Saturday, February 28, 2015

Running Out of Data? Mobile Sites to the Rescue!

You may certainly have faced situations where you have only a few megabytes left on your internet plan subscription. However, you may not be aware yet that you can survive in the internet for several hours using those few megabytes!

Currently, many of the leading web services maintain mobile-friendly versions of their websites, which work well under low bandwidths. Here we present a list of some of such websites which may come handy at the hour of need.

  • Gmail Mobile - https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/x
  • This is one of the many Gmail sites available for mobile viewing. It lacks all the fancy features of automatic email notifications, HTML-formatted email views and such, but it's a handy tool for viewing your emails at the cost of just a few kilobytes.

  • Gmail Basic HTML View - https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/h

    This is the old Gmail desktop site (the "basic HTML" view). It's only slightly heavier than the genuine mobile site, but offers almost all Gmail functionalities and settings, minus the fancy AJAX stuff and the chat interface. In my opinion, it's more than sufficient for all your daily Gmail chores.

  • Facebook Mobile - https://m.facebook.com
  • Although this is officially for mobile devices, it can easily be accessed even on a desktop computer using the above link.

    Facebook Mobile comes in 2 main versions; on some browsers (Opera and some versions of Firefox) it renders as a plain site, with much less interactivity. But the other version (especially on Google Chrome) is a nearly fully-functional website which even has real-time chatting facilities and a high degrees of responsiveness (AJAX). (Of course, this version consumes significantly more data than the plain version (a page load on the former consumes ~10 KB while the latter needs ~100 KB), but still it is much less than the actual WWW version; with images turned off, you can survive for a whole day for much less than 20MB.

  • Twitter Mobile - https://mobile.twitter.com
  • This is similar in functionality to the responsive Facebook mobile site. It offers a limited set of basic Twitter functionalities.

  • Google Drive Mobile - https://drive.google.com/m
  • Although this used to be a plain site, it has recently been converted into a responsive version. It's similar to the old Google Drive desktop site in functionality, and especially by the fact that you can preview files without actually opening them. However, data usage for this site is significantly high.

  • Wikipedia Mobile - http://en.m.wikipedia.org
  • This is a lightweight version of the mother site, with simple navigation, content folding etc. There are no dedicated sidebars or table-of-contents sections, but the content is almost as descriptive as the original articles.

  • LinkedIn Mobile - https://touch.www.linkedin.com
  • This is similar to the Twitter Mobile website, and provides a sufficiently rich set of functionalities compared to the desktop version.

  • PayPal Mobile - https://mobile.paypal.com
  • This is extremely lightweight, at the cost of the fact that it only allows you to view your existing PayPal balance. Although there's a "send money" option, currently it is linked back to the facility on the desktop site.

  • eBay Mobile
  • The WAP site http://wap.ebay.com is the default eBay mobile site for WAP clients, but it works on desktops as well. It has low responsiveness but still provides basic functionalities.

    There is a more sophisticated version at http://m.ebay.com for smartphones, but it consumes more data than the WAP version. Nevertheless it provides a significantly close-to-the-real-thing experience at a fraction of the data cost.

  • oDesk Mobile - https://www.odesk.com/m
  • This is the mobile optimized version of the famous freelancing site, and offers messaging and job search features. However at the time of this writing, it does not permit you to submit job applications.

  • Blogger Mobile
  • Unless the blog admin has either disabled mobile view or has used a non-mobile-friendly theme, you can view the mobile version of any blog or post by appending "?m=1" to the relevant URL (or, if "m=0" is already in the URL, by changing it to "m=1").

  • Google Mobile Site Viewer - http://www.google.com/gwt/n
  • This site can convert almost any public web page into a mobile-friendly, plain version. However the converted page would lose its interactivity and styling. It is also not applicable for pages or sites that rely on cookies for proper functionality. Still, it's a great resource when you want to check out the bare-bones content of a really bulky website, strippling off the fancy styling and JavaScript stuff.

  • Stack Exchange
  • Stack Exchange offers an option for you to switch between desktop and mobile views when visiting their websites. This switch is persistent until you decide to switch back again manually.

    ...and the list keeps growing...

Apart from these, most websites (such as Google Search, Fiverr, Facebook, LinkedIn and Atlassian Confluence-powered websites) can now recognize which type of device you are using to access them (via the HTTP User-Agent header), and serve mobile-friendly version. (Check this out for more information; unfortunately there's no English version of the article available yet.)

However, it should be noted that mobile sites may not always be more lightweight than their desktop counterparts; the default Gmail Mobile site (https://mail.google.com/mail/mu/mp), to which smartphones are automatically redirected, can be cited as an example; at times it can consume more data than the actual default desktop site (https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0). So, keep an eye on your gauges when surfing unforeseen mobile sites!

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