Along with it I bought a SD memory and Wi-Fi combo card, so that I could walk around my house surfing at broadband speeds.

Anyway, the screen is small. Smaller in fact than any other fully-fledged PDA on the market (320×240) but this is something that attracted me, I didn’t want to carry a phone the size of a house around with me all day.

One of the first things I did once I had everything set up was to check this website to see how it rendered on the small screen. The answer? Surprisingly well in fact, using the built in slim line Internet Explorer, I could barely see any faults with the site below the navigation area, which was the one part that didn’t seem to sit in the right place.

Even though it rendered well, reading any of the articles on such a thin screen was tedious, even when Internet Explorer’s ‘one column’ mode was turned on.

So the obvious answer was a simple handheld stylesheet, I’ll add the line of code into the header, turn all the background images off, as well unset heights and widths and finally make the text a little smaller. Easy stuff.

How wrong I was. I should have been clever and remembered the excellent article by Doug Bowman on this subject a few weeks back.

Most Pocket PC browsers at the current stage render your screen stylesheet as well as your handheld one. Now of course this is ridiculous – it means if you want to slim everything down for a PDA, you need to copy all of your screen stylesheet into your handheld one, then go through and over-ride all the key properties one by one.

Another View

Why would they do this? Well, I have one pretty good idea. Companies want to make your PDA as much like your computer as they can.

Lots of PDA’s have Wi-Fi, feeding them broadband connection speeds. Who wants to browse black and white text based sites with minimal images? Can you imagine the average user booting up their PDA, then surfing their favorite sites to find they are all slimmed down and only have the basic functionality?

I can see this as a valid point. Perhaps it may be too early for developers to adopt the handheld stylesheet. Right now most designers would just reduce their site down as simple as it will go.

However, maybe we are taking the wrong approach? What if designers were to come up with some beautiful handheld designs for their site, to see the small screen as benefit not a burden?

Most of the arguments against this idea have been lifted in the past couple of years. Screens on PDA’s and new cell phones have become as crisp and vibrant as your average TFT monitor. The support for standards on PDA browsers is surprisingly good. Browsers on cell phones can still be shaky, but these are improving very rapidly due to the speed at which the cell phone market moves forward. Bandwidth is also a major issue, but the take up of Wi-Fi has helped improve this, and most cell phone operators offer GPRS which gives slightly faster than dialup speeds. Dare I mention 3G?

This doesn’t of course give the creators of handheld browsers the right to render your screen stylesheet. By doing this they are going against standards and are causing many headaches in the short term.

However, in my view the only way that we are going to get this to change is to adopt the small screen as a challenge, to move forward and create, rather than stepping back and giving handheld browsers the web of ‘94.