We asked and you answered. According to our February poll, Dolphin is the favorite Android browser of our readers. And there are plenty of reasons to love Dolphin, from the blazing-fast navigation, to the intuitive way to access bookmarks and the support for add-ons.
Another cool thing about Dolphin is how easy it is to control your browsing experience using nothing but gestures. Being a Webkit-based browser, Dolphin naturally supports the swipes and zooms that we all know and love, but the app also lets you assign custom gestures to websites, for quick access. Want to go to Facebook? Just scribble an “f”. It’s easy and fun, and it’s the kind of simplicity-oriented thinking that propelled the Dolphin browser to the number one position.
Now Dolphin takes another leap towards simplifying web browsing by adding Sonar, a voice control feature. If you ever used Google Voice Actions or Siri, you know what Sonar is all about.
The new feature in Dolphin 7.4.0 makes use of Android’s voice API. Just click the Sonar icon in the Dolphin UI, or, even simpler, shake your phone, and the Dolphin browser will start listening to you. Tell it to open Twitter.com and up pops Twitter. Fun!
In most cases, Sonar will open the Google search results page, but that’s not what’s interesting about it. After all, Android incorporates voice search already. What’s interesting is the ability to use commands like Refresh, Back, Forward, or Home to get around the Web, tap-free. Also, you can do simple searches faster than ever before. Just say “Facebook search Joe” and Dolphin will open directly the Facebook search page so you can find your buddy. This works similarly for other sites, such as Twitter or Ebay, but it seems that, for now, this functionality is limited.
Here’s a funny promotional video, to get an idea about how Dolphin Sonar works.
Along with the new Sonar feature, Dolphin 7.0.4 brings some slight improvements to the UI. For instance, the trademark bookmark side panel is less prone to accidentally opening. MoboTap, the makers of Dolphin, also turned the Webzine feature (you know, the one that got them in trouble for alleged privacy breaches) into an add-on.
If you try out Dolphin Sonar and find it underwhelming, keep in mind that the new voice control feature is just in its infancy. Sonar is not designed to compete with Google Voice Actions, Siri, or other “intelligent” virtual assistant. Rather than that, Sonar is just another way to improve the experience of using the Dolphin web browser. And in time, the Sonar might become more intelligent.
With the addition of voice commands, Dolphin becomes even more compelling as a web browser. And that’s exactly what MoboTap needs to do, at a time when the competition is heating up (both the stock Ice Cream Sandwich and Chrome for Android have received lots of positive reviews).
However, regardless how Google’s own browsers will do, Dolphin will probably remain the best third-party Android browser available.