Better browsing, reloaded. Welcome back! In part 1 of this guide we told you how to surf the web with your phone when you are suffering from poor connectivity: patchy coverage, no Wi-Fi or an underpowered phone.
This week we'll tackle some more specific issues that can ruin your mobile web session even with the best of signals on the best of phones - those moments when you wish that whole internet-thing hadn't caught on in the first place because it just distracts you from watching paint dry.
History - let it repeat itself
Learn to bookmark. Use your history. No matter how powerful a phone you have, and no matter how good your connection is, mobile browsing is not yet as fast as browsing on your high-speed broadband-connected quad-core PC.
And QWERTY or not, Swype or no-Swype, text entry on a phone is not as fast and convenient as on a full-sized PC/Mac/laptop keyboard.
So make use of the bookmark feature of your phone's browser. If there is a remote possibility that you will revisit a site, bookmark it. Many modern smartphone browsers let you organise your bookmarks in folders for extra order and convenience.
The Opera Mini and Mobile browsers let you sync your bookmarks with your Opera desktop browser. Other third party browsers offer similar features - though not a full browser, Firefox Home for the iPhone allows you to share bookmarks, history and even open tabs between desktop Firefox and the iPhone.
When you want to go back a few pages during a mobile surf session, open the browser's history, and hit the link. That is much faster than typing the address again, and if you're lucky, the page is still in your browser's cache. With Opera's mobile browsers in particular, you can often go back a dozen or more pages without having to re-download a single byte.
This takes me to the next point:
In last week's intro we pointed out that the iPhone has helped a lot in making mobile browsing better - it's lowered data tariffs, introduced better online services for mobile phones, and led to overall better products from competing third-party browser coders.
The iPhone, however also raised a ghost from the wap-py past: the mobile website. They are simple versions of the full-blown webpage you're used to visiting on your PC or Mac.
The idea was noble: the mobile page requires less data, and thus you can load it faster with your phone's browser.
The problem, however, is this: often those 'optimised' mobile versions do not work properly - the page might offer miniature versions of embedded pictures, video is often absent, and so on.
Worst of all, you often find yourself trapped in mobile hell once you hit a mobile page. Try to go back a page, and you find the same page just reloads. Try to get to the main homepage, and grrrr, you find yourself on the mobile version of said homepage.
And then of course: the mobile version of the page has its own URL/web-address. So, if you were to copy that URL to share it with your tweet- or Facebook-buddies, or by email, people who try to visit that link from a desktop browser may not be able to view the page, as not all desktop browsers can show mobile websites.
Avoiding mobile sites can be more difficult than one should think, but there are ways. It depends on the page's design, and on your phone and browser type.
For the iPhone and Android devices, there are browsers available that let you spoof desktop browsers - i.e. you can make it appear as though you were surfing with Firefox or Internet Explorer.
Examples are Dolphin for Android phones and Atomic Web Browser for the iPhone. Generally, Opera Mobile will take you to the full desktop versions of all websites.
If it doesn't, however, type opera:config in the address bar (no "www" etc, just opera:config), and on most handsets you will then find a setting that allows you to change the user agent that Opera is identified as.
Ironically, Opera Mini was originally designed to bring the real web to simple phones, and for years that worked rather well. But since the iPhone revived the mobile website, Opera Mini more and more often takes you to mobile sites.
Should that happen in Opera Mini, and you want the full page, just use Google and search the page's title. Chances are this time you will hit the full version!
Some mobile versions of websites have a link that allows you to switch to the full desktop version, usually at the bottom of the page. That does not always work, though.
Sometimes, yes, you are taken to the full article, but once you try to move on to another article, you are taken back to a mobile page. Circles of hell, indeed.
In that case all you can do is a) never again visit that page, b) Google the page or enter the full site's URL in the address bar and hope you will be taken to the full site, or c) if it is an interesting website, email the address to yourself and visit it from your PC at a later time.
Tabs and Windows
We already stressed the advantages of working with the browser's history and bookmarks features. Next up: tabs and windows.
Trapped on a mobile page that won't release you from its clutches? If only you had opened that page in a new tab or window, right?! Our broadbanded PCs are so fast these days, that we often forget to open pages in new tabs - it's so bloody easy to just reload a page on the PC.
On mobile phones everything is slower, but most modern phone browsers offer tabbed browsing. So when you want to hit a link but aren't sure if it's worth your while or may just lead you to some handicapped mobile page, open that link in a new tab or window. That way at least you can easily switch back to where you came from.
The iPhone's Safari offers browsing in windows, but there are iOS browsers that offer even faster tabbed browsing - iCab and Atomic come to mind, but there are others.
For Android there's Dolphin among many others. Opera Mini and Mobile offer tabbed browsing and both are available for most phones out there, including dumb feature phones.
Our guide to better browsing will continue with part three next week - don't miss it. In the meantime, and comments are appreciated, and if you have a special query, just post it below.