I’ve been using Bolt’s new 1.5 release for a few days now and here are my impressions.
In general Bolt works very well on main phone, a Nokia N95-3. In fact, this is the first version of Bolt that I consider good enough to use as my main browser.
Here are my likes and dislikes.
Excellent page rendering. Most sites look great in Bolt, fonts are particularly attractive, clean looking and readable. Unlike Opera Mini (image below, left), italic style appears as italic (image, below right. Image quality is about as good as it gets too.
Text columns that “snap” to screen margins. Granted, this is an essential feature in “keyhole” browsers but was missing in Bolt until now. It works, although when scrolling sideways by the column with the 4 and 6 keys it tends to overshoot a bit with the last few letters of longer sentences off screen. A couple of quick taps of the left or right directional pad keys is then needed to bring the column into perfect alignment with the viewport.
A working page cache. Again this is something we take for granted in browsers but was missing in Bolt up to now. Hitting the “Back” button now retrieves the previous page from the cache rather than reloading it from the network. This is a time and bandwidth saver and also gives more predicable results with sites where the content changes with every refresh. Interestingly reload from cache only seems to work when using “Back” button and or 9 (“Forward“) key, not when picking the most recent page from the history list which causes the page to be re-downloaded.
Copy and Paste from Web pages. This works very much like it does in the latest Opera Mini 5 Beta. On any page you can chose “Page Tools > Select text” from the menu and then drag the mouse pointer to highlight some text (image, below left). Pressing the left soft key copies it into Bolt’s paste buffer. You can then paste the copied text into the URL bar, search box or a web form on any page. If your phone has native copy/paste support you can get the copied text into the system clipboard by pasting it into the URL bar and then choosing “Edit” to open the “URL” in the system editor.
Faster page loads. Bolt feels faster than previous releases. I’m going to perform some formal spped test to confirm this but my gut feeling is that it’s about 30-50% faster.
Cross platform support. OK this is not so much a “Like” but something that is improving. Bolt has always run well on the N95-3 which has loads of RAM, a releatively fast processor and one of best mobile JVMs in the business. But on lesser handsets my experiences with previous Bolt releases have been less than stellar with hangs, crashes and a sluggish UI.
I tried Bolt 1.5 in a couple of decidedly limited phones, a current, but bare-bones prepaid feature phone, the Motorola i776, and a three and a half year old BlackBerry 7100i, both running on the Boost Mobile prepaid network. Bolt 1.5 installed and ran on both phones, something that wasn’t true of some of the earlier Bolt releases. On the BlackBerry it ran pretty well, most of the UI sluggishness seen in previous Bolt releases was gone, although scrolling by page was a little slow with a delay of about a second between the time the 2 or 8 key was pressed and the page actually scrolling. Everything else seemed to work well except for the video player which didn’t work at all, probably a BlackBerry OS 4.1 limitation.
On the Motorola the full version of Bolt did load and run but it was slow and attempting to load a large page, copy more than a couple of lines of text or use the video player locked up the browser. Bolt’s alternate “Lite” version, which lacks copy and paste and the video player, was stable on this phone although page by page scrolling lagged rather badly with a two second delay between key press and response.
Cons: Although I generally enjoyed using Bolt 1.5 there were a couple of annoyances.
Clicking a link or bookmark or entering a URL often seemed to be ignored, the hourglass would briefly flash, but the new page would either not load at all or the current page would reload. To be fair both Opera Mini and UCWEB occasionally do something similar but it’s a much more common occurance with Bolt.
Lack of a fit to width mode. There is a “Mobile Layout”/”Desktop Layout” switch in the preferences but it doesn’t seem to do much. The only difference between the two layout modes seems to be that with Mobile Layout selected, centered images are centered within screen width and the browser sends the phone’s normal user agent, whereas in Desktop Mode images are centered in wider (800 px?) virtual viewport and a Bolt specific User Agent is used. For any web develpers who want to detect Bolt is desktop mode, look for this User Agent:
Media Player that hides text. Bolt has a built in media player that is supposed to be able to display videos on phones without native video support. Sounds like a great idea. However it doesn’t work on my Motorola i776 or Blackberry 7100i and is redundant on the N95 which has excellent native video support. That’s OK, I’m sure it’s much appreciated on the platforms where it does work. The problem is that Bolt tends to place the video player smack on the top of text on many pages making them unreadable (image, above right).
Conclusions: Bolt 1.5 is a browser that evey mobile user should have on their phone. It generally works well and offers superb text and image rendering with gorgeous fonts. That said, I’m going to stick with Opera Mini 5 as my main browser on the N95 and Opera Mini 4.2 on the Motorola and BlackBerry mainly for the things it has that Bolt lacks; bookmarklet support, fit to width mobile view, tabs in Opera Mini 5 and better performance on the Motorola and BlackBerry. But I’ll keep Bolt 1.5 on all three phones for sites where Opera Mini doesn’t work well, like the full version of Facebook.