While mobile internet use continues to grow, many online functions are now performed by specific apps tailored for one purpose. Facebook currently has three different apps dedicated to its social network, whilst countless other online entities have built their own smartphone software to take users directly to the services they provide.
In the current mobile sphere it would be understandable if the humble browser had suffered a decline, being shunned by mobile users in favour of apps designed to package up little pieces of the internet into an easily accessible chunk. However, mobile browsers are alive and kicking, with native OS browsing apps now augmented by many impressive third-party offerings. Here we take a look at some of the best ones that are available
Skyfire is available for Android and iOS, having originally supported the older Symbian and Windows Mobile platforms. The browser has received quite a lot of praise for introducing Flash video to the iPhone, making it a popular choice as an alternative to Apple’s Safari.
Skyfire’s idea of Flash video support involves the browser’s server converting a file to an iOS-friendly format before streaming it to the device. That handy functionality comes at a price, with the iOS version of the app costing £1.99 (the Android version is free). We also noticed that the Android iteration was the only browser which crashed during our test, doing so several times.
On the upside, Skyfire is one of the smaller programs we found with both the iOS and Android versions less coming in at than 2.5 MB.
Opera is one of the oldest mobile browsers available, with the initial programming core that enabled the software to be ported to mobile devices having been introduced in 2000.
Today’s version provides a versatile platform for web browsing and offers a convenient and well-designed interface. Opening up the app leads straight to the speed dial screen which displays links to the user’s favourite websites as icons.
The browser is intuitive enough to automatically import favourites and history from its desktop counterpart and the Android version supports Flash. Impressively, HTML5 support is present across all platforms. The only downside we found was with the predictive search on the Android version – rather than acting as a time-saving function it made entering some search terms genuinely difficult
Safari is Apple’s native browser for iOS and is a great all-round internet tool. The app features convenient multi-tab browsing and supports HTML5, but not Flash sadly.
The biggest downside is not the fault of Safari itself but of the mobile platform it is incorporated into. It is not possible to change the default browser on iOS (unless the device is jailbroken), which greatly detracts from the user’s options. Links clinked in other apps will automatically open in Safari, making the browser itself seem more intrusive than it really is.
Aside from this, Safari provides an excellent, if slightly bland, platform for looking at webpages, and while it may not offer as many extra features as other browsers, it does its job very well.
The mobile version of the Mozilla foundation’s hugely popular desktop browser was originally released for the Maemo operating system on Nokia’s N900 device back in 2010. The browser has since been ported to Android and now offers a wealth of features that make it an excellent app for internet perusal.
Featuring an intuitive homescreen that displays previously opened tabs along with favourites and also including HTML5 support, the most recent version of Firefox is impressively functional. However, a few aspects of the app’s design leave a little to be desired, such as the cluttered Google search results page.
Nevertheless, Mozilla’s mobile browser is a powerful tool that can boast compatibility with any version of Android above 2.2, something that Chrome certainly cannot match.
The game-changing success that Google saw with its desktop browser looks to be continued in the mobile sphere with Chrome offering one of the best services available.
Traversing the web using Chrome is fantastic with pages loading quickly and the app handling multiple tabs easily. Switching between tabs is fluid and Chrome’s interface is clean and clear with some nice flourishes of animation (particularly impressive is the way in which tabs can be closed by sliding them off the screen).
Chrome’s most distinctive feature allows the user to sync open tabs on the desktop version with its mobile counterpart simply by making a few taps on the menu. However, the browser also performs the basics very well and while Flash isn’t supported, HTML5 is. The only limitations Chrome has are that that Android version is currently only compatible with devices running Ice Cream Sandwich, but even so, Google’s offering is a fantastic browser that sets the bar higher.