Up until now, I’ve been using the Opera browser that came bundled with my Nokia 6600, and it has done an adequate job. In fact I didn’t think much more could be done with a browser on such a small screen and so little CPU power that the 6600 has. So I was pleasantly surprised by the performance of NetFront, and am still using it after a couple of weeks, despite its propensity to crash my phone every once in a while.
Yes, NetFront does not seem to be the most stable app in the world. It has crashed badly several times, bringing the entire phone to a halt and causing spontaneous reboots. The 6600 (and most Series 60 devices) take at least a minute to fully reboot, so this is annoying in the extreme. The problem seems to lie in the way that NetFront manages (or rather fails to manage) the GPRS connection on the 6600. I could not nail the bug exactly, but it occurs if NetFront can’t find a connection, or perhaps if the connection NetFront was using is closed by another app – a very common occurence on the 6600 (e.g. disconnecting the mailbox sometimes closes the GPRS connection).
Also, NetFront does not have an ‘Exit’ menu option. Instead you have to use the ‘Back’ button (reloading every page) until you get to the home page, whereby the ‘Back’ button becomes the exit button. If you don’t know how to use the app manager to close applications (as most users may not), then it makes it quite difficult to exit the application. Given NetFront uses a considerable amount of memory on the phone, this is also a bit of a problem.
With these issues, you’d think NetFront would be a lost cause. Not so. The Smart-Fit rendering option is such a huge advance over Opera’s basic ‘all-or-nothing’ rendering, that I’m sticking with NetFront and choosing to live with the crashes until they fix the issue. Smart-Fit does a good job of maintaining most of the important layout features (e.g. fonts, colour, positioning), and arranges the items in a flow so that nothing runs off the edges. Opera on the other hand, either allows you to use ‘large screen’ layout (whereby everything is laid out like a full-screen, and runs off the page), or ‘small screen’ whereby almost all formatting is dropped. Even in Opera’s ‘small-screen’ mode I have noticed problems with text not wrapping properly.
The difference between Opera and NetFront’s small-screen rendering is most apparent below:
You can see that what is in fact a formatted ‘excerpt’ simply loses formatting and runs into the main text in Opera. NetFront displays it clearly.
NetFront for Series 60 is currently available as version 3.10, and claims compatibility the Nokia 7650, 3650, 3660, 3620, 3600, 6600, 7610, Nokia N-Gage game deck, N-Gage QD game deck, Siemens SX-1, Sendo X, Nokia 6620, Nokia 6630, Nokia 6260, Panasonic X700, and Samsung SGH-D710.