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 Nickinson

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!