Only problem so far with the iPhone: MobileSafari


Google Reader on the iPhone
Google Reader is wildly convenient on the iPhone, but is also one of the sites that crashes the most. Might be sticking with the desktop version for now.

Those who read this blog will know that despite my initial skepticism, I finally bit the bullet and bought an iPhone 3G in September. Looking back at it now, it may have been one of the best decisions I've ever made; it really is a phenomenal device. Other phones may have more features, or have features with higher specifications, but none I have ever used even remotely come close to the iPhone in usability.

With such constant glowing reviews, you might be under the mistaken impression that I think the iPhone is absolutely perfect and that I am now a blubbering fanboy. The fact is I have been taking notes whenever something has irritated me with it in the hopes I could create a post taking about the iPhone's shortcomings and how it could be improved.

After a month, I feel it's time to let 'em rip, all one of them. And here it is: the MobileSafari web browser officially blows. It is the most crash prone, error riddled piece of s… oftware I've used in recent memory. It's a shame because no other applications have been able to crash this iPhone, and a serious shortcoming considering it was billed as a phone, music player and an internet communications device.

WebKit logo
It's a shame, WebKit itself rocks.

Typically the scenario plays itself out like this: I'll browse to a web page, scroll down leisurely, perhaps pinch and wipe around a bit to increase or decrease the size of elements. Boom, crash, back to the home screen. It doesn't crash every single time, but I'd wager it crashes once for every time it works properly twice. A 33.3% reliability rate is hardly a glowing record.

Different activities seems to exacerbate the problem. If I enter any information into a field on a web form barring simple login screens, it will crash. If I scroll down a page too fast, it crashes. If I click a link, then click another link before the page finishes loading, it crashes. Generally the problem can be partially alleviated by restarting the phone every few days and making sure I don't have more than a few tabs open at any one time, but it's by no means a quick fix.

What I find interesting is that for every person on a web forum or blog post comment feed that complains about MobileSafari reliability, there are two or three that claim to have no problems at all with it. Here's hoping the next software update fixes this for everyone; I'd love to be able to use MobileSafari carefree on this phone. WebKit is still one of the best rendering engines.

Stay tuned for my real world scenario review of the iPhone that I compiled last week but still need to clean up. It really shows how you can use this thing to take over your life and how fantastic that is… provided you stick to applications other than MobileSafari for most of the time :).

Sent from my iPhone.

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Ruben Schade is a technical writer and infrastructure architect in Sydney, Australia who refers to himself in the third person. Hi!

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