The Best Smartphone Browsers of 2013

In 2013, your cell phone represents much more than a simple device for making calls. It now acts as a window to the world and, more than any other app, your mobile browser is the frame through which you take in the view. Although each company will bundle their phone with a default browser (which may or may not be to your taste), app stores across various platforms are chock full of options for choosing your next favourite browser. Whether you want a browser with a powerful download management tool, or a mini browser which does all the computing legwork on an external server, there are tonnes of options for you to choose from across both free and premium products.

Although many smartphone users never venture outside of their devices default browser, those who describe themselves as “power users” are, generally speaking, much more picky. From browsers with cool, gesture based, bookmarking features to those that specialise in specific functionality such as flash support, here we take a look at some of the most interesting examples of mobile browsers available on the various app stores in 2013.

Dolphin – Android and iOS

If the mention of gesture based bookmarking piqued your interest, we wont keep you in suspense any longer. Dolphin is a browser available on both iOS and Android devices with a multitude of highly usable features, the most exciting of which being the gesture bookmarking. Want to access Facebook quickly? Just draw a picture of a face. How about a quick stint on Simply draw a heart into the bookmarking interface. Very cool! This feature comes with unlimited customisation, allowing you to link custom drawings to any website your desire.

Dolphin also includes other inventive new features like wi-fi website sharing, a search bar which can search any standard search engine as well as leading e-commerce sites at the push of a button and an option which forces websites to display in full desktop mode even if there is no such option on the page. Dolphin also includes old favourites like web app directories, voice search functionality and a plug-in store.

Firefox – Android

This household name desktop browser makes an appearance on the Android platform, but remains absent from iOS. Firefox developers state the reason for this is that iOS rules make carrying over Firefox’s technology very difficult, to the point that they simply “Don’t feel like we can build the browser we want to for Apple’s platform.”

For those of you who are able to access the mobile version of Mozilla’s famous browser, get ready for a treat. Access to a vast number of add-ons including translation services, ad-blockers and brand new themes make this one of the best options for Android users. The browser’s main benefit however is a simple one, the raw speed. Firefox beats most other browsers in the Sun Spider browser test, which checks how quickly a browser can process and execute JavaScript commands, so if you are looking for a browser that gives you snappy response on pages that are optimised for mobile, as well as those that aren’t, then Firefox is your man. If you aren’t using iOS that is…

Media Downloader Pro – iOS

Now this is a great little app if you are getting frustrated with iOS’s lack of media download facilities. Using this app you can download HTML5 content directly onto you phones hard drive for playback at a later date. The app can also download music files and extract ZIP, RAR and other compressed file formats. Once media is saved it can be accessed through the app’s built in media manager.

Those who have spent time with the product also complement it on its surprisingly fast browsing capabilities. Considering it wasn’t built to be a primary browser Media Downloader Pro seems to hold up very well against the competition.

360 Web Browser – iOS

The 360 web browser takes everything you know about traditional web browser UI design and flips it on its head, thrusting mobile browsers well into the 21st century. Leaving behind the traditional menus and browser buttons that make up typical web browsers, 360 browser works with an intuitive “action wheel” which is perfectly designed for touch interfaces.

It isn’t just a gimmick though, 360 Browser crams its action wheel with many useful features including a download manager that allows you to queue downloads, a cache that intuitively makes offline copies of your most visited sites and a password lock function to keep all the information you have imported from your desktop browser safe.

Google Chrome – iOS and Android

The Google Chrome app brings all your favourite features from the desktop browser and delivers them in a functional, if not slightly watered down, mobile version. When this app was released on iOS it rocketed to the top of the free download charts overnight, so it must have something going for it other than star power, right?

Well… kind of right. Although Google Chrome does bring some cool features to the table (see incognito mode and desktop setting imports), it is a seriously heavy application and as a result, performs poorly when the speed of JavaScript execution is tested, especially on iOS. To give Chrome its due though, this is because Apple refuses to allow third party applications to use the much faster, custom JavaScript engine called Nitro. That privilege is reserved for Safari alone!

Overall, chrome is a solid browser, and its integrations with the desktop browser make this a valuable addition to your browser collection, but as a complete package, it fails to impress.

About the author: Sam Shelley is a technology and travel blogger currently writing in association with Response Tap, a provider of phone call analytics to established business as well as SMEs.