Saturday, July 2, 2011

Android Browser Wars (Part 3) 2011

In part 3 of Browser Wars, we'll look at the Awesome. These browsers have performances better than the stock browser.

First up is Dolphin HD.

When you first open up the browser you're greeted with some shortcuts.

At the top we have tabs a cross for easy closure.There's also a dedicated exit button to completely close the browser.

Dolphin HD (and Dolphin Mini) offers a slightly smoother scrolling experience than the stock browser.

Performance wise, opening both and is possible and very doable. Scrolling though remains choppy.

As for text selection, you tap and hold the screen, and two tabs appear. To copy, you tap on the selected texts.

One signature of Dolphin HD is the ability to install Add-Ons, much like the extensions of the desktop Chrome browser.

Next we look at Firefox mobile.

FireFox also allow for installing add ons.

Tabs management of FireFox is a bit different from others. You need to swipe to the right for a side bar to appear on the left. There you can switch between tabs, open new tabs or close them.

Swiping to the left pulls out a sidebar at the right for options.

There is no way to select text in FireFox Mobile. It's not in options, nor a tap and hold.

FireFox appears to be one of the first Android browsers to be hardware accelerated (the other that I know of is Samsung's TouchWiz 4.0 stock browser). So scrolling and pinch zooming is generally smoother than other browsers. The price to pay, however, is checkerboards (an issue also found on Safari in iDevices). FireFox Mobile is one of two browsers I've used that have an extremely reduced jitter and lag when browsing The other will be revealed below.

Pinch zooming is smooth. But again the price to pay for hardware aceleration is a certain blurriness that precedes the refocusing of the page after a few fractions of a second.

One annoying thing is that the exit button is not a default feature, but as an add on.

I must say I like the warning that appears if you have more than one tabs open, just like in desktop browsers.

Another annoyance is that text reflow absolutely fails to work no matter what I do. I have enabled it in settings ('Reformat text on zoom') but the text just won't reflow!

Oh and Firefox Mobile does not appear to support flash content. Though weirdly it has an add-on to enable flash videos for YouTube. Doesn't support the latest FM though.

Next we have Opera Mobile.

Like most browsers you're greeted with shortcuts/bookmarks when you launch the browser.

Opera Mobile does have an exit button that was just added to the v11.1 update that you need to enable in settings. It, however, does not really close the browser like how others do. The exit button closes the browser, but retains the last viewed pages' URL, and will reload those pages upon reopening the browser. Weird feature that I'm sure more than a few will find useful. Not me though. I like proper closures.

Tab management is a bit confusing to use at first. To close a tab you actually need to tap the cross TWICE to close it. After your first tap the cross magnifies, and the second tap closes it. I guess it's a 'you sure you wanna close?' feature? I don't know.

Text reflow is a bit slower than Dolphin HD, but still manageable.

The new v11.1 update also brings improvement to text selection. To select text, you just tap and hold just like in the stock browser. The two tabs will appear and you drag around, just like in stock browser. When you tap select, there're several things you can do with the selection.

Scrolling and pinch zooming is the best among all browsers. The performance of Opera Mobile is simply superb. I can open Engadget and PhoneDog in separate tabs and they remain smooth scrolling. I cannot confirm whether Opera Mobile is hardware accelerated or not, since Opera has always been a server rendering browser where the heavy lifting is done by Opera servers and hence reducing the load on the phone. Whatever it is, Opera Mobile simply rocks in terms of scrolling and pinch zooming. There're no checkerboarding whatsoever.

Flash works well too. Videos on youtube load just nice.

My gripe with the browser is that you cannot select to share links straight from the browser, but need to go through the options menu. Other browsers have the 'Share Links' option when you tap and hold a link.

Please tell me what you think! See you next time!

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