Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Android Browser War

So, you got yourself that awesome Android powered phone.  You powered it on, got ready to surf the web, and then suddenly felt uninspired by the stock browser.  The Android Browser is a rather lack luster, and feature-less browser.  One would have thought they would have spruced it up over at Google and make it more “Chrome-like”, but no.  So, what does one do?  Easy!  What do you do on your desktop?  Get another browser!  But which one?

Let me introduce the four top browser choices for the Android platform.  Each has its claim to fame, but which one do you think is the better one?  I can’t tell you which one you will like more, but I can tell you what I think of them all.

Remember, if you do a search in the Android Market for “browser”, you will get a huge listing of add-ons, fakes, and others.  I am only going to focus on the three major players, and the new Alpha release of Fennec (Firefox Mobile).

Stock Browser

The stock Android browser is not a very special browser.  It is a bit of a lame duck in the sense that it doesn’t offer a lot of nifty features that most users are looking for.  Of all of the browsers, however, it is the fastest and slimmest.  It will guarantee get the job done.  In regards to flash, you must have 2.2 installed with Adobe Flash.

Dolphin HD

dolphin-browser

The Dolphin HD browser is perhaps the best looking browser on the Android platform with easy to use Tabbed browsing.  The browser has tons of great features, including add-ons, much like Firefox.  Accessing bookmarks is as simple as a swipe, which you can also do in the opposite direction to access particular add-ons.  The developer recommends a device with a bit of power to it, but on my Moto Droid, I was surfing just fine.  To use Adobe Flash, again I had to have 2.2 and Flash installed on my device.  If you need the space on your phone’s memory, then install Dolphin to the SD card.

Opera Mini

Opera_Logo

Opera has been in the mobile browser market the longest of the third party browsers I am looking at.  This version is a strong contender with many of the same features one would expect.  There is also a back up and syncing feature that allows you to have your desktop version of Opera sync with your mobile version, so you can take your bookmarks with you everywhere.  It also supposedly syncs log in information as well!  As for the appearance, it seems a bit stale to me.  There are plenty of features, but Opera didn’t make the effort to make this look “like a browser”.  It still has a solid design, and easy to use interface.  It was also the only browser to integrate multi-touch on the Android long before there was Multi-touch.  Flash must be installed on the device to use this.  Need space on the phones memory?  Then you can use install it to your SD card, as well.

Skyfire

skyfire-logo Before Android 2.2 was released, Skyfire beta was giving users “flash video”.  However, don’t be fooled when they brag about it to much.  It only converted flash video content to a format the Android device was “familiar” with and allowed you to view it.  It did NOT work on flash games.  This in some cases defeats what one would want flash for.  It is a decent browser that doesn’t take up a lot of real estate on your phones memory.  On the Droid 1, that is very important.  This one can NOT be installed to the SD card.

Mozilla Fennec

Fennec-Logo

New comer and “Johnny come lately” competitor to the Android browser war.  Some have argued that this is one that should have been on the scene from damn near day one, but it is finally hear…in the Alpha stages.  This is a decent browser so far, albeit it clocking in around 11mbs!  It luckily can be moved to the SD card.  So far, it is appearing to be relatively stable, especially for an Alpha release.  I didn’t see to many add-ons for Fennec just yet, but rest assured there will be plenty of them soon enough, I am sure.  You get all the great features you expect from Mozilla, such as Tabbed browsing.

Between the browsers, the two major ones I expect to see going head to head the most are Fennec and Dolphin as they both seem to be the most similar in the features department.  They both don’t look to much similar, but Fennec is still early on.

Out of all five browsers, I have to say that Dolphin HD is currently my browser of choice.  It is stable, it is fast enough for my needs, and is very much compatible with so many websites.  I also like the number of add-ons and that there is always a new one when I go and check.  If Fennec can get things in gear, I suspect that one will be a very close second for me.

To really spice things up, Google should bring in Chrome to the Android platform!  That would be interesting.  All-in-all, however, I recommend Dolphin HD to anyone looking to replace their stock Android browser.

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