7 Browsers That Are Better Than The Native Android Browser

mobilehand   7 Browsers That Are Better Than The Native Android BrowserThe very first application I used when I first received my Asus Prime tablet running Android ICS was the native browser. I wanted to see what sort of features the latest native browser had these days.

While I wasn’t horribly disappointed with the browser, I wasn’t terribly excited about it either. I mean, it had all of the basic features you expect from a decent browser these days – tabbed  browsing, bookmarking and favorites, and easy navigation.  Unfortunately it lacked anything particularly notable – and these days, when I browse I really like to have access to some of the latest available features like voice search, gestures, and a very fast browsing experience.

So I set out to get a handle on the latest available Android web browsers out there that are better than the native ICS (Ice Cream Sandwich) Android browser. Some of the apps that made it to the top of this list have been covered here at MUO, and for very good reason. Over time, they’ve clearly become the leaders of the pack – the best of the best when it comes to a fully-functional mobile browser.

I am pleased to announce the 7 best Android web browsers to make your mobile browsing experience as awesome as possible, especially if you are browsing with a full-screen Android tablet.

The 7 Best Android Browsers

The native ICS browser is very straightforward. When you launch it, you’ll see the multiple tabs, bookmark, search and favorites icons easily accessible, and the settings menu up in the right side of the browser, where you can quickly enable or disable desktop or mobile browsing. When I’m on my tablet, while I used the native browser, I always just kept desktop browsing turned on.

Since I usually did my browsing on a Wi-Fi network, data transfer volume wasn’t an issue, and neither was network bandwidth.

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The bookmarks page on the ICS native browser is alright – a full page of icons featuring all of your saved bookmarks. You’ll see a similar page for your browsing history and any “saved pages” for offline reading.

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Those are good features and it’s really a decent browser for anyone that just wants a standard browser, but if you’re looking for a bit of an increase in performance and some cool features that you’re used to with the usual desktop browsers enjoy – like Chrome or Firefox – then you’ll want to install a new browser.

Chrome

If you’re a regular user of Chrome on your desktop or laptop, you’ll be glad to know that Chrome is now available for Android devices. When I first tried it on the Prime tablet, it was listed as Chrome beta, but now it’s a full, active version of Chrome.

It has the look and feel that you’ve come to expect from one of the greatest browsers on Earth – easy tabbed browsing, voice search with a tab in the URL bar on the mic icon, and quick access to settings, incognito (private) browsing and more from the dropdown menu on the right.

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From my very basic and brief tests, which involved loading large sites like CNN and other news sites with the browser, I noticed that this mobile version of Chrome is very fast – it definitely outperforms the native browser by far.

Firefox

As of the time of this writing, you can get Firefox in the Play Store, but there is also a Firefox Beta available. That’s the one I tested out, and I have to say I really liked it a lot. I am now torn between using mobile Chrome or mobile Firefox on my Android tablet on a regular basis. I don’t quite like the odd way that Firefox handles the tabbed browsing, but I do like performance and how Firefox has migrated to the same basic setup as Chrome, with quick menu access off on the right.

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Built-in “Save as PDF” is kind of slick, and the ability to quickly “Request Desktop Site” is nice too, especially with a tablet. Like I mentioned above, tabbed browsing is a little odd, with tabs listed off to a pane on the left which you can quickly open and close.

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I think the developers tried this as a way to conserve vertical real estate on the screen, but I kind of prefer tabs at the top and really don’t think they take up enough space to warrant this left approach. On the flip side, a nice thing about the left pane is that you can see a preview icon of all open tabs.

Maxthon

A surprising leader on this list is the Maxthon browser. Jessica recently reviewed this great browser and gave it high marks.  You can download either the standard Maxthon browser or the tablet version. I definitely wanted to see what the tablet version had to offer, and I was really surprised. I love the clean design, with quick tabs at the top, and a clean design that easily rivals Chrome.

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A few unique features that Maxthon offers above the other browsers includes a “night-reading” mode that you can enable from the right drop-down menu. You can adjust the brightness of the screen so that the screen is very easy to read in a dark room, without burning the hell out of your eyes in the process. I absolutely love this feature, especially for reading in bed without disturbing anyone else in the room.

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Much like Chrome and Firefox, you get a nice “new-tab” page which is customizable with the links that you want to add for quick access to your favorite pages.

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So, after trying Maxthon – which also had great performance as far as speed goes – I was torn between the three browsers, Firefox, Chrome and Maxthon. The ability to do custom gestures is wicked cool, and has me leaning more toward Maxthon each time I use it.

Skyfire

Skyfire is a little bit unique, with a slightly different style than most browsers. The URL bar is right at the very top of the page and the way it behaves takes a little bit of getting used to, because the way tabs and navigation is, it is just a little different than standard browsers

Of course, having a tablet where I’m not always on a Wi-Fi network and sometimes do want to use only the mobile version of pages, I love the ability to tap the Android/Desktop icon and switch that setting instantly with a tap of the finger.

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As I mentioned, the way the browser handles tabs is a little weird – with the number of tabs displayed inside the tabs icon. When you tap the tabs icon with your finger, it opens up a ribbon that displays all of your currently open tabs, or you can open a new tab by tapping the “+” sign.

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Page load speed is very fast, so this browser gets really high ranks for speed, but I would only recommend it to people that are looking for some kind of change from the look and feel of typical browsers like Chrome and Firefox. It definitely outperforms the native Android browser.

Dolphin

Another browser that I tested because I’d heard great things about it from Bakari was the Dolphin browser. Dolphin is another browser with a simple, easy to use interface but it also offers plenty of features to get it on this list.

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Aside from your usual browser features, you can quickly tap the little dolphin icon in the lower left corner to get instant access to the “Sonar” or gesture features. Gesture settings let you define URLs directly to custom gestures that you create.

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Sonar has a voice search feature where you can just say a word or website and the browser will take you there. This is of course very similar to the Chrome browser, except I like the fact that you can access both features quickly from the same page.

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The only drawbacks I could find about Dolphin was that it seemed to load pages more slowly, and I couldn’t find anywhere to switch my page view from mobile to desktop – a feature that is a must-have for me. However, for anyone looking for a good browser for an Android smartphone, this is a viable option over the native browser.

Puffin Free

I never thought I’d be recommending a browser called “puffin”, but I have to say, don’t let the name fool you. This isn’t just some cheap, cutsie web browser. It is a mobile browser that easily gives big players like Chrome and Maxthon a run for their money.

Just take a look at the quick keyboard and mouse apps at each corner of the display that give you the ability to use the sort of mouse features and keyboard functions you need to have on some websites, that can be kind of difficult to manage from other browsers.

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Need to click on a field that your touchscreen won’t let you select? Enable the mouse and click away. Can’t manage to highlight and copy text on the page with your other browsers? Not to worry, Puffing gives you the ability to copy and paste text with the keyboard function. Very nice.

There is also a form of gestures for some features in Puffin. For example, dragging three fingers up or down will drag the page. Squeezing three fingers together or apart will zoom in or zoom out. And the coolest feature of all is when you long-press two fingers on the screen.

This enables the “screenshot” mode, where you can crop a section of the browser display, and then save the image to your device, or share it with friends on your favorite social networks.

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That is a really cool feature, and provides big bonus points to the Puffin browser in this list of native browser alternatives.

Opera Mobile

Of course, no list of the top mobile browsers would be complete without a mention of the Opera browser. I’ve never been much of an Opera fan for the desktop, but a quick run with the Opera browser on the tablet makes it clear that the mobile browser stands head and shoulders above most others.

It also has a clean interface that is a bit unique from Chrome or Firefox, and the tabbed button shows you thumbnail previews of those tabs that are bigger than other browsers out there.

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The new-tab page offers big, clear thumbnails of your customized page links.

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And my favorite feature is the fact that the menu of settings and features is on the upper left rather than way off to the right side, as it is in most other mobile browsers. Additionally, the menu is organized with graphical buttons rather than just a dry text list. As you can see you get quick access to bookmarks, history, saved pages, recent downloads and even a “find in page” search feature not all mobile browsers offer.

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Hopefully, this is a comprehensive enough list. I think it’s clear that most of the usually top-hitters still make the list, but there are clearly a few other not-so-well-known Android web browsers out there that are putting in a great effort. I am seriously considering Maxthon my mobile browser of choice, so long as it can easily load all of my favorite web pages – not the least of which is MakeUseOf.

So, are any of these mobile browsers your favorite replacements for the native Android browser? Do you have any others that are at the top of your list? Share your thoughts and feedback in the comments section below!

Image Credit: hand pressing mobile via Shutterstock

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24 Comments -

0 votes

BoobLove

Every list I have seem doesn’t include the browser I prefer. Namely UCbrowser

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.UCMobile.intl&hl=no

0 votes

iVad3r

I’m an iOS user, i really liked android (my uncle have one), and i must say the native browser in Android and the Safari one in iOS, weren’t very “good”, that’s why i switched to Chrome, as i use it on all my PCs.

0 votes

John

What about Xscope ?

0 votes

Richard Borkovec

Dolphin is the one I use most, but Firefox is definitely a close second.

0 votes

Sebastian Hadinata

Whoa… I noticed Boat Browser is not included in the list. You should definitely give it a check: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.boatbrowser.free&hl=en

:D

0 votes

Emmanuel Olalere

I like Dolphin browser the best

0 votes

Jim Carter

This caught my eye because I’m an IT professional and my Android phone is a very valuable tool. Needless to say; a reliable web browser is a necessity. Here’s my quick take on 3 in order I tried them:

Dolphin HD: Hands down the most feature packed, but also the most unreliable with bad updates and frequent force close. I cast it aside because of both.

Maxthon: Stable, but very few features. My big complaint was it’s odd behavior with tabs. It eventually became too irritating.

Boat: I can’t believe it not included in this review because it’s rating on Google Play is very high. VERY STABLE!! Fewer features than Dolphin, but far more than Maxthon. Behaves the way I want. I’m sticking with Boat.

0 votes

Lieschen Müller

My favorite ones are Opera Mobile and, since an update improved the tab handling on a tablet, Firefox. Although Opera is faster I like the quick and easy bookmark sync with Firefox desktop clients.

0 votes

Rohit

iBrowser. Simply awesome and insanely fast even on a low budget phone!!!!

0 votes

Mark LaFlamme

I’ll second the nod for Boat Browser. I’ve tried every browser on this list and as far as I’m concerned, Boat is as good if not better than every one. It’s very clean and smooth and does everything well. No gestures. That might be its only shortcoming. Top shelf browser.

0 votes

Efi Dreyshner

Thanks :)
I am using Chrome.
The best for me :D

0 votes

Krysia Baker

In the past, I have liked to use Firefox on my Android devices because then my bookmarks would sync across all platforms. Now that Chrome is on the scene, that changes the dynamic. Chrome is my browser of choice on desk/laptops. I’ll have to give it a spin on the ‘droids.

0 votes

Tug Ricks

As my phone hasn’t been upgraded to ICS yet, I’m not able to use Chrome. (I probably would if I could.) So at this point I use Dolphin Mini. It seems to load pages a bit quicker than Dolphin HD, which is all I need for my basic mobile browsing needs.

0 votes

Vampie C.

I tried a lot of browsers as well, and I always come back to dolphin HD.
With it’s addons, its just perfect.

I use chrome for some time, but found it to load quite slow.

0 votes

Terry

I prefer MiniBrowser Pro. Great, lightweight, powerful, fast, built-in adblock, video downloader. Recommend

0 votes

rama moorthy

my native android browser is not working ! .
so using Opera !

0 votes

IamAshMcLean

For me Chrome is the best, and Opera Sucks really bad, except for Wi-Fi Phones like Samsung Jack (i637)

0 votes

Mohammad Hamad

I think UC Browser is a really good one as well :)

0 votes

Jeremiah Iliffe

I would recommend Dolphin or chrome, but my jellybean rom has glitches with chrome

0 votes

Dick Reckard

Sleipnir Mobile is another good choice IMHO.

0 votes

Cyra Calkhoven

Dolphin is great but I think skyfire is the best. Its fast and easy

0 votes

Malyck Morenigbade

DOLPHIN & UCWEB!!

0 votes

Jim Spencer

Nicely done, but isn’t it ironic that the native browser is not as good as it is, especially given the fact that Google has such a large investment in the Android Operating System.

0 votes

Austen Gause

i like to use opera on my laptop because its really fast for older laptops