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Microsoft trumpets IE 11 for Win Phone 8.1, but reviews are mixed

Juan Carlos Perez | May 12, 2014
Microsoft crowed about advances in Internet Explorer 11 for Windows Phone 8.1 earlier this week, but so far reviews from users are mixed.

In the area of quick access, IE 11 now lists users' most frequently visited sites in response to a tap in the address bar, and if users try to type into the address bar, IE 11 takes an educated guess of which URL they're going to enter. "It is one of those things you can't imagine living without once you have it," the official wrote.

The upgrade also lifts the limit on the number of browser tabs users can have open, from a previous maximum of six, and it places more prominently the buttons to access open tabs and refresh them.

IE 11 on Windows Phone 8.1 will also now sync a variety of elements with users' IE browsers in Windows 8 tablets and PCs, including their favorites, history, passwords and open tabs. "You can now quickly pick up where you left off when you switch devices, and finally say goodbye to emailing yourself links," Lakhani wrote.

Another enhancement applies to website shortcuts pinned to the smartphone's Start screen. The icons used to be static screenshots, but now they'll be dynamic live tiles showing updated elements from the sites, like recent headlines and images.

Other additions to the browser include the ability to remember passwords, a "swipe" action to go back and forward and a "reading view" that strips certain non-text elements from Web pages and reformats them in a way to make it easier for users to read their text. It's also now possible for users to save downloaded files from the Web.

In the area of safety and privacy, IE 11 on Windows Phone 8.1 adds the ability to browse privately in certain tabs so that no record of Web page visits is kept. This also improves the browser's data savings tool, Microsoft says.

Al Hilwa, an IDC analyst, said Microsoft needed to do a lot of improvements with the Windows Phone IE browser and that the work is not finished, although this upgrade addresses important issues.

"What Microsoft is doing in terms of reducing bandwidth and speeding up the experience is definitely in the right direction," he said via email.

"One of the promising pieces is addressing the live-tile refresh problem for websites pinned on the front screen. Some of that will require cooperation of website content owners, so it may take time to realize the full potential of this feature," he added. "I think synching with PCs and Windows tablets is also an important differentiating feature."


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