First off, I need to apologize. I meant to get this published a few days earlier, but was unable to do so because of a change in plans at home, but I’ll do my best to answer your questions about the web browsing capabilities of the Samsung Finesse Straight Talk version. (Please click here to view this phone on Straight Talk’s site.) Here’s what I’ve learned so far:
The biggest question has been weather the r810c is capable of doing full HTML web pages, or is limited to the more limited WAP protocol. The good news is that it is a full HTML browser. However, many sites with mobile versions will automatically detect that you are browsing on a mobile device and direct you to the mobile version of their site. Facebook, for example, loads the mobile version but presents a link to get to the “full” version. For sites with no designated mobile version, or for those where the site doesn’t detect that you’re using a mobile phone to access it, the full HTML version will display.
I was satisfied, but not thrilled, with the page load times over the EVDO network. For example, I loaded the full html version of priceline.com, which has several pictures, lots of graphics, and dozens and dozens of links on the page, in a little over a minute. For the sake of comparison, I tried visiting Priceline on my LG 290c, which uses the slower 1xRTT network instead of EVDO, and it took about the same amount of time to load the mobile version. So clearly, the EVDO is faster than other cellular access, but it still falls far short of broadband speeds.
Another thing worth considering is that if you frequently visit the same sites, the browser will cache some of the images and graphics that need to be loaded on those sites. This way, on subsequent visits to the same site it will pull the images out of memory rather than over the network, resulting in a faster page load time.
Still, when possible, you’ll want to view the mobile-optimized sites in order to improve load times and navigability. I found this particularly handy for checking Facebook. I was already logged in, and it took less than 15 seconds to load my current news feed so I could see what my friends were up to.
The second most-asked question was whether YouTube or other streaming video sites work with the Finesse r810c. Unfortunately, the answer seems to be “no.” I tried to access YouTube both by typing in “youtube.com” as well as “m.youtube.com” for the mobile site. In each cases, I ended up viewing the YouTube mobile site, where I could see thumbnail clips of popular videos as well as a search box to find the videos of my choice. When I clicked on a video, it looked as though the phone was going to play it, as the internal video player launched. However, just a few seconds later I received the error message “Unsupported.” From what I’ve seen, other owners of the Straight Talk r810c had a similar problem, and no one has been able to get YouTube to work.
I also tried online video site blip.tv. In this case I was a little more optimistic, as the site offers a drop-down box with the option of viewing the video in the “Mobile Phone Third Generation Platform (3gp)” format. I thought this might work, as 3gp is the same format used by the phone’s camcorder. Unfortunately, blip.tv did not play on my Finesse either, even in the 3gp format.
So it seems there is no way to view streaming video over the internet on the Samsung Finesse. I did find one VERY minor consolation, however. I use a Firefox browser extension, called download helper, on my computer that allows me to download YouTube videos for later offline viewing. This extension also supports file conversion, allowing you to select the file type it will be saved as. I used download helper to get a YouTube video in 3gp format, which I then transferred to my phone using bluetooth. I was then able to watch it there. Of course, this is a lot of work to watch a short video, and is no substitute for streaming directly to the phone. As I said, it’s a small consolation and the lack of flash video on the r810c is a disappointment, if not a surprise.
The third question I’ve heard a lot is how it works with web-based email applications. I thought it worked very well for Gmail, loading extremely fast (less than 30 seconds). I was also able to use Google Calendar, thought it wasn’t quite as fast as I would like. Still, if you’re entering most of your appointments while at a computer, and need mobile access only to view your calendar and occasionally add/edit appointments, the Finesse should be fine.
On Yahoo! mail, there are two versions – the newer version displays more like an outlook desktop application, while the older version looks more like a web page. If you’re a Yahoo user, you know what I mean. Anyway, the Finesse cannot display the newer version, but the old version looks just fine.
[EDIT 1/6/10: The Finesse browser works fine for reading emails on Yahoo emails "classic" version, but I ran into problems with composing messages. Specifically, when I tried to enter text in the body of the email message, the browser would not recognize that portion of the page as a text entry field. I solved this problem by using Yahoo's mobile version, located at m.yahoo.com.]
Similarly, Hotmail worked great as well. I believe that Hotmail also allows users to choose between a ‘new’ and ‘old’ version of the site, but I only use the more static page-like layout, and that worked well on the Finesse.
One thing that I will say about the web mail services is that it can be slow to find contacts. When using a computer, you’ll usually just have to type the first few letters of a contact’s name or address and then select the correct entry from an auto-fill list. On the Samsung r810c browser, as with most mobile browsers, I suspect, you’ll have to look through your address book to select someone. This will add a few steps if you’re composing a new message from scratch. Reading messages and replying to those messages is easier than starting from scratch, of course.
Here are a couple of other thoughts about the browsing experience on the Straight Talk version of the Samsung Finesse:
- The browser is always in “landscape” display mode, regardless of how the phone is positioned. The main volume keys, on the left side of the phone, control the zoom function when in browser mode. It’s nice to have these easily accessible external keys, and makes for a smoother browsing experience vs. if the zoom control were a touch-screen function.
- Another thing that I noticed is, when clicking on a web link in the browser, there is no vibrate feedback. This can be a little confusing when all the controls within the phone’s operating system do provide such feedback.
- One complaint I had is that the browser doesn’t fit text to the screen width on most sites. So if you’re reading a lengthy article, it can get to be very annoying to read half a line of text, then scroll to the right, then back to the left to read the next line, and so on down the page.
- The browser does a nice job of displaying pictures.
- I enjoyed using the web browser to follow a football game on NFL.com’s mobile site. While traveling, I followed the play-by-play of a game that wasn’t on the TV or Radio in my area
That’s all I’ve got for now. Again, I apologize for not getting this out sooner. I’ll try to do a video soon so you can get a better feel for how the browser works. In the meantime, if you have any questions, please ask.