A recent post on Hazelware (mobile device user
agents) rekindled my interest in understanding the
current state of mobile PDA user agent (UA) strings. Having a
comprehensive list would be helpful for automatic delivery of
mobile-formatted content and tracking device popularity.
To learn the types of devices that are reaching my PDA optimized
website list, I analyzed the access logs from the month of
December 2004. During this 31-day span, the page had a total of
9585 hits with 550 unique user agent strings. The variety of UA
strings was surprising.
Following the Hazelware concept of searching on specific strings
within the UA made the list much more manageable. I used a list
of 19 strings to identify anything that appeared to be a mobile
device. This split the data set into 7886 mobile and 1918 non-mobile
(desktop browsers and search engine crawlers). About 80% of
the hits to this page are from mobile devices, so that seems to
Summarizing the data like this isn’t an exact science. Because
the search keywords are a mix of device manufacturer, operating
system, and browser type, it’s really only useful for determining
“is this a mobile user” as opposed to the exact parameters of
the device in question.
Having said that, the data does present and interesting snapshot
of device types:
1. I believe the “AvantGo” UA represents mostly their proxy
servers as opposed to mobile devices running the AvantGo browser.
I need to verify this.
To give you an idea of how varied the UA strings are (even for a
single device type), here’s a sampling of “Windows CE” agents:
Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 4.01; Windows CE; 240x320)
Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 4.01; Windows CE; 320x240)
Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 4.01; Windows CE; O2 Xda 2mini; PPC; 240x320)
Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 4.01; Windows CE; O2 Xda 2s;PPC;240x320; PPC; 240x320)
Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 4.01; Windows CE; O2 Xda II;PPC;240x320)
Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 4.01; Windows CE; PIEPlus 1.2; PPC; 240x320)
Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 4.01; Windows CE; PIEPlus 1.2; PPC; 240x320; PPC; 240x320; SPV M2000; OpVer 220.127.116.11)
Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 4.01; Windows CE; PIEPlus 1.3; PPC; 240x320; PIEPlus 1.2)
Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 4.01; Windows CE; PPC; 240x320)
Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 4.01; Windows CE; PPC; 240x320) 4.01
Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 4.01; Windows CE; PPC; 240x320; 240x320)
Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 4.01; Windows CE; PPC; 240x320; PIEPlus 1.1)
Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 4.01; Windows CE; PPC; 240x320; PIEPlus 1.2)
Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 4.01; Windows CE; PPC; MDA Compact/1.0 Profile/MIDP-2.0 Configuration/CLDC-1.1)
Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 4.01; Windows CE; Smartphone; 176x220)
Some other related resources on mobile user agents include:
* Mobile Browser ID (User-Agent) Strings
* Sprint Phone User Agents
CNET News.com (and others) are announcing that NFL will deliver game audio through Audible.com:
Under terms of the agreement, Audible.com will offer MP3-compatible audio broadcasts of the Super Bowl and conference championship games. Listeners can download the entire broadcast, or selected highlights, the morning after the game.
Consumers can download the games, from NFL.com, Audible.com and other online retailers, onto their MP3 players, including Apple Computer’s iPod, Audible said.
This should be interesting. I can definitely see the game summaries/highlights being useful. (Ideally I’d like them that evening rather than the following morning.) I think the post-game summary on the radio would make great podcast material. For baseball, they could broadcast the “condensed” version they’ve done for TV occasionally.
Continuing the trend of attributing everything to the iPod, headlines all reference “iPod”, but the audio should be available for any device that Audible.com supports.
Today Rob Fahrni ponders whether a Palm podcasting platform makes sense:
It’s new and it’s hip. It’s the perfect time to create a new piece of hardware to support this endeavor. I myself this Palm is in the best position to make it work. Why Palm? Well for one thing you can write code to run on it! That’s absolutely critical. My question is how good is the microphone on the Treo 650? Could someone get enough recording time on the device? Why hasn’t Palm jammed a 5 GB hard drive into one yet? Is it because it would increase the size of the device too much? I think Palm is in the best position to create the ultimate Podcasting device; not Apple, not Microsoft, Palm.
I agree completely — the Palm platform has definite potential in this new podcast space. A notable example is Russell Holliman who records his podcasts on his Treo directly; they sound great. Being a programmable system opens up all sorts of application possibilities, such as a dedicated podcasting application that handles recording, posting, and listening duties.
On the receiving end, the drop in memory card prices has made PDAs usable for listening to your favorite podcasts. Dedicated MP3 players generally have a file transfer speed advantage (FireWire/USB2.0 vs HotSync speeds), so some improvement is needed there. I’m planning to look closer at this part of the problem to see what can be done with today’s devices.
Cory Doctorow has just published a new short story on Salon.com — Anda’s Game. I haven’t read it yet, but based on Cory’s previous works, I’m sure it will be interesting. A unique twist is the licensing of the story under Creative Commons, making it redistributable in different forms.
Along those lines, I dusted off my knowledge of the old Peanut Press / Palm Digital Media eBook maker and created an eReader version of the book for reading on my Palm: Anda’s Game, eReader for Palm OS format (57 KB).
If you can’t track down the free reader (which is hard to find from the eReader website), here’s a direct link: eReader Free.
Jeff from Writing on Your Palm recently wrote a “howto” for Palmcasting — basically explaining what Podcasts are and how to download them to a Palm device. This is a nice summary of the steps involved and references Pocket Tunes which is shaping up to be the best media player for Palm OS.
I’ve written before about Zodcasting with the Zodiac device. There’s a lot of potential here for PDAs as mobile audio players for podcasts. The achille’s heel is that last step of pushing MP3 files down to the device. I need to do some more experimenting in this area, but there’s probably an opportunity for some software to help automate that process, whether it’s a conduit or a better hook through Windows Media Player.