Bolt Mobile Browser

It's easy to get lost in the shuffle of Mobile World Congress, but here's a little item that piqued our interest. The once-quiet Windows Mobile web-browser field has seen a lot of activity lately. From Opera Mobile going Turbo to Skyfire releasing a new Beta version to Mozilla releasing the Milestone release of Fennec, the mobile browser industry has been busy.

Adding to the web-browser mix, Bitstream developers have introduced the Beta version of BOLT. Compatible for several platforms, including Windows Mobile and Palm OS, BOLT is marketed as providing fast, secure, desktop-styled Web browsing. The browser has support for XML, ATOM, RDF formats of RSS feeds and support for JavaScript and AJAX. BOLT also claims to consume one-third of the battery power of other mobile browsers and offers 23:1 over-the-air data reduction to speed page delivery of pages to your phone.

The browser sounds promising and while the application has been in closed Beta testing, the browser is being announced at the Mobile World Congress and is now available for public consumption. Follow the break for our first impressions of this new browser and a few screen shots.

The installation of the Beta Version is a little tricky. You first go to the BOLT Web site to sign up for the Beta application and an email is sent to you with several download links to choose from. The email notification states that the invitation codes in the e-mail are personalized and can only be used only once. You choose your site and the application is loaded on to your device.  Here's where the trickiness comes in. It took me forever to find the browser after I exited it for the first time. I looked under Programs, Games, Accessories, and every rock possible with no success. That is until a voice from Barcelona reminded me that BOLT is a Java application. The light bulb went off, and I found the browser under the Java manager.

The home screen is as simple as it gets. You have a row of "favorite" websites and a "menu" tab at the bottom. When you go to a URL, the "menu" tab auto-hides, so don't panic. Simply tap the edge of the bottom left corner of the screen and it will re-appear. The text is tiny and in the normal font size, a magnifying glass is required. The above screen shot was taken with the magnification setting at XXLarge. To help with this, BOLT has a "Split Screen" setting that puts a magnified view at the bottom half of the screen and a movable magnifying square that can be moved about the top half of the screen. Personally, I'd rather see larger fonts for the entire screen than a split screen.

Download speeds were fast. Surprisingly fast. Wickedly fast. Fast enough to make some desktop users consider abandoning their desktop and go exclusively to their Windows Mobile phone for internet access. I was able to load the full site easily under five seconds; images and all.

The web pages are navigated by touch and the movement was a little choppy. This is a Beta application so you can't expect everything to be perfect.  The browser was very responsive to activating links and graphics/images were sharp. I would have liked to have seen the option to turn off the auto-hide menu and maybe that is one feature BOLT will consider while the browser is moving through the Beta stages.

All in all, I was impressed with the BOLT browser. I don't know if the company achieves 23:1 compression, but the downloads of web pages were fast, the navigation smooth (for the most part) but work is needed on font size, menu navigation and installation location.  Regardless, BOLT has definitely made the mobile browser field a little more interesting.  Again, the Beta application can be obtained through the BOLT website. Give it a test drive yourself and let us know what you think of this new browser.

Phil is the father of two beautiful girls and is the Dad behind Modern Dad. Before that he spent seven years at the helm of Android Central. Before that he spent a decade in a newsroom of a two-time Pulitzer Prize-finalist newspaper. Before that — well, we don't talk much about those days. Subscribe to the Modern Dad newsletter!

  • I wish they would do the zoom like Opera Mini / Mobile does, other then that it's not too bad.
  • If memory serves me right, this the same group that brought us the Thunderhawk browser a few years back!!
    They definitely have experience in this arena! Looking forward to checking it out! Matt
    Windows Mobile Louisville
  • Seems like that.
    From their Homepage:
    'Built on Bitstream's ThunderHawk browsing technology, BOLT is the result of 5+ years experience developing mobile browsers that optimize usability, speed and performance on resource-constrained systems with limited memory, processing power and screen space.'
    Ok, I was too slow, see comment below. And, also from their Homepage: PalmOS is not yet supported. :-(
  • tried it on redfly yet?
  • Matt... your right about the Thunderhawk connection.
  • Shows promise ... I actually like it ... but the fonts are just way too small.
  • With Palm phasing out Palm OS I would imagine BOLT will be available for the WebOS by the time the Pre is released.
  • I tried to install on my kaiser and it just keeps saying that It can't find a midlet suite... while inside the midlet suite!! Oh well... I got skyfire, opera mobile, Iris and Opera 9.5... what else do I need?
  • Can't seem to get it to install... copied the URL from the email into Pocket Internet Explorer, and it said it was downloading a file, but nothing happened after that... Am I missing something? Matt
  • I like it so far, but can't really see myself using it much because a) even with the page magnification set to "XXLarge", the type is still very small on my TP's VGA screen, and b) my TP does not have softkeys, and this browser depends heavily on them. In the past I've lamented the death of softkeys, and I'll do it again here. I'm glad the windows button is back on future WM devices, but the softkeys also need to make a return. I miss them dearly.
  • BOLT sounds promising, but I couldn't get it to install on my AT&T Fuze. I tried all four downloads (double signed, Verisign, Thawte, unsigned), and they all failed to complete the signing procedures or couldn't find something needed on the BOLT servers. I probably will not try again. Who needs a browser that is so difficult to install? Download link that expires after one try... multiple signing options... multiple levels of user intervention required during install... very long install process... cryptic messages... etc. Seems like a tremendous amount of unnecessary complexity. I have never seen any other JAVA program be this difficult to install. PIE, Skyfire, and Opera Mini pretty much cover everything I need.
  • Were you trying to install using a wifi connection? I had problems doing that, too, but it did install on my Fuze with no problems when I used the AT&T wireless data connection instead of wifi. That's a problem that will afflict the use of BOLT, too: Java on the Fuze is set up to use an AT&T proxy for http connections, and that doesn't work over wifi. To fix that and allow BOLT to connect to the Internet over wifi, just delete the registry key HKLM\Software\Apps\Esmertec Java\Properties\ (If something stops working and you need to restore it, the original value of the key is "".)
  • Curious... for those who have Bolt still installed, are you experiencing serious battery drains?
  • I'm not a fan of Java apps in general but Bolt is giving Opera 9.5 Beta a fight for browser supremecy on my device. I didn't seem to have any of the install problems mentioned. After initial install the menu fonts were small but updating to a more recent version of my Java environment (Esmertec Jbed 20081203.2.1) fixed the problem. This is on an HTC Touch (Sprint).
  • Cannot use at all the Menu,Back,to make larger fonts etc since dont work at all the keyboards on my WM5 HTC S310 with this java application.Nice browser but cannot use it properly.Could be better if they made it for smartphones too.