Five Best Android Web Browsers
By Alan Henry
There are dozens of great web browsers available for Android, depending on the features you’re looking for. Whether it’s syncing with your desktop, or super-speedy browsing, or support for flash navigation, you have options galore—some of them popular, others not so much. This week we’re going to look at five of the best Android browsers, based on your nominations.
Earlier in the week, we asked you which Android browser you thought was the best. We tallied your nominations, and while there are plenty to choose from, we only have room for the top five.
Firefox for Android has come a long way since its days in beta. It’s fast, it’s free, it fully supports Firefox Sync, so if you use Firefox on the desktop, it’ll bring in your bookmarks and passwords. It’s the first mobile browser to truly support Do Not Track, and the “Awesome Page” start screen that shows you all of your recently visited tabs helps you get right back to what you were doing if you had to put your phone down. It even supports add-ons and Personas, although there aren’t too many of them yet. A few more options, and Firefox would be a good contender for our favorite, but it’s clearly already one of yours, and for good reason.
Chrome for Android finally left beta late last month, which means now it can go on to be the new “stock” browser on Android devices…assuming you’re running Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich or higher. If you are running ICS or Jelly Bean on your device, Chrome for Android is a must-download. It supports Incognito Mode browsing, bookmark syncing via Chrome Sync, and in its most recent updates, now supports search syncing, tab syncing, and more—anything that Chrome can sync on your desktop will be right there waiting for you on your Android device. Chrome for Android is also optimized for mobile, meaning it’s blazing fast. The only downside is that Google hasn’t made it available for phones running Gingerbread or tablets stuck with Honeycomb.
Dolphin Browser is our favorite web browser for Android, and for good reason. Dolphin’s options and tools are unparalleled, even when compared to the big name browsers, supports dozens of third-party plug-ins and tools to extend its features, has built-in speech-to-text thanks to Dolphin Sonar, supports on-screen gestures to open bookmarks and navigate around pages, and comes in two flavors: the “HD” version for phones that can handle all of its features, and a “Mini” version for device owners who want speed and snappy performance over options. Even if you gravitate to one of the big names, Dolphin is worth at least trying.
Back in the early days of Android, one of the first browsers to challenge the stock browser was a now-vanished app called Miren. Miren was a great and feature-rich browser, but for reasons unknown, it’s tough to find these days. If you liked Miren, Boat Browser is its spiritual successor. Fast, lightweight, and completely free, Boat is intuitive, supports add-ons, and has a powerful voice control engine (so you can say “Facebook” and the browser will bring up Facebook for you). You can even skin and theme the UI if you like, customize the speed dial start page with your favorite sites, and more. If your phone can’t handle the full version—or you just want a lighter app (which is hard to believe), Boat Mini is there for you.
If you’re a fan of Opera on the desktop, Opera Mobile will suit you perfectly. Opera Mobile supports Opera Link, so you can sync your bookmarks, speed dial, and other user preferences with your desktop Opera install. Aside from that, Opera Mobile is fast, free, and goes out of its way to compress data in the background so you can browse your favorite sites without blowing past your wireless carrier’s data caps. Opera even has its own mini-app store, full of third party add-ons that improve the browser or games that make it more fun to use. Have an older device? Opera Mini might be a better choice—you get most of the features, but even more speed.
There you have it: your picks for the five best web browsers available for Android. Now it’s time to decide which one is the best overall.
This week’s honorable mention goes out to the stock Android browser: the one that ships on most phones pre-Ice Cream Sandwich. It varies from OEM to OEM, but many of you said that you just didn’t need to download another browser, and the one that came with your phone is good enough for you. That’s fair, but we’re looking at alternatives here!
Have something to say about one of the contenders? Want to make the case for your favorite keyboard, even if it wasn’t included in the list? Remember, the top five are based on your most popular nominations from the call for contenders thread from earlier in the week.
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