This is a continuation of my Nokia E73 "Mode" reveiew. Here's a look at the built in WebKit based Nokia browser. I've been using an N95-3 as my main phone for years so I'm pretty familiar with the Symbian browser. But the browser in Feature Pack 2 (FP2) devices like the E73 is quite a bit newer. The E73's is version 7.2, based on WebKit; 525. The N95's browser is based on the much older WebKit 413. Here's the full User Agent for those who track such things:
Mozilla/5.0 (SymbianOS/9.3; Series60/3.2 NokiaE73/043.001; Profile/MIDP-2.1 Configuration/CLDC-1.1 ) AppleWebKit/525 (KHTML, like Gecko) Version/3.0 BrowserNG/7.2.6 3gpp-gba
The FP2 browser has gotten some good reviews. All About Symbian's Rafe Blandford did some speed tests and found that the browser on theN86, which is also version 7.2, was approximately three times faster than the one on the FP1 N95 8GB. On the other hand, the E75, another FP2 device which has a slightly older version 7.1 browser, was only 50% faster than the N95. In fact, its performance was only a little better than the FP1 E71. Based on my own testing, using the same sites that Rafe used, I found the E73's performance falls in between that of the N86 and E75. It was a bit over twice as fast than the N95, certainly a nice performance improvement. The table below has the raw numbers.
|Site||Nokia N95-3||Nokia E73|
I discovered a nice little usability enhancement in this version of the browser. There are three new default shortcut keys; the 6 key reloads the page, the 7 key toggles full screen mode, and the 5 key brings up a handy shortcut key map (image top, left). Plus all the keyboard shortcuts are now customizable (image top, right). You can choose 19 different actions to assign to the twelve keys available keys (the numbers plus * and #). My only beef is that there are still no shortcuts for page up and page down, two functions I consider almost essential for quickly scanning text on a page.
HTML5 and CSS3 support in the Symbian browser is still rather limited. It supports <canvas>, <figure> and <figcaption> and most of the text level semantic elements like <ruby> and <mark> but is lacking support for the sexier <video> and <audio> elements and the Web Storage and Geolocation modules.
While the Symbian browser does not have much in the way of HTML5 support I've always found it to render the majority of desktop websites very accurately. Symbian Webkit was one of the first browsers to reflow text columns to the viewport width when zooming. I still think its rendering is a little better than even the latest versions of the Android browser and Opera Mobile and Mini, all of which occasionally have problems with overlapping text and images or text columns extending beyond the viewport and requiring horizontal scrolling to read. These sort of issues seem to be much less common with the Nokia browser.
In summary, the 7.2 browser in the E73 is a nice incremental improvement. The speed boost is very welcome as are the new shortcut actions. Site compatibility and rendering are as good as ever.
Compared with the iOS and Android WebKit based browsers, the Symbian browser lacks support for a number of the advanced features in HTML5, including geoLocation, web storage and the video and audio elements. These are features that are increasingly being used in new mobile webapps. Help is on the way in the form of an entirely new WebKit based browser that will appear as part of Symbian^4, due in the first half of next year. I've heard that the Symbian^4 browser will support geolocation. I hope that it also supports much more of the HTML5 spec.