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In addition to the keyboard, the other major item Android users love to change up is the stock web browser. Now the stock browser is OK and gets the job done, but one of the great aspects of Android is that there are always alternatives.
Over the last year or so, there have been a fair number of alternative web browsers that have hit the market. Some work well and some are a work in progress. It has been a while since we posted on web browsers so here is my list of some of the more popular web browsers available for Android devices today.
Dolphin Browser® HD (Free)
Dolphin Browser is probably one of the oldest and most recognized alternatives to the stock Android browser, and rightly so. With this browser, you get a ton of options and customization. They have designed it to provide the maximum amount of real estate on the screen. All menus are setup as sidebars, and to access them you simply swipe inwards from the sides.
When I think of the Dolphin Browser, I think of add-ons. The browser currently has about 50 add-ons that you can install separately within the app to add additional features to it. There are two neat ways you can search in Dolphin – using a gesture (which you can create) or Sonar (voice command). Dolphin also has pinch-to-zoom, speed dial, themes, and supports Flash. There is another version available called Dolphin Browser® Mini.
Opera Mobile Web Browser (Free)
Opera Mobile is currently at version 12. This browser also has been out a while and has undergone a number of changes. Opera opens up to a nice bookmark pages, created with thumbnails. There is a small toolbar located at the bottom of the screen. There you can access the settings, flip back/forward and open a new page.
The big feature of Opera is its speed. Opera states its servers compress data and images to help speed up web pages and save on data charges. From my experience, I did not see any significant difference, but there are a number of options in the app settings you can play with that could also help in speeding up pages. Opera will allow you to sync your bookmarks and speed dials from other devices. Pinch-to-zoom, Flash support, ability to share pages, and the Opera Mobile Store are present. The other main version of the browser is Opera Mini web browser.
Maxthon Android Web Browser (Free)
Maxthon is a tabbed web browser; you can have multiple pages open in different tabs. When the app opens, it brings you to the favorites or bookmark page. It is very easy to add a new bookmark or open one. There is a general menu bar at the bottom of the screen, where you can view favorites, add-ons, app settings, and full screen option. With Maxthon, it is best to use it in full screen.
As with the other browsers, you can create an account in Maxthon and sync your desktop web browser with your mobile version. There are about eight add-ons currently available and many different themes (color schemes) to choose from. The app has some nice, easy to access utilities such as day/night mode, no images, screen brightness, etc. Maxthon also gives you the ability to create a custom branded browser if you like. There is Maxthon Web Browser for 10” Tab for tablets.
Mozilla’s Firefox desktop web browser has been a favorite of mine for years. Right now, the Firefox Android browser stands at version 10 and recent updates added Flash support. In general, it is a good browser and has the basic options. When searching and viewing web pages, the menus disappear and goes full screen. To access the menus and bookmarks, you simply swipe along the sides to show the sidebars.
Firefox also allows users to sync their desktop with their Android browser. Another option with the Firefox desktop browser is the use of add-ons. The Android user also has that option, though the number of add-ons is limited, but that should change over time. With Firefox you can save pages as PDF, pinch-to-zoom, apply personas or themes and share items.
Chrome Beta (Free)
One of the newest browsers available is Chrome Beta from Google. The browser is only available for Android 4 and above (Ice Cream Sandwich). The browser works very well and looks great on my tablet. The main draw is its ability to sync to your desktop. If you sign-in to Chrome, it will automatically sync your bookmarks. The other main feature of Chrome Beta is tabbed browsing and the ability to swipe to switch tabs.
In general Chrome Beta is very basic. There are not a lot of options to it. All you really need to do it sign-in and go. The browser does allow voice search, bookmarking, private browsing, send pages from your desktop to Android, and the ability to see which devices have synced in Google Chrome. The one thing it does not have yet is Flash support.
All of the browsers listed here represent nice alternatives to the basic stock Android browser. The use of add-ons, tabbed browsing, and desktop sync are welcome additions and it will be interesting to see how the browsers continue to evolve. There are many other browsers out there; which would you recommend?