You may have been hearing bits and pieces of news about IE11 on Windows Phone 8.1, and we’re excited to share the full scoop on user experience improvements with you today! Our team has been laser focused on delivering a massive upgrade to four key areas of your browsing experience: quick site access, fast and fluid browsing, safety and privacy, and accessibility.
Look out for separate posts coming soon about what’s new for Web developers in the release.
Everyone always wants a faster browser, which is a fun challenge to work on - and our team breaks this down into two pieces. First, you need to tell the browser where you want to go, and second, the browser needs to get there as fast as possible. The second piece usually gets most of the attention, with browser performance benchmarks (like SunSpider, Acid3, Octane, and other muscular names) driving the discussion. While we have made progress on the benchmarks, a big focus this time was making serious progress on the first piece, telling the browser where you want to go. And here’s how we did it.
When you tap the address bar, we know you likely want to go to a different site than the one you are looking at. We all have a few sites that we like to visit frequently, and those are now a quick tap of the address bar away. As you browse, these will update to reflect the sites you visit most on your phone. Here is a screenshot of mine.
If you decide to type in the address bar, we now predict the site you would like to go to (the highlighted part below). Instead of typing out the entire URL, you can just tap enter and be on your way faster. It is one of those things you can’t imagine living without once you have it. The result is a browser that just feels snappier, since it requires less work from you to get to your sites.
As more Web browsing shifts to mobile devices, we want to be able to complete more complex tasks on these devices. One example is multi-tabbed browsing. Previously, we only allowed up to six tabs and there was a small speed bump to access your tabs in the “…” menu (unless you used the setting to change the address bar button).
So we decided to remove this limit - seriously, you can open as many tabs as you like - and now the button next to the address bar accesses your tabs by default. Making tabs easy to access was a welcome change, yet we still heard requests for easy access to refresh. So we’re going to have our cake and eat it too. You’ll notice that the tabs button and refresh button are both immediately accessible.
If you’re an astute observer, you noticed the “other” pivot in the screenshot above. We are excited to announce that Internet Explorer 11 will sync your browsing data across phone, tablet, and PC. This includes your 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!
Heads up: if you are concerned about data use, we’ve got your back. Just enter your data limit in the DataSense app, and we’ll be smart about when to sync this data to help avoid data overage charges.
I love having quick access to my favorite blogs right on my start screen with pinned sites, but honestly, pinned sites have been super lame less than stellar thus far on Windows Phone. With just a static screenshot, they were second-class citizens next to the beautiful and dynamic live tiles from my favorite apps. That all changes now. If you have used Windows 8.1, pinned sites will now feel very familiar.
Pinned sites 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. If you own a Web site, you can find instructions on how to light this up for your site here (hint: exact same markup as Windows 8.1). If your favorite sites don’t support live pinned sites, point them at those instructions and let them know all the cool kids are doing it. We’ll be posting more details for developers but in the meantime check out this start screen made exclusively with live pinned sites.
So now we’ve got you on your way to sites much faster. We also want it to be wicked fast to get and consume the content you care about. So we also made strides on speeding up your experience after you arrive at the site, with in-line video playback, Reading View, remembering passwords, swipe to go back and forward, and saving downloaded files.
How many times have you been watching a YouTube video and thought to yourself, “I wonder what the Internet thinks about this”? Well now you can watch that video AND view the high-quality comments below it from within your browser. To sweeten the deal, we’ll even keep the video playing under the lock screen. We’ll be posting more information to help developers provide great support for in-line video playback soon.
Do you love reading celebrity gossip and Cosmo news articles while on the go? Just like on your tablet or PC, tap the Reading View icon in the address bar for a great reading experience. This will remove the clutter and stitch all pages of the article together. Here’s what an article looks like on a site and in Reading View.
This should make logging in WAY easier. ‘nuff said. PS – passwords now sync to IE across phone, tablet, and PC.
Similar to your PC or tablet (noticing a trend? ) you can now swipe to go back and forward. Yes, forward makes its long-awaited return to IE on Windows Phone! Below is a screenshot of going back while reading an article.
You can now choose to save files downloaded from the Web, huzzah!
We were the first mobile browser to introduce anti-phishing protection with SmartScreen Filter and we also added the DoNotTrack signal to address growing privacy concerns. We’re at it again with a few features to keep you protected while browsing.
Don’t want your friends to know about your fascination with unicorns? You can now open InPrivate tabs and know that all the data associated with that tab is deleted when the tab is closed. Just open the menu on the tabs screen and select “Open InPrivate tab.”
We brought DataSense to IE on Windows Phone 8 to enable up to 40% more browsing with the same amount of data, and no noticeable difference in the browsing experience. This time, we are introducing High Savings Mode, which downloads only the most important pieces of the Web site and heavily compresses images. Here’s an example with (left) and without (right) High Savings Mode turned on.
The site definitely looks different, and this is tremendously useful if you have a small data plan or are running low on your data plan for the month. In Internet Explorer settings, you can choose to always enable High Savings Mode, never enable it, or keep it set to automatic, which will turn it on automatically when you are nearing your data plan limit (as configured in your DataSense app). To view the full version of a site while in High Savings Mode, just tap the icon in the address bar.
At Microsoft, we take an inclusive approach to product design – ensuring we understand the needs of all our users. I’m pleased that IE11 supports high contrast mode, Narrator, and an override switch to allow zooming into all Web pages. Look out for a future post on the Windows Phone blog covering system-wide accessibility for details.
Phew! That was a lot to cover! We’re excited for you to get these great updates to your browser, and as always we look forward to your thoughts and feedback. Leave comments below, or tweet @IE.
— Amin Lakhani, Program Manager, Internet Explorer
Thanks to Dhruv Chadha, Derek Liddell, and Oren Freiberg for contributing to this post.