As more and more peoples are accessing web on mobile devices these days, importance of mobile-web browsers cannot be overstated. Unfortunately, native mobile web browsers (which come bundled with the OS) have always disappointed users – remember the disastrous Symbian browser and early Android stock browser. The main reason of this pathetic performance is perhaps that they are not being updated regularly and are even neglected in the development of firmware (OS) updates.
This lacuna inspired developers to create some wonderful third-party browsers. Be it the ease of use or compliance to latest web standards, most third party mobile browsers wins the battle at every front against their native siblings. There are plenty of wonderful and free mobile web browsers available which make excellent alternative to native Android browser. Here I have prepared a list of some popular (and some unknown) browser apps to give you a great web experience on your Android device –
The “Top 10”
1. Opera Mini and Opera Mobile – The most popular and feature-rich browser-duo for Android (and all other mobile and desktop platforms). Opera Mini is a proxy server based browser which reduces data transfers by compressing web pages at server before rendering at mobile. While Opera Mobile is a full-fledged desktop like browser (based on Opera’s Presto engine) that supports all the capabilities of device OS to render web pages (pinch-to-zoom, graphics and hardware acceleration etc). Opera Mini is considered as the fastest browser out there and both of these have an impressive feature-set. Download free from m.opera.com
2. Dolphin HD and Mini – Much like Opera siblings, “The Dolphins” have also evolved into top-class Android browsers overtime. Dolphin HD is currently very popular among Android users (perhaps second only to Opera Mini/Mobile). Some innovative features of Dolphin browser include – gesture support, tabbed browsing with visible tabs, add-on (plug-in) support and lots of plug-ins are available which enhance the functionality of browser. Except add-on support, Dolphin Mini is as good as HD, even better as it uses less resources and much less data transfer.
3. Chrome – Chrome needs no introduction, it’s currently one of the most popular, free desktop and Android web browser. Being a Google product, Chrome has become a part of many Android phone firmwares. You can get Chrome for Android from Google Play.
4. Firefox Mobile (Fennec) – Fennec is the mobile version of Mozilla’s popular Firefox browser. It is a full-fledged, powerful browser resembling its desktop sibling in every department – awesome bar, add-on support, skin support and of course the app-size (over 10 MB – huge installation as per mobile standards). Fennec is also a very resource intensive browser thus requires high-end hardware phones to run smoothly.
5. Skyfire – According to its developers, Skyfire is a mobile browser with a difference – it is “more social” (deep social networking integration) and can play all sort of embedded flash videos (by compressing and rendering via server). Download Skyfire from Play Store
6. xScope – Apart from the weird name, xScope is a great browser. It is a very small installation and still is one of the fastest and multi-functional browser out there. Feature wise xScope supports tabbed browsing, pinch-to-zoom, skins/themes and also has Opera like start-up screen (having bookmark Grids). xScope even has a file manager and task manager also. A no-frill, multi-utility web-browser app! It is available in two forms (a simple free and a paid Pro version) at Google Play
7. Boat Browser and Boat Mini – Boat is another popular browser (available in two avatars like Opera) with a good feature set. It is fast, small in size, easy to use and has a visually appealing interface.
8. Maxthon Mobile – Maxthon Mobile is an Android version of Maxthon desktop browser. It is a good browser with somewhat similar features and looks as UC Browser/QQ Browser. Add-on support is a plus point. Besides, Maxthon Mobile is pretty fast to load web pages. There are many interesting options under settings like private browsing, Cloud Sync, advanced gesture control, skins/themes, “Night mode” etc. Separate versions of Maxthon for smartphone and tablets are available at official site (maxthon.com)
9. UC Browser – UC Browser is another popular Chinese browser having almost the same feature set as Maxthon Mobile. It uses proxy server to compress and render web pages for mobile viewing. UC Browser has also a powerful download manager with pause/resume function and supports multiple downloads at a time. Besides download speeds are damn fast with UC Browser. Download from ucweb.com or from Google Play
10. QQ Browser – (Update – English version of QQ Browser has been removed from Play Store) QQ Browser is another Chinese mobile web browser very similar to UC Browser. Originally available in Chinese, it is also available in English now. Similar to UC Browser, it also uses a proxy server to compress pages. Rest of the features are same as UC Browser.
The less-known ones
11. Galapagos – A surprisingly unknown browser with a good feature-set – a customizable toolbar, Google translate, screenshot function (capable of capturing even the entire webpage) etc. Besides it is small and quite fast. Download from Google Play
12. Angel Browser – Angel looks like a new “Avatar” of Galapagos browser with somewhat improved features (plug-in support etc). Download
13. NetFront Life Browser – another alternative browser with some innovative features like “tilt mode” and “scrapbook”. Have a look yourself…Download
14. Zirco – another basic (and Open source) browser. Download
15. Browser Plus – a basic browser with some interesting features like capacity to keep history of upto 1000 URLs, “Restore session” option. Download
16. Ultralight Web Browser – As the name signifies, it is one of the smallest browser (less than 300KB!). Ultralight Browser is a typical “browsing only, no-feature” app. Download