Whatever operating system you look at, it is fair to say that most people fall out of love with the default web browser pretty quickly. Windows users will find that they migrate away from Internet Explorer, while Mac owners are likely to adopt an alternative to Safari. The same is true for mobile platforms and when it comes to Android devices there is no shortage of web browsers to choose from. Dolphin Browser HD is one alternative browser that has gained an impressive following not only on iOS devices, but also on Android.
This is a mobile web browser that got off to something of a slow start. When it was first released it was an interesting alternative to the likes of mobile Safari and Opera Mini but it has developed over a relatively short period of time into some seriously impressive. Being designed for touchscreen devices means that the browser is able to take advantage of gestures to make it easier to perform common operations such as moving back and forwards between pages. Support for gestures means not only that web navigation is made a great deal easier, it also frees up screen space that would otherwise have been occupied by a toolbar full of buttons.
Gestures can be customized so they can be used to access your favorite web sites more easily. There is also a slide-out panel hidden to the left of the screen that can be revealed by swiping from left to right. The Quick Access panel that appears contains links to all of your bookmarked sites and also enables you to bookmark the current site as well as adding it to the Speed Dial screen. You can also access the settings screen, browsing history and theme settings – this means that things are nicely accessible, but not cluttering up your screen.
It is possible that you have more than one Android device, or that you also use Dolphin Browser on an iPad or iPhone as well. The latest version of the browser includes Dolphin Connect which enables you to synchronize settings and bookmarks between devices so you can move from one to the other seamlessly. This is not a feature that is unique to Dolphin, but it is well implemented. Something that many mobile web users will be pleased to see is that there is support for add-ons. Extra features such a PDF viewer, translation tool, password manager Twitter tool and much more can be add by browsing through the fairly extensive selection of available add-ons. Once you have any add-ons installed, they can be accessed by swiped right to left to reveal another side bar.
As you would expect, there is support for tabbed browsing – and the way this is handled can be configured through Settings – and the Opera-style Speed Dial screen provides easy access to your most frequently used web sites. Another interesting option is Webzine which provides a mobile friendly view for a range of social networks and blogs such as Twitter and Facebook. Working much like a social network app and RSS reader combination, this features provides a great way to interact with web sites without unnecessary distractions.
If you spend any time browsing the internet on your Android phone or tablet, you owe it to yourself to get Dolphin Browser HD installed as soon possible. This is a browser that is just worlds away from almost all of the competition – once you have tried it you will find it very difficult to use anything else. The fact that it is available free of charge is impressive and removes any obstacle that might otherwise prevent you from trying it out. It’s fair to say that not every aspect of the app is immediately intuitive – hiding setting away in the side panel is a little confusing to start with – but once you get used to the way the browser works, this is quickly forgotten.
It is easy to jump on a bandwagon and proclaim any new app as the latest and greatest, but Dolphin Browser has been slowly evolving into its current incarnation. The browser was not perfect when it was first released, and it’s still not quite there yet, but it is getting very close. You’ll find it difficult to find a more capable browser in the Android Market at the moment.