Windows Phone 7, Day 16: The 'Full' IE9 Experience

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30 Days With Windows Phone 7: Day 16

One of the things I use my smartphone for most frequently is looking up information on the Web. Normally that involves a feature-limited mobile browser that takes me to an even more feature-limited mobile site, but Windows Phone 7 "Mango" includes the full Internet Explorer.

The problem with the mobile versions of sites is that they are stripped down and often lack they very information or features I am visiting the site for in the first place. I can use IE9 in full desktop mode, though, so I can get the full version of the site and find what I need.

Internet Explorer 9
WP7 "Mango" has the "full" IE9, not a mobile version.
A good example of the issue with mobile sites is the "Subscribe" feature Facebook recently implemented. When I visit the Facebook profile of a user who has turned on subscriptions from a full Web browser there is a "Subscribe" button at the upper right next to the "Add Friend" button.

If I want to subscribe to see the Public posts of other Facebook users who are not part of my social network, I can do that just fine from the IE9 browser in WP7 "Mango" by simply setting the Website preference in the browser Settings to default to the "Desktop version".

On my iPhone, though, I would have no such luck. Facebook detects that I am using the mobile version of the Safari Web browser and automatically forces me over to the mobile version of the Facebook site. Some sites (including offer a link that lets you switch to the full desktop version of the site, but not Facebook. The Facebook app hasn't yet incorporated the "Subscribe" function, so I just can't subscribe to other users from the iPhone.

Granted, there is a reason that organizations create mobile versions of their sites. The full site is developed with much larger screens in mind, and for interaction with a mouse. The mobile versions are generally simpler, and cleaner to provide a better experience from a smartphone display.

The IE9 browser on WP7 "Mango" may be capable of operating in full desktop mode, but I still encountered some hiccups along the way. I had problems working with Google Docs from my iPhone, so I thought I would check out how Google Docs performs in IE9 on "Mango".

When I visit Google Docs using my iPhone 4, it defaults to the mobile version of the site. Unlike Facebook, though, Google does provide a link at the bottom to switch to the full desktop version. When I tap on a file, it opens up in a new Safari browser instance--but reverts to a mobile version of the site--with a button at the upper right that says Edit. I can tap the Edit button, and add or alter text within the document. If I force the browser back to desktop mode I can view the files, but editing no longer works.

But, at least it is possible to edit Google Docs files from the mobile version of the site in the iPhone's Safari browser. Compare that with my WP7 Mango experience with Google Docs. It doesn't matter if I visit Google Docs in mobile mode or desktop mode from IE9 on WP7. Either way I can view files, but adding or editing content doesn't work.

Google Docs is not 100 percent compatible with Internet Explorer 9 even on my Windows 7 PC, but it works. Obviously, there is still some difference between the real IE9 running on a Windows 7 PC, and the "full" IE9 running on a WP7 "Mango" smartphone.

Using IE9 in full desktop mode on a WP7 smartphone is severely limited by the diminutive screen size, and it still has issues with some sites and services (like Google Docs). But, at least I have the option available if I need it.

Read the last "30 Days" series: 30 Days With Google+

Day 15: Xbox Live Gaming on WP7

Day 17: Taking and Sharing Pictures with WP7

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