iPhone ignores the handheld media type

In the ADC article entitled “Optimizing Web Applications and Content for iPhone“, Apple states:

You can tailor the style of your webpages by providing a style sheet that adapts to iPhone. The CSS 3 media query allows you to do just that. There are several types of queries including print, handheld, and screen. iPhone ignores the print and handheld media queries because these types do not supply high-end content. So the screen query is what you need to use.

This is the wrong way to go. The device is a handheld one with limited screen real estate. You have built an entire developer site around designing specifically for the iPhone. This is not in any sort of alignment with the intent of the W3C CSS specification. 99% of websites have no handheld media type declaration anyhoo, so what’s the loss?

At least give the user the option in a selectable preference or something.

I say if you want to capitalize on this, given the fact that you are telling people how to build web sites for the iPhone, then do a land grab on the handheld media type. Who cares what the other handheld browsers do. They are likely going to screw it up anyway. Designing a flexible layout using the handheld media type that works between the range of screen sizes between an iPhone and one of those tiny jobs that you get for free when you sign away for another 2 year contract renewal sounds a lot more palatable than trying to get all my web layouts to look good using the screen media type and have that go back to working on an iPhone vs. someone’s 1920 x 1200 Cinema Display that they keep their web browser maxed out on.

If Apple wants to do the right thing, they should embrace web standards, rather than trying to defeat them.

4 thoughts on “iPhone ignores the handheld media type”

  1. I have to disagree. The iPhone’s browser experience is nearly identical to the standard computer experience (minus Fash, of course). It is a small screen, but navigating large pages is really easy and natural feeling. Being forced into a limited content mode is unnecessary on it. It’s closer to a notebook than it is a phone in this respect.

    That said, I think a preference setting is warranted, but I applaud Apple for raising the bar on the lo-fi internet norm on mobile devices. I really enjoy the full internet experience it puts in my pocket.

  2. I still say that supporting the handheld media type is The Right Thing to DoѢ, but I also applaud Apple greatly for making such a kickass user experience for the macro-web on a micro device. I’m not so much concerned for Apple’s web experience on the iPhone (which is stellar by my cursory testing), but rather I’m concerned for the overall adoption of using the handheld media type among web designers. This would have been a great opportunity to inject some energy into that movement. And in the end – it is a vastly smaller screen size than the usual computer monitor, to which Apple has devoted a large ADC section for designing optimized iPhone sites, and it would be a great advantage to optimize a page layout for the iPhone (and smaller). Oh how I wished to see the ADC site printing in big bold letters on a page heading “Using the Handheld Media Type for Optimized iPhone Designs.”

    A preference setting would be great. Or a dialog box if a handheld stylesheet is detected as the page is loaded. Or maybe better yet, an unobtrusive icon somewhere to switch between handheld and screen stylesheets.

    But I can imagine as a project manager what one must have been confronted with, coming across a plethora of otherwise great-looking sites and seeing the watered-down, text-only sites that use media type=”handheld”.

  3. I’m with Joe here… it seems like that would have made sense. In some sense, the iPhone defines what a handheld internet experience should look like these days…

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