Hands-On with Bolt - the WebKit-based Java Browser

Hands-On with Bolt - the WebKit-based Java Browser
Last Friday we informed you of the new internet browser - BOLT, which is currently in a limited test version and is not available for everyone. We applied for participation and hoped to receive an invitation. A day later it’s been already waiting on our e-mail address. We wondered which phone to use for the test, because it’s been explicitly said in the e-mail that the link can be used only once. In the end, we decided that it should be the Nokia 6120, which uses the Symbian S60 operating system. We chose this phone, since BOLT is said to be really fast and should run even on older devices. Actually, it’s not that important what the used phone should be, it just needs to support JAVA applications.

4-5 seconds after we selected its icon, the BOLT home screen and a cursor appeared. There are three tabs on the home screen: the left one is History (it sorts pages according to the days when you have visited them), the middle one is Favorites, there you’ll find 10 preset popular pages (you can delete and/or add new ones), and the right one houses your RSS feeds. Switching between the tabs is fast, because the cursor “jumps” directly on them, rather than move slowly.

We decided to try whether the promises of the developer about really short loading times are true. With 3G turned on, the best result that we could achieve when loading our homepage has been 14 seconds, while loading it with the built-in browser of the phone, which is also WebKit-based, took a whole 40 seconds. BOLT definitely deserves standing ovation for its fast page loading.
We were very pleased with the fast rendering of the elements, but as we took our time with it, we noticed that some things don’t visualize correctly. In addition, YouTube’s Flash player doesn’t show up, but more on this later. Do not forget, however, that this is a beta version and many things can be changed until the final product comes out.

When it comes to options, BOLT offers few, yet really handy features. The most interesting one is the Split Screen view, which literally splits the screen into two parts. The upper one takes up more space and gives you a Pan view, and the lower one lets you see where’s your current location on the site and click on links, without needing to switch to standard view. You can zoom in/out, but there isn’t a shortcut for this and you’ll have to get to the Magnification menu to do it. Unfortunately, the menu takes up the whole screen and the zooming options aren’t measured in percentage, but are described with text – Small, Medium, Large, XLarge, XXLarge and Default. The problem here is that there’s no way for you to know exactly how much the page will be zoomed when you choose, say, Medium, and if you don’t like it you’ll have to navigate to the submenu once again in order to make a different choice. Besides, every change causes a page reload. In a few training minutes, you roughly get used to this, but it would have definitely been easier with shortcuts. Actually, there are some shortcuts set for some of the other functions: “1” leads you to the Favorite tab, “3” takes you to the address bar, “5” switches to Split Screen mode, “*” opens History, “0” also leads you to Favorites and “#” gives you a quick access to the RSS feeds tab. The rest of the keys (2,4,6 and 8) let you navigate around the page, as if you are using the D-pad.

We wanted to see what the situation with YouTube is and surprisingly, the full version of the site opened by default. Again, the Flash menu with the currently playing videos was missing. We proceeded and clicked on the first clip of Feature videos and a rather strange and ugly player appeared before us. Despite its appearance, we clicked on “Play” and a few seconds later a message showed up, saying that BOLT wants to play the video with the video player of the phone, in the current case – RealPlayer. We didn’t like this very much, but we won’t be too drastic here, since the browser (as we’ve already mentioned) is still in its beta version. The efforts to play online videos from other sites ended up totally unsuccessful – the player didn’t show up. That’s why we suppose that BOLT has been optimized only for YouTube, at least for now.

As a whole, BOLT managed to impress us, but it should be improved further, in order to be comparable to Opera Mini, for example. We’ll wait and see.

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