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.
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.
Swipe in from the left to access the tab bar, or from the right to access the navigation bar.
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.
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.
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 and Opera Mini are two separate apps. What’s the difference? Opera Mobile is a full browser, like the other ones in this list.
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.
Desktop Opera users can also enable Opera Link on the settings screen to synchronize browser data with Opera on Android.
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.
You can browse the list of available add-ons on the Google Play Store.
Boat Browser is a slick browser that combines a Google Chrome-like top bar with a Mobile Safari-like bottom navigation bar.
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 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.
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