Browsing the web is perhaps the most quintessential thing that anybody does on a PC, and, by extension, their mobile. Whether it's your tablet or smartphone we're talking about, the odds are that you're spending a good chunk of hands-on time inside a browser app.
But navigating the maze that is the web is no picnic, especially when you consider the considerably smaller form-factor of something like a smartphone, and even a tablet. The lack of physical keyboard and a mouse means that you're pretty much left with a clumsy tool at your disposal -- hands. Extensions of our natural body they might be, but it turns out that they're not all that dexterous as we like to think, which likely explains the rush towards bigger screens. At least partially. Unfortunately, we're nearing the limit of how much screens can grow, and there's no reason to think that touchscreen are going anywhere for the foreseeable future. So are we damned to adapt or suffer? Not really. A distinct few browser apps out there are, arguably, better suited for use on a smaller screen. In our view, those need be extremely simplistic in their approach to the format (Chrome), or thoroughly and meticulously thought-out (Dolphin). In today's pick, it was our aim to shortlist the 5 browser apps that either strike a masterful balance between speed, ease of use, and functionality, or truly excel in one particular area, without completely massacring the rest. Take a look
Note: you can check out our complete Android browser apps performance comparison here.
The 5 Android browser apps you need to try out before you settle
The 5 Android browser apps you need to try out before you settle
With downloads between 100 and 500 million, Chrome is the undisputed king of browser apps, at least in market share. Sure, Google's browser does come pre-loaded on plenty of apps, and the average users usually sticks with what's available, yet it can't be denied that Chrome just 'gets' the web. It's one of the most simplistic and minimalist cracks at the format out there, but it's been rigorously tested to boot, and is likely one of the most stable and reliable browser apps out there.
But its features set is quite shallow, so it may not appeal as much to the power users out there. The interface is built as to provide quick access to your most-commonly visited destinations, and there are also tabs for your bookmarks and history. Like most decent browsers out there, the app can be synchronized with Chrome for desktop, meaning that both devices are constantly aware of what you did on either, and keep the appropriate data handy. Other features include the option to request the desktop version of a site, incgonito tabs, search in page, and site compression for reduced data usage and faster loads.
In our comprehensive performance test
, Chrome consistently landed in the top 3, so you won't find it lacking in that regard, either.
The open-sourced Firefox browser is no stranger to the browsing space, having years of experience in the desktop space.
Alike to Chrome, Mozila Corp. has gone down the path of a more minimal experience, yet Firefox still sports a vast and comprehensive library of add-ons that can add a ton of flexibility to the app. Other features include an offline reader for articles that you've saved, and the same kind of desktop-to-mobile synchronization of tabs, bookmarks and history. Firefox also has support for the widest range of HTML5 standards, and it can even play H.264 video, so incompatibilities are rare at best.
Firefox has been downloaded between 50 and 100 million times, and it consistently landed in the top 3 in our comprehensive performance test
Now, Dolphin may not be as well-recognized by your typical PC Joe, but smartphone users love it. In fact, we could say that it's in a league of its own, with a drastically different approach to the format, at least in some regards. In other words, while the typical -- website compression, search, and desktop browser synchronization -- are all there, it also touts a number of more interesting features that just show that the browser was created with mobile in mind. To that end, apart from taking advantage of add-ons and a full-screen option, you can also create custom gestures that will serve as shortcuts to given sites, or access the voice search option by shaking your device. Lastly, a dedicated, three-way 'Dolphin Key' on the bottom left gives you quick access to three main options: new tab, gestures, and settings.
Dolphin has been downloaded between 10 and 50 million times, and it consistently landed in the top 5 in our comprehensive performance test
Built by the creative team behind the GO Launcher, Next Browser is, naturally, very beautifully-made. The interface shows a level of polish that we appreciate, and its quite colorful. It also has its own character, thanks to its built-in RSS feeder, which is broken down into categories, like Science, Entertainment, Sports, and trending news. Another distinguishing feature is 'Night Mode' which doesn't simply dim your screen, but also inverts whites into a dark grey, making it very pleasant to read at night or in a low-light environment. Basics, such as synchronization (Chrome for desktop only), find in page, incognito tabs, desktop mode, and full screen are all available. There's also a 'read offline' type feature, which can save a given piece for later viewing.
Next Browser has been downloaded between 5 and 10 million times already.
Puffin is different. Quite frankly, it barely manages an acceptable ease of navigation, and its looks are quite outdated. It's not the most feature-rich, either, but it's not exactly lacking.
So what made us put Puffin here? It's simple, really -- Puffin is, hands down, the fastest mobile browser there is. Puffin achieves this by leveraging cloud computing to do the heavy work, and it simply spits out the results for you. It's so fast, that it usually renders websites in their full, desktop glory -- they look just the way they would on your PC. Puffin is perfect for those of you who are using older devices that take their sweet time to load up anything, and don't mind the rather dated look. As stated, usability (e.g. panning and zooming) is far from the standard set by the rest of the browsers in this pick, but Puffin is just too fast for you to not check it out, before settling for a browser.
Puffin has been downloaded between 1 and 5 million times, and it consistently finished first in our comprehensive performance test