IE11 for Windows Phone 8.1 Takes Shape

Microsoft revamps its smartphone Web browser for the mobile, multi-device era.

Internet Explorer 11 for the upcoming Windows Phone 8.1 mobile operating system is shedding its desktop baggage.

In a sign that Microsoft is serious about its new "mobile first" corporate strategy, the company is previewing some of the features that users can expect when they fire up Windows Phone 8.1's bundled Web browser. IE11 will not only deliver a "fast and fluid browsing," according to Amin Lakhani, a Microsoft Internet Explorer program manager, but will also provide syncing between devices along with other features that optimize the mobile Web browsing experience.

"We are excited to announce that Internet Explorer 11 will sync your browsing data across phone, tablet, and PC," said Lakhani in a blog post. Syncing on IE11 helps narrow a major features gap between Microsoft's mobile browser and its popular rival, Google Chrome.

IE11 will sync history, passwords, open tabs and favorites. "You can now quickly pick up where you left off when you switch devices, and finally say goodbye to emailing yourself links," he enthused.

No need to worry about data overages due to the new syncing feature, explained Lakhani. "Just enter your data limit in the [Data Sense] app, and we'll be smart about when to sync this data to help avoid data overage charges."

Data Sense is Microsoft's data usage management technology for Windows Phone 8. It alerts users when they are nearing their monthly data caps, delays big data transfers until a Windows Phone is in range of WiFi, limits the amount of background data used by the phone and compresses Web pages.

In IE11, DataSense will allow users to select a new High Savings Mode that "downloads only the most important pieces of the Web site and heavily compresses images," explained Lakhani. In a Microsoft-provided before and after screenshot of The New York Times homepage, High Savings Mode rendered a slightly more streamlined site at the expense of some display ads.

Also similar to the Chrome mobile browser, IE11 will provide site predictions as the user begins inputting a URL. The new frequent sites feature offers a handful of recommendations based on past browsing activity when a user first taps the address.

"We all have a few sites that we like to visit frequently, and those are now a quick tap of the address bar away," Lakhani wrote. "As you browse, these will update to reflect the sites you visit most on your phone."

Pinned sites, tiles that provide one-tap access to Web pages from the home screen, now live up to the "Live Tile" billing. Instead of the static, miniaturized screen captures of the past, sites pinned to the home screen "now show rich site icons and even update in the background, with the latest headlines and images from your favorite blog for example, just like other live tiles," said Lakhani.

IE11 does away with the six-tab limit of its predecessor, now supporting an unlimited number of tabs. A new Reading View, similar to Apple's implementation for Safari on iOS, provides a clutter-free reading experience. In-line video playback, file download support, password storage and swipe-enabled navigation in IE11's history round out the new features.

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the network of...