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.
The setup process for Dolphin is a breeze. Let’s quickly run through it.
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.
I experimented setting the volume buttons to scroll through tabs, and it was great! Note that it will take preference over Media Volume Control.
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.
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.
You can still view your current pages the old fashioned way, if that’s your thing.
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.
Bookmarks and Toolbar UI
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.