Southwest site on any browser (even Firefox), consistently getting a timeout error.
Mobileleap has an extensive settings dialog which allows you configure such things as image quality or turn off images entirely, specify the screen size of the mobile (which seems to have no effect on the transcoded output). Their is an option to replace “large images” with links which doesn’t seem to work (or mobileleap doesn’t consider a 640 px image “large”). Another option uses CSS styles which enables some background and text colors on most sites but seems buggy as some colors are wrong and block elements appear in the wrong place – often on top of other content obscuring it. If you register, mobileleap will remember your preferred settings, let you save bookmarks and give you a history dialog where you can revisit sites you browsed in the current or previous sessions.
mobileleap is a mobile RSS reader as well. It works just like Phonifier and has the same disadvantage for use on a phone. The index page which for mobile use should just list the title of each entry but also includes first 200 characters of the entry body which means you have to do too much scrolling to reach the last entry.
I found mobileleap fast and reliable however consider the following statement in MobileLeap’s FAQ:

“For security reasons, only a limited number of non-registered (anonymous user) requests are allowed per session and per day. Furthermore, to ensure that the demonstration server resources are distributed appropriately, under times of heavy server load users will be capped to a limited number of page requests, with preference given to registered, confirmed users. If you are interested in an unrestricted transcoding account, please contact us.”

Mobileleap shows promise, it is a beta after all. They do resize images and they allow you to specify your browser screen dimensions which suggests that they are planing to resize images to fit those dimensions. Hopefully, mobileleap will remain free and unrestricted and will continue to improve.

Content: *** Usability: ***xhtml

Watch for the next parts of this series which will cover Skweezer, Google and AOL’s transcoding engines.

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