BMW i3's Web Browser


I'm currently test-driving a BMW's all-electric i3 REX. One of the options the demonstrator model has is a web browser! Yes, for just £95 per year, you can get a slow and painful browsing experience IN YOUR CAR! (Only to be used when fully stopped - or in autonomous drive mode.)

Here's a quick run-down of its features.

HTML5

A fairly miserable score of 268 out of 555 points on http://html5test.com/
i3 HTML5
The screen is 1280*480 with good visibility. It's slow to scroll and, even with the touchpad controller, a pain to navigate.

User Agent

It reports as this unholy mess.
i3 UA
Chrome 15 on Windows XP. Helpful!
Oh, the IP address is in Germany because - I presume - that's where BMW's proxy is. Connectivity is provided by Vodafone's 3G network.

Security

The browser kept popping up with this certificate error.
i3 security
I'm not sure if it's the proxy, or the browser which is causing the failure to validate certificates.

Options

There is an options menu. Cookies are blocked by default, there's a flash player! Flash! In the car!
i3 Flash
I ticked the "sound" option and visited an HTML5 sound test page. MP3 is supported. Impressively, so are Ogg and WebM!

Video

Some HTML5 video is supported - although playback is a bit jerky. Audio support is variable.
i3 video webm

So, let's try out YouTube - the biggest video site on the planet!

i3 YouTube

Well, that's underwhelming. I wonder what is up with the Flash player on this thing.

A quick (slow) visit to Adobe shows us part of the problem -

i3 flash old version

An ancient Flash version. Which means you can expect to see a lot of things like:

i3 flash issues

Tabs

One thing that surprised me was the ability to have multiple tabs. Considering how slow the browser is, it's useful to load up a site in one, then read another tab while waiting for it to load.
i3 tabs

Open too many tabs (3 in this case) and you get this somewhat confusing error message.

i3 tab limit
There's no obvious way to close a tab...

You can always go into your history to see what you were reading before the browser flamed out.
i3 History

Headers and Proxy

A fairly sparse set of headers are sent by the UA.
i3 headers

The proxy is by M-Way Solutions. I'm not sure if it's the proxy, or Vodafone, but there is some severe picture compression going on:

i3 Compression

Rendering

For regular web pages, the rendering is competent - if slow. Here's my blog:

i3 blog

CSS rounded corner and webfonts all work.

But there is a glaring omission. The Unicode support from the browser is atrocious. Want to view Emoji? This is what you'll see -

i3 emoji

Overall

This is a shitty browser. It's slow - and that's not the fault of the 3G network - rendering takes forever, scrolling is awkward, mouse pointer precision is poor, and has limited support for modern web technologies. Along with the frequent SSL certificate warnings, the UA is probably vulnerable to modern attacks.

If you want to pay £95 per year to browse the web while sat in a motorway service station, I suggest you buy a cheap Android tablet and a PAYG SIM. Browsing will be a lot less frustrating, and you won't have to put up with seeing this error message constantly.
i3 Blowser limit

But, apart from that, the i3 is a great car!

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