PhoneFavs wants to be your mobile web home page. The site combines a mobile portal, a search form for all the major search engines, a social bookmarking service, a web to mobile transcoder and a mobile software store. None of the pieces breaks any new ground but together they provide a useful starting point for exploring the mobile web and creating your own custom web portal.
To get started there is a directory of around 300 well chosen mobile web site links. You can browse the directory, trying out sites. When you find one you like, you can add it to your personal My Favs directory by clicking the “My” icon that appears next to each listing in the directory. PhoneFavs can also import bookmarks from del.icio.us, Firefox or Internet Explorer.
You can also add sites from your PC web browser using a bookmarklet. Some mobile browsers support bookmarklets as well, including Opera Mobile and Mini, Mobile Internet Explorer and the iPhone’s Safari. I’ve added the PhoneFaves bookmarklet to the Yeswap Opera Mini Bookmarklets page. Visit o.yeswap.com to add the PhoneFavs bookmarklet to your browser.
Links you add to your My Faves are public by default meaning they also appear in an All Favs directory which anyone can browse. You can also choose to make link private. Public links can be browsed by Tag, Name, URL or Date Added.
Phone Favs also has a built in transcoder and a software store selling downloadable games and applications for Palm OS, Windows Mobile, BlackBerry and S60 phones.
I wasn’t too impressed by the transcoder. It’s easy to access, every Fav has a link to a transcoded version as well as a direct link to the original content The trouble with PhoneFav’s transcoder is that it doesn’t do enough to make large, graphics heavy sites mobile friendly. To be effective, a transcoder needs to resize images and split large pages up into multiple smaller pages. PhoneFavs does neither although it does remove images by default. The full Engadget home page is around 900KB, the PhoneFavs transcoded version is 700KB with images and 74 KB without. Even 74 KB is too much for the stock browsers of some feature phones to load. A good transcoder like Google’s GWT, Mowser or Skweezer will pare Engadget down to a mobile friendly 10-20 KB. The PhoneFavs transcoded pages also are invalid xml because of an unclosed tag in the headers causing some mobile browsers, including Opera, to generate an error. However, you can always bookmark a site transcoded with Mowser or Google in PhoneFavs rather than relying on PhoneFavs’ transcoder.
The transcoder issues aside, PhoneFavs provides a well rounded set of tools and would make a good alternative to your mobile carrier’s default homepage. It makes sense to store your mobile bookmarks in the PhoneFavs cloud rather than on the handset where they will be lost when you upgrade your phone.
Update 19-Feb-2008: I got an email from Ryan at PhoneFavs saying that he’s fixed the unclosed tag bug in the transcoder that was causing an error in some browsers. Ryan also mentioned that PhoneFavs is working on a solution to the transcoder limitations and that PhoneFavs has a short mobile friendly alternative URL, pfavs.com.
Update: Late in 2009 PhoneFavs began charging a $4.99 (later reduced to $2.99) one time signup fee to new users. The public features of the site are still free, registration is only required if you want to save bookmarks
Related: Mobile Bookmarking on WapReview