Smartphones have become much more than just communication devices, and it’s years since they’ve been viewed just as that. In addition to playing the role of a capable media player, portable gaming device and personal information manager, your smartphone is probably your choice for all sorts of casual web browsing as well. In fact, when late Steve Jobs announced the first iPhone back in 2007, he touted internet browsing as one of the primary features of the new device. The trend continues to date, and I regularly find myself browsing some of my favorite websites on my phone the first thing when I wake up in the morning, before I’d even think of turning on my computer. In this arena, Android holds a distinctive advantage over iOS, owing to its open-source nature and larger variety of capable choices when it comes to picking your preferred web browser. Google Play Store is riddled with these, making the choice a tough one, so we decided to put together a list of some of our favorite web browsers for Android, along with the good and bad for each of them.
Chrome for Android
The first in this list is pretty much a no-brainer: Google’s own Chrome for Android. The browser has come a long way to claim a spot among the best, and for good measure. It offers seamless synchronization with your desktop Chrome, getting everything from your browsing history and bookmarks to open tabs in the comfort of your mobile device. The browser itself goes through regular updates, and offers fixes and enhancements quite frequently.
- Branded by Google – generally indicates quality and perfection
- Omnibar for search & URL input
- Excellent tab handling with accelerated page loading
- Intuitive gesture support for navigation and browsing through open tabs
- Private browsing via incognito tabs
- Seamless sync across Desktop and Android via your Google account
- One of the least resource-friendly browsers
- Slow performance on older devices
- Accessing certain features is rather difficult, as they’re buried deep within settings
- Lack of native support for Flash video playback
One of the most popular browsers out there with very active development and support, Dolphin takes the top place in a lot of opinions, and it does have certain advantages that play out in its favor. For an in-depth look, check out our review of the latest major update of Dolphin Browser as of this writing.
- A refreshingly flat UI
- Intuitive navigation controls
- Speed dial providing quick access to web apps and bookmarks
- Web store with dedicated “apps” for popular social portals
- Add-on support allows enhancing the browser’s usefulness and functionality
- Content sync with desktop
- High level of customization using themes and wallpapers
- Steeper-than-usual learning curve
- Not the best HTML5 support
- Can pull a lot of spam onto your device
Opera Browser for Android
We are talking about the Opera browser and not Opera mini here, which shed off its beta tag a while back. The browser borrows all the niceties from its desktop counterpart, and then adds some to the mix.
- Very snappy page load times – probably the fastest of all we’ve tested
- Speed dial feature for quick access
- Private browsing
- Off-Road mode – compresses incoming traffic to reduce data costs and load times
- Content sync across Desktop & Mobile
- Popup blocker
- Capable download manager
- Doesn’t offer as many features as some of the other options
- No easily accessible Forward navigation button
- Off-Road mode not as effective as claimed
Maxthon Android Web Browser
Another very capable browser with a unique and distinctive set of features and user interface, Maxthon claims speed and stability combined with the power of cloud, and all for good measure.
- Easiest navigation controls of all the reviewed browsers
- Fully functional user agent control
- Background page loading
- Automatic caching of next page for faster browsing experience
- Most intuitive search/URL bar combination
- Cloud sync with download support (using Maxthon free storage)
- Private browsing
- Personalization through add-ons and themes
- Text reflow to adjust display for screen size
- Slower page load times in comparison to others
- Gesture support is tricky to use
- Really poor full-screen browsing
It’s the browser that became famous on iOS and finally landed on Android. Of all the players in this comparison, Mercury is the newest to grace Android with its presence, and hence, had a lot of competition to begin with. Still, it’s gaining popularity by the minute, and rightly so.
- Plugin Support for feature enhancement and ad-blocking
- Fully functional user agent controls
- Passcode protection for additional privacy
- More search engines supported than any other browser
- Gesture-based controls for intuitive navigation
- Day/Night modes
- Import /Export bookmarks to other apps
- Compatibility issues with some new Android devices
- Rather poor HTML5 rendering
- Messes up the device brightness from time to time
This here is one browser that I personally don’t feel very strongly about, but it’s still amongst one of the most popular among Android users. Boat Browser appears to borrow heavily from a variety of others, but doesn’t really put anything out of its own that would make me want to switch to it.
- Extensive customization support that even extends to the sidebar layout and options
- Theming and personalization support
- Add-on support for feature enhancement
- Cloud sync for content and bookmarks (partially free)
- Speed dials for quicker navigation
- Ad-supported for free users
- Nothing exceptionally different or new
- Questionable Flash performance
- Does not have a rendering engine of its own
Next Browser comes from the famous GO Launcher Dev Team, whose apps are known for their extensive set of features. Apart from a refreshing interface, plugins support, tabbed browsing like the old Mobile Safari and gesture support for tab switching, the browser has its own content discovery feature just like Dolphin. It’s called the ‘Next View’ and apart from serving as an RSS feed reader, it lets you save articles for offline reading. It doesn’t really have anything unique to offer; it is essentially an amalgam of most of the best features from Dolphin Browser, the old Mobile Safari and Chrome for Android.
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- Bookmark syncing with Google Chrome via an extension
- Built-in content discovery & RSS reader
- Offline reading support
- Gesture support for switching between tabs
- Home page with text & voice search, speed dial and shortcut to bookmarks
- Incognito tabs support
- Extensions support
- Night Mode to lessen eye strain in darker environments
- Not much original to offer
- Lack of Flash video playback support
- Light and super-fast
- Shares history with stock browser
- Private browsing through Incognito tabs
- Flash support
- Swipe gestures (from left edge to go back; from right edge to go forward)
- Restores last closed tab when new tab button is long-pressed
- Full-screen support
- Search engine choices
- Advanced options (saving passwords, clearing cache on exit, restoring tabs and more)
- Maximum of 5 tabs allowed in free version
- Does not have its own rendering engine
- A slightly bland interface
This one is really different from all other candidates in this comparison. You see, while most of the others are generally suited to both smartphones and tablets, you’ll find the maximum utility for Floating Browser on the larger screen or a tablet or phablet rather than a phone. The browser offers multiple floating windows that you can place anywhere on your device, atop other running apps, and have a unique browsing experience while continuing to do whatever else you were doing.
- Unique floating windows allow browsing simultaneously with other activities
- Resizable and re-positionable windows
- Each browser window contains its own set of tabs
- Clipboard monitoring for internet-specific content
- Flash support
- Limited features in free version
- Not the best browsing experience even by a long shot
- A rather plain UI that lacks the polish of other popular browsers
Stock Android Browser
Last but not the least, let’s not forget the stock browser that ships with Android. I like it personally for its fast page loading times, low resource consumption and overall solid browsing experience. Thanks to a webkit-based rendering engine, the stock browser gives an almost similar experience as Chrome, sans the content sync, and certainly runs much better than Chrome on older Android devices.
- Excellent HTML5 rendering
Lightweight and resource friendly
User Agent control
Supports offline reading/caching
Bandwidth management features
Full support for Google Sign-In
Barebones and minimalistic features
Unintuitive navigation controls
There’s no download link for this one; it’s already pre-loaded on your Android smartphone or tablet!
To sum up our roundup, the following table provides a comparison for all 8 browsers based on certain parameters that matter the most for mobile browsing.
* Feature is partially available (for free)
** Scores represent my personal experience on a scale of 1 – 10, with 10 being the best.
*** Inter-app compatibility represents the browser’s ability to handle certain links in other stock Android apps, such as Maps etc.
Want to add something that we missed? Agree or disagree with our candidates? Drop us a comment below.