A few years ago, the idea of downloading a third-party browser to a mobile device was something only mostly tech savvy users would even consider. Nowadays, particularly with the popularity of Apple's App Store for the iPhone, customizing your mobile device is far more common.
Bolt is a great example of this brave new software world. Bolt is a generic mobile browser that runs on a variety of mobile devices, but Bitstream, its developer, tweaked it a bit for BlackBerry users making use of specific key functions, like T for top and B for going to the bottom of the screen.
The growing popularity of third-party applications prompted RIM itself to develop an online storefront for applications that it's slated to rollout this month, but Bitstream isn't waiting. It released a private beta of Bolt for BlackBerry and other mobile devices in January and opened it up to a more public beta last month.
In that time, the company said its Bolt browser has been downloaded over 150,000 times. "The response has been completely overwhelming. It shows we're meeting a real unmet need," Bitstream CEO Anna Chagnon told InternetNews.com.
Chagnon cites several features she thinks makes Bolt a worthwhile alternative, but the primary one is speed. "We're the fastest mobile browser out there that's been tested as far as I know. We're 25 to 50 percent faster than other mobile browsers and Web pages load very fast," she said.
Other key features are support for YouTube and several other video streaming sites, advanced compression and other features to conserve energy. Chagnon claims Bolt works on "75 percent of the world's handsets" and consumes a third less battery power than other mobile browsers.
Bolt has arguably been in development for five years, as its built on work Bitstream did originally for its Thunderhawk browser, which it offers through mobile operators and device makers.
"Bolt is a culmination of that work," said Chagnon. "We decided we wanted to do something we could deliver directly to consumers."
Bolt doesn't make use of the touch screen interface in the new BlackBerry Storm, but Chagnon said that it does plan to support the Storm's features in an upcoming release.
Currently a free download, Chagnon said the company is looking at ad support and other methods it might use to keep Bolt free to consumers.
This article was first published on InternetNews.com.