Yahoo has updated the mobile web version of its widgets platform. When the Beta launched in January, access was limited to iPhone plus a handful of recent Windows Mobile and S60 phones. Even Opera Mini was blocked. I recently tried beta.m.yahoo.com again using Mini and got in. The page I saw in Mini was different too. It sports a new lighter weight layout (image top left). Compare that with the original N95 version (below right). The functionality of the two is equivalent but the original is flashier, for example it has a CSS rollover effect that turns the background of the link under the cursor green. The lite version’s page weight is 25% less than the original, 46 KB vs 61 KB for my heavily customized home page and uses simpler CSS for quicker rendering on phones with slow processors.
It looks like a lot of phones are getting the new version including most Nokia S40’s and older S60 and Windows Mobile phones like the N70 and Audiovox SMT5600 respectively. I also saw it with the Samsung X820 and Sony Ericsson K750i user agents. But all the Motorola user agents and anything with an OpenWave browser still gets turned away with a “We’re sorry. The new home page does not yet support your whatever. I’m sure the new platform works on a lot more phones than the ones I mentioned , give it a try and leave a comment telling us whether you get it or not.
I really like the look and features of both widgetized versions of the Yahoo portal. They are completely customizable by the user. You can pick and choose from dozens of widgets and snippets. There’s a choice of Yahoo standards like news, sports and stock quotes plus 3rd party content from Sports Ilustrated and PopUrls among others. The difference between a widget and and a snippet is that the former appears as a separate page accessed from a link on the home page while the later adds inline content, like links to off-portal content, to the Y! front page. In the screen shots, Mail is a link to a widget and WapReview and Mowser are snippets. Yahoo Widgets and Snippets are an open platform. Anyone can build one and submit it to Yahoo’s catalog. The snippets are particularly easy to build, I put the WapReview one together in an afternoon and it only took a couple of days to be approved.
Speaking of the Mail Widget, it’s potentially the best part of this new mobile platform. I’ve been quite critical of Yahoo’s mobile web mail for performance issues and missing features. To it’s credit, Yahoo seems to have given it’s mobile web servers a capacity boost and mobile Y!Mail has been reasonably fast and stable for me lately. But it still has the limitation that links are removed from emails! When someone submits a link to a new mobile site using the Contact form on this site it goes to my Yahoo Mail, but I can’t follow the link when I read that email on the phone. The new Mail Widget doesn’t have that problem, all links are clickable. Almost all the features of the PC version of Yahoo Mail are available too including folders, move to folder and send from alternate addresses including SpamGuard disposable ones. About the only things you can’t do in the widget are check your other POP3 mail accounts and set up new disposable addresses. The mail widget has the potential to be the best mobile webmail yet from any provider including gMail.
The only problem is that the web widget platform is just too unstable for me to use on a regular basis. Literally half the time I try to read or send an email I get the message:
“We Have run into a problem processing your last request! Please try again later.”
Retrying immediately usually works but it’s quite frustrating particularly when hitting Send after composing a message. The message is gone and hitting the back button does not retrieve it!
Instead I’ve been using the Yahoo Go 3.0 Java application for mail lately. I’ve found that installing it in main memory on the N95 makes it much more responsive than when it’s installed on the memory card. This is true for some other Java apps including Opera Mini and mGmaps. Installed in main memory, Yahoo Go is actually quite usable for email. It doesn’t have the stability problems of the web widgets and you can follow links, although they first come up in some sort of funky transcoder. Fortunately there’s an “Open in Browser” menu item that launches the link target in Webkit.
Both Go! and the Web Widgets are Betas so they so they should get better. I’m really looking forward to Yahoo delivering a fully functional mobile widget platform that works in all browsers and includes a fast and powerful webmail component.