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SkyFire Browser Beats the Pants Off the iPhone -- No Foolin'

I had a chance to get a demo of the upcoming SkyFire browser (over Skype) last week and I gotta tell you - it's hot. Here's the skinny - it's currently in private beta (sign up here) with a public beta planned for later this quarter. It works on Windows Mobile Pro and Standard (and Symbian, hush), and it's really, really awesome. As in, “my envy for the iPhone's browser may soon be coming to an end” kind of awesome.

Here's how it works - it's a server-side solution (more on that inside) based on Gecko (same bits behind Firefox's rendering). Basically everything gets rendered on the server and then sent out to your phone. That solves some of the processor / speed issues, but it also adds more benefits, like full AJAX, Flash, Javascript, you name it. I watched the browser instantly load an embedded YouTube video (from a random page on our site) and start playing with nary a jag and nary a lag -- this over a UMTS connection, mind you.

The SkyFire teams told me “Our goal is that if Firefox can render it, then your Windows Mobile phone will render it the exact same way.”

There more, including a screenshot gallery, after the break!

For the first time ever, smartphoneusers can experience the “real Web” to access and interact with any Website built with any Web technology, including dynamic Flash, advanced Ajax,Java and more - at the same speeds they are accustomed to on their PC -


Server Side is Awesome / Not Awesome

So the benefit of having 90% of the work on a server is you get snappy rendering, full support for basically any web standard, and fast downloads. You get the desktop browser pushed out to your phone.

The downside - that server best stay up, hey? It also best keep your data secure and private (SkyFire says that's been their #1 priority, even in their early betas). Lastly, though, server's ain't free. SkyFire hasn't settled on a pricing model yet, but they're leaning towards ads before subscriptions to keep the service free. The company was keen to show me their portal - which pulls from multiple search engines - so that's probably going to be part of the model.

The Software Itself

One .cab file for the browser, that's all you install to get full Flash, AJAX (the thing can handle the craziest of Google Maps/Apps AJAX), etc. Since it's all handled server-side

The SkyFire browser has all the necessary zoom and bookmark features you'd expect from a browser of this sort. It also has a “fit to screen” feature -- but with a neat difference. Instead of re-rendering the entire webpage to fit your screen, it actually just renders the different sections of text to fit your screen in place. So you still get the basic layout of the site, but when you zoom into a piece of text to read it you know it will be set to the right width for comfortable reading at your mobile's resolution.

...It's about time we had a browser that's not only competitive with the iPhones, but that beats it in several categories. The fact that it's all server-side is the real story here, though, as that's SkyFire's greatest strength and weakness.

  • Almost forgot - it also does Quicktime, Windows Media, and I believe Silverlight as well. If Firefox can do it on your desktop, SkyFire can pretty much do it on your handheld.
  • I was about to post in the "general" treo thread... did a search and see it is buried here.
    Nice app, can't wait to how it performs in "real life." I'd more than likely wait before announcing it will beat the pants off anything... I've seen software like this come and go... you know the type... It is the best thing since sliced bread... EXCEPT.... bla, bla, bla...
    But it does looking promising.
    edit: wow, that was a bit confusing... thought I was posting on treocentral... so this thread is not on treocentral, but search will search both treocentral and this site for posts.
    hmm... ok.... and yea, I knew the sites were consolidated for user names...
  • skyfire is too good. i have htc touch hd which comes with opera and IE. been waiting for the latest skyfire to come out which could handle my phones hi res. gotta say having all these browsers makes my phone internet complete. if you know the right website you can stream live sports onto your fone. am watching the cricket off sky sports 1 right now. and come sat 3pm will be watching arsenal live while most if not every1 wont be able to even watch it on there
  • From a technological perspective: very impressive. The fact that is can do full Flash embedded is the main reason why it can beat out the iPhone--throw in those extra formats (Quicktime, WMedia, etc.) and you have yourself a very robust platform.
    It will be interesting to see how it performs in real life, but it looks very promising.
    Boy, what a difference in programming from just 16 months ago on the Windows Mobile--I'm noticing some very talented folks jumping on the platform and making some very unique and feature rich apps.
  • 16 months ago I tried out the killer browser app known as "NetFront" and left utterly disappointed. For now I use Opera Mini and am generally very happy with it, but I'm always open to new alts so long as the price is right.
  • I was about to post in the "general" treo thread... did a search and see it is buried here.
    Buried?! It belongs in the WM section! ;)edit: wow, that was a bit confusing... thought I was posting on treocentral... so this thread is not on treocentral, but search will search both treocentral and this site for posts.
    The thread *is* on TreoCentral, it's also on our other forums that share the WM stuff (namely wmexperts). You can also find everything all together at
  • Am I wrong in thinking this is SlingBox for the web? What data bitrate does it use to transmit those web pages?
    I wish some-one would sell this as a server + client package (like slingbox) for maybe $50, so privacy concerns would not be an issue.
  • Skyfire can't get here fast enough...
  • I want to give it a whirl. I just signed up saying I was interested in their beta testing.
  • Me too. Signed up yesterday, received a confirmation that I would be notified when the beta is available.
  • Skyfire can't get here fast enough...
    Oddly enough it seems their site is down... Which is odd because I signed up for the beta a day or two ago and it was fine...
  • What is Skyfire?
  • Merged.
    I'm supposed to be getting ahead of the list on the private beta, so far no love. Hopefully will come soon!
  • Oddly enough it seems their site is down... Which is odd because I signed up for the beta a day or two ago and it was fine...
    seems up now, but I guess their site going down is a bad sign, considering that it's a server-dependent solution!
  • The features seem great but I think the server side driven model is not going to work out. Microsoft?s DeepFish operates or should I say operated this way. The project now appears to be abandoned and the next version or pocket IE will not operate this way. Prove me wrong Skyfire, but I'll wait for this to be both fully released (and the pricing model solidified) before I get excited again.
  • I thought this was how it would end up (I'd tested that other MSFT browser - what was it? Deepfish...) with pretty much the same results.
    I received my beta link earlier this evening via SMS and installed it.
    Technically it's very nice - I do like how they've optimized the 5-way working with the pointer/cursor - kind of 'jumps' to the various links & stuff. That's neat.
    But overall my thoughts on Skyfire are just as they were with the Deepfish thing - looking at fullsize web pages shrunk down to a small device screen just doesn't cut it for me. Yes you can zoom in and pan around, but that still doesn't let you see the page as a whole.
    Maybe it's just that I'm used to using mobile-specific pages (and I've beem doing that for about 6 yrs!) so I'm somewhat set in my ways, but I just like mobile sites better.
    You'll say - yes but what about video? one word - vTap. Awesome.
    I'm still messing around with Skyfire but - for a heavy mobile optimizer (and a somewhat advanced user) I just don't think it's for me. I'm pretty sure I'm not their audience though - they're going after the masses (rightly so) so wouldn't think about seeking out (and bookmarking no less!) all the various mobile sites that are out there.
    Skyfire might last a bit longer on my 700wx but I don't think it's long for the game....for me anyway. Just me.
  • Video
  • How many others have received there download info via SMS?
  • I've been using it for about an hour and I think it is the best mobile browser I've ever used. I like the fact that the exact web page shows up. If you go to ESPN the video and audio starts playing showing the latest highlights. I can access live FOREX charts without limitations of what I can see.
    The speed for an early beta is acceptable. CNN which has loads of graphics loaded in a couple of seconds (my Verizon 6700 only had one bar of signal at the time). Not bad.
  • I took it off my device. Cool, but not as usable, to me, as mobile websites (with the caveat being that I'm using a device with a relatively small screen - the 700wx - and the full web page views are just way too small for me). And I'm not a fan of zoom and pan.
    It's off. Outta there.
  • Well I'm lookin forward to trying it. Can anybody post a cab file?
  • Well I'm lookin forward to trying it. Can anybody post a cab file?
    Waste of time. It uses a proxy server so you wouldn't be able to use it anyway without authentication.
  • Strange, I cannot get it to load
  • For those of you who have received download/authentication info how long ago did you sign up for the beta test?
  • the link they gave me to download it doesn't have anything but the skyfire logo. annoying!
  • I still haven't received my SMS download message.
  • Anybody recently received an SMS download message recently?
  • bump
  • I just received my sms. It took about 3 weeks. just be patient.
  • Signed up on 1/29, received dl link 2/26. No opinions yet. I briefly (2 minutes) tried streets view on The flash view came up embedded but I couldn't figure out how to pan around. The fact I could see it at all is a major improvement though.
  • Well I signed up on 1/28 and no SMS yet.
  • after messing around with this on my now replaced with a iPhone htc touch I can honestly say this app can not even hold a candle to safari. Very buggy, slow, laggy, etc. So for anyone who is waiting for their beta... You're not missing much.
  • I've had it for awhile, works wonderful for me.
  • Hmm.. I wonder what kind of batterylife you all get out of surfing the web on a WM device.
    Get your razor blades & soft drugs here!
  • I'd rather pay an annual fee that have to view more ads on my cell phone. So, this is the first I've heard of Skyfire, and it sounds like it's an even better concept than the yet-to-be-developed Picsel browser. I tried Minimo, but it was a maximo hog on my device! So, I've settled myself to using 4 separate browsers, depending on whether I need speed, viewability, search functionality, or other features. They are: the resident IE, which is actually much faster than my Opera Mobile (but I love the tabbed browsing in Opera!), and also Opera Mini 3 and Opera Mini 4, both server-sided browsers that are fast!
  • So I signed up on Jan 29, supposedly 1 day after the sign ups were announced. I am in the US and have an ATT Treo 750, WM6. Unfortunately no invite for me yet. Here is what Skyfire sent me as an explanation, but I'm not really buying it:
    "...people who signed up as of January 28 are also included in Beta 1, since your confirmation is from January 29th, this includes you. We had more demand than we expected on the first day of signups so even as we rollout the invitations daily, we still have not made a dent in the number of registrations from day 1. We would appreciate your continued patience and will have everyone in Beta 1 invited by the end of April, we cannot tell you at this time when you will get your invitation."
    So I would like to know from those of you who have signed up: what day did you sign up and have you or have you not received the invite yet?
  • Been using this for a couple of weeks now. Not too bad. Seems slower to render pages than DeepFish. Also seems to be very processor and radio demanding as a short period of use and I can see the dent in my battery.
  • Oh, ya, and don't forget the little problem that you give up your soul, lock, stock, and barrel to the advertisers. Reminds me of phorm, except that you voluntarily give up your soul with SkyFire.
    If you carefully read the privacy policy, the anonymous information suddenly can be connected to your personally identifiable information. And with the server side aggregating of every aspect of what you do, where you browse, what number of seconds you stay on a page, as well as what part of a page you are even focused on, you are in the good hands of the ultimate trustworthy spam/advertiser forces of the world.
    Your soul for a penny?
  • Been using skyfire for a couple months now. Great idea and feature set... but bad execution... so far at least. I realize this is beta product but it is slow and buggy. Can't rely on it at all. Not even close to the speed of Opera Mini.
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