3G networking has been something of a slow burner over the years, largely because it took mobile hardware so long to catch up and to unlock the potential offered by this now widely available service. While there may be a good deal of hype surrounding next-gen 4G networking, 3G Internet is still more than adequate if you want to experience the new age for internet browsing through mobile phones. 3G has enabled the creation of mobile broadband services, online gaming from your handset, video calling, app downloading and much more, so it deserves plenty of praise.
3G international roll-out began over a decade ago, but the mobile phones of the time were hampered by small screens, low display resolutions and limited input options as a result of physical keypads. Smart phones gradually began to emerge to make a better job of utilizing 3G. Moreover, the Nokia N Series and RIM BlackBerry ranges brought better media and emailing capabilities to the table.
However, web browsing was still underwhelming, in part due to hardware limitations but also as a result of a dearth of mobile-optimized websites. Endless scrolling and fiddly navigation meant that things needed to change if internet browsing through mobile phones was to compete with the fixed line browsing experience or the cable services in my area.
Few would disagree that the Apple iPhone’s launch in 2007 was the first point at which there was a phone with the right components to squeeze a desktop browsing experience onto a modestly sized mobile. However, since Apple neglected to include 3G networking capabilities in this first iteration it would be another year until high speed mobile internet could combine with a device capable of making web browsing really work whilst on the move.
The key element which the iPhone perfected and upon which subsequent handsets from rival manufacturers have expanded was the way in which users could interact with websites loaded over a 3G connection. While mobile optimized sites are growing in number, many people are still forced to look at the desktop version of the site on their handset. However, with the prevalence of touch screen technology in modern handsets it is easy to swipe around a page, use pinch-to-zoom to enhance an element of text or an image and to re-orient the site using the internal accelerometers.
The most advanced mobile browsers are now compatible with key technologies including HTML5 and Flash. This means that you can enjoy rich media content and the interactive elements of websites on your handset. 3G Internet can even match the cable services in my area and elsewhere when it comes to providing video streaming from sites such as YouTube.
More recently, the mobile internet browsing experience has become still more accessible thanks to the gradual increase in average handset display sizes and resolution. With improved screen real estate and higher pixel densities, text is ever clearer and images are largely free from fuzz. The iPhone range has retained its 3.5 inch diagonal screen size but the introduction of the Retina Display on the iPhone 4 in 2010 meant that the resolution was given a much-needed boost. Meanwhile, Android and Windows Phone handsets have a wide selection of large displays on offer, from the 4.3 inch screen of the Motorola Razr to the 4.65 and 4.7 inch screens of the Samsung Galaxy Nexus and HTC Titan respectively.
With web pages increasingly optimized for modern phones with 3G connections and large touch screen displays, it is easier than ever before to surf the web without a laptop or PC. In many ways, the lack of physical buttons or a mouse and keyboard setup gives you a far more tactile, engaging experience when accessing sites. This is something upon which tablet devices such as the iPad have capitalized, allowing web users to experience the information on the internet as if it were housed in a traditional printed publication, but with the flexibility of a digital format accessed via 3G networking.
It seems that 3G internet will continue to be a common feature of the mobile internet market for the foreseeable future, given that 4G roll-out is still somewhat limited.