Scott Hanselman

Best Mobile Websites for Tiny Browsers

January 25, 2008 Comment on this post [25] Posted in Microsoft | Musings | Tools
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htc-excalibur-s620-4 I'm getting ready to setup an HTC Excalibur and I wanted to post my list of favorite sites to visit with my Mobile Browser and a list of the apps I really need to install to make my Windows Mobile Smartphone complete.

  • Amazon Mobile - - A basic, but very usable site, focused on search, that lets folks who've setup their Amazon account ahead of time purchase directly from the phone. Nice if you have Amazon Prime Free Shipping.
  • BBC PDA - or - BBC has a mobile site and a PDA site, but the PDA site looks best on Smartphones or Blackberries. The best of the BBC on my phone. The mobile site would look good on an old black-and-white WAP Nokia.
  • CNN Mobile - - Same here, mobile CNN, some pics, I use this site a lot.
  • Engadget Mobile - - My favorite tech and gadget blog, now with mobiley goodness. I wish I could see comments though.
  • - - Ha! See what I did right there? Back in the day, we taught dasBlog about mobile devices and if you hit from a Blackberry or Windows Mobile browser (and a number of other tiny browsers), we'll detect it and give you a mobile experience. Yay!
  • Facebook - - In terms of pure functionality, I'd say that Facebook's mobile site is, hands-down, the most functional. It feels like you can most everything you'd ever want to using only Tiny HTML. This site and this company continue to impress, probably because it's running entirely on Red Bull and 20-year-olds.
  • Flight Stats - - This fine site has saved my tuckus a number of times while traveling. Their Airport Chatter section is interesting also.
  • Google - - The Tiny XHTML version of Google includes location specific searches and personalization with News, Weather, Movies, etc.
    • +1-800-GOOG-411 (+1-800-4664-411) - If you're able to call this number, either domestically or internationally, it's worth a try because it's amazing. Much better than the "1-800-Tell-Me stuff back in the day, but still of the same vein. I use this a LOT.
  • Microsoft Live - or - If you hit wls you'll get your browser detected and possible prompted to download a nice applet for your phone. If you hit you'll get tiny Windows Live Search.
  • Gmail - - If you hit gmail with your phone you should get detected and sent over to the mobile version. If not, you can hit or where the x is magic. If you're running Google Apps for Your Domain (GAFYD) you can hack that URL also.
  • Joystiq - - Tiny Gaming Site. Interestingly, while they use (I think) the same back end as Engadget, sometimes the fonts are all wonky.
  • Mobile MSN - - A decent mobile portal and good jumping off point. The mobile stocks are particularly good.
  • MSNBC - - It's astonishingly LAME that you can't get to this site from but perhaps they'll read this and make that DNS change, because this is a really good tiny news site.
  • - - I use to manage my security systems at the house and our rentals from my phone. If you've got a service available over the web, you really ought to have a minimal mobile website so kudos to them for having one.
  • Twitter - - Does exactly what it says it twitter, although I'd like to be able to see Direct Replies in the interface.
  • Wapedia (Mobile Wikipedia) - - Very useful for winning arguments with the wife self-edification, it's the mobile Wikipedia.

I think it's funny that folks thought that the ".mobi" top level domain extension was a good idea and that the internet just changed "" to "" and saved the registration fee. Plus, I don't have to tap out the "obi" which saves me, like minutes.

What are your must-have mobile websites, Dear Reader?

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About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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January 25, 2008 2:52
On my IPhone, i am encountering strange issue, if i try to visit or it wont let me to see the my inbox that is strange is not it ?
Similarly i loved the way GMAIL,Google Maps and FaceBook done for the IPHONE. Thats why i have E90 Communicator but prefer to browse through IPhone.
January 25, 2008 2:52
Google Reader
( - Automatically formats for the device. Very nice and clean.

JiveTalk IM
( - Rolls up gtalk, aim, icq, msn, and others into one nice mobile ajax interface free for the iPhone, not sure about others.

FatWallet Mobile
( - You should use fatwallet anytime you're about to make a purchase. This site of tightwads has figured every angle on how to get stuff (legitimately) cheaper than retail. Saved me hundreds of dollars.

Traffic Gaugue
( - Sure the iphone has realtime traffic via google maps, but this little beauty is VERY lightweight and renders much quicker. Support for tons of cities.
January 25, 2008 3:28
If you're using an iPhone, is a great interface for twitter.
January 25, 2008 4:03
With the iPhone, you got love that you can still browse regular styled websites, albeit tiny, still useably.

Thanks for these though!
January 25, 2008 4:09
I traded in my PDC2005 JASJAR for an Excalibur last March- it's a great size, and I'm generally really happy with it. I would highly recommend paying the $25 for Opera instead of using the built-in Pocket IE- it does a much better job rendering "normal" sites. It's not as slick as Safari on an iPhone, but you can do normal browser stuff like "Save As" that Pocket IE makes difficult or impossible. I also find myself "End-task"-ing it less frequently than Pocket IE.

January 25, 2008 4:37
Good stuff. I use some of those already. But I gave the Microsoft Live applet a shot. Very cool. Voice activated and everything. Works great on my Cingular 8525 (Windows Mobile 5)
January 25, 2008 5:00
As far as email goes, are you going to be using GMail through the browser or does the phone support IMAP? and what about Exchange?

I currently have an exchange account which pushes to my Palm 700W (verizon). Am thinking about switching over to AT&T, getting rid of exchange, and pushing it all up into the cloud (basically, switching to GMail). More than anything, I'd like it to be a friction-free experience. I really like the over the air updating of contacts and appointments that I have now. Didn't you push your family's data into the cloud a few months ago? Did you have these concerns?
January 25, 2008 5:13
I use the Gmail mobile interface, the IMAP support for Windows Mobile sucks.
January 25, 2008 6:18 (no-nosense weather)
January 25, 2008 6:19
I am interested in how people make the decision to go with a Pocket PC Phone vs Mobile Smartphone.

How did you come to the decision to get the Smartphone?
January 25, 2008 15:08
My 2c when it comes to developing for mobile browsers:

Mobile Browser Emulation
Finding a decent emulator is a nightmare, and there seem to be a mish mash of software companies who sell all-in-one emulators. There's even a company linked to that will give you access to real hardware devices and send the screen and keypad input between you and the phone.

In the end, the best way seems to choose two or three sample hardware platforms such as a Nokia e65, an iPhone, and a WM6-based PDA. Then have it connect to your dev machine via the local network. I couldn't get my e65 to link up to my WPA-enabled wireless network (it seems that nobody can).

The second best way is to download an SDK from the major phone manufacturers. I chose Nokia's s60 SDK because it runs the Webkit-based browser. It also allows you to change the screensize on the fly. It was a colossal mission to install and wouldn't start up unless I disabled my sound drivers. I'd suggest hosting the SDK on a spare machine when testing inside mobile because the emulator eats resources like a hungry aardvark coming out of hibernation, living in an ant farm. Once it's up and running the network connectivity is a snap.

Using ASP.Net MVC
I've tried to keep the mobile content of the site focused and summarised, so that the en-route user can get what he needs without wading through navigation paths. The HTML is unstyled but well-formed. I'm keen to add styling, but the vanilla browser-default styling for things like paragraphs, lists and headings makes the page really easy to read. You also get the advantage of a high-contrast black text on white so that outside visual interference is reduced, a problem that is not so prevalent for desktop users.
Facebook's mobile interface rocks the socks. It looks great, it feels facebook-ish (colours, buttons, styling) and it simple and easy to use. They seem to use a single column, many rows approach,with full-justification on paragraphs. The single-column approach is great, considering that most displays are portrait and scrolling down is a more natural way to read a document than scrolling left and right.

- Luke Venediger.
January 25, 2008 21:35

I have the HTC Touch phone with Windows Mobile 6. I got it because I don't need a physical keyboard which adds weight and bulk to the phone.

I needed the touch screen because I need to remotely control my personal Windows machines on the internet. Plus using a stylus is better than a smartphone's jog wheel.

I hate any web site which forces a different website version when it detects I am coming from a phone. Amazon is one of them. I was in a toy store one time and wanted to check out the reviews on a toy I was thinking of buying and Amazon displayed another version (probably the one) which had no reviews. bleh. I understand some sites try to make the website simpler for display but if I WANT to see the regular site, then let me. If I want to go to the mobile version of the site, I will use the mobile url.
Hotmail was also a site which forced the mobile version on me until came out.

I have Opera Mobile and next time I will change the agent so these sites don't know I am coming from a handheld device.

BTW, GMail's java mail applet is slower than browsing their regular mobile site.
Last ..I don't use sites if I can browse them from a regular computer. I use a computer most of the day at work plus home. I see no need to browse sites even more on a tiny window. Checking email is as far as I go.
January 26, 2008 2:11

What do you think of the Excalibur? I have been contemplating getting one since they announced it. But without a phone company to subsidize it, it is an awfully expensive purchase. Plus, I can't exactly try one out before I buy it because no stores carry them.

One thing in particular that I was wondering is if you can use the wifi to sync to Outlook (not over the internet just when you are connected at home)? I know you can use Exchange over the internet with direct push technology but wasn't sure about wifi syncing to Outlook.


January 26, 2008 3:47
In addition to the ones you listed, I also have these bookmarks:

My favorite weather site:
Mobile Digg:
Orb TV streaming from my desktop to my phone:
The Sporting News:

Mobile Facebook gets the most use though.
January 26, 2008 5:23
Here are a few sites I have found useful.
Google Reader ( ): Very nice when you have some time to kill and all you have is your phone.
Wells Fargo ( ): Let's you check balances and transfer money between accounts. You need to activate it at before you can use it on your phone.
Charles Schwab ( ): You can check your portfolio, get quotes, and do trades.
January 28, 2008 8:12
Thanks for the list Scott. I like to watch streaming TV news on my i730 Windows Mobile sometimes. My favorite channels are Bloomberg (mms://, and CNN Intl (mms:// For more channels, see this article I posted a while back (
January 29, 2008 5:54
Slashdot do a great job on the mobile device:
February 01, 2008 7:20
I was trying to post comments to this thread using my iPhone and it would not work. Typing into this box is broken.

I was going to write "Who needs mobile pages when you can look at the real thing using an iPhone" but now i feel suppressed :(.
February 06, 2008 10:09
Scott, as a side project I'm maintaining a good list of mobile websites here:

During the last month, the top 5 most popular links were: Maxim, CNN, You Tube, Car and Driver, and American Express.

And, matching what you observed, I'm not seeing a lot of .mobi domains yet. The "m." or "mobile." versions seem the most popular right now.
February 10, 2008 11:09

If you are using your computer but would like to access a mobile version of the website, then use the following tool.

February 10, 2008 11:11
If you are using your computer but would like to access a mobile version of the website, then use the following tool.

February 10, 2008 18:27
Two tips Scott:

1. IMAP support for windows mobile with Gmail has been fixed. It was fixed about a week ago. Give it another try, it works now.

2. I know you twitter so try Tiny Twitter for the smart phone (but don't install it on a memory card, there is a bug in the compact framework).

My general rule of thumb is I first and foremost look for a mobile specific version of the application before trying to go to a web site. Example, I couldn't imagine using Twitter via a mobile web since I use it too much, or email.

Hope that helps,

February 11, 2008 16:05

Just to broad the list of mobile websites here is another:

Works both from mobile device and PC or MAC

February 13, 2008 20:10
My favourite mobile site has to be Google Reader - - which formats itself beautifully for Windows Mobile 5 and 6. That's the site I was using to read this post :-)
February 15, 2008 2:00
All of these sites are adapted and optimized for any mobile device and will automatically re-render the html site specifically for the device featureset and browser that hits the URL. They all have a re-director in place as well, so you can access the optimized mobile site using the same html URL. Even better is a site named that allows anyone with a site to self publish for free (if you allow ads to be placed on your site, and allows your to recieve cash from you mobile site as advertisers bid for placement on the sites inthe exchange) or offers a hosted only solution. It is fantastic and your site is published immediately and then uses your wired site as a virtual feed to keep it dynamically updated and syncronized with any changes on the wired site. Definitely check it out. (except from a Sprint Phone as it renders Sprint's on-deck nfl site)

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.