New Java-based browser Teashark: really a competitor to Opera Mini 4? Not (yet?)

Thanks to XDA-Developers forum member TalynOne, I was directed to the new Java MIDlet-based browser Teashark. It is also mentioned in THIS blog post too.

Availability

You can download the JAR file HERE. Just deploy it under either the Jeodek or Jbed MIDlet Manager. (Do NOT try to deploy it under TAO Intent because the browser is entirely incompatible with all TAO Intent versions!)

Please note that, if the words Jeodek, Jbed, TAO Intent and MIDlet Manager sound Chinese to you, don’t despair: just wait for my long-promised MIDlet Manager Bible, where I explain everything you’ll ever need to know about these programs. In the meantime, feel free to follow the links in the above-linked MIDlet Manager Bible announcement for forum posts and other remarks.

Compatibility, problems, bugs

As I just love Opera Mini 4 (OM4 for short; see review HERE), which I use almost exclusively for Web browsing, I’ve tested the new browser at once to see whether it’s, as mentioned in the above-linked blog post, indeed a decent alternative to Opera Mobile.

I’ve tested the browser with the three most common MIDlet managers out there: TAO Intent (both the 10 and the 11 series), Esmertec Jeodek and Esmertec Jbed. (Haven’t tested it with IBM J9.)

TAO Intent (tested on the HTC Wizard Pocket PC (TAO version 11.1.7.1029 default), the HTC Universal Pocket PC (11.1.7.1036 Risidoro) and the HTC s310 / Oxygen Smartphone (10.1.7.680 default)): absolutely useless. The menus aren’t accessible (neither the hardware nor the software, on-screen keys work) and there’s no way of even navigating on the page – neither the D-pad nor the on-screen / hardware 2/8 or up/down buttons work. Finally, as with the other MIDlet managers, the touch screen can’t be used on Pocket PC’s.

Esmertec Jbed (tested on the HTC Universal): a bit more usable. While it still doesn’t support any kind of touch screen operation, at least it allows for accessing the menu (via a hardware key only). It has the following pros / cons (under Jbed):
Pros

  1. Upon entering an already-entered URL, it has an automatic address completion feature, unlike OM4b2
  2. It displays both italic and bold characters, unlike OM4b2 (OM is totally unable to render italic text and, depending on the actual font size used, it may refuse to render bold too).
  3. The in-page text search works just great (examples: 1 2 3) – I wish Opera Mini had the same feature!

Cons

  1. The rendering of the text is VERY bad: wherever there is a style / color change, the text overlaps as can clearly be seen in THIS screenshot
  2. Scrolling (in full page view mode) is FAR better thought-out in Opera Mini 4 - it takes far less D-pad presses to navigate to a link without annoying screen scrolls.
  3. There is only one character size, unlike with OM4 – no font size setting capabilities as can be seen in this screenshot taken under Esmertec Jeodek on the s710. This is REALLY bad: Java MIDlets have access to, in general, three different font sizes by default.
  4. The default mode is a no-one-column (that is, showing the original layout) mode. On VGA devices, this, in most cases (there are exceptions; for example, the page HERE is rendered almost unreadable because of the need for horizontal scrolling – for comparison, HERE is the same under Opera Mobile 4 beta 2 without using the one-column mode and with Extra large fonts (!) – see the difference? OM4 is WAY better in this respect too), isn’t a problem. In order to enable the default one-column mode, there’s a “page start with mini view†checkbox in Preferences, I couldn’t check it in under Esmertec Jeodek v20070115.1.1 on my s710 (while it worked under Esmertec Jbed v20070802.2.1).
  5. Again, it doesn’t make use of the touch screen in ANY way – not even at selecting from the menus
  6. History doesn’t work at all, unlike with OM4, where you can quickly switch between the visited (and still in-memory!) pages
  7. Generally, it loads pages definitely slower than OM4, while it uses more bandwidth
  8. It doesn’t let for scrolling through the links of the main (home) page: it only scrolls down to the third or fourth (depending on the actual screen orientation) and, then, start from the beginning. On other pages (including the “Visited†page list), there’re no similar problems. Note that this seems to be only a problem with Jbed; with the (older) Esmertec Jeodek (the one, v20070115.1.1, coming with the HTC s710 / Vox Smartphone), I could scroll through all the homepage items
  9. It uses its own text entering method when entering the URL to navigate to or the search expression for text search. (Fortunately, this is NOT the case with in-page text fields/ areas like the Google textfield at the top, where the default one is used. That is, if you absolutely must use punctuations in the URL you need to enter, fire up Google so that you have access to the default, MIDlet manager-provided text input area; there, you’ll already be able to use all the punctuation marks – including the ones on hardware keyboards OR phone dialpads; for example, the one on the HTC s710 / Vox). This means the following:
  • if you have a built-in hardware keyboard to enter text you will only be able to enter alphanumeric characters but nothing else – not punctuation marks only accessible via a Symbol key (fortunately, the dot, “.â€, isn’t one of them – at least on the Universal) or “/â€! Think of it: you can’t even directly enter URL’s like www.pocketpcmag.com/blogs because of the inability to enter /! This GREATLY reduces the usability of the app, particularly if used together with Jbed (which, being run always in full-screen and, consequently, hiding the SIP icon) doesn’t allow for bringing up the SIP and entering special characters on it. Note that I don’t know if entering “special†characters (like /) works on a SIP as Teashark is completely useless with the TAO Intent Manager (one of the MIDlet managers to support bringing up the SIP any time).
  • On Smartphones, the dialpad works in the standard mode (without xB9; the # and * buttons, however, just can’t be used to enter anything else. That is, even if you keep # depressed, you won’t be presented a list of the usable punctuation marks (including for example /), only the # will be repeatedly included.
  • Still as far as Smartphones are concerned, it’s absolutely unable to make use of the slide-out keyboard of the HTC s710 / Vox.

Verdict

While this browser certainly has some advantages over Opera Mini 4 beta 2 (the in-page text search and the ability to render italic / bold being the most important), in general, this browser is, currently, in no way recommended for Windows Mobile users because of the really bad bugs. That is, just stay away from it.

I let you know as soon as a usable version is released.

UPDATE (09/14/2007 14:15 CET): I've also tested the browser under IBM J9 6.1.1 on a Dell Axim x51v. While, unlike with TAO Intent, you can move around with the D-pad (and click links), the softkeys don't work (not even with hardware buttons), which means you don't have access to the menus at all. That is, it's useless under IBM J9 too.

Cross-posted to (might be worth checking out for additional info / discussions!): PPCT, AximSite, XDA-Developers, FirstLoox, BrightHand, HowardForums, SPT, MoDaCo.

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