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Using the mobile web poses many challenges

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Friday, Aug. 20, 2010

Popular smart phones let us use the web anytime, anywhere. It's easy to read the latest news or to hop online to do some comparison shopping before making a purchase. But, the mobile web requires sacrifices. Mobile browsers can't match desktop versions. They bring a whole new set of annoyances, but it is relatively easy to overcome them. Find links to apps and programs mentioned at .

Many publishers and companies have designed sites for mobile phones. When you visit a site, you're automatically directed to the mobile version. These sites are easy to navigate on your phone's small screen, but they're often limited. You won't get access to all the features of the main site. For example, you may not see photos with blog posts.

There is often an easy way to see the regular site on your phone. Scroll to the bottom of the web page. Look for a Full Site link. Clicking the link will let you browse the standard version of the site. Failing that, you can download an alternative browser for your smart phone. Apple iPhone users should consider Atomic Web Browser ($1). Users of smart phones with Google's Android operating system can try Dolphin Browser (free). Both let you tweak settings; sites will see your browser as a desktop program rather than as a mobile version.

Tabs are one of the handiest features of desktop browsers, but they're missing on mobile phones. So, you may find yourself switching between browser windows. This takes time and can distract you from what you're doing.

Again, using an alternative browser can help. For the iPhone, there's Atomic Web Browser or iCab Mobile ($2). For Android phones, there's Dolphin Browser and Opera Mini (both free). You'll get tabbed browsing, just like you do with desktop browsers.

The lack of Adobe's Flash on mobile phones can be a real drag. After all, many online videos are streamed in Flash format. The latest version of Android, 2.2, nicknamed Froyo, will display Flash videos, but Apple has blocked Flash from its mobile devices.

Fortunately, iPhone users don't need to switch to Android. They just need to download the Cloud Browse app (free). The app connects you to a server that opens a Flash-enabled browser. You'll be able to see Flash content.

Keeping bookmarks synchronized between your computer and phone isn't easy. So, bookmarking a site to read later won't always help you. You'll have to synchronize your phone with your computer to transfer the bookmark.

That's where Xmarks can help. This free service will keep bookmarks synchronized between all major browsers. Just download a small program to your computer. It stores your bookmarks online. You can visit the mobile site to access your bookmarks from your phone.

Most of us don't like filling out online forms. That's true even on desktops and laptops that have full-sized keyboards. It can be downright frustrating on mobile phones.

The iPhone does have an auto-fill feature, but you will need to enable it. Tap Settings, then Safari and then AutoFill. Move the Use Contact Info slider to On. Tap My Info. Find your name in the contact list. If your name isn't there, add yourself as a contact and repeat the steps. You can also use AutoFill for usernames and passwords. Just move the Names & Passwords slider to On.

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