Coast: An iPad Browser That Stands Out
When I last wrote about the Coast browser, I was pretty hopeful. I liked the interface, the swipe controls, and mostly I liked the fact that it was made just for the iPad. And in the spirit of iOS itself, its commands/settings/etc. are all very minimal and don't get in the way.
It is very fast, and its live-tile bookmarking system can be very handy when you need to pick up where you left off with a site. It has no tabs, but does have a simple swiping system for going back and forth between sites. I enjoy using it, and it nearly knocked Chrome off of its pedestal as my primary browser for both work and play.
After a week of solid (and nearly exclusive) use, however, the honeymoon is over. I still like Coast as a general browser, but for everything it does right, there's one-and-a-half things that simply make no sense. I'll start with website sharing.
What Did I Just Share?
When you press the ellipses (. . .) button on the bottom right, it shrinks the site you're looking at down to a thumbnail. You can view its security settings, and look over your sharing options, which are limited to the big 2: Facebook and Twitter. Sharing on Twitter does what you'd expect: you can post a status update and it attaches a link to the site. Sharing on Facebook, quite simply, makes no sense.
Rather than linking to the site you are looking at, Coast instead opts to share a screenshot when you share on Facebook. I made this mistake while congratulating Ryan Winzen on raising the needed Kickstarter support for the Starcraft Universe MMO. While I really should have tested it out on something else, it literally never entered my mind that he browser would do something quite as stupid as sharing a screenshot of a website rather than a link to the site itself.
Customization Is Not Your Enemy
I respect the minimal interface of Coast a lot, as I've mentioned, because this matches the minimal design of the iPad itself and so feels more native. Other browsers can so easily get bogged down in clutter (I'm looking at you, Google Chrome!) and generic appearance and function (Now I'm looking at you, Safari!) that the tablet user loses the simplicity that should be the tablet experience.
In its effort to eliminate the unnecessary, Opera seems to have thrown customization completely out the window, which is a mistake. Yes, it lets you set up your own Live-Tile-esque shortcuts, but that's the full extent. I don't understand why they didn't make the whole screenshot/URL thing into a checkbox you could find in a menu. Customization doesn't necessarily bog down a browser; in fact, it streamlines it for the individual's use.
The bottom line is this: Coast is a brilliant concept that still has a few issues to work out. It's a fantastic browser with a minimal interface and intuitive touch commands that anyone who's held an iPad for five minutes or longer should be able to figure out. But it's a concept that is let down by strange choices like sharing website screenshots and lack of functional customization. While I will continue to use it while perusing the web for fun, it simply lacks some of the functionality I need in a work browser.