Looking for the best web experience on your Android device? We look at some of the Android browsers available.
This year's big thing is Android. Google's mobile operating system is popping up everywhere, from mobile phones to tablet PCs. One of the key features of having an Android device is that you can browse the web while you're out of the office or away from home.
The default browsing tools on Android are decent enough but what if you want more? We look at some of the browser alternatives available for Android.
Mozilla's Firefox 4 browser has to top the list of alternatives. The browser, which is now in beta release, has a completely different look and feel to its desktop sibling but retains much of the underlying architecture that makes the desktop version so popular. Firefox 4 includes Sync, so that your desktop and mobile browsing is always in sync, and also has the underlying add-ons architecture in place. It's the potential of add-ons that makes Firefox so compelling. If you're used to Firefox on your desktop PC then why not have the same add-ons available to you on your Android device? The interface for Firefox is clean and the sliding sidebars for add-ons, bookmarks and preferences are a nice touch.
Another likely option is Opera Mini. Although Opera doesn't have a huge market share, those that do use the Opera browser swear by it. Opera Mini is fast, thanks to its compression technology. Opera also has its own synchronization tools in Opera Link which means your desktop and mobile browsers are always in sync with one another. Add to that Opera Mini's tabbed interface and speed dial for accessing your favourite sites quickly and you have a great little browser. Opera's long-click technology also allows you to easily open links in new tabs or copy text or various other features.
Skyfire's latest release, version 3.0, is well worth a look, particularly if you're into social networking. Skyfire has deeply integrated Facebook into the browser so that you can quickly share items from the web with friends, or even browse a list of links that Facebook friends have posted to their feed. You can also view a list of popular Facebook pages directly from the toolbar. If you're not into Facebook, Skyfire's other offering is optimised video playing. Skyfire can play Flash video in the browser and optimises these for smaller interfaces so they are easier to view and consume less bandwidth.
XScope is intriguing. Its interface looks a lot like Google's Chrome browser with the tabs along the top. By tapping on the zoom button next to the URL bar you can hide Android's top menubar to maximise the space available to the browser. Similarly, swiping across the screen switches between tabs which is very smooth. XScope also has its own single-finger zoom feature which makes it possible to quickly zoom in and out of a web page. Although very streamlined, XScope's settings window offers extensive customisation options. Everything from themes to how and where new tabs open can be controlled through this interface.
Dolphin HD and Mini
The Dolphin browser is one of the best browsers for Android. If you're running an earlier version of Android (version 1.6) then the Mini version is for you. The HD version works on Android 2+. Either of these are worth taking a look at. Proper tabbed browsing and a gesture-based input system for bookmarking and opening URLs and other actions makes Dolphin a great addition to Android. The HD version works a lot like Firefox's browser with bookmarks and settings options popping out the side of the window. There are also tons of add-ons for Dolphin HD which makes it pretty powerful.
There are many other browsers available for Android but these five are among the best. If you're looking for desktop and mobile synchronisation then Firefox and Opera Mini are the best options. For a streamlined and attractive approach XScope and Dolphin Mini are the obvious choices. Which leaves Dolphin HD as the power-user option and Skyfire as the ideal social networking browser.