Here’s a look at the capabilities of the Dolfin browser on the Samsung Wave Bada handset that I got at the Bada Developer Day in San Francisco on Tuesday.
Dolfin is a WebKit based browser. Webkit is used as the basis of the majority of smartphone browsers including those from Nokia, Palm, Android, Apple and soon RIM. Although all these browsers are based on the open source Webkit core, as PPK points out, “There is no Webkit on Mobile”, instead there are many mobile Webkit implementations with huge differences between them in usability and rendering.
The W3C test has 12 test cases and Dolfin passed nine for a score of 75%. It failed the <video>, <audio> and Web Workers test. By way of comparison, the Android 2.1 browser scored 67% and Opera Mobile 10 passed 34% of the W3C tests.
Dolfin passed 86 out of 160 of the Momac tests including all parts of the Canvas, Geolocation, Local Storage and Offline Web Application tests. It’s main failure areas were again the lack of support for the Video or Audio elements or Web Workers. The Android 2.1 browser scored 118 and Opera Mobile 10 only 33 in the Momac test.
So on paper at least, Dolfin does a pretty good with HTML5 compliance, what of its real world performance and usability? In most areas it’s good. Google delivers the iPhone/Android HTML5 versions of Search, Gmail, Maps and Calendar to it, all of which worked very well. Google Search and Maps were able to retrieve and use my location. Google Maps (image top, left) is particularly impressive in Dolfin with quick, smooth scrolling and zooming. It’s hard to tell that its not a native app. Google Reader defaulted to the WAP version but I was able to load the iPhone Reader at www.google.com/reader/i/ and it worked perfectly too.
The usability of the Dolfin browser is a bit of a mixed bag. On the positive side, pages seem to load quickly and pinch zooming is exceptionally smooth and accurate. Dolfin doesn’t support “Flick scrolling”, but pages scroll easily by dragging and there is also a scroll bar for quickly getting to a section of the page or to the top or bottom of the screen. A long press on the screen highlights the current word with a drag bar to enlarge the selection and a context menu to copy it, use it as a Google search query or pass it to the mobile web version of Google Translate. Copied text can be pasted into the URL bar or into other apps including email and messaging. Dolfin supports multiple windows although there is no option to open a link in a new window in the background, one of my favorite Android browser features. However, Dolfin tops Android with good support for the HTML <input> tag’s type=”file” attribute which adds a “browse for file” button and dialog to a web page. This feature is used by many file and media sharing sites. File browsing on Bada is limited to your photos, sounds and the Wave’s “others” folder which is a sort of dropbox that you can copy almost any type of file to from a PC using mass storage mode.
A small thing that I dislike about Dolfin on the Wave is that there is no hardware back button. There’s an onscreen Back icon which is always visible in the browser’s “Normal” screen mode (image top, left). However Normal mode puts large navigation and menu bars at the top and bottom of the screen. The bars can be hidden by choosing “Full Screen” mode but then it takes three taps to go back a page; tapping the screen displays an up arrow icon (image top, right) which you have to tap again to get the menu with the Back icon.
While the Bada Dolfin browser is quite capable and generally performs well, it has one glaring defect that makes it practically unusable for me – when you zoom into a page, text doesn’t reflow. That wouldn’t be much of a problem if Dolfin used a readable text size at the default zoom level where columns of text fit the screen width. But on every desktop page I tried, if I double tapped the screen to zoom in on a column of text, the font was impossibly small for reading, especially in portrait orientation (image above, left). I could zoom in to get readable text, but then the lines of text became longer than the screen width and required horizontal scrolling to read (image above, right), which I consider unacceptable. Things were a little better in landscape orientation, but even there many pages were difficult or impossible to read without zooming to the point where horizontal scrolling became necessary. As it is, in spite of its generally good performance, feature set and outstanding stability, I find the Bada browser ultimately unusable because of the text wrapping issue. I strongly suspect that this is an early release bug that I hope Samsung will quickly addresses as it ruins an otherwise outstanding browser.