We ran across an interesting application the other day that's a little bit of a mystery. iBrowz is part RSS styled reader and part portal to online services but most important, it's is free. Developed by the Intouch Group, iBrowz is a BETA application that is truly a mixed bag that brings all the headlines from CNN, Sports Illustrated and USA Today to your Windows Mobile phone plus access to online services such as Paypal, Netflix and Fandango.
To see what all iBrowz can do, plus some screen shots simply follow the break.
To get iBrowz, you first need to visit their website at http://www.getibrowz.com and either have the download link emailed to you directly or sent to your phone via text message. Once the .cab file is downloaded and installed, you are sent to an iBrowz installation wizard where you set up your account, subscription preferences, update preferences, and screen layout.
After you have everything set up on your phone, updating or synchronization of your subscriptions occurs and your in business. Should you need to change subscriptions, you can easily add or subtract from your subscription list through your phone application's menu or online.
As mentioned, iBrowze is a combination between a RSS styled reader and online service launcher. The RSS reader comes into play with your news, sports, weather and entertainment channels. The online service portal comes into play with services such as Amazon.com, Bestbuy.com, Fandango, and Paypal. Each subscription is represented by an icon that iBrowz refers to as widgets. Regardless of the term, each subscription is represented by a symbol/logo/widget/icon/thumbnail but for arguments sake iBrowz refers to them as widgets.
The online counterpart to the phone application is iBrowz's iStation. From the iBrowz website you simply log into your account and you can modify your subscriptions, update schedule and widget layout.
In using iBrowz updates were fast with no delays, hang-ups or bugs. Navigation is simple. Tap the category widget to see your subscriptions under that category (e.g. News will pull up CNN, USA Today, Reuters, etc.), then tap on the individual subscription to see the headlines. Tapping on the headlines will pull up the full story.
For the online service icons, tapping these will send you the relevant online service. In tapping Amazon.com, I'm sent to a mobile version of their website. Need to check your PayPal balance? There's a widget that will send you straight to PayPal. In many respects, this sounds a lot like your web browser's "Favorites" menu but you are sent to these sites directly through iBrowz. By not having to go through your web browzer (Opera, Pocket Explorer, etc.) the process seems to be quicker. Some of the speed is due to the fact that much of the content is stored on your phone. When I pulled up the BestBuy.com site, it appeared almost instantly but when I ran the search for "Treo Pro" it took just a few seconds longer because the searched reached out beyond iBrowz.
The bad thing about iBrowz is that you can't add RSS feeds. Subscriptions, at the present, are restricted to the predefined feeds established by iBrowz. Keep in mind that iBrowz is still a BETA application (i.e. work in progress) so things can change. In reading their website, it appears they are open to adding new subscriptions to their listings but for the time being, you can't add your own customized feed.
The more I used iBrowz, the more I liked it. Set-up was easy, navigation very easy, update/synchronization speeds were good, and the application, while still in BETA form, was stable. While I'm not a big fan of the banner ads, I'm sure the advertising iBrowz offers helps keep this a free application.
The only thing missing is the ability to add custom subscriptions. This may be the only Achilles's Heel with iBrowz and the only reason it received below four stars. Still, if you frequently use the online services and can live within the subscription limitations, this is definitely an application to take a look at. Being a free application, is a bonus and you really don't have anything to loose by giving it a try.