Leaked: Skyfire browser's BlackBerry alpha photos

Leaked screenshots of Skyfire's alpha browser for BlackBerry have been causing quite a stir. Here's what we've got to say about it.

It seems that the fellas over at The Boy Genius Report got their hands on leaked screenshots of an alpha version of Skyfire's mobile browser for BlackBerry. Their source has proclaimed it "already being the best BlackBerry browser ever."

Skyfire for BlackBerry alpha--leaked
The BlackBerry version of Skyfire looks a lot like the other smartphone versions, just wider. (Credit: Boy Genius Report)

Wow, that's some potentially overblown praise, especially as Opera's mobile browser has been the alternative of choice for many BlackBerry users. It's also not the first time that the free Skyfire browser has been overhyped. No disrespect meant to Skyfire--its mobile browser for Symbian and Windows Mobile has a solid design, competitive speeds, and supports (imperfect) video playback--but let's give this all some perspective before declaring it the next killer browser.

First, we've known for a while that BlackBerry was next on the list of Skyfire's smartphone development, after Windows Mobile and Symbian, which are available now in an advanced beta that's very soon expected to tip over into the first full release.

Second, a look at the screenshots reveals a design that's very similar to the most recent, and still frequently tweaked, builds available now. Sure, that won't help you if you're a BlackBerry user, but in absolute development terms, it's less interesting than the fact that at its inception, Skyfire hatched exclusively on mobile (versus Opera Mobile and Mozilla's Fennec, both products born first from desktop browsing) and emerged seemingly out of nowhere to become such an anticipated application. I'm all for choice when it comes to mobile browsing, and I'm happy to see Skyfire being prepped for BlackBerry fans, too, but also keep in mind that it could be a long road between now and final development, and that much could change in the mobile industry from now until then.

Third, Skyfire brings some interesting features and good diversity into the mobile browser mix that Opera Mobile has held onto for so long, but it's far from being the magic bullet of mobile browsing. Support for downloading certain content is still variable and video playback can be choppy even over a strong, secure Wi-Fi connection. The browser can always get faster, and it still lacks some of Opera Mobile's advanced features, like in-line search.

It's unsurprising that Skyfire had no official comment to share, but the leak's photographic evidence makes it apparent that something's in the works. Again, it may be some time before Skyfire publicly acknowledges the alpha, and opens up a beta app, but when it does, we'll be there with a hands-on review.

About Jessica Dolcourt

Jessica Dolcourt reviews smartphones and cell phones, covers handset news, and pens the monthly column Smartphones Unlocked. A senior editor, she started at CNET in 2006 and spent four years reviewing mobile and desktop software before taking on devices.