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Ask the readers: what’s the best hackable web phone?

Ask the readers: what’s the best hackable web phone?

It’s not a simple decision, choosing on your next mobile device. There are a lot of different models with various features, built on several software platforms, and with hardware that works well for some carriers, but not well for others. It’s a total mess.

One Hackszine reader wrote in on the subject, specifically asking about devices with a solid web browsing platform. He writes:

With all the reviews and nonsense out there. Its making it hard for me to decide on a new phone. I love the look and the screen of the iphone. But I’ve heard to many bad things about the software. I want a phone that has great web browsing. All I do is talk, text and hopefully browse. I have AT&T and will stay with them for a while. What do you think of the Blackjack? Would you recommend another phone for my needs?

I’ve messed around with a number of devices, and based strictly on browsing interface, I think the iPhone is at the top of the list except–and for some this is a big exception–for it’s lack of Flash support. This being Hackszine, however, I need to also note that while the iPhone can be hacked to run end-user code, the manufacturer has been motivated to make this as difficult as possible, and it won’t always be a sure bet going forward into new revisions.

So what other devices are available, and how do you choose a good one? What do Hackszine readers prefer?

I can’t possibly list every device, but here’s my personal evaluation cirteria.

This is the single most important factor to consider when you’re deciding on a web-enabled device. What technologies does your network support? Are you often in range of an 802.11 network?

Find a device that works best with the network you plan to be using. For T-mobile and AT&T, this means the device should support EDGE. For Verison, you’ll want a CDMA capable device.

For me, WiFi support is a huge must as well. In the city, you’re often in range of free wireless and it’s a drag to be sitting on a mobile network when real broadband is available.

Browser Technology
Mobile Safari and recent versions of Pocket IE are both really capable browsers that render web pages true to form, including fairly robust Javascript support.

There’s also a mobile version of Firefox, called Minimo, that’s available for Windows Mobile Pocket PC (touchscreen) devices, but not the Smartphones.

Navigating the web with a direction pad is a nasty experience. While the touchscreen devices like the iPhone and Pocket PCs are larger, if you’re looking for a good mobile browser, you really should stick to a touchscreen platform.

If you ignore the manufacturer’s attempts to keep it a closed platform (can you ignore this??), the iPhone’s unix core, open source development tools, and strong developer community make it a really attractive device. As I mentioned, there’s currently no Flash support, though this is rumored to come soon in another update.

Both the Windows Mobile and Series 60 devices have more open development platforms and free development environments available. I’ve written code for both operating systems, and I have to say that writing anything but Flash Lite for the Series 60 devices is horrendous. The Windows mobile devices, on the other hand, are, for the most part, a pleasure to write software for. This is true even for native application code, which can be developed in a number of languages that are supported in Embedded Visual Studio.

Ask the Readers
I’ve only used a few devices on a day to day basis, and there are so many new ones available that I haven’t tried, so I’m hoping you folks can help out with determining the best available, hackable mobile web device.

What do you look for in a web-enabled device? Which device has the best web browsing experience? What should be avoided? Give us a shout in the comments.

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