We build JavaScript applications

Review: ONSPEED Mobile browser

Last month I was sitting in the tube in London and saw an ad about ONSPEED Mobile. I have never heard about ONSPEED Mobile. So I was interested and started researching.

ONSPEED Mobile is a mobile web browser. There is a 14 day free trial, after that you have to pay GBP 19.99 per year.
When you request web pages or images via the ONSPEED Mobile browser, it’s sent directly to ONSPEED’s servers where it is then reformated and compressed and then sent direct to your mobile phone. So, the website you visit is an optimised version for your mobile phone (sounds familiar?). The company promises to increase surfing speed by not less than (up to) 10 times and also to reduce the data traffic up to 75%.

The download size of the browser is less than 100KB, but your mobile phone must be Java enabled. You can check out if your mobile phone supports ONSPEED Mobile at
ONSPEED Mobile also manages all of your bookmarks in one location. You can view, create or edit your bookmarks inside the ONSPEED Mobile software. It also maintains the previous browsing history for recalling past web pages.

I decided to try the ONSPEED Mobile browser on my mobile phone within the currently offered 14-day trial period. First, I had to install the browser, which took quite a while:

After I entered my phone number - since I’m in Germany right now with my country code starting with a “+”, the “00” version was not accepted - and some personal data on the ONSPEED website I got a text message to my phone with the request to answer the message and send it to another number - according to the website this costs 50p plus the regular rate for a SMS in my plan.

After that I got another message with a welcoming text telling me that I got a password and I was asked to go to using my phone to download the browser, which I did.

Upon accessing the download page I was again asked to enter my mobile phone number. This time I was unfortunately not able to enter the number with the leading “+” in the country code (it’s a “number only” text input field), so I went with the “00” version.

The page told me, my Nokia 3650 was supported, then I had to choose my “operator and contract type” I went with the second Vodafone option, since there were two called “Vodafone D2 GPRS ISP” and “Vodafone VFD2 WAP GPRS” and I couldn’t really decide which one to take…other options included all the major carriers like e-plus and BASE, O2 and T-mobile, along with Simyo and Jamba! (debitel).

The next screen told me the following: “You may need GPRS Settings to use ONSPEED Mobile, click Next to receive them. (Recommended)”. So I clicked “Next”. Above the “Next”-Link there is a select-box where you can also skip this.

I was told that another SMS had been sent to me which included all the necessary GPRS settings to use ONSPEED Mobile and I was presented with a link to download the browser (finally). The download started and the Java program installed on my phone.

After the installation I went online. I was very surprised, because ONSPEED Mobile looks very similar to Opera Mini. The initial handling of the browser was quite an experience. I got a lot of different errors everytime I tried to open a web page. Maybe my cellphone (Nokia 3650) was the reason, maybe this was related to the phone-number issues in the sign-up process - I don’t really know - I could not really use the ONSPEED Mobile browser until I rebooted my handset. Then it worked.

As I said, the ONSPEED Mobile browser looked strikingly similar to Opera mini (just not red, but green), so what I did was firing up SeleQ (an S60 filebrowser) and compared the directories of the two Java applications on my phone and there it is: ONSPEED Mobile essentially IS Opera mini.

ONSPEED Mobile directory contents: CIMG3298.jpg

Opera mini directory contents: CIMG3299.jpg

Almost identical! Now what was this all about? After testing the two browsers one after the other the case was clear: ONSPEED Mobile really is an Opera mini with some customizations, although in the ONSPEED Mobile browser “Opera” is not mentioned anywhere (e.g. on the “about” or “3rd party” pages).

After a little googling I found the proof for this theory on the Opera Website. Z GROUP, the company selling the ONSPEED Mobile browser has licenced the technology from Opera and is selling it via their premium SMS and yearly usage-fee service.

Why are they doing this? Basically Z GROUP is trying to make the browser accessible to no-so-techy people (and take money for this). Therefore they offer the premium SMS and the GPRS settings messages - so anybody can understand the process and set up his or her mobile phone to go online.

Now while this is supposed to be easy and especially easier than just pointing your mobile phone to and download the browser, it became clear in the beginning of this review that this is clearly not the case: the installation process takes about 1/2 an hour with all the data entry, sending and receiving a bunch of short messages and finally downloading ONSPEED mobile to your phone. I never received the GPRS set-up data - maybe because it already worked?

Also there seems to be a glitch in the whole concept: remember WHEN you are being asked whether you need the GPRS settings text message or not during the setup process? Correct - while you are already happily browsing the web on - so how could you do this without already having a correctly set-up GPRS connection? But maybe I really missed something here.

The only real difference between the two browsers (apart from the color scheme) is the start page - while my version of Opera mini shows just an input field for the URL, an eBay search field, my bookmarks and my recently visited pages while not having to connect to the web, the ONSPEED Mobile browser forces me to go online. It also shows me a text input for the URL to be visited and also the remaining days of my trial period (probably that’s what the web connection is used for), a Google search input field and several “Useful Links”. These links appear to be less useful, but more “sponsored” and include: Hotmail, BBC News, Sky Football News, Amazon, eBay, Pipex Broadband, and Z GROUP PLC. They all did not work, which was strange. However the last link on the page worked: “Click here to advertise”. Funny. I really missed my recently visited pages, because this has kept me from entering the last URL quite often in Opera mini.

Anyways, to summarize this review with a twist in the middle: I don’t understand why I should pay GBP 19.99 a year plus at least one premium SMS for this, when I can have the same browser for free and without giving all my private data away to some company?! Too bad Z GROUP doesn’t (have to) mention that the whole ONSPEED Mobile browser is just a green painted version of Opera mini. That would have saved me quite some time and at least 50p ;)