Chris J Powell

App Friday – Mobile Browsers

Another week slips by and it is that time again to dive into my favorite apps that run my mobile life.  Rather than just center on a single App, I figured I would look to a classification of apps that we all know and use every day.  In fact you are using one right now to view this post on your desktop, laptop, tablet or phone!

The world of mobile browsing starts off with the default browsers that come on Android and iOS these would be the Android Browser and Safari Mobile.  In my opinion…both are met with the limitations of being a necessary evil and both fall short of the capabilities that we have come to expect from a browsing experience in the past (with our Laptops and Desktop browsers).  Despite the short comings that mainly come from being a touch screen I will go through what I like about each of the five browsers shown above: Opera Mini, Firefox Mobile, Chrome Mobile, Android Browser and Safari Browser.

Android Browser

Available only on Android devices is a basic browser that has “tabs” of a sort that can be accessed from the top right but I find it to be on the slow side in rendering websites in 

general (WiFi and 4G).  The bookmarking features are at best basic and one of the first things that I upgrade is the browser so that I can better view the web from my phone.  That being said, for what it is…and the device that it is on…it really is not meant to take over from looking at the web on a wonderful 21″ screen with a full keyboard so I can for give Google for not producing a better and more capable default browser…but the reality is…I would much rather see the capabilities of Google Chrome as the default browser for Android!

Unlike most other mobile browsers out there…there is not much in the way of customization available for the default Android Browser but I was able to locate one quick hack that through Google Labs you can use Quick Controls (manipulate the tool bars by sliding your thumb along the right or left edge of the screen) or switch the browser to full screen mode…useful…but just not enough to make it my personal favorite…by a long shot!


Safari Browser

The default browser for the iPad was my primary browser on that device for the first year that I owned it.  It does the job quite well and has many of the features that most modern desktop browsers have.  True Tabbed browsing, bookmarks and the wonderful addition of iCloud integration now with iOS6 is a nice feature but I always felt that something was missing.

Maybe it is just me because I don’t use Safari on any other devices but I have found that it renders pages rather oddly and I have had many sites completely freeze up on me when Safari hits it…switching over to Chrome or Opera and the problem goes away.

While I like the browser…it is not what I use other than the fact that I can not get rid of it in favor of the more capable Chrome Browser but such is life.

Mobile Chrome Browser

This is where I am most comfortable.  I use Chrome on the desktop, on all of the laptops at home and if I had my way at work too (but that is a story for another day).  I love the fact that Google allows me to sync my bookmarks so that regardless of what device I am using, I can go find my favorite sites fast and easy.  I have found that Chrome has never let me down and the list of very capable plugins keeps impressing me every day.

On either the iPad or my Android phone, the browser hums right along.  Rendering every page just as I would expect it to and never missing a beat.  It is a free download from both the Google Play Store and the Apple App Store so if you would like to dramatically improve your browsing experience and well after the Anti Google iOS6 upgrade…stick it a little bit to Apple…jump out and grab it…it is well worth the bandwidth!

One of the other great features is the mobile Sync option that lets me see what is open on any other device that has Chrome installed.  This is a very handy feature for when I am unable to complete a post at home and need to jump onto complete it when at work (yeah…I do that from time to time).


Opera Mini

My general frustration with the Safari Browser has been a long standing love hate relationship and until Google came out with its iOS offering I found myself using Opera Mini alot to be able to actually do and see the things that were important to me (and Safari would just mess that experience up).  While I have never been a big fan of Opera on the Desktop, they are very smart in how they position their mobile browser.

The Tabs are a nice way of building out a good view and the rendering is both fast and accurate.  I find that even on an Android Device the Opera Mini does a great job (even better than Chrome in some respects) because they have been building Mobile Browsers for years before everyone else decided to jump on the band wagon.

The Mobile Store offers games, plugins and live feeds that extend the capabilities of the browser that the Default Browsers just can not compete with.

Firefox Mobile

For what ever reason there is still not an option to install Firefox on my iPad.  I have been a fan of the browser since day one when they rose up from the ashes of Netscape and began chipping away at the dominance of Internet Explorer.  On my Android Phone, Firefox offers many great features that are unique to the browser…my favorite being the ability to save a webpage as a PDF for offline viewing!

While it is no longer as capable as Chrome (and some may contend that this is true even on the desktop) I do like the speed and capacity that Firefox provides to my browsing experience.  It consistently outperforms the default browser and renders pages almost as fast as the Mobile Chrome Browser and there is even the sync feature (they actually had it first among the major browsers) but it is now unfortunately relegated to a back up browser rather than the primary.

I do remember fighting tooth and nail looking for the APK to install on my HP Zeen because well…as poor as the default browser is on Android in 4.0…it was really bad in 2.3!

The clear cut winner for best mobile browsing is Google Chrome…which by no coincidence would also be my pick on the Desktop as well!





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