In this era of perpetual connectivity, it’s not hyperbole to say that a browser is the most important application on a phone. As a Windows phone user, I am not a big fan of IE as I find it just plain for my taste. As always, I was on the look out for a better browser for my Windows Phone.
I came across Beyond Browser in the Marketplace. Beyond browser is a web browser that is specifically designed for Windows Phone and the ratings weren’t bad either. Should you take the plunge as well? Let’s find out!
Download and Installation
Like every other mobile app, the download and the installation part is pretty simple. Go to the Marketplace and type in Beyond Browser. Tap on the first thing that appears and tap Install. The app weighs in at 2MB will take less than a minute to finish downloading.
Editor’s note: Inexplicably, this app is no longer available on the marketplace. We’re told it’ll be back up soon.
Keep in mind that the free version of the application is advertisement supported. It can take a bit of space in your browser. If that annoys you, go for the paid version which costs around $1.99.
On first run, you will get the impression that you have used the app plenty of times already. When I mean ‘used the app’, I mean that it is filled with your most visited pages like Wikipedia, Facebook, Twitter etc by default. Usually, the browser apps are empty by default but this one is accessible from the get go.
The app uses a blue toned interface throughout which creates an impression of importance when you see it. The app consists of a number of tabs which can be flipped through the pages to access it. The list of tabs are discussed below.
The quick links consists of all the pages you’d visit most often. The icons are arranged like it is arranged in an iPhone: legible and well spaced. The list is pretty huge and has everything you’d want from basic Google to YouTube.
Beyond Browser also lets you include your own quick link. Just tap on the + button on the right and give the title and the web URL. One tiny complaint is that I nearly missed the + sign. It could have been a bit large or not too aligned to the right.
The popular sites tab includes all the pages they think are popular. You wouldn’t believe the number of websites they have included. The sites are neatly organised into categories and under each category you’ll find a minimum of six sites and it goes up to 20. Whoa, right?
This particular tab is quite useful. They cover most of the categories from arts to sports. News? They have covered it too. The list is simply mind boggling. The other tabs are called Book Marker and History. We’ll talk about that in a little while.
It is now time to browse. You’ll see a little address bar at the top of the app. I really didn’t notice that at the first. Type in the address and tap ->. The good thing about the app is that it contains auto complete input, just like how search engines works these days. Type in the part of the web URL and it predicts the rest. Oh yeah!
The address bar can be also used as a search engine. By default, it is set to Google. You can change the default engine to Bing or Yahoo. You’ll find these options in the settings page. The choices are really small but hey, you have got Google! I don’t see why you would use anything else.
Mini drawback here though. Sometimes, while you are browsing and when you accidentally hit the <- button, you'll find yourselves face to with a small menu that will ask you get the paid version of app. I found little bit annoying.
The floating toolbar is one of the interesting features of the app. When you browse, the page doesn’t really have any basic functionality like refresh, home, back etc. This is where the floating toolbar comes in handy. Just shake your mobile and you’ll see a tiny semi transparent toolbar on the left or right of your screen.
It auto hides after 3-4 seconds of inactivity. Since it does that, it doesn’t take up any portion of your screen – I love it. The toolbar consists of all your basic functionality like back, forward and refresh. By using this toolbar, you can pin your favourite sites to the main screen of your mobile or to the quick links page or to the popular sites.
There are also other interesting features like dual view mode and fast page switch mode. Once you figure out all these features, the browsing experience gets better. The key is to configure the app to your needs. Please find that in the settings page. You get loads of options there to make you feel comfortable.
Whilst browsing, we simply can’t survive without opening up pages as tabs. To do so, hold and tap on the link for a second and you get the option to open in a new tab or in a background ( window ) etc. Do you want to share the links or pictures to your friends? This app also lets you do so via email – everything is just a tap away.
You can save the images from the websites by performing the same action as opening a new tab. The picture directly gets saved to your Pictures in your mobile.
The history page is neatly organised into recent, tabs and according to dates. But then, I spent a huge amount to time clicking on random links and yet the recent part was empty and didn’t really get updated. Hopefully a patch will be out fixing this issue.
One thing I noticed about this app is that the navigation is slow. When you have more than five tabs, it becomes a nightmare to access each of them. You are forced to rely on the floating toolbar to even access the tabs and, believe me, it is not easy.
When I accidentally pressed the <- button in my mobile, it directly went to the home page of browser and I couldn't find tabs opened earlier. Needless say,
some user experience such as these mar overall app experience.
Comparing to Internet Explorer, Beyond browser has a much cooler interface and features. But the average time to load a page is slightly more than IE and for users who balk at the idea of the floating tool bar, I’d recommend sticking with the default IE. If you’re however a little more adventurous, I do recommend that you check out this app and see whether it fits your workflow.