The Best Android Browsers of 2012

March 23, 2012
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    Update – We have a new list of the best Android browsers, check it out!

    There are so many Android browsers out there today, and each one claims to be better than the last. Some offer great experiences, whilst others boast that they are simple and just get the job done. I’ve been through many browsers in the last two years, and found a great set of them to showcase to you.

    So without ado, these are the best Android browsers of 2012!

    Google Chrome Beta

    Chrome is already incredibly popular on computers. In fact, just a few days ago, it became the world’s most used browser (just for a day, for now, but it’s clear where things are heading). And, over the last few months, Google has released and updated the beta version of Chrome for Android 4.0 devices.

    Altogether, Chrome for Android is a very smooth browser, with minimalism and speed as its primary objectives. On the downside, even if Chrome loads most sites as a desktop browser would, occasionally some sites send a mobile version instead. Chrome doesn’t have a toggle for requesting desktop sites, which is something I would like to have.

    Since Google and pretty much the entire world is phasing out the use of Flash in favor of HTML5 and Javascript, Chrome does not have Flash integration either. So, regardless if you have Flash on your device or not, nothing will render in Chrome. This would be fine in perhaps two years time, when nobody is using Flash anymore, but for now it’s an annoyance because some sites are still clinging onto their Flash players and services.

    Nevertheless, Chrome surely deserves a rating of 9/10.

    • Clean and Minimalistic appearance, but fast browsing.
    • The same great tab management from the desktop sibling.
    • Does not support Flash.
    • No ability to request desktop version of a website.

    Opera Mobile Browser

    Opera is a fairly bulky browser, but very popular amongst mobile users. There are two versions available: Opera Mobile Browser, aimed at higher-end devices, and Opera Mini, which is aimed at older and lower spec devices. So, regardless of the age or specs of your phone, you’ll be able to enjoy a well-made 3rd party browser from Opera.

    The Opera team brought one of their best desktop features over to the Android version, and that feature is Opera Turbo. This optional feature uses external servers and routing to compress data before it’s sent to your device, much in the way Amazon’s Silk browser operates. As a result, you end up with less data being broadcast to your device, so pages load faster and your mobile data plan will last you longer.

    Unfortunately, the browser can be slow at times, even with Opera Turbo enabled, and it’s also difficult to get websites to send their desktop version instead of the mobile counterpart.

    For a rating, it receives 7/10.

    • Supports Flash.
    • Offers Opera Turbo for quicker and less data-intensive browsing.
    • Versions available for high-end and low-end devices.
    • Occasionally slow on some devices, but performs well otherwise.

    Firefox

    Considering how much I love Firefox on my desktop, I was slightly disappointed when I tried the Android version. The application itself (not the web pages) is very slow to load, and then everything seems sluggish during usage. What won back some favor in my eyes is the fact you can use Firefox Sync to share your tabs across your devices. I quickly imported all of my browsing history and open tabs from my desktop, and I could do the same in reverse from the Android version.

    Firefox for Android also has a distinct method of hiding and showing your active tabs. Dragging in from the left hand side of the screen reveals them, and you can continue browsing as normal. Either tapping the ‘X’ or pulling your finger to the right hides them again. This allows you to quickly see your tabs, but not at the expense of screen real-estate.

    The issue that ensured that, though it’s a useful browser, I wouldn’t be using Firefox regularly was the lack of a ‘Request Desktop Version’ button, or anything similar in the settings. I use my tablet a lot and I dislike it when sites make mistakes and send me mobile optimized versions. I like to use my device to its full abilities, so not having the ability to make Firefox act like a desktop browser was the clincher for me.

    Firefox is awarded 7/10.

    • Firefox Sync integration, keep your history and tabs available on all your devices.
    • Can be slow to render web pages
    • Innovative way of quickly hiding and revealing your Tabs.
    • Lack of ability to request a desktop version of a website.

    Dolphin Browser HD

    What impresses me the most about Dolphin is that it is so sleek when scrolling. Though we see applications advertised as following our fingers perfectly and being as smooth to the eyes as possible, they often judder and jerk their way around. Dolphin makes itself stand apart by adding fluidity to browsing . The render speeds of pages are lightning fast too.

    I also like Dolphin’s tab style, it is simple and thin, and doesn’t try to hide itself. In fact, it reminds me of Google Chrome in that regard.

    Amongst the tools Dolphin offers are a full-screen mode, a screen-cut/capture mode, and a web-to-PDF tool, though these do have to be downloaded through links in the application. Dolphin has plenty of other plugins which you can download from the Play Store.

    Dolphin Browser has to be awarded 10/10!

    • Hand Gestures to manipulate windows.
    • Scrolling is lightning fast in response (for the TF101 at least).
    • Thin tab styling and management, resembling Chrome’s.
    • Additional tools and plugin’s can be installed from the Play Store.

    Boat Browser

    Boat Browser attempts to maximize the usage of your device’s screen by placing the toolbar on top of your web pages at the bottom of the screen, as you can see in the screenshot. It is fairly nippy in usage, though not the fastest of all the browsers here. It also doesn’t support Flash, which is a slight let down. What is does let you do is easily toggle how your device appears to websites. In the settings you can toggle between Android, iPhone, Desktop, Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari, and iPad. Websites you visit will respond slightly differently depending on how they perceive your device.

    Boat Browser also has a unique home screen, within which you can quickly add hundreds of your favourite websites for quick browsing.

    This browser seems to warrant a 9/10 rating!

    • Add hundreds of bookmarks to the landing screen.
    • Doesn’t support Flash.
    • Toggle your device’s ‘appearance’ to websites, Android, Desktop, Firefox etc.
    • Fairly fast in use.

    OverSkreen

    OverSkreen is an extremely clever bit of kit. It overlays a window over whichever application you are currently running, and can be minimized, resized, and focused on when needed. You can have as many of these screens as you wish to.

    It’s great that OverSkreen can render Flash. This means that the next time you’re going through your Twitter feed, you can open a video, wait for it to buffer and then watch it whilst continuing to look at other tweets. It’s a great ability, and it would be good for other applications to be able to replicate this behaviour. OverSkreen continued to impress me by having a ‘Request Desktop Version’ toggle switch that is easily reachable, and you can also quickly toggle the blocking of pop-ups. Though this wasn’t of much use in my regular browsing, it may well be useful for somebody else.

    As for my final rating, I think OverSkreen deserves a 9/10.

    • View web pages on-top of other applications!
    • Request Desktop versions of websites.
    • Occasionally slow to respond to window resizing, minimisation and closing.
    • Toggle the blocking of pop-ups.

    So, which Android browser is the best?

    Well, everyone has different needs. To give you a rough idea, I would say that the fastest browser (in terms of rendering speed) is Chrome. The one with the most utilities and features to offer has to be OverSkreen. For me though, the best Android browser overall is Dolphin HD. It is smooth-scrolling, easy to use, filled with features, and resembles Chrome in appearance.

    What about you? Which Android browser do you prefer?

    Which is the best Android Browser?

    View Results

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    Comments

    • Cale

      Ninesky.

    • Leif81

      Stock Browser if I want ot use desktop user agent
      Chrome for general usage (hope they integrate the user agent setting soon)
      Overskreen to open links from twitter & co

    • Aris

      In the article, the author says that firefox mobile doesnt have an option to render desktop websites or full version of websites. I disagree because there really is that option. On the Preferences menu there is a User Agent option where you can choose from different ways you can render the website–mobile or desktop…try it…

      • Sam Cater

        I am the author, and I can’t see it there I’m afraid.

        • Mabar81

          You have to use Phony extension…

          • Ed French

            yes, but it works flawlessly and firefox’s more accurate html engine means that heavy sites work well- horses for courses!

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_UAAWB7KGHYQR2ZGCJER24NE2QA SkyDancer

        Phony wouldn’t work on my Motorola Photon, especially on weather.com. It absolutely refused to give me the actual web site, even though there was a link to it at the bottom of the mobile page. Checked Phony preferences. They were set correctly.

    • chrobry

      Where is Skyfire?

    • Gregory Opera

      Opera is the best hands-down, both on computers and mobile devices… If you haven’t used it, take it for a spin.

      Between Opera Turbo and Opera Link (synchronize your bookmarks and various settings between your computers and devices), you can’t go wrong…

    • Raymond Strack

      Dolphin HD! It’s basically the most legit. Been using it for over a year and I WILL NEVER leave it behind.

    • Tuodrage

      Dolphin hd is ok… the gestures and extensions seem wanting… their just not as useful as chrome extensions on pc, tried to get the hang of gestures but the learning curve is quite steep… at the end the gestures just seemed like a gimmick sort of like siri… abused for a couple of days then forgotten…chrome is full of potential… but for me, stock browser is still where the beef is!

      • Sam Cater

        I’m hoping that when Chrome comes out of Beta, it will be lightning fast just like it’s desktop counterpart :)

        • Pravin

          What I hate in Chrome on ICS is, there is no option to exit from the application even if you dont want to use it. It keeps running and you need to go in task manager to kill it.

    • Etx1991et

      Stock browser crashes a lot for me; no idea why though so now I am currently using the overskreen browser or chrome beta.

    • Bagsarun

      i dont like the touch on dolphin… somehow i have to press the screen hard enough to perform scrolling actions while the dolphin browser is open… otherwise dolphin was my number one choice too :)

    • Qwerty

      why no mention Opera Mobile support flash?

    • Joserodriguez229

      xscope is way better,unable to try chrome on my phone droid x,but try all the others,including maxthon browser

    • Nergiotto

      review sucks. ugliest browser like firefox rated same score as opera? give me a break. chrome has nothing interesting not even simple flash support and rated 9/10?!

      • Sam Cater

        Flash is an outdated system for rendering video, images, and animations. HTML5 coupled with CSS 3 and Javascript can do everything Flash can without requiring plugins from Adobe. Flash also puts a great load on the CPU and graphics card of a computer, whilst the aforementioned markup and scripting languages do not.

        Firefox in my view is on par with Opera. 7/10 doesn’t discredit either of them. They are both good browsers, as are all of the ones here, hence the title ‘Best Android Browsers’. I have found Chrome and Dolphin to be exceptional, hence their high rating.

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_4C6HTA2K5ARCWZXCMTGODHSOQQ Jura

        agree. Flash support is basic and ever first feature the browser must support for next couple of years until all web sites convert their content to HTML5. Without flash support Chrome is useless.

    • Ff_458

      Maxthon Android Web Browser is my favorite

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100002438484550 Adam Samuels

      I have a Galaxy Note, I’m surprised by your observation that Dolphin HD is a smooth scroller: I’ve found the exact opposite to be true. Opera beats it out in that regard on my phone.

    • Ed Ward

      Stock or Dolphin on my Galaxy or Exhibit. I used to used Skyfire, but somehow I forgot to re-download it when I changed phones. Opera mini was my favorite on my HTC Diamond but I don’t use it anymore.

    • afdgadgadhdfgbsdf

      I would use Chrome for Android, but it can’t request the desktop site like the new ICS browser can.
      Tsk tsk. That’s a deal-breaker for me.
      I can’t wait until Chrome gets this feature, though!

    • God

      Xscope and Skyfire for video

    • Asdf

      No re-flow after pinch-zoom out/in, close to useless for phone use, uninstalled.

      • Robert

        the stock browser in ICS?
        I thought it was there when i had it, now that i have cyanogenmod, i know for sure i have it.
        look around in your settings.

    • Siamplante

      I’ve found the stock browser to be the most trustworthy dolphin gave ne a few problems which led me to believe there was something better out there. Opera sucks. Should try ninesky and chrome

      On my S2

    • Bohl8

      xscope by far

    • Garth

      ICS browser +. If you are running android 4.0 try it out and tell me I’m wrong.

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/IM76NJ3NATYKH62VYLDGRNX2FI drdo mobile

      Maxthon browser. Check it out

    • Gioslanik

      i use Maxthon it rocks ..

    • Richard Corner

      Did you give any thought to how good each browser is at preserving user privacy? Dolphin, for example, is very slick but was found to be transmitting every URL the user visited to the company’s servers in plain text. I don’t know whether it still does this (I hope not), but it shows either incompetence about security or a disregard for the users (or both). Dolphin is not the only browser for Android to have been accused of spying, and some browsers send information to servers in China, for purposes no-one seems to know. Privacy is a serious in mobile browsers – probably even more so than in desktop browsers, since your mobile device is so well suited to spying – it knows where you are, has all your texts, emails, contacts, contains cameras and a microphone, and so on.

      One other small point: Chrome does now have a feature where you can tell it always to request the desktop version of a site.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_4C6HTA2K5ARCWZXCMTGODHSOQQ Jura

      MiniBrowser beta is the best for my Galaxy S2 running ICS. Exists MiniBrowser Pro with built-in adblock and video download but it is not for free unfortunately.

    • Rigtec18

      I haven’t tried all of the 1′s mentioned in review, but “Dolphin HD”, and “Opera Mobile”, are two of my favorites. I did try out the “Opera mini”, and found it to be problematic on Android.

      The “fit to screen” feature didn’t work on most websites where reading was my objective….e.g.,reviews, articals, stories. Also, writing in fields like this one would be a problem because the curser gets very jittery, or becomes invisable, or hides beyond the margines.

      One I like that’s not mentioned here is from “Maxthor”. It’s free, and compatable with most servers. It also has a great “privacy” feature, as does the Dolphin HD.

      You can set it so that it will NOT, store your browsing history when you exit. You can also set it to “ask before deleting history”.

    • Rachit

      I love maxthon browser. Prior to maxthon it was a tie between opera Mobile and Dolphin HD

    • clbdyv

      Xscope pro is the best browser I’ve tried. Worth the small price. Fastest and best U.I.

    • rini

      firefox is best

    • Kokan Malenko

      maxthon

    • james davis

      Skyfire every time for me.Best to disable video from settings to stop annoying pop up.

    • http://www.facebook.com/rob.bennett.14289 Rob Bennett

      my fave was skyfire, though now i have ics on my vibrant and the default browser is FAST.

    • http://www.facebook.com/TheKraken93 Cody Daniels

      What is the name for the Google Chrome Beta? I can’t ever find it.

    • Joe Karam

      thanks a lot for the great article. just tried Dolphin browser, pretty impressive and much faster than the stock browser.

    • MrToy

      I got a new tablet this week and tried several browsers. Chrome was no better than the stock browser. Opera has a strange way of handling tabs. Boat was too watered down (pun intended). Dolphin was kinda confusing. Maxthon HD has so far been my favorite. It’s lightweight, attractive, and functions more like a desktop PC browser than any other browser I tried. Only problem is the RSS add-on wouldn’t install.

    • Terry Sand

      I recommend to try MiniBrowser beta. Very nice, fast and lightweight browser. Pro version unfortunately not for free but is very fast and has adblocker and video downloader.

    • basant

      i uses there browsers because its different features
      dolphin HD,
      Google chrome,
      Fire Fox proudly non-profit; opens all the tabs at a time not like Google chrome.
      http://www.technews99.com/android/top-browsers-for-android-jelly-bean/276/

    • Chris

      puffin browser is lightning quick! And no crashes so far!

    • http://www.facebook.com/joeygueez Joe Guido

      Boat Browser is soooo underrated and out performs all these browsers.

    • lightsleeper23

      Need to have a re-look at this friend. Dolphin has gone downhill. I use to love it. Then every update made it worse. Can’t even long press on things from my device anymore. Runs like crap now. Had to uninstall. :( Now still searching for a great tabbed browser.

    • Joe Francisco

      As great as Dolphin HD is, can’t get ad blocker. As great as Opera and Chrome may be, can’t get them for Droid X. Much as it pains me to say, default Browser is best available for Droid X if you want speed; Dolphin Mini is a tie. Dolphin HD wins for balance of speed and features (except for lack of an ad blocker add-on, of course).

    • 01hawkeye

      Use to use dolphin but pinch zoom doesn’t work on my Moto X. Switched to boat, it has everything I liked about dolphin and pinch zoom works

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