iPhone Review: Web Browsing and SMS

Along with email, web browsing and SMS are the three most important features that make a smartphone smart (and it's calling feature of course. So how smart is the iPhone with respect the SMS and the web?

SMS

SMS on the iPhone supports threaded messages, something that was started by Palm. This means that messages between the user and a contact are grouped into "conversations" accessible by one entry in the main grid. This organizes your texts immensely and saves you time in trying to figure out how they all relate. New messages not already part of a "conversation" get added as a new main entry and are identified by number or contact name.

Within a "conversation," Contact Info and Call buttons for contacts already in your address book make it easy to get more information or call the contact. For numbers not yet in your address book, an Add to Contacts button appears at the top of the screen and makes it easy to do just that.

When you get a new SMS message, no matter what you are doing, a popup containing the contact name and text appears on the iPhone screen. Depending on what you are doing at the time, you will get options to ignore or view the text. You are alerted of ignored (or unread) texts by a red circle near the SMS icon (like with email).

Some drawbacks of the iPhone SMS are that you must wait for an SMS message to be sent before you do anything else with that application (though you can still use other applications on the phone). Also, the iPhone SMS doesn't offer character counting or a multiple message warning, like almost all other phones.

Web Browsing: Safari

There's no question that through it's Safari program, the iPhone offers the most true-to-PC web-browsing experience out there today. The iPhone attempts to render the page faithfully and give the user convenient options for zooming in and out on text. The fact that you can flip the iPhone on it's side and view things horizontally rather than vertically also helps in this endeavor.

Navigating around a page does require zooming though, since you won't be able to see anything useful on a mainstream site without tweaking the view. However, this tweaking is done easily and intuitively by pinching, unpinching, tapping, double tapping, and dragging your way around. No buttons or menu to go through, just you interacting with the screen where need be.

If you prefer to see the handheld version of a webpage, WAP is supported, but Safari isn't detected as a mobile browser, so you need to specifically navigate to the WAP version if the site you're trying to visit has automatic browser detection.

Bookmarks are supported on the iPhone, and they are automatically synced with Safari on the host computer. Tabbed browsing is also supported in an ingenious way that saves space. Safari on the iPhone displays one tab with a count of all tabs you have open. When you tap the tab, it takes you to a display that shows a mini snapshot of all your tabs so you can pick the open page you want to see.

One problem with Safari on the iPhone relates to stability. From time to time the browser may disappear without warning, and this seems to be related to the number of tabs that are open, hence the memory consumption of the browser. However, this is a common problem in handhelds, and no handheld browser is known for its stability. On second try, you will more often than not be able to open the page you were trying to view.

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