The long awaited English version of UCWEB 7 is now available: PC Download Page, Mobile Download Page. UCWEB is one of the most popular mobile browsers in the world with 40 million active users, most of them in China where the company is based. The new release, which is also available in Russian and Chinese, is offered for Java, Windows Mobile 2003 through 6.5 (touchscreen and non-touchscreen) and Symbian S60 1st through 5th edition. Versions for BlackBerry, jailbroken iPhones and Android are said to be coming soon.
I was eagerly awaiting this release as UCWEB has always had a great feature set including tabbed browsing, the ability to open a link or bookmark in a new tab in the background, copy/paste and an excellent download manager with multiple download support, pause/resume and background downloading. UCWEB's weak spot has always been in the way it renders pages. Problems have included overlapping text and images, thin, crude looking fonts and missing styling elements such as background colors and borders. The Java version did not even wrap text properly splitting lines in the middle of words.
I downloaded the Java and Symbian native versions of UCWEB 7 to my Nokia N95-3 and have been putting both through their paces for a few hours. I like a lot of what I see but there are still a number of rending issues plus I'm having trouble opening some very popular sites.
First the good:
- The Java version is no longer an inferior subset of the native ones. Its features and appearance are virtually identical to thoese of the Symbian version.
- Font quality is much improved in both versions, no more jagged fonts.
- The Symbian version now supports both bold and italic. (The Java version does bold but not italic).
- The Java version now displays text in different sizes and colors as specified by page markup.
- Text wraps in the Java version
- Java version has a "Zoom" (a.k.a. Desktop) mode in addition to fit-to-width "Adaptive" Mode. Both modes have always been available in the native versions.
Things I didn't like:
- Overlapping text and images still occurs in Zoom mode. See the images below for examples.
- Font sizes and line spacing are much too large on some pages in Zoom mode. You can see this in the image below, left.
- Text is bold that should not be on some pages.
- Bullets missing on unordered lists like this one.
- The Symbian version sometimes tiles images that should not be tiled.
- The ability to change the browser's User Agent is missing from the Symbian version (the Java one still has it). This lets you pick whether the browser identifys itself as a desktop or mobile browser. It's great for those sites that force you to the mobile version when you want the desktop one or vice versa.
The biggest problem is that many sites do not load, especially with the Symbian version. I suspect that UCWEB is using a Chinese based server and the infamous "Great Firewall" is blocking these sites. Here are some of the sites I'm having trouble with:
Facebook (Desktop) - Symbian: timeout error, Java: works OK
Twitter (Desktop) (click "Standard" button after logging in ) - Symbian: Chinese message that translates to "connection failed...". Java: login is impossible, the login screen just reloads when I try to log in
My.Opera.com (Desktop) - Symbian: Chinese message that translates to "connection failed...".. Java: works OK
Bloglines Mobile - Symbian: timeout error. Java: works OK
Dabr (Mobile) - Symbian: Timeout. Java: partial page load with no Tweets, only the top menu displays.
Mobile Tweete: Symbian: works OK, Java: login screen just reloads when I try to log in
These errors are similar to ones I saw with the unofficial translations of UCWEB 7 which used Chinese servers. It's impossible to be sure where the server is located as UCWEB seems to be spoofing the server's IP address!. When I use Browser Spy to display my IP address it shows my network provider's IP address rather than the address of the UC WEB proxy server! I didn't even know it was possible to spoof a proxy's IP, but UCWEB seems to have found a way. However, all the sites I'm having trouble with in UCWEB 7 work fine in UCWEB 6.3 which uses a US based proxy server.
I have to say I'm a bit disappointed with UCWEB 7. I love the new features and improved rendering, especially in the Java version. Fit to width "Adaptive" mode, which I prefer most of the time, never overlaps text and images. UCWEB's interface is always responsive even on low end devices where Opera Min 4.2 and Bolt tend to lag. But a browser that can't open some of my most used sites including Bloglines, Twitter, Facebook and My Opera, is useless to me. I'm hoping that the use of a Chinese based server, or whatever is causing these connection failures, is temporary. I've heard that Chinese servers do handle requests for the international 6.3 clients when the US server is overloaded or undergoing maintainance. I'm hoping that is the case with 7.0 and that my favorite sites that are broken in UCWEB 7 will start working soon.
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