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Android Browser Race

Posted: , by Alex I.

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Android Browser Race

Introduction:


In this day and age, it's important for us to stay connected all the time and with all these great leaps forward that the smartphone industry has been making lately, that often happens thanks to our cell phones. As things stand at present, Android is one of the hottest operating systems in the smartphone world and is going from strength to strength in more than one department. One of the things that make Android so well received by most people is the fact that it has such a rich variety of third-party applications. And when it comes to choosing a browser, the Android Market has a lot to offer. That's why we decided that the time is right to test a few of the most popular browsers in the Android world and make a comparison of their pros and cons. In our review, the following browsers will be put under the microscope: the stock Froyo browser, Opera Mobile beta 10.1, Firefox 4 beta, Dolphin HD, Skyfire 3.0 and xScope 6. So, let's start our journey with the stock Android browser as found on the Samsung Galaxy S, running Froyo (all tests are performed on the same handset):


Stock Android 2.2 browser

Android Browser Race
Android Browser Race
There are plenty of people who are not as obsessed as you and us about smartphones and they rarely bother to check the Android Market for the newest and bestest of apps. And for them, here comes the stock Froyo browser, which is based on WebKit and there is a pretty decent chance that it has all your needs covered. First of all, the Froyo browser operates in a very snappy manner in two key areas – it loads pages in lightning speeds and pinch-to-zoom works very well. There is no lag whatsoever and we're really pleased with its performance in these departments. The same can't be said about the scrolling experience with the Froyo browser. It's probably an issue for a few people, since it's a little bit choppy and far from smooth experience. Another weak point of the Froyo browser is the fact that going from tab to tab is not optimized at all and not only we experienced a little bit of lagging, but it actually crashed once during our tests. One big advantage that the Froyo browser has over its predecessors (and some of its rivals too) is the fact that it supports Flash Player 10.1. Sure, it takes a few more seconds to load a page with moderate to heavy Flash content compared to a page which is not Flash-enabled, but everything has its price. All in all, the Froyo browser is doing an all-around good job that will satisfy a huge portion of the Android users.

Pros:
All-around balanced browser
Great load rates
Flash-enabled

Cons:
Scrolling is choppy on complex pages
Tabbing is not optimized


Opera Mobile 10.1 beta

Android Browser Race
Android Browser Race
Opera Mobile 10.1 beta scores a few points over its Android rivals because it gets the simple things right – scrolling is smooth and pinch-to-zoom flawless, but the thing that really makes the difference between Opera and the other Android competitors is the fast load rates, especially when the Opera Turbo mode is on. In that mode, it compresses data – both images and text – in order to load the page faster. It works very well, as the load time is significantly lower, but of course this mode has its downside – everything becomes a little bit blurry. In all honesty, it works well on most sites and it's highly useful if you are in a low-signal area. Furthermore, Opera claims that with the Opera Turbo mode you can save up to 90% of your data costs, which comes in handy these days. Beyond the excellent load rates, Opera Mobile 10.1 beta has all the usual Opera goodies like the bookmark grid called Speed Dial, Desktop Browser Sync and Mobile View mode. Our final thoughts on this browser are that it's easy to use, has fast load rates, scrolling is smooth and you can save up to 90% of your data costs, while the downside is that it doesn't support Flash.

Pros:
Turbo Mode saves you up to 90% of your data costs
Excellent load rates

Cons:
Not Flash-enabled


Skyfire 3.0

Android Browser Race
Android Browser Race
Skyfire is one of the most talked-about browsers and there is a pretty good reason for that – it incorporates some awesome features with a lackluster performance. But the good things first. To start with, Skyfire is more like a PC browser compared to the rest of the pack – it's desktop-optimized and has a few of the goodies that the other competitors in the Android Browser Race lack – like a true toolbar, which gives you one click access to a lot of features. That makes the interface easier to use compared to any other Android browser and, as we all know, small things make a big difference – just to illustrate, the back button on the toolbar can do wonders and the interactive zoom in/zoom out option is really well-integrated. With Skyfire 3.0, you also have better Facebook intergration and OneTouch Search that allows simultaneous search from Google, Facebook and Twitter. Of course, Skyfire made a name for itself with its Flash-playing capabilities. Now, there are a few browsers that support some kind of Flash, but Skyfire is doing a great job in that department most of the time. Now, the bad things about Skyfire – it has one very obvious downside –  this browser is just not very good as a... browser. Most of the time, if more than one tab is loaded, it lags so much that it's practically unusable. Fair enough, though –  if it's not a problem for you to use only one tab, you can get a really good performance from this browser most of the time. That said, Skyfire is millions of light years away from the reliability that you get from the stock Froyo browser and Opera Mobile. You get really snappy scrolling experience when it's not lagging (i.e. when you use only one tab), but with multiple tabs this is nothing more than a wish. Pinch-to-zoom works well, but the slow load of web pages is painful, although it's only fair to say that in the few instances when it was lag-free during our tests, it was one of the fastest Android browsers that we have tested. As a conclusion, we hope that the guys at Skyfire Labs will optimize the browser, because it has so much potential – if they manage to erase the lag which comes with multiple tabs, we'll have a monster of a browser that brings a true desktop-like feel to our smartphones. Fingers crossed.

Pros:                   
Desktop-like browsing               
Great interface and functions               
Flash-enabled

Cons:
It lags so much when more than one tab is loaded that it's unusable at times
Highly unreliable


Dolphin HD

Android Browser Race
Android Browser Race
Dolphin HD is one very, very polarizing browser – its intriguing (even groundbreaking) interface integrates quite a few cool options, but at the same time, some fundamentals – like fast load rates, smooth scrolling and good pinch-to-zoom – are simply not present. Once again, we'll begin with the good things – going from tab to tab with Dolphin HD is easy and fast, although it lags occasionally. It also has some other great features, like Private Browsing (it gives you the chance to browse without leaving a trace), the option to use the volume button to scroll and the Gesture Button that allows you to go back/forward/refresh/add a new tab and so on only by drawing a simple "gesture" on your screen. It really works great (unlike the scrolling volume button) and can be of great help once you get used to it. Moreover, you can create your own "gestures", which further facilitates the process. It has a few other perks (like automatic detection of RSS feeds), but the real gem with Dolphin HD is that it offers plenty of add-ons for download. Since the mobile Firefox is still not optimized enough to be available in the Android Market, this is really a feature that no other Android browser supports. Now, the bad things. First of all, it's noticeable that the load rates of web pages that Dolphin HD achieves are significantly slower than the stock Froyo browser for example. Scrolling is nowhere as smooth as, say, Opera Mobile and even worse, when any flash content is present, the browser is almost unusable and pinch-to-zoom is not executed very well.

Pros:
Amazing interface               
Great and innovative functions         
Plenty of add-ons               
Flash-enabled with Froyo 2.2

Cons:
Slow load rates
Lags a little bit when scrolling and using pinch-to-zoom, especially when more than one tab is present
Pages are not always optimized


Firefox 4 beta


Android Browser Race
Android Browser Race
When Mozilla Firefox was first released for PC, it showed what the phrase "a really good browser" really means and it was a cure for all of us who were seeking a good substitute for the Internet Explorer, but never really liked Opera. Now we have Firefox 4 beta for Android and we certainly hope that when the full version is released, it would manage to achieve the same heights. Our very first impression was that Firefox 4 beta is loading pages in absolutely unbelievable speeds. It's certainly faster in that aspect than the Froyo browser and Opera Mobile and that speaks volumes about the speeds it manages to achieve. Unsurprisingly, Firefox 4 beta is tightly integrated with its computer counterpart, which means that you can sync all your history, bookmarks and so on between the two. The interface is very intuitive and the back/forward buttons, as well as the bookmark option are always one click away. Moreover, you get plenty of extremely useful add-ons and, as this is only a beta, it's sure that a lot more are soon to come. There is no lag whatsoever and the pinch-to-zoom and scrolling functions work very well. However, all Flash-loving users will be disappointed as Firefox 4 beta for Android doesn’t support Flash at all, which may be a great con for a few people. Also, the browser is not very stable, but this is only a beta after all. Generally, though, Firefox 4 beta is promising much and we can only hope that when it's officially released, all the above-mentioned issues will be cleared. Even now, it's a really good browser that's bound to get better and better.

Pros:                           
Lightning loading of pages                   
Tight integration with its computer counterpart                        
Very intuitive interface                   
Plenty of add-ons

Cons:
No Flash
Not very stable


xScope 6

Android Browser Race
Android Browser Race
xScope 6 is the last browser to join our Android Browser Race and its load speed of the web pages is pretty good, although it's not as fast as Firefox 4 beta, the stock Froyo browser and Opera Mobile 10.1 beta. However, it's important to note that when you load more than two tabs, it slows down considerably. xScope 6 looks very clean and simple – a fact that may count as a disadvantage for some people and that's why skins are available for download, which gives you the chance to create a more customized (and sophisticated) appearance for your xScope 6. It has plenty of settings that create a browsing experience of your choice and shortcuts for folders like my downloads and history are always one click away. One thing that we really like about xScope is that it has the most comfortable tabbing we've seen from all Android browsers that we've tested. It uses simple finger swipe that's extremely fast to use and it makes tabbing a pleasure. Sadly, as with the other browsers that we have reviewed, xScope 6 also has a few downsides. First of all, page viewing is not very optimized for some sites and this may be a source of irritation if you use this browser long enough. Scrolling is extremely fast if only one tab is opened, but it tends to lag when three or more are in use.

Pros:
Good load rates                             
Very fast and easy tabbing                   
Quick scrolling                   

Cons:
Some people may dislike the simple appearance of the browser
Page viewing is not optimized
Slows down considerably if you add more than two tabs


Conclusion


We took this trip into the land of the Android browsers just to see what the little green robot offers in the browser department. We all know that smartphones are bound to get more sophisticated and powerful and the same goes for the wireless networks that we use to connect our devices to the internet. All of these browsers have their strong points and weaknesses, but probably Opera Mobile is the best Flash-disabled browser, since it is fluid, stable and executes the functions it has very well. As for the Flash-enabled browsers, we think that the stock Froyo browser is the best, because it provides full Flash Player 10.1 support, as well as good load-rates. The most important thing, though, is your opinion on which one is the best Android browser, so tell us with your comments.




15 Comments
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posted on 01 Dec 2010, 09:33 2

1. Allday28 (Posts: 274; Member since: 19 Nov 2010)


Have someone do the reviews that has good english!!!!! WOW!

posted on 01 Dec 2010, 10:29 1

2. gomets15217 (Posts: 38; Member since: 13 Jul 2008)


>someone that has good english.
>has good english.
>good english.

posted on 07 Dec 2010, 09:45

12. iSlim (unregistered)


THIS IS BY FAR THE WORST REVIEW EVER! JUST LOOK THE WAY HE PINCHES THE PAGES. PHONE ARENA, IF YOU KEEP ONE HIRING PEOPLE JUST LIKE THE ONE WHO MADE THE REVIE, YOU ARE GOING DOWN. :DD

posted on 01 Dec 2010, 10:30

3. remixfa (Posts: 13930; Member since: 19 Dec 2008)


and i thought i over used commas :).

i normally bounce between stock froyo and opera. when not on a froyo device, i bounce between dolphin and skyfire depending on the page.

posted on 01 Dec 2010, 10:44

4. T (unregistered)


I use Dolphin HD, they left off that the stock Froyo app doesn't have a close / exist function. I like that my history is cleared and browser closes.

posted on 01 Dec 2010, 12:24

5. fslg9 (unregistered)


Very nice and precise review. Thank you very much.

@Allday28: You cannot blame anyone just being not a native English speaker. The phone reviewers at phonearena sucks. Only few, like this guy keeps phonearena alive.

posted on 01 Dec 2010, 23:12

6. ghost_uwi (Posts: 47; Member since: 05 Nov 2010)


good review. Nice comparison.

posted on 02 Dec 2010, 01:04

7. georgian (unregistered)


for firefox you forgot to mention:
no text reflow
no copy-paste

posted on 02 Dec 2010, 01:13

8. sunshine (unregistered)


Frankly speaking I love Skyfire as it has everything as described and the wonderful thing is the video playback (unlike in stock browser who always gives me choppy playback) , plus I never face the slowness on my Incredible. So no cons for me :)

posted on 02 Dec 2010, 14:21

9. Sharon (unregistered)


With such a thorough review of the Android browser market I was surprised not to see the new ACCESS NetFront Life Browser included. It was launched two weeks ago and was even covered by Phone Arena. Check out the story here:http://www.phonearena.com/news/Android-Browser-Race_id14851. It would be great to get your opinion of the NFL Browser added to this story.

posted on 03 Dec 2010, 20:10

10. cthunder (Posts: 104; Member since: 02 Nov 2010)


For now Dolphin HD, If it improves, Firefox all the way.

posted on 06 Dec 2010, 06:21

11. Ragflan (unregistered)


Please give Dolphin Mini a go. It's really really good and addresses most of the Cons mentioned above for other browsers. It's still a BETA release so you can only get it through Dolphin's official site.

posted on 23 Dec 2010, 01:12

13. evozero (unregistered)


I find Opera Mini to be the fastest browser around. Yes, it does not have Flash, so I use Skyfire when I need that function...

posted on 05 Jan 2011, 20:21

14. antprdgm (unregistered)


I use dolphin hd. The stock froyo browser certainly isn't bad, but the tab integration sucks. I've tried fennec beta (mobile firefox), opera mini, and dolphin mini. I'm posting this from dhd even.

Oh yeah - the dolphin team throws their users goodies too like a free christmas theme etc.

posted on 13 Jan 2011, 05:53

15. Cougar (unregistered)


Huh?

What about UC Browser from UC Web ?

www.ucweb.com/index.html

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