In choosing a browser for your phone, you have to take into account the more tenuous data connection, the smaller screen, and the kinds of tasks that you need or want to do on your handset. Here’s a look at some of the most popular Android browsers, to help you decide which one is right for you.
Note: Though third-party browsers are available for iOS as well as for Android, Apple doesn’t allow such tools to replace the built-in Safari browser altogether. For that reason, we’ve chosen to focus on Android browsers here. (For a detailed appraisal desktop and laptop browser options, see “Which Browser Should You Use?” For tricks, tweaks, and add-ons to improve the performance of your Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, or Safari browser, see “21 Ways to Buff Up Your Browser.”)
Dolphin Browser HD
If you’re an RSS fiend, Dolphin Browser HD may become your new best friend. Dolphin lets you create a webzine from popular websites’ RSS feeds, presenting simplified versions of Web pages with much of the clutter removed to make them easier to read. Though Dolphin can’t transform every website into a webzine, it’s a handy tool for people who read extensively on the Web. Dolphin also supports tabbed browsing and gesture commands, enabling you to issue specific instructions to your mobile device by drawing shapes on the touchscreen. You can draw a circle to reload the page, for example, or you can draw an F to instruct the browser to load Facebook.
Firefox for Android
Like its desktop counterpart, Firefox for Android is all about the add-ons, which, for the mobile version, include URL Fixer (for correcting common typos in URLs) and Reading List (for saving Web pages to read offline). Firefox for Android is an excellent choice for users who want to tweak and tune their browsers, and add their own personal touches. Unfortunately, the browser can be a bit slow to start up, and it consumes a lot of RAM–a potential problem if you have an older or underpowered Android phone. Firefox for Android also supports tabbed browsing, and you can sync between the mobile app and Firefox on your desktop, to pick up on one device right where you left off on the other.
Opera Mobile and Opera Mini
Opera has two mobile browsers: the full-size (12MB) Opera Mobile, and the smaller (767KB) Opera Mini. Opera Mini sends your page requests to a server, which compresses the pages before transmitting them to your device, making this space-saving browser much faster than Opera Mobile. For its part, Opera Mobile does a better job than Opera Mini of rendering pages so that they look the way they would on your desktop. Opera browsers don’t support add-ons, but both of these Opera apps do let you sync your mobile bookmarks with the desktop version of Opera, and both of them permit tabbed browsing.
Chrome for Android Beta
If you have an Android smartphone that runs Ice Cream Sandwich, Chrome for Android might be a good choice. Mobile Chrome supports tabbed browsing, but it doesn’t support Flash plug-ins at all. Instead, you’ll find some advanced HTML 5 features, plus synchronization with your desktop browser’s bookmarks and settings. Although Chrome for Android doesn’t offer extensions yet, it probably will support additional capabilities in the future.