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6 Great Alternative Browsers for Your Android Device

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Android’s default browser, named “Internet,” is a very simple browser that’s tied to your Android OS version. Other, third-party browsers offer more powerful interfaces, greater configurability, and more frequent updates.

Unlike on Apple’s iOS, Android browsers can implement their own rendering engines, although not all do. That Firefox app isn’t just a shell over the stock browser, like it is on iOS – it brings Mozilla’s Gecko to Android.

Firefox

If you use Firefox on your PC, you’ll definitely want to take a look at Firefox for Android. Its killer feature for Firefox users is support for Firefox Sync – you can access your Firefox bookmarks, history, and even open tabs on your mobile device. It also includes support for mobile add-ons.

firefox

Swipe in from the left to access the tab bar, or from the right to access the navigation bar.

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While some users report Firefox for Android being fairly slow, its developers have recently ported Firefox to use native Android widgets and report significant speed increases. This feature hasn’t yet made it to the stable version, though.

Chrome Beta

Do you have a device running Android 4.0, Ice Cream Sandwich? If so, you can use the beta version of Google Chrome for Android. Like Firefox for Android, it’s designed to work similarly to the Chrome browser on your PC. It also syncs with Chrome, so it’s the perfect mobile counterpart to the desktop version of Chrome. Unfortunately, the vast majority of Android devices in use are currently not running Android 4.0 and cannot yet use Chrome.

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Chrome for Android includes support for unlimited tabs and incognito mode. You can also send pages from the desktop version of Chrome to the Android version with a single click.

Opera Mobile & Opera Mini

Opera Mobile and Opera Mini are two separate apps. What’s the difference? Opera Mobile is a full browser, like the other ones in this list.

opera

Unlike the other browsers here, Opera MIni sends pages you access to Opera’s servers first, where they’re compressed before being sent to you. This can significantly reduce your mobile data usage. Opera Mobile also offers this compression feature as an option named “Opera Turbo,” but it’s disabled by default.

opera 2

Desktop Opera users can also enable Opera Link on the settings screen to synchronize browser data with Opera on Android.

Dolphin Browser HD

Dolphin HD is the most popular browser on the Google Play Store. It adds a variety of features missing in the stock browser, including gestures, add-ons, browser tabs, a speed dial, sidebars, and voice control support. Its Dolphin Connect feature allows you to sync your Dolphin browser data across your devices.

dolphin

You can browse the list of available add-ons on the Google Play Store.

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Boat Browser

Boat Browser is a slick browser that combines a Google Chrome-like top bar with a Mobile Safari-like bottom navigation bar.

boat browser

While it has a slick interface, it’s also no slouch when it comes to features. It includes support for voice commands, add-ons (only a few are available at the moment), a customizable toolbar, a speed dial, configurable user agents, and a variety of other options.

Skyfire

Skyfire differentiates itself with a strong focus on social. It includes integrated social features, notably for Facebook and Twitter. There’s a Facebook “Like” button that allows you to like any page on the web and a “Popular” button that shows you pages that are popular on Facebook. If you’re a big user of social-networking services, Skyfire may just be the browser for you.

skyfire


Which Android browser do you prefer? Did we not list it here? Leave a comment and cast your vote.

Chris Hoffman is a technology writer and all-around computer geek. He's as at home using the Linux terminal as he is digging into the Windows registry. Connect with him on Google+.

  • Published 04/2/12

Comments (29)

  1. Dark Reality

    Yeah, you guys definitely left out xScope. I would have taken Chrome off the list if seats were limited because Chrome is only available on a couple phones (those that have ICS official). Early versions of my phone (Photon/Electrify) with the unlocked bootloader have CM9 (ICS for CyanogenMod) but their users report that Chrome is basically broken for them. So I suppose it has to be official ICS. And even then, it’s probably sluggish, like Firefox for Android.

    A feature worth mentioning on Opera Mobile is that if you lack a hardware keyboard, it will force every text-entry field to fullscreen. A fellow user I was talking to about on-screen typing woes said he had written to the Boat browser dev, who promised to match the feature, but it hasn’t been implemented, at least according to the changelog. I haven’t tested it. I use Opera as my go-to and Boat as a backup.

    It’s also worth mentioning that Opera Turbo can be really slow in Opera Mobile. The setting “Single column mode” will break many websites. Otherwise, it’s a solid browser. I won’t say it’s the best, though. The Android browser market is way too volatile for a winner to be named. For example, I quit using Dolphin because it kept wanting to zoom in while I was scrolling, it was out of control. If they fix that, it will be good again… and for a while I was saying xScope was the best; now I disagree with that.

    Oh, Opera will also sync up with its desktop cousin, for the two of you out there who use it. I gave it another shot because I want to like Opera, but it has the same pitfalls Chrome does (IMO!) and its scrolling is buggy. So I just go back to Firefox (well, Pale Moon), the only PC browser that doesn’t strive to make me hate it.

  2. Nerijus

    I personally use Miren browser. Found it to be the best for my needs.

  3. BeKaY

    I don’t get why every Android browser article fails to mention Miren. It’s the only browser that actually understands how a mobile browser should be and that “just works”.
    And some of the browsers mentioned in this article are a joke, they’re heavy, filled with bugs, have weird functionality, don’t render most of the pages properly and their interfaces are not touch friendly.

    Also you forgot to mention the most important feature of Skyfire, it allows you to watch flash videos without having flash installed, granted you’ve to buy the video playback license (it’s not very expensive), but it’s a big feature and probably the only reason why you should use Skyfire (and the fact that it allows you to watch videos on xHamster, I’m betting that’s one of the reasons why it’s so popular)

  4. ¥en

    I personally have a bit of a sweet spot for Opera Mini, especially since it encrypts all data between client & server!! Only thing there then…is do you trust Opera with your data? I trust Opera as they are a leading company, but I wouldn’t trust those who are persistently trying to get steal this info, let’s just hope they stay one step ahead-o the game! ¥

  5. theflash

    Nobody’s mentioned maxthon for android yet :( I’ve found maxthon to be the fastest of all of them and it offers a ton of additional features. I don’t use the desktop version of maxthon but the android version rocks.

  6. eliminat

    I loved Miren, but it’s no longer on the market and hasn’t been updated for over a year. Still one of the best though.

    Chrome Beat actually runs BEAUTIFULLY if you have a 1GB RAM phone. Love the features it has and the way it handles tabs. Only browser I’d consider replacing Miren with. Unlike Miren though it doesn’t support Flash.

    I use Opera Mini if I just need a quick and dirty page, or if I’m stuck on E somewhere.

  7. Cam2644

    Firefox works best for me for the very good reasons you mentioned

  8. Henrique

    Opera Mini was my to-go browser on symbian, but after getting an android phone I had quite a collection of experiences

    Firefox is way slower than acceptable, slow enough for me not to even giving it a point for syncing with my desktop browser. Aurora is fast, but still a bumpy experience in the rendering department (and I also dislike the way tabs are presented)

    Chrome will have to wait for me to upgrade my phone to an ICS-served one, someday in the future

    Opera Mobile is nice, very nice actualy, I don’t use it because… well, I don’t know, maybe for the same reason I don’t use desktop opera (which I also don’t quite know)

    And finally I got MIUI, and started using the default browser. It’s simple, streamlined, has a compression feature similar to opera turbo, speed dial-like homepage, and it’s pretty fast. One thing I can’t find out is if the MIUI browser is an update on Miren (the previous default browser on MIUI) or it’s an entirely different app

  9. Semantics

    Chrome runs wonderful on the custom ICS ROM i found for my old Mytouch4g. Actually makes web browsing bearable on a phone and I love the sync between desktop and phone. Strange it took them this long to get it out.

  10. Kevalin

    I’m currently using Opera Mobile for one reason only (though I do like it for other reasons): its text autoflow function WORKS. For reasons that make NO sense, Samsung basically broke this feature in the new Galaxy Tab Plus native browser, and it didn’t work in any of the other browsers I tried–including the others listed above–either.

    Not having that option in a fully customizable form was literally a deal-breaker for me. I was actually getting ready to send the Tab back, when I found Opera Mobile.

    My only complaint about this browser (once I got used to the Start page, which I now love) is that gmail squawks about it being an “older browser” and will only show me a basic HTML version that looks like gmail, circa 1999. Also, is missing some privacy settings that I prefer, because I HATE seeing ads for s$#t from pages I previously surfed, but I can live with that. For now.

    If they corrected those two issues, though, Opera Mobile really would be perfect for my purposes.

  11. Barbara Treon

    Tell me about the Kindle Fire Silk browser

  12. Doc

    Aside from the built-in “Browser,” the only web browser I’ve found that works on my tablet is Dolphin HD. (I have a Cruz T301 with a MIPS processor, not the usual ARM). Works great, and several plugins also work well.

  13. grappler

    I just got ICS and I installed chrome and I love it. I also use Dolphin Browser HD for its great plug-ins (my favourite is the last pass plug-in). I really hoped that Firefox would be good but somehow they had some good ideas but it is still not that easy to use. I never really liked opera so I use it very rarely. So I suppose my vote goes out to Chrome it will be my main browser once it gets a last pass plug-in.

  14. Gillis

    I’ve been around so long and everything is changing so fast. I’M 84 and i don’t even use those little gadgets you take pictures with now days.What I’d like to know is how do I change browsers, I have Google Chrome and it’s getting bent out of shape cause I can’t even put some password in that they want now. Just about all I do now is email some other old kodgers. Would this Firefox do me,and how do I get it or someone else.Any help will be greatly appreciated.

  15. UltimatePSV

    I really like Dolphin HD. I’m actually using it to type this. It’s feature-rich, the themes are really nice, and I like some of the add-ons, especially the one that adds an icon in the sidebar to quickly switch the UserAgent String between a desktop browser and Android browser.

  16. BobbyPhoenix

    Maxthon on ICS is awesome. Stock ICS, and then Chrome and Firefox Nightly for me.

  17. Fyrewerx

    I really liked Dolphin HD on my LG Optimus V, however, I recently had to remove it because my phone kept running out of memory. Several apps had to be removed, and I frequently clear caches and stop apps I don’t need running all the time. I realize its the shortcoming of the phone, not a browser issue.
    What I’d like to know is, are any of the browsers available for use on Android 2.2 capable of being moved to, and run from, the SD card? I wasn’t able to move Dolphin HD.

  18. lazyninja

    i like to ssh into my home computer and run elinks. not particularly useful, but fun.

  19. Kelly W

    Currently mainly using chrome on my GNex, while returning to the stock browser when flash is required. Same with my TPrime, though I also frequently use OverSkreen for some true multitasking

  20. TechnoHippie

    Another one that should be covered is Puffin Browser http://www.puffinbrowser.com/

    Great thing about it is that it renders the full version of webpages extremely fast through cloud computing – thus FAST FAST FAST and everything works.

  21. rocky

    Good to know about the 6 Great Alternative Browsers for the Android Device.I am already using the Comodo firewall.it is really good.

  22. bob

    opera mini as u can use an .ini file to block ads on an unrooted arm cortex A-8

  23. bob

    can block ads on any device with opera mini , i use the ARM cpu ***

  24. ghabuntu

    Firefox mobile works great on dual core phones with 1GB RAM. In fact, it’s a delight to use.

  25. nick

    I used to like Dolphin a lot, until I noticed that it wouldn’t let me use google search encrypted. Then I figured out it might be a browser based in China. There’s also a browser named Miro that won’t let you use google encrypted. I never used them again.

  26. Chris Hoffman

    Thanks for sharing your experiences, everyone! Any list of browsers will be incomplete since there are so many.

  27. longfeng

    xScope offers auto zooming (simply double tap) into text in the forest of web, java and html. It certainly beats many browsers listed above and way too under-rated.

  28. shettyonfire

    see this for more information http://www.futurehardware.com/android/127.htm

  29. Damien Golding

    Maxthon seems to be getting a good rep. here so I will check it out later.

    I have tried out Mozilla, and can honestly say it very average, not worth the bother.
    Should stick to Opera, Dolphin, or even Sleipnir.

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