Sometimes an excellent operating system can be made even better
Web browsing on the iPhone takes a turn for the worse.
- Hovering over links shows detailed information
- Extremely buggy, poor idea with poor execution, lacking necessary features
Sponticelli brings vibration reduction technology to a place where it wasn't needed. We can't think of a reason why anyone should pay for this app.
Price$ 2.49 (AUD)
When Apple suddenly began allowing third-party Web browsers into the App Store (provided they are built off Web Kit), it sparked a question: is there room to improve on Safari? If ShakingWeb is any indication of the sophistication of third-party browser development for the iPhone, Apple has little to fear. Designed to make it easier to browse the Web while on public transport, the app is inferior to Safari and in no way a useful replacement.
Sponticelli has toyed with the user interface, changing Safari's greyish blue for a graphite scheme. It isn't the ugliest interface we have seen in a third-party iPhone app. ShakingWeb has most of the same controls as Safari, with a basic search bar as well as back, forward and reload controls. Unfortunately, the buttons are smaller than those in Safari; while this allows the app to maximise the screen real estate available for displaying Web pages, it makes the buttons harder to press.
Compared to Safari, the speed of ShakingWeb's user interface almost always lags — everything from clicking a link to zooming in to a Web page using multi-touch. Even screen reorientation — flipping the iPhone on its side for a wider view of a Web page — takes over four seconds, and sometimes freezes the app. Web site loading times are acceptably fast, but the cumbersome user interface makes site navigation a much poorer experience than using Safari.
Tabbed browsing, bookmarks, auto-complete and integrated search — all staples of browsing with Safari — are absent from ShakingWeb. Sponticelli admits that any link that requires a new window will not work as a result of the lack of tabbed browsing capability.
The lack of auto-complete and bookmarks forces users to type out whole Web site addresses even if they are regularly visited. Even small flaws, like automatic capitalisation, make using ShakingWeb arduous.
These failures could be dismissed if the app fulfilled its primary function of providing an easier browsing experience for public transport users. The app is based on the idea that public transport users are subjected to constant shakes and bumps, making Web browsing a difficult task. ShakingWeb uses the iPhone's integrated accelerometer to determine the amount of bumping and compensates by shaking the Web page portion of the screen. This is supposed to make it easier to read the screen.
By default, ShakingWeb will only shake the screen vertically; turn on Turbo mode and the app will shake horizontally as well. The amount of shaking that ShakingWeb applies is quite small, so the browser won't bounce around like an antiquated Windows screensaver.
Unfortunately, when we tested ShakingWeb on public transport and in other environments involving motion it did more to impair rather than improve our ability to read. The shaking isn't enough to blur the text, but it is enough to cause one's eyes to veer off focus, making reading harder.
Even if the algorithms behind ShakingWeb are tuned perfectly, the app solves a problem that no one seems to have. Even on the worst CityRail train it is generally possible to read the iPhone's screen. For those who do have a problem browsing Web sites on the iPhone in such situations, ShakingWeb will do little to help.
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