Hands-on with Skyfire browser

Hands-on with Skyfire browser
Smoke on the water, fire in the sky… This is what we first thought of when we decided to take a closer look at one of the promising mobile browsers and share our impressions with you. For those of you who have missed our numerous news of Skyfire, let us go over the basics in brief – it is free, runs on Windows Mobile (Standard and Professional) and Symbian S60 devices and is server-based. At least in theory, the latter should make it the fastest browser on the market, since the web pages are processed by company servers that then send them back to you geared to your own specific device. In addition to lightning fast loading time, the browser aims to offer the ultimate “PC web experience” that also includes support for flash video websites, say YouTube or Vimeo.

Inspired and hopeful by all the information, we took up  on the task, got the HTC Touch Pro we happened to have at hand, quickly installed the 600 KB program and took off. We were made welcome by a pop-up message, saying it would be best if we made sure we were on an unlimited data plan, so as to avoid overwhelming  surprises at the end of the month. We complacently ignored it and got to the home screen. Perhaps now is the right time to mention  that we carried out our tests using EDGE, because of lack of 3G coverage. However, we do not think that this would have a negative impact on its speed, since the browser is claimed to be the fastest one to have ever come out on the market. Anyway, let’s just get back to the home screen. It is divided into four tabs. The first one lets you read breaking news  from Google, Yahoo and so on, as well as gives the option to control your Facebook or Twitter account (you are able to change your status straight away from this page). If you do, all messages from social apps will appear along with the news, but since all of them have different icons, you won’t get mixed up. Fortunately, a few seconds later we found out this sub-screen can be customized. You are allowed to add more RSS feeds or switch off any stuff that´s not to your liking. Well done, Skyfire!

The second tab allows Google searches and we consider it pretty pointless, since the address bar at the upper end of the screen does exactly the same thing (similarly to Google Chrome on the PC). Suggestions on what you may be looking for pop up very quickly as you type in characters. The results are then displayed on a personalized screen, where info can be filtered by local results, videos and images.

The third tab shows your bookmarks. There are default pages like Yahoo, Wikipedia, BBC news, Digg and so on that can be filtered by categories (sport, news, and video). You can add a new page through the “edit” option, where there are more listed pages, categorized in the same way. The last tab actually shows your browsing history  and there is also a handy key that allows you to cover up your tracks.

Everything looks really, really good so far, right? Our first impressions of Skyfire turned out to be wonderful indeed. However, things changed a bit after we loaded our team´s homepage. This happened incredibly fast, but… why does everything look that blurry? We paid the eye doctor a quick visit to make sure it was not our eyes playing up on us. It turned out that we did have no eye related issues at all, but the page just looked as horrible as before, especially when compared to the way Opera Mobile 9.5 and Safari visualized it. Just in case, we carried out another test with Skyfire running on the Nokia E71 (Symbian S60) this time. Our website looked slightly better, but still, the standard Symbian browser offered much higher image quality. Apparently, the quick loading is implemented at the expense of proper page rendering. We contacted the Skyfire team about this one and they assured us that they are already working upon solving it and that we should see better results in future releases. Only half the page appeared rendered and we had to wait for the browser to load the rest of it when we scrolled down. Navigating was not that easy either. The “tapping” onto the screen we so much love when it comes to zooming,  reading text or seeing the links clearly… was clearly missing here. Tap onto the screen once, to get the area that you can see enlarged framed, tap once more and you finally get it done, but everything happened way too slowly. Otherwise, navigating through a page by sliding finger is quite fast, because the browser first loads a pixelated version of the image before a clearer one, fit for being properly viewed.

Skyfire’s main advantage is it allows you to view web sites with flash videos, such as YouTube for example. We took a crack at one of the videos on our homepage and… it played perfectly – with sound and without a trace of lagging. Most importantly – although we were using EDGE, the five-minute video loaded fast enough did not pause. This is a wonderful feature we hope to see with all browsers in the future. This is precisely  why we will be keeping our fingers crossed that each version of Skyfire will be better and better (let’s not forget that this is still a beta version as of now). If navigation and page rendering are made better (blurry is so not cool in the age of HD), the App can really become an awesome mobile browser.

You can download the browser from here



1. heavybreathing

Posts: 276; Member since: Feb 26, 2009

...I've had this browser for 4 months now.

2. Razeu187

Posts: 17; Member since: Dec 11, 2008

Does it work with the Storm?

6. vzw fanman

Posts: 1977; Member since: Dec 11, 2008

as far as i know it doesnt. right now i have bolt browser on my storm and thats wickedd fast, try it out

3. stilt

Posts: 63; Member since: Jul 13, 2008

Skyfire is the best browser out. absolutely the BEST. I have the samsung saga with verizon, and its a touch screen, full face front qwerty keyboard an on screen keyboard if needed, a stylus and a optical mouse that is way better than the aggrevating trackball of the blackberries. Skyfire is a breeze to operate with the optical mouse on the Samsung Saga. Zooming and all is easy. Devices that are completely touch screen are a bit aggrevating to pin point and select or zoom on a specific item on a web page. The optical mouse pin points precise locations that you want to zooming in on or select and waalaah. Skyfire is perfect for the samsung saga. I watch tv shows and movies free on the internet all the time. My kilobyte usage is off the charts, Good thing I have unlimited kilobytes plan. I have already forwarded the download for SKYFIRE to everyone I know with winmo devices. I am really considering getting rid of my laptop now. SKYFIRE has made the perfect browser I tend to use my phone more now when I have my laptop with me. I have timewarner cable and internet. And when the connection is down with timewarner and i can't use the internet Verizon Wireless and Skyfire browser, ans Samsung Saga keeps me going. The browser is Great the network of Verizon is great, and the samsung saga is a good device to have

4. tuminatr

Posts: 1144; Member since: Feb 23, 2009

skyfire is ok no vga support it is a blown up 320*240 on my touch pro its currently the best solution for flash enabled or Ajax web sites but watch out skyfire opera is close to opera mobile 9.7 that will have these features and display 640*480 and 800*600 modes on a mobile device with flash and ajax also so will the wm6.5 upgrade with internet explorer

5. tuminatr

Posts: 1144; Member since: Feb 23, 2009

also i did see a article out there that skyfire was looking for blackberry beta testers I dont think the storm but the regular blackberrys like the curve or pearl

7. shimmyx20

Posts: 280; Member since: Mar 03, 2009

I agree with tuminatr in that Skyfire really needs to have support for higher resolutions, especially with the competition catching up. That being said though, Skyfire is a very impressive browser, and I look forward to what future versions will bring.

8. Dood

Posts: 269; Member since: Mar 23, 2009

Since it plays flash videos, can you play flash games with it??

9. brikz4real

Posts: 173; Member since: Dec 24, 2008

One other thing I like about the browser is that it has support for "drop down" menus and pop ups. Like when I go to my banking website; when I log off, it will ask if " I am sure " I want to do this with a pop up icon on a regular PC but does just as well with Skyfire. One thing about this review though: The said that they were using the EDGE network with a Touch Pro. Hmmm. Is it me, or is the Touch Pro a CDMA phone? I thought EDGE was a GSM technology. Maybe they got it confused with the HTC Fuze ( the GSM variant of the Touch Pro ).

10. rbz275

Posts: 37; Member since: Apr 09, 2008

The HTC Touch Pro is also available as an unlocked GSM model. (But, yes the HTC Fuze is the AT&T Variant)

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