Are you really using the best browser on your Android phone? If you’ve been using the stock Internet browser app on your phone for the longest time, well my friend, it’s time for an upgrade! The built-in browser might suit your needs but you’re really missing out on a lot if you’re not using one of the browsers we have listed below. Best of all, they’re all (mostly) free.
Dolphin Browser HD (free, beta Pad version and Mini also available)
Dolphin has been a mainstay browser in the Android Market and one of the reasons why it is so popular is because it offers a variety of Add-ons that add a lot of bells and whistles to the basic package. You can use add-ons to view PDFs right on the browser, stash secrets in a password manager for quick logins and even change the theme of your browser if you want it to be “less green”. If you want to get rid of the baggage, the Mini version should suit your lower powered phone just fine.
There’s also the tablet version, if you’re rocking a Honeycomb device. This browser sports gesture navigation, a smart address bar for auto-completing URLs as well as add-on support. One thing I like about it is the handy placement of the bookmarks as well as being able to go into fullscreen mode in one tap.
This is the browser that I use myself. I’ve found that it’s the best one that suits my needs. You can sync it with your desktop version of Firefox so that your tabs, passwords and bookmarks are updated wherever you go. It also has a very clean interface: one swipe to the right shows you your tabs and a swipe to the left shows navigation buttons.
It also has geolocation built in (something that only the default browser and very few others have), sharing pages to other apps and you can even use some of your favorite desktop Add-ons with it. It needs a fast processor though so it might feel a bit laggy if you’re using a lower-end Android.
Miren Browser (free)
Miren is a simple, fast and elegant alternative with a lot of small but very useful tweaks. You can swipe to go forward or back the current tab’s history, adjust brightness for bedtime reading, use the volume button to scroll for catching up on your reading while out and about, and arrange bookmarks into folders.
There’s also a handy bandwidth saver which loads only the text from websites and throws away everything else, something data plan dieters will enjoy. Miren also has a few advanced downloading controls in-app like allowing Flash content to only load when on Wi-Fi or killing downloads when you’re not on Wi-Fi.
Opera Mini and Opera Mobile (both free)
If your carrier or operator is gouging you with data fees, Opera Mini is the browser for you. This browser’s specialty is delivering optimized mobile pages to your phone by first pre-compressing them through Opera’s servers, making it ideal for lower-end Androids and those on a limited data plan. You save both time and money by getting pages that load much faster, perfect for news sites or search. It also carries some of the best features of its desktop sibling like Speed Dial for quick access to your favorite pages, sharing links with other apps and an interface that’s easy on the eyes.
How about Opera Mobile? For users with mid to higher end phones that have fast connections, Opera Mobile is the more capable browser between the two and works best for secure sites like your bank and PayPal, as well as for heavier, more involved websites. It also has syncing capabilities so you can tag along the open tabs and bookmarks on your browser when you need to run. And you can still tap into that sweet, sweet compression lovin’ by using its Opera Turbo option.
Skyfire Web Browser 4.0 (free)
Skyfire has a lot of features that sets it apart from the rest. The most visible is probably social integration where you can like website pages straight from the menu, as you can see above. It also has a Popular Pages tab that lets you check out the most talked about content among your social circles. There’s also a special feed reader in place that shows just the shared content on your Facebook feeds like webpages, images and videos.
Another service that Skyfire boasts about is its on-the-fly conversion of Flash video via their servers, essentially unlocking unsupported media by converting them into the HTML5 version your phone loves so much. Overall, it’s a good browser especially for those with an active social media life and for people who want to channel surf the web using its many content discovery features.
Look familiar? It should be since the xScope takes a few design cues from Google Chrome, especially the way it shows tabs. Other than that, it’s also packed with a lot of features. It’s both a web browser and a file browser so you can download files and check them out in one app. It also lets you add themes, has built-in Flash and an option to import your bookmarks from Google.
Navigation is also pretty slick. You can swipe to switch tabs, pinch to zoom on websites and swipe down to reveal the notification bar. Because it’s a bit feature-laden, xScope is best used by faster phones.
If you want to support the devs, the Pro version has all the free one’s features as well as support for sending files and sharing webpage screenshots.
If you’ve got any other browsers you like to use that we haven’t listed here, feel free to add them in the comments.