US CDMA carrier, Sprint PCS released its answer to the iPhone on June 20th. It's called the Samsung Instinct (SCH-M800) and while it's no match for the iPhone it's still a nice device in many respects. With a large (but smaller than the iPhone's) 3.1 inch touch screen with haptic feedback, no physical keyboard, threaded voicemail and SMS and a full-web browser, the Instinct matches some of the best known features of Apple's phone and even has a few things the iPhone doesn't including MMS, stereo headphone support, a video camera and Live TV.
The Instinct does have a Java ME virtual machine so it ought to be able to run Opera Mini. Well - not really. The latest and best version (4.1) of Mini installs and starts up but there is no way to bring up the Instinct's virtual keyboard to enter URLs or fill in web forms. Also Mini 4.1 only works once. If you shut Mini down and try to restart it, it hangs on loading and refuses to run again until un-installed and re-installed.
The hang can probably be fixed by Opera with a little tweaking. The text input issue is going to be harder to deal with. Oualcomm, which supplied the Java Virtual Machine (JVM) for the Instinct, left out support for the Java ME LCDUI package which is the way that Java applications create user interface components like textboxes. This affects not only Opera Mini but any other Java application that requires text input including Google Maps and Mail, IM apps like eBuddy and many more. LCDUI is a standard and mandatory part of the Java MIDP 2.0 specification. I don't understand why Sun allows Qualcomm to call this obviously broken JVM Java ME.
There are a lot of people clamoring for Sprint to fix the Instinct JVM and for Opera to do something to make Mini work on the device.
Opera Mini forum moderator and QA specialist, ManneS has indicated that they are looking at the issues but that they won't create a special version of Opera Mini just for the Instinct. I can't blame them, the same generic (and only) version of Opera Mini runs on hundreds of phone models from all manufacturers. The Instinct JVM is what is broken, it's Qualcomm, Samsung and Sprint's responsibility to fix it not Opera's.
On their developer forum, Sprint has acknowledged the problem and says it will be fixed via an OTA firmware update within two months.
In the meantime Instinct users have found a partial workaround. It turns out that the older 3.1 version of Opera Mini will run on the Instinct with no serious problems other than the text input issue. By using the built in bookmarks in Opera Mini, limited browsing is possible without text input.
A breakthrough came a few days ago when a web developer who goes by the handle, "shucklak" on both MyOpera and the new Sprint Instinct Forum creted a web app with URL and Google search input fields and an onscreen keyboard. That means you can browse to any URL and do Google searches with Mini 3.1 on the Instinct. Shucklak's web app is at proceemo.com/bookmarks. The problem of course is how to get to that URL with no way to type it into Opera Mini on the Instinct. Easy, the link has been posted on MyOpera.com which is one of the built in bookmarks in Opera Mini.
Here's how to get Opera Mini working on the instinct.
- Using the Instinct's built in browser in "mobile mode" go to mini.opera.com/?rel=3. Click on "Download high memory version". The Instinct will download and install Opera Mini 3.1. Run it and click the Bookmarks link, you can use the built in bookmarks on the main screen to get to a few sites including ESPN, The New York Times, USA Today and My Opera.
- Click The My Opera link. When the page loads scroll down to the line reading "+ Home...Blogs... " and click the plus sign at the beginning of the line to expand the collapsed navigation menu.
- Scroll down and click Forums and then scroll down of the next page and click the Opera Mini link.
- Scroll down a couple of screenfulls and click the Opera Mini for Samsung Instinct link. This thread has over 160 posts but what we are interested in is on page 4. so click the "4" link near the top of the page and scroll down about 15 posts until you see the link; http://www.proceemo.com/bookmarks/urlkeyboard.php. Click it and when the page loads bookmark it. Now you can input any url or do a Google search using Proceemo's on screen keyboard.
If you register at proceemo.com/bookmarks you can create a page of personalized bookmarks that you can use in Opera Mini. Of course you can create bookmarks in Opera Mini itself, but using Proceemo lets you set them up on a PC and has the advantage that they will not be lost if you have to hard reset your Instinct and reinstall Opera Mini.
I don't have an Instinct so if you do I'd love to hear about your experiences with browsing on this phone.
Instinct image courtesy of Sprint