Software: Apple's Safari 5 Web browser

E&T checks out Apple Safari 5.0 web browser and reviews the various turn-by-turn navigation systems available on mobile phones.

 

Apple is in new product launch overdrive at the moment. With the iPad, the latest iteration of the iPhone, a refresh of the iMac range and a complete redesign of the Mac Mini; you might be forgiven for not noticing the significant changes that the latest version of Apple's Safara Web browser has in store.

This new browser has plenty of innovations, and should have far more column inches devoted to it than it currently has managed to gain, such as the ability to strip out animated ads from news sites and highlight just the text (that's not going to make the ad manager happy - ed) and other distractions from long articles.

Does it hold up to Apple's hyperbolic marketing? We gave the browser's new features a whirl to find out.

Safari Reader

The entire concept of the browser itself now has competition thanks to the Cloud and the variety of devices and apps now available to view this type of content. The biggest rivals are the e-readers led by the Amazon Kindle and Apple's own iPad device. More tablet-based devices and magazine apps are expected to be released in the next few months.

Safari Reader tries to remove the information overload by recognising articles and automatically stripping out the superfluous content, producing a clean version that's much easier on the eye.

After the browser identifies what it thinks is an article copy, a grey reader button pops up within the address bar. Once you click it, a paper-like scroll slides down the open window, dimming out the background page content and replacing it with just the text. Headlines and the font size take on uniform proportions and style, and most of the irrelevant pictures disappear. Although links remain, the automatically produced inline ad links do not pop up, and a change in colour to a standard dark blue makes them far less obtrusive.

In simple terms, reading on the browser screen is a pleasure. Considering the amount of editorial content moving to the Web, this feature could actually alleviate a great deal of eye strain and make reading text on a browser quite appealing. But there is a downside to all this simplicity. You will wish that it had more controls to allow you to perhaps change the font and remove images and links completely. This is what you get with any Apple product - excellent simplicity, but user control suffers for it.

Search

Safari gives you even more search options with built-in Bing search, in addition to Google and Yahoo. It appears that Safari is promoting Bing over the other main search engines. Perhaps Apple is playing a divide-and-rule game.

This is a welcome change and brings Safari up to scratch with the other main browsers such as Internet Explorer and Firefox. These have had the ability to choose for some and will even offer search on major sites such as YouTube, Amazon and eBay. Safari has avoided the Chrome option where the search bar and the address bar are integrated.

Speed

Apple also claims to have revamped everything under the hood as well. It says enhancements to the Nitro Engine in Safari 5 mean you experience Web browsing at greater speeds than before. Powered by the Nitro JavaScript engine, Safari 5 on the Mac claims to runs JavaScript up to 30 per cent faster than Safari 4, 3 per cent faster than Chrome 5.0, and over twice as fast as Firefox 3.6.

Behind the scenes, Safari employs a technique called Domain Name System (DNS) pre-fetching. If you're on a Web page with links, Safari finds the links and looks up the addresses. Click one of the links, and Safari quickly loads the page for you. And improved page caching means more of the pages you viewed in the past load faster than before.

Safari Extensions

Extensions are a great way to turn any browser into a custom portal. Apple began rolling out Safari extensions earlier this year, letting developers create their own tools on top of its browser. Currently available are eBay, Microsoft Bing, Amazon and Twitter, as well as content providers New York Times and MLB.com. More are likely to follow. These extensions can be added without needing to restart your browser.

With these improvements, Safari has carved a niche that will appear to its core supporters and beyond.

Turn-by-turn navigation apps

 

Nokia Ovi Maps

This is a free turn-by-turn navigation offering from Nokia with Ovi Maps. Now the default option for anyone considering a Nokia smartphone running Symbian Series 60, it is a capable program and has no clear competitors. It is completely free and navigation is accurate with clear distinct prompts. Unfortunately, there is no 3D lane guidance or speed limit signs and the user interface is a little bit too complicated. Nokia Ovi Maps offers accurate, robust directions and easy Internet search - all for free on any recent Nokia device.

Nokia devices www.nokia.com/ovimaps
 

Telmap Navigator

Telmap Navigator is a complete GPS navigation solution running on all major mobile platforms that gives an excellent navigational experience. Telmap Navigator displays clear moving maps either in 2D or 3D, while well-timed sound instructions tell you street names. Telmap Navigator will also save you precious time by routing around the worst traffic jams using real-time information. Telmap's unique and proprietary data optimisation technology keeps you independent of the wireless network during your trip so that even if you stray off the designated route Telmap Navigator will continue to guide you instantaneously and seamlessly to your destination.

Blackberry - www.telmap.com/navigator
 

TomTom

TomTom is the eponymous brand in satnav devices. Their software has been available on mobile phones since 2004 on the Windows Mobile platform. More recently it has become available on the iPhone and iPod Touch (3G or above). If you have used a TomTom device and are familiar with its user interface, you will hit the ground running with this device. It has all the abilities of its standalone products - point-of-interest, traffic information, etc. You can even download novelty voices to the mobile device. One downside is that the UI doesn't really work well with the iPhone interface. A little customisation would work well.

 

Garmin Asus Nuvifone M10

The Nuvifone M10 is a full-featured smartphone that works as hard as you do. Combining the enterprise-friendly Windows Mobile platform with Garmin's proven navigation, the Nuvifone M10 was designed as an integrated GPS with a handy mobile phone functionality - rather than the other way around. This smartphone was built to give you the best of both worlds. It is not yet available in the UK, but we are assured that it will be arriving imminently. However, Garmin and Asus has not forgotten that this has to be a fully-featured smartphone as well. Thus its functionality in this area matches similar devices in its class. This is therefore a good bet if satnav functionality is the primary purpose of purchasing a smartphone device.

Mobile Windows - www.garmin.com/nuvifone
 

Google Maps Navigation

This GPS software works like any navigation system that you may have used. It combines Google Search and Google Maps functions - normally only available on the browsers - and brings them to the Android mobile platform. The most interesting and versatile feature comes from Google Street View, which allows Google to provide an actual photographic image at every turn that the application suggests during your drive.

As with other navigation applications, users can search for petrol stations or restaurants along the way and get real-time traffic information. But the best thing is that it is currently free to download to any compatible Android device. Therefore, making the Android as compelling a device for navigation as Nokia devices are.

Android 2.0 and above -  www.google.com/mobile/navigation

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