BlackBerry does email better than any other platform. It’s why many people buy the device and then stick with it. They’re not the only ones using a push email platform, but they do it the best. Unfortunately, this superiority does not extend to other areas of RIM’s software. The company is constantly criticized for having software inferior to its competitors, and there is no application that draws more ire than the default BlackBerry browser. There are a few decent alternative, though, that should work for users while we wait for RIM’s WebKit browser.
For years, BlackBerry users have turned to Opera’s mobile browser to do what the native browser cannot. Launched worldwide in 2006, Opera started as a basic web page browser, but quickly expanded to include more features. Shortly after release it added the ability to download files, and later that year it added RSS feeds and secure browsing. More and more features followed, leaving Opera Mini as one of the most comprehensive browsers on the market. The latest build, version 5.0 (beta), came out this past September. The difference for Opera Mini is the speed. Instead of delivering full-featured web pages straight to users, Opera sends requests through its own servers, which compress the page and deliver it quickly to the end user. Though there is an extra step involved, it does speed up the browsing experience. For some sites this creates a desktop-like experience, and for others it creates a more mobile-friendly interface.
With few third-party browser options on the BlackBerry market, Bolt set itself up for success with its first beta launch in January of this year. The consortium of BlackBerry blogs was all over the browser, critiquing it and noting how, if improved in the right ways, it could be a viable alternative to the native browser. Bitstream, the developers of Bolt, responded quickly, releasing an update just a few weeks after the initial launch. It featured, among other upgrades, smoother and faster scrolling, including the use of the space bar to page down. Bolt shed the beta tag earlier this month, and again offered a ton of new features. These include streaming video capabilities, caching for faster browsing, and a download manager. Bolt’s best feature is its ability to render webpages like the desktop, without ridiculous load times.
Here’s one area where Bolt reigns supreme, almost unquestionably. To make sure you have the best in-browser video experience, Bolt runs new users through a video wizard. This determines the optimal settings for your device. Bolt will automatically prompt you to run the video wizard the first time you try to view a streaming video. Then, when you visit a site like YouTube, you can go right to a video and it will play right inside the browser. That’s not to say that Bolt’s system is without flaw. On YouTube I had a few issues, ranging from the inability to load a video, to the wrong video loading, to a chopping and unwatchable stream. In theory they have it right, but it might take another build or two before this system works.
It’s a preference-based choice
Neither browser is radically better than the other, so the usage of Opera or Bolt will depend on your web surfing preferences. If you like full page loads and can handle the slightly longer wait times, Bolt is the way. If you like quick rendering, including mobile pages, it’s Opera. There are other aspects that separate them, but again that’s all based on personal preference. You can download Opera Mini at http://www.opera.com/mini/download/blackberry/. You can also visit mini.opera.com from your browser for version 4.2, or for version 5 beta. Bolt is available at http://boltbrowser.com/download.html. Is there anything else you want to know about Opera or Bolt? Is there a major point you think we haven’t addressed? Leave it in the comments.