When people ask me about an alternative Android web browser, I usually point them in the direction of Dolphin Browser or Opera. But there’s now a new kid on the block called . Miren tries to provide “the most intuitive browsing experience” for Android. But does it deliver the goods?
The first thing we’ll look at is, naturally, the first thing you’ll see as you launch Miren:
This is the startup screen. The attention to detail is evident right from the get-go. As I rotated my device to landscape mode to take the screenshot, a clear overlay suddenly appeared with a “lock” icon. This is the orientation lock, and if you’ve ever tried to browse the web while lying on your side in bed, you know how important it is. The button goes away after a couple of seconds, but reappears every time you change the orientation of the device.
Next, let’s have a look at a website:
What you see above is my entire screen — I did not crop out the top notification bar. Miren automatically goes to full-screen mode, but if you swipe down, the notification bar becomes visible. Also, you’ll note that even though there’s just one website active, it still gets a tab (and you lose a bit of screen space). This can be changed in the settings.
As you touch the screen, two or three transparent (yet large) buttons appear along the bottom. I say “two or three” because the middle one is an RSS feed button, which only appears if Miren has detected an RSS feed. We’ll be coming back to this one. The other two are the Back button and the Full-Screen button. You tap it to toggle the tab bar and address bar.
Another interesting usability touch you can see here is that the active tab does not waste any screen space on a label — it’s just a big, easy-to-hit X. Miren’s creators probably assume you already know what website you’re currently browsing, and that you’ll only need the tab bar if you want to close it. Elegant.
I switched off MakeUseOf’s mobile theme, and this is how Miren handled the site. Overall loading was snappy, and the layout was flawless. There’s pinch-to-zoom, and it worked quite well (as well as it could, given the flaky multi-touch on my cheap Acer device).
Now let’s look at the menu:
I switched tabs for these, so you could also see how Miren handles a bit of CSS 3. That box up there (in my homepage) is implemented using CSS 3 rounded corners, transparency and shadows, and the font is a Google Web font (i.e, implemented in CSS as well). Miren ate up all of this CSS 3 goodness without a hitch, and spat back a great layout.
This screenshot is a 2-in-1, so you can also see the menu. The options are fairly straightforward; we’ll be looking at the Settings menu in a moment, but what intrigued me most at first was the Brightness option:
Sadly, it wasn’t all that exciting. The Night Mode toggle did nothing; that’s the only part of the UI that didn’t work right in my entire testing session. I flipped it on and off repeatedly, and it had absolutely no impact. The brightness slider does work, and does what you’d expect it to.
Next, let’s have a quick look at the settings:
Another lovely usability touch here: Rather than go for a “one size fits all” approach, Miren split settings into two clear tabs. You start off with the Common settings menu, which includes options such as “load images“, “scroll using volume button” and other options most users might want to tweak. The Advanced options menu is for the nerdier folk. Here you can tweak settings such as “don’t always display the tab bar“, etc.
Next, the built-in RSS reader:
Yes, that’s right – I said built-in RSS reader. This is one perplexing choice; mobile applications are supposed to be lean, fast and effective. Bolting an entire RSS reader onto Miren must add at least some bloat, and I suspect not many users would find it useful. The reader does not sync up to Google Reader. You can read your feeds only on your mobile devices, and only from within Miren. With applications like Pulse and the official Google Reader client available for Android, I find it difficult to understand why Miren would invest time, effort and storage space in such a feature. Nevertheless, it does seem to work.
Miren is an extremely capable Android web browser. It’s a serious contender to Dolphin Browser HD, and it’s my new default browser, at least for now. That’s saying something. Let us know in the comments what you think about it.