Just like a computer, your Android device comes with a standard browser pre-installed. For many people, this browser will work great. The standard Android browser is fast and has a few cool features.
However, being the default browser doesn’t mean it is the best Android browser. There are other options out ther. Depending on how you use your Android device, you may need a more feature-rich web browser. If you are running a version of the Android OS below 2.2 or have a device that doesn’t support on-page video, you may want to try a browser that can fix that.
Standard Android Browser
The standard browser is a pretty decent browser that is both lightweight and works out of the box. Whether you have 2.1 or 2.2 installed on your device, the browser is pretty much the same.
Unlike other operating systems (Blackberry 5.0), the Android web experience is more like a desktop app. You can have multiple windows (not tabs) open (4 with Eclair, 8 with Froyo).
Another thing I personally like is how your browsing history carries over from desktop to phone when you are signed into Google.
Skyfire is a fantastic browser for the social web. It is well integrated with Facebook and several other social networks. By using the Fireplace and popular sites features, you can see what your friends find interesting enough to share via Facebook.
The main selling point of Skyfire is that it supports Flash out of the box. I was able to play videos from several sites which I wasn’t able to before. The quality might differ from a desktop experience, but at least it works where others failed.
If you do not like the look of a site’s mobile page, you can toggle to the desktop version easily using the page load button. If you prefer one way over the other, there is an option to set your choice as the default.
What I did not like about Skyfire was the screen seemed cluttered with a lot of icons and other stuff.
Opera Mini 5
Opera Mini is one of the best all round browser no matter the platform. While it isn’t the most feature-rich browser on the list, Opera has a few things the others do not. For starters, Opera was fastest loading of the browsers tested.
If you are a fan of the Opera desktop application, you will love Opera Mini. Much of your information like speed dials and bookmarks will sync with your Android.
A feature I used a lot on my Blackberry was being able to copy and paste from the web. Opera lets you do just that and also adds in an on-page text search.
While the single touch zoom in on non-mobile web pages is nice, pinch to zoom would be better.
Dolphin has several versions: Dolphin Mini, Dolphin and Dolphin HD. The differences between them let you choose the amount of features and personalization you need. Dolphin HD is by far the most customizable browser on the list.
Dolphin Mini is a no-frills browser with the emphasis on speed. You get everything you need and nothing you don’t. Mini would be a great choice if you are looking for a speed demon. You will gain Speed dials as well as being able to open as many tabs as you feel you need.
When you choose the middle tier of the Dolphin Browser line, you gain a lot. Bookmarks from your standard Android browser as well as your Google bookmarks can be synced with Dolphin.
Dolphin lets you gestures to open a URL, reload the page or go forward or back. This will greatly speed up your web surfing.
I don’t think there is a real need to have a middle of the road browser. Most people seem to want all the bells and whistles or a minimalist browser.
The big bad daddy of this group, is Dolphin HD. What you gain is a whole lot of customizing choices. Most of this is done via plug-ins, much like you would use in Google Chrome. Some examples of the plug-ins are: Lastpass, screen capture, Xmarks, speed dial, read later, ad blocker, rss readers, Last.fm, Delicious, Twitter. Many others are available with a quick search in the market.
Other features to set Dolphin HD ahead of the pack include pinch to zoom, unexpected tab recovery and the support of multiple languages.
If you use your phone to surf the web a lot, you may get bored with the look and need a change. Change the look of your Dolphin HD browser with different themes.
Of all the browsers, Firefox has the most stringent requirement as it only works in Android 2.0 and above devices and requires 32MB internal storage, plus 12MB SD storage. Nevertheless, it does comes with several useful features that make it stand out from the rest.
Mozilla has been working hard to make the mobile experience similar to the desktop version. One very good feature is the ability to sync between the desktop and the mobile version. The Firefox sync is in-built in the mobile browser and you can easily configure it to sync with your desktop browser. It also supports the awesome bar, tabs, session restore, addons (not the same addons as the desktop Firefox’s extension) etc.
Now that you have seen our choice of browsers, tell us what is your favorite browser and why?
image credit: Johan Larsson