Bitstream BOLT mobile browser goes into private beta – we've got invites

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How many times have you read ‘What's next for Apple?’ today?

Bitstream has just launched into private beta with their free WebKit-based mobile browser, BOLT, which they’re claiming is the fastest J2ME browser of the lot. They’re only letting a few hundred people into the beta at a time, and we just got the first lot of 500 invites. Looking to put it through the paces with the likes of Opera Mini? Read on to find out how to get beta access.

We’ve only just cracked open our own download of the browser, so our impressions thus far are fairly limited. Really getting to know a browser takes a few days – rather than making you wait to get your own mitts on it, we figured we’d share the invites as soon as possible and let you play along at home.

The Features:

  • It’s Java ME (J2ME), so it should work on most featurephones. Don’t expect it to work on your iPhone, though.
  • WebKit based rendering engine
  • Relatively lightweight – 150kb storage, 500kb of RAM required
  • Fast! In BOLT’s words: “Bitstream measured download speeds of 13 popular websites including Amazon.com, CNN.com, ESPN.com and nytimes.com. The second fastest browser averaged download speeds in excess of 18 seconds across all pages. On the same phones, using the same networks, BOLT’s average download speed was under 13 seconds, a full 5.5 seconds faster. “
  • Like Opera Mini (the main J2ME competition), data is passed through a proxy for rendering and compression before being passed to the handset, speeding things up and saving battery life. It’s generally a good thing, though such practices tend to spook most security-minded folk. Pages are compressed at a rate of 23:1.
  • RSS reader built in, with automatic feed detection
  • “Split screen browsing” – 2/3 of the screen shows the full page, serving as a mini-map with a highlighting box, while the other 1/3 shows the magnified area.
  • URL auto completion
  • Phone numbers automatically parsed for Click-to-call
  • User interface is currently English only, but the browser can render pages written in any Western-European language.
  • AJAX support, and Flash video support (Sort of – it’ll take FLV files and convert them to the more mobile-friendly 3GP format, streaming that to you.) Note that that’s Flash video, not Flash in its entirety.

If you’re interested in being one of the first in the world to tinker with the browser, head on over to the download page and use the following referral code: Crunch. Remember, the BOLT browser is currently J2ME only – it’ll work on a ton of featurephones, but it’s a no go on most (non-RIM) smartphones for the time being. (Note: the signup process isn’t automated, so you may have to wait a few minutes before your download link comes through)

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