Takeaway: Want more than basic browsing on your Android device? Here are five alternatives with enough features to satisfy nearly everyone.
The Android platform offers its own built-in browser, but it doesn’t include the selection of features available with other browsers — features a lot of users want. There are plenty of browsers out there with features to spare. But which should you choose? Just because a browser has tons of features doesn’t make it the best of the best. It takes a combination of features, performance, and reliability.
Here is my short list of best-in- breed Web browsers for the Android platform. As you’ll see, the default browser has been excluded from consideration.
It took long enough, but the mobile version of everyone’s favorite open source browser finally arrived — and boy is it packed with the goods. Firefox (Figure A) features browser sync, add-ons, tabs, personas, built-in sharing, location-aware browsing, one-touch bookmarks, Awesome Screen (learns your typing habits), multi-search engine integration, full-screen view, and much more. Although Firefox doesn’t load quite as quickly as Chrome, it does render pages fast and renders them to perfection.
Dolphin (Figure B) was kind of the Firefox for mobile before Firefox arrived. Dolphin was one of the first mobile browsers to begin offering feature sets unheard of by other browsers. It still offers some great features, while retaining great performance. The features include add-ons, gestures, webzine, multi-touch pinch zoom, tabbed browsing, sidebar, speed dial, smart address bar, bookmark folder, user agent, themes, and multi-language support. But what’s best about Dolphin is that even with all of the features, it still performs as well as any mobile browser available.
Skyfire (Figure C) is one of the more interesting browsers, offering features such as flash video, user agent switching, Facebook QuickView, Fireplace Feed Reader, Popular Pages, Related Ideas, Skyfire OneTouch Search, Facebook Like button, Twitter integration, Sports, News Finance buttons, Google Reader, and customizable Skybar (scrollbar). Many will look at Skyfire as a mobile browser for the social network inclined.
Opera (Figure D) is still around, and it still provides a unique browsing experience. It has always been one of the fastest-rendering browsers as well as offering one of the most feature-rich Web experiences. The mobile version does not come up short on either front. Opera offers features such as a more mobile-friendly interface, pinch-to-zoom and smooth panning, synchronize bookmarks, speed dial, and built-in Twitter and Facebook support. One especially unusual feature is that games and free apps can be downloaded from the Opera Mobile Store (found in Opera Mobile’s Speed Dial). You will notice two versions of Opera: Opera Mobile and Opera Mini. For tablets and more powerful devices, go with Opera Mobile. For smaller and less powerful phones, go with Opera Mini.
Miren (Figure E) is one of the lesser known browsers, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth trying. It does a great job of blending desktop features on mobile devices. It’s fast, it offers a solid list of features, and it has an outstanding, clean interface. The feature list includes tabbed browser with smart full-screen mode, top site navigation, smart suggestions, fast rendering speed, Flash support, multi-touch pinch zoom, bookmark management, and bookmark import/export. One of its nicest features is the ability to quickly jump back and forth between full screen and windowed mode.
Plenty of choices
Five browsers for one platform — and that’s just scratching the surface. If you want a leaner browsing experience, you can get that as well. But if you’re looking for a diverse feature list and solid performance, try one of the above browsers. Actually you should try them all, because each has something unique to offer that might be the best match for your needs and personality.
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