The Mobile Browsing Experience: Rage

I just experienced a stereotypical moment of “tech columnist rage.” I had downloaded a mobile version of the (highly recommended) Keepass password manager, to make sure that I could access my personal information when I’m taking a trip or am otherwise away from my computer. For example, if I uploaded a trip itinerary to TripIt, and wanted to check it on the road, I could use Keepass to remember my password. I used a randomly-generated password for TripIt, which is both lengthy and nonmnemonic, so normally I’d use the cut-and-paste or drag-and-drop functionality of the desktop version of Keepass to fill it in. The mobile version of Keepass also lets you copy a password to the clipboard.

However, in the mobile version of Internet Explorer, you cannot paste into a password field. This makes randomly-generated passwords much more cumbersome to use, and appears to be a somewhat arbitrary restriction. Oh, and while we’re at it, the Javascript support in Mobile IE isn’t sufficient enough to support some basic Javascript like that used by the Semisecure Login WordPress plugin.

Fortunately, there are a couple of competitors in the Windows Mobile browsing arena. Let’s see how they fare in comparison:

  • Opera Mobile will actually allow me to paste into the password field. In addition, it has better Javascript support, and the Semisecure Login plugin will actually work. Sounds pretty good, right? Except for the fact that, for some reason, Opera Mobile’s password fields use the text field auto-completion feature, including storing new values! What this means is that, essentially, if you enter your password in a web page’s password field, the password will show up in other text fields as part of the auto-completion hints in plain text. (I tested and reverified this with Gmail.)This is a product for which they expect you to pay money. Unbelievable. And this product has been in development for 8 years.
  • Minimo, the mobile version of Mozilla/Firefox, has had its development process “rebooted,” and as far as I know, is nowhere near completion. The last available binaries (for Windows Mobile 5) crash on startup on my phone.

I can scarcely believe that these kinds of problems still exist. Windows Mobile would be much more useful and effective if they got more of these kinds of little things right — as it is right now, it can frequently be an aggravating experience.

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