Frog: The toad that would be prince

A new mobile Web experience falls short of expectations. Here's my hands-on review, warts and all.

FROG
A portal to mobile-configured Web sites is all you get with Frog. CNET Networks

From the many positive announcements written about Frog since May 2007, a fresh, interesting approach to accessing the mobile Web shouldn't have exceeded expectations, especially six months after the initial release. After all, GeekSugar, MobileCrunch, and The Boy Genius Report all gave Frog nods as a viable home page alternative. After trying it out for myself, all I saw of Frog were warts.

Unlike traditional browser solutions that optimize page viewing, Frog adopts a portal model for accessing the Web. Nine quick-launch buttons each take you to a Web site optimized for mobile viewing.

While creating a Frog account online, users can add button icons for favorite sites from scores of options (good.) Four, to be exact. The other five slots are chosen for you and won't budge if you try to swap them out (bad.) However, it might be less of a problem if you already use MSN Weather, Google, Orbitz, RestaurantRow.com, and Fandango steadily and don't intend to swap the orientation on the screen.

Before Frog generates the URL that is your new personalized Frog home page, you can also change the design or color band behind the reptilian mascot. You'll then receive the URL via e-mail (an SMS option would be faster and smoother), which you can make your current home page (or at least a bookmark) in your chosen mobile browser. Tired of waiting for the e-mail link to arrive, I manually entered the URL shown on Frog's site.

To its credit, Frog's interface is uncluttered, and it's refreshing not having to endlessly scroll down. There's a URL bar for entering alternative URLs and links to choose or replace portal destinations. Unfortunately, you can't do the same tidying up from the Web site, which lacks even basic account management tools.

The most useful FAQ from the molehill advises Palm's Blazer browser users to switch to "Wide Page Mode."

All of this is too bad, since Frog's icon set-up really could benefit users who repeatedly visit only a handful of sites (maybe 20). At this point, however, the serious customizing and management limitations and larval Help files make it clear that Frog is far from ready to leave the pond.

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