What’s the best Browser for Android?

I imagine most people these days use a service to remember their countless credentials that have built up over the course of their internet career. I use LastPass and while looking for the Android browser extension I stumbled on Dolphin HD.

I was out and about and needed credentials for something and it was time to go LastPass Premium so I could have it on the move. The reviews for the official app were not so flattering. I saw the extension for Dolphin HD and tried to give it a go.

Enter Dolphin HD

Dolphin HD is developed by MoboTap, who also make a version for Android tablets (still in beta). My immediate thought was “this is like having Chrome on my phone” and I’m sure you’ll agree.

Getting Setup

The setup process for Dolphin is a breeze. Let’s quickly run through it.

Initial Setup

Gestures are something new for me in a mobile browser, we’ll explore these later. Being able to store data on an SD Card is handy, just in case. You can also run through the setup process again at your own will if you dislike something.

Data Storage and Gesture Settings

Pinch-to-Zoom, Homescreen Shortcuts and Volume Button Settings

I experimented setting the volume buttons to scroll through tabs, and it was great! Note that it will take preference over Media Volume Control.

My Favorite Feature

Being able to import bookmarks is brilliant. If you’re like me and are running custom firmware on your device, you lose the carrier bloat, which in my case translates to being easily able to check your data and call usage from anywhere. It only opens a URL in browser, but it’s important none the less, and with more and more internet traffic coming from mobile phones and tablets, the amount of people using these as their primary device also increases.

Interface

Tabbed browsing beats having to view a thumbnail of all pages open. Speed dial, a feature synonymous with Opera, makes an appearance and is equally as handy on mobile as any other platform.

Tabbed Browsing, lovely.

You can still view your current pages the old fashioned way, if that’s your thing.

The Old Fashioned View. Ready the Monacle

Webzine

Webizine, Underwhelming

A feature unique to Dolphin, and an underwhelming one at that. It’s seemingly a very minimal way of viewing your social feeds. Other than a way for people in China to get Twitter access, I can only figure that it’s their take on a proprietary RSS. More info available on their blog.

Twitter and Adding More Feeds

Bookmarks and Toolbar UI

Demonstration of Enlarged Bookmarks (left) and Toolbar (right).

Bookmarks pop-out on the left, and are extremely easy to manage, it also keeps track of your most visited sites as well as browsing history. And when adding bookmarks, you can add them to speed dial. Considering the area available to use, the minimal implementation is a winner.

Bookmarks and History Maximized

Gestures

Mouse Gestures are usable in Firefox, Chrome and Opera — and apparently even Internet Explorer. The gesture has always had it’s place, but mouse gestures on a laptop or desktop setup always felt unnatural to me.

It works really well on a screen this size using your hands. Given that they’re already on the screen you need only tap the bottom left or wherever else you may have configured it, and then swipe away. Dolphin comes with nine default gestures that are all translatable into normal browsing habits.

Predefined Gestures and Adding a New Gesture

Add-ons and Themes

Add-ons and Themes

Selecting “Get More Add-ons” or “Get More Themes” will open a list of what’s available. Following through takes you to the Android Market to install. There are only four custom themes currently, but there is a vast range of Add-ons. You can check them all on the Android Market. Some are useful, such Web to PDF and In-Browser Brightness, some, I think I would struggle to find a use for. Example: Show IP of the Current Page. It’s neat, but not particularly useful.

There’s Still More.

Dolphin HD has a further abundance of configurable settings. You can set it to mimic other devices, such as iPads or even a Desktop computer. Most of these relate to the application’s behavior.

Performance

In an attempt at some basic benchmarking, I performed three fairly standard tests.

The HTML5test: Scoring 183 of a possible 450.
The Acid3 Test: Scoring 93/100
And finally, the Acid2 Test, which has a far more visual output:

Could have been better

View more results across more browsers and platforms for the HTML5Test

And in Closing

It’s definitely the best browser I have used on Android so far. Firefox, Opera and the iOS Browser all out perform Dolphin on Tests, but for a superior interface and fantastic Add-on support, it’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make.

Particularly as I’ll probably never experience the performance difference.

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  • Ben Barber

    You may want to edit your lead-in paragraphs a bit. I kept waiting for some discussion about LastPass or password management on Android, but this article clearly has nothing to do with that.

    (This comment is intended for the author and not part of the public discussion; please feel free to exercise comment moderation :)

    • Aaron Osteraas

      Hey Ben,

      Thanks for the feedback, though I thought the article title indicated the content.

      However password management is something we’ve got in the works, as we move to mobile more and more, these topics become more and more important

      If you’ve got any other feedback you’re welcome to email me aaron [dot] osteraas [at] sitepoint [dot] com

      Cheers

      • Dawn Quixote

        Ben is correct, though, your writing will only be strengthened by staying focused!

  • http://www.xionhost.com/ XionHost.com

    Nice post and good luck in your ventures!

  • http://consolegaming.eu Rjs37

    Does it have any kind of syncing functionality? I’ve just started using it in Firefox and I really like the idea of maintaining my bookmarks etc between computers/devices.

    Though the password management in Firefox is rather lacking. I recently enabled the master password thinking it would just hide the passwords from being shown in the settings but instead it keeps popping up every time I use Firefox asking for the password for the ‘software security device’. First time that popped up I thought it was a virus. I liked the idea of not having to dig out my passwords each time but don’t want to have to keep on entering my master password all the time.

    Looking forward to a password management article though.

  • Mick

    Isn’t it just using built-in webkit engine? So you 183 points in html5test are just standard Android 2.2 browser score

  • http://TypeZine.Wordpress.com Márcio Guerra

    Hi! Nice article, however I would like to open up a bit the discussion to a particular point, Flash. I am almost sure that I was told that to WM6 there was a browser that allowed us to play Flash content, because it was created under their servers, and then the device would download what their devices «assembled» and it would allow us to play that very same content. I am no so sure if that browser was or not Dolphin… I have a guess that it was, but, like I said, not sure…
    Now, can you tell us something relating Flash in a tablet or Android device (I have this browser in my aPad-alike-tablet-that-came-from-China) and it doesn’t run Flash sites or content…

    Do you have any ideas?

    Thank you!

    Márcio Guerra

  • Luke74

    I agree…DolphinHD is the best browser on Android. Tried on different tablets and it simply rocks.

  • Ray

    Best browser hey? I strongly disagree with that. For those interested, I would advise you take a good hard look at the following: http://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?t=1319529

    After reading, and only after reading, see if you still think Dolphin is worth having on your phone.