Developer: Voon
Price: $3.99
Version Reviewed: 1.00

iPhone Integration Rating: ★★★☆☆
User Interface Rating: ★★½☆☆

Re-use / Replay Value Rating: ★★½☆☆

Overall Rating: ★★½☆☆

IMG_0182 myDesktop is a multi-window web browser that claims to “turn your iPhone into a laptop.” Truth be told, I often use my iPod in place of my laptop, but there is one significant drawback when it comes to web browsing: the single-window system used by Mobile Safari. (Yes, there are “tabs,” but they act nothing like real tabs.) In myDesktop, on the other hand, you can use multiple windows, and each window is resizable, allowing you to see them all at once. While this functionality is fantastic, it’s easy to see why Apple chose not to include it in Mobile Safari: it’s too slow, there are bugs, and the overall implementation feels clunky. Sure, the concept’s great, but myDesktop is impractical for everyday use.

When you first open the app, you’re greeted with an instructional page explaining the basics of myDesktop, but it gets a bit confusing. Here’s a quick rundown of the layout:

The main screen features a colorful, polished background, a la a real computer desktop. At the bottom is the translucent bar. This bar is present at all times; tapping it darkens the screen and brings up options to resize the window, view the help screen, go fullscreen, or open a new window. Naturally, you have to open a new window before you can start browsing the web!

Once you have your window open, you again are presented with options. Each window has a small blue button in the top-right and a red “x” in the top-left. The “x” is self-explanatory, but the blue button is less obvious. When tapped, it again darkens the screen and allows you to navigate to a page, search through Google, go back or forward, manage your bookmarks…all the usual stuff.

IMG_0181 Windows can be resized by dragging the bottom-right corner, and can be moved by dragging the top bar. However, resizing the windows often yields frustrating results. Websites don’t automatically snap to the new size; instead, you get a partially-cut-off portion of the site.

There are other problems, too, most notably the ever-present lag. Web pages load a bit slowly, windows lag slightly behind your finger when dragged, bookmarks take some time to open…and so on. There’s just enough lag that it’s incredibly frustrating.

The entire multi-window setup feels like it was handled strangely. Resizing windows is difficult due to the tiny selection area (I have FINGERS, not a stylus!), the system lags more with each new window, and the user interface gets in your way more often than not. Because the menu that lets you go to a new website is hidden in fullscreen mode, fullscreen is nearly useless. Oh, and when you close the app, all of the pages you were viewing disappear, leaving you with a blank “desktop.” Why isn’t there even a blank window when you start the app?

Furthermore, there are bug a-plenty, especially with regards to bookmarks. Sometimes, selecting a bookmark dumps you onto the “desktop,” and you have to restart the app. Other users have reported that the pre-set bookmarks reappear despite deletion. Three times now, I’ve opened the app only to discover that none of my bookmarks will show, and I’m unable to close out of the bookmarks menu; again, a restart is required. Stuff like this is simply unforgivable. myDesktop simply doesn’t feel like a complete app.

Don’t get me wrong; myDesktop is a great idea, and it has potential. The idea of having multiple windows displayed at once feels like something that should exist in mobile browsing. And, who knows? Maybe iPhone 3GS users will have better luck with the lag. (I’m on a 2nd-gen iPod Touch, for the record.) But as it stands, I can’t imagine that myDesktop would really be useful to anyone. It’s just an unfinished product, and the idea of paying for what could at best be called an alpha release is just irritating.

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