WHY TEXT REFLOW CREATES A MADDENING IOS EXPERIENCE
If you found this page by searching the web, you are probably at your wits end over a missing feature on your iDevice called Text Reflow. We'll explain the basics of the issue here, and why we believe Apple has ignored this maddening omission on its operating system.
For those that don't know, Text Reflow is a feature included on the browsers of mobile devices that eases and assists the reading experience with small screens. Its functionality kicks in when you zoom in on a website that has lots of text.
When you are using your smartphone to read text-intensive articles and blog posts, the font size can e so small that you can't read the words on the screen. In order to actually be able to read what you are seeing, you do a "pinch-to-zoom" to magnify the size of the letters. But this creates a problem...
When you zoom in, the sentences will enlarge but they will fly off the right side of your screen while you zoom in. After expanding the text to a suitable size that your eyes can handle, you have to pan back-and-forth to be able to read the article because the words no longer fit horizontally on the page.
That's where Text Reflow comes into play. Instead of allowing the sentences to continue on the right side off the screen, the browser picks up the text and reflows it downward to the next line, thus allowing you to only have to scroll vertically in order to read the post. You can enlarge the text as much as you want, making reading on your tiny smartphone screen so much easier, and simply flick downward to scroll through the body of the article.
If you use your smartphone to read as much as I do, this feature is worth its weight in gold. You can cut through long articles with relative ease, at speed-reading velocity. But this is something that has never been included in Apple's Safari Browser for the iPhone or iPad.
The lack of text reflow formatting was my single biggest frustration with my iPhone 3GS. When I purchased my iPhone 4 in the summer of 2010, I would have bet the farm that Apple would have upgraded the browser to allow for text reflow. I was sadly disappointed when I discovered that it was still not included.
I called the tech support line for Apple, and none of the reps even knew what Text Reflow was. I explained the concept, and they all agreed that it was a fairly useful feature to have. They searched and searched for solutions, but could find nothing.
Today, the iPhone 4S which operates on iOS5.1 still does not include Text Reflow in the browser like so many Android and Blackberry devices do. Instead, Apple offers an app called "Reader" that converts website text to PDF that you can read later, and adjust the text formatting. This is completely a waste of time, in my opinion, because I would rather have my text reflow and read directly on the websites that I visit.
This and several other frustrations caused me to ditch my 2-year affair with Apple and switch to Android. I purchased a Samsung Galaxy S2 smartphone, and while it is not using text reflow technology 100%, you can get partial reflow in the stock Android browser plus full dynamic reflow using the Opera browser.
In my next post, we'll talk about the two after-market browsers that I discovered which will work on your iPhone that have partial text reflow. They may save you from wanting to bash your iDevice up agasnst the wall after a long day of side-to-side panning. Stay tuned!
Text Reflow Police