Silicon Valley-based app developer Spring Design has just given legions of tablet users one more reason to bring their tablets with them everywhere they go. The company's newly-released application, ScreenShare Browser Pro, gives tablet users the ability to surf the internet using their Android smartphones' 3G, 4G or Wi-Fi connections -- a great benefit to tablet owners who've been relying on Wi-Fi hotspots to get their tablets online when they're away from home.
In testing ScreenShare Browser Pro, I found it to be an app that accomplishes something truly unique and valuable. In short, it's a browser that eliminates one of the greatest drawbacks about a lot of tablets -- in particular those that operate solely via Wi-Fi connection and that are rendered mostly useless anytime you move out of range of an internet connection.
With ScreenShare Browser, you don't have to be in range of a Wi-Fi signal to get your tablet online. All you do is pair your smartphone with your tablet and use your phone's cellular connection to surf the web on your tablet.
No More Eye Fatigue
The ScreenShare Browser is also an effective tool for giving sore eyes a break. Let's face it. Not everybody in the world relishes the opportunity to pinch and zoom their way through websites with tiny text on small smartphone screens. Even sites that are optimized to display on compact mobile screens don't always solve the challenges inherent in smaller displays, like eye fatigue.
With the ScreenShare Browser, you can tap a single button and have the website you're viewing on your smartphone automatically load onto your tablet browser. But it's not just a screen magnifier. You can also navigate through that shared website on your tablet and not be limited to remaining on the same screen. Links can be followed out to other websites, or an entirely new URL can be keyed into the address bar and the tablet will continue to use the phone's online access.
A Two-Part App
The application, which only recently came out of beta testing, comes in two parts and requires dual downloads: one download for use on your smartphone, and another for use on your tablet. Both devices can be linked together using either Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, although to preserve battery life on both devices it's strongly recommended to use Bluetooth whenever possible.
In order for the app to function, you'll need a smartphone and tablet that are both running on Android 2.3 or newer. The beta version of the application is still available free of charge. The "Pro" release, which adds enhancements to the user interface and installation process, is available for a short time at a discounted price of $2.99. (You pay for downloading the software for your phone, but the tablet software download is free.)
I tested ScreenShare Pro with a Samsung Galaxy S III phone and Asus Transformer TF101 tablet. Once I got ScreenShare Browser installed and I linked the smartphone to the tablet, the rest was smooth sailing. But getting there can present a bit of a learning curve for those not familiar with Bluetooth tethering, an experience that's made no easier through the somewhat confusing instructions provided and the convoluted method of getting up and running.
These issues aside, the app's performance is rock solid. It enables you to have a multi-dimensional, multi-screen mobile browsing experience.
For expanded views of the screenshots at right, please click on the images.
For example, you can use your tablet to stream an audio link on a website, while using your smartphone to scroll through other content on the same site -- or vice versa, depending on your preference. ScreenShare also works absolutely great with streaming video.
Rock Solid, With Some Limitations
The application isn't perfect, and has its share of limitations. For example, it only works as a browser, which is fair enough since it's not advertised as anything more than that. But if the smartphone that's driving the internet connection is loaded up with applications for everything, the convenience of the ScreenShare Browser may be lost.
For example, Spring Design is quick to remind you that their app can be used to make reading and responding to emails a lot more convenient, but that's only the case when you're accessing a browser-based email site. If you use your smartphone's built-in email app to read and respond to email, or if you use a third-party app to access mobile email, ScreenShare Browser won't work with these.
Likewise, if you use a YouTube smartphone app to watch video, you won't be able to launch the video on your tablet unless you exit the app and access the website itself. There are plenty other things that ScreenShare Browser can't do, like sharing media files and documents from your phone.
However, the good news is that Spring Design plans to release a new suite of apps in June for screen sharing content on a phone's SD card to a tablet.
ScreenShare Browser Pro is an extremely high-functioning application, which makes it all the more a steal at its introductory $2.99 download price for the phone app. (Once the promotion is over, the price will increase to $4.99.)
Sure, the app has some limitations and it's not perfect. But it's a one-of-a-kind application with a multitude of potential professional and personal uses. It's difficult to see anyone experiencing buyer's remorse over this inexpensive download.
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