Just when we began wondering when one of the smartest, fastest and most elegant third-party browsers on the Android Market would make a (much-requested) transition to Android’s rival platform, the developers delivered. MoboTap released the smartphone variant of Dolphin Browser to the iTunes App Store (for iPhone & iPod Touch) roughly five days ago. From the looks of it, the browser is rapidly growing in popularity. No surprises there. Dolphin Browser is a comprehensive package of functionality, looks and perks and deserves all the acclaim it has received so far across both platforms. It’s not just the Chrome-inspired tabbed browsing, that impresses users. Dolphin Browser comes with a smart URL bar, gesture-based control and navigation, a Speed Dial home page and a Webzine feature with impressive social network (Facebook and Twitter) integration.
Chrome-Like Tabbed Browsing
The Chrome-like tabbed browsing is a definite improvement over that of Mobile Safari. Not only does it look slightly better (not everyone would agree), but it is also far more efficient. Simply swipe across opened tabs and tap to select the one you wish to view. And for those who’d prefer Safari’s page view, the browser has a page view of its own (first button from right on the bottom of the screen).
Every time you open a new tab, the browser greets you with a Speed Dial page containing a grid of shortcuts to up to 8 of your favorite websites. You can add shortcuts to said page either from within the page or by navigating to the required website and selecting Pin Speed Dial from within the share menu.
From within the same menu, you can access the browser’s Find on Page feature (searches for user-defined text within the page), add the page to bookmarks, share it with your contacts and assign a gesture to it.
Smart URL Bar
The URL bar provides real-time suggestions based on bookmarked websites, browsing history and terms frequently searched on Google. After a page starts loading, you’ll notice the Twitter logo on the left of the address bar. Tapping it allows you to share the page on Twitter.
Sidebars: Options & Bookmarks
Swipe left from the right edge of the screen reveals one of two sidebars. This one contains shortcuts to a couple of frequently used features along with the settings menu, downloads and the option to switch to full screen. The other sidebar displays all bookmarked websites, allows you arrange their order, delete them and organize them into sub folders.
Like its Android variant, Dolphin Borwser for iPhone lets you input gestures to control a host of browser functions or to navigate to your favorite websites. Tap the hand-shaped icon at the bottom of the screen or within the aforementioned options sidebar to input a gesture. From within the black, semi-transparent canvas that appears, select New Gesture to create/ edit a gesture. Remember, if you save a gesture for every other website or action, you might experience a drop in the accuracy of results. Also, try to make each gesture as different from the other as possible.
During our brief test-run, the browser did crash a few times (perfectly natural considering the app is relatively new to the App Store). No worries, though. The browser saves your tabs before crashing and, the next time it is launched, asks you whether you want to restore your session.
Last but definitely not the least – the Webzine feature. I’ll maintain what I said in my review of the app’s Android variant. The Webzine feature is handy enough to be a separate app. Said feature is basically a built-in RSS reader that retrieves all the latest posts from a predefined set of the most popular websites and blogs arranged into 10 different categories. Webzine strips each website of its theme & ads and presents it in an easy-on-the-eyes, magazine-like format more suitable for reading on a mobile device. The feature also incorporates social media. As of now, it only supports Facebook and Twitter.
While on Speed Dial, swipe right across the middle of the screen to switch to the Webzine page. The Twitter and Facebook webzines should be there by default. Tap Add Columns to add more. The Add More Columns screen even sports a search bar for your convenience.
Articles and blog posts/ feed items are displayed very much like they are in an RSS reader. Tap to open a feed item and swipe left and right across the screen to switch to the next or previous one. Tap a featured image to enlarge it and the share button in the bottom-right corner to post a link to the article to your Facebook wall and/or Twitter feed. It’s as simple and convenient as that.
And that’s not all. The real potential of this feature is unveiled when you explore the social media webzines. Your Facebook wall and Twitter feed are displayed along with previews for attached images. You can update your status, view and add comments within the Facebook webzine while the Twitter webzine allows you to tweet, view retweets of, retweet and favorite any tweet in your timeline.
Tap a shared article and the entire article along with its featured image (if any) should be displayed, provided the website from which the article was shared is among the ones that have a webzine.
And that’s a wrap. Needless to say, Dolphin is definitely worth a try. In fact, it’s good enough (and fast enough) to be your default browser and unlike some other alternatives on the App Store, it’s absolutely free. However, don’t go thinking the developers have nothing more to offer. Remember, the app’s been in the Store for only a little over five days and it’s still missing a few handy features that are part of its Android counterpart (add-ons, for instance). Future updates are bound to close the gap between the two versions.
You may download the app for free from the iTunes App Store via the link provided below.