Hands down one of the best and most popular web browsers on iOS, Mercury Browser, has finally come to Android! Luckily, the browser comes bundled with all the options that made it a hit on iOS, such as plugins support, gesture controls, user agent switching and much more. Of course, there are already quite a few top notch browsers available for Android, but Mercury has what it takes to give them something to worry about. How did we find the browser in everyday use? Is it really as fluid as it is on iOS? Head on after the jump to find out!
As expected, the user interface is clean and minimalistic with a navigation ribbon at the bottom. It has a typical speed dial page where you can add new pages or edit the existing ones.
I found loading times to be pretty fast but honestly, if it came down to a comparison with the stock Android 4.3 browser, the difference would, in most cases, be a few micro seconds. So I won’t get into that debate.
It is good to see that a handful of additional search engines have been included in the browser by default, other than the usual: Google, Bing and Amazon.
You can hold down each link to bring up various options, such as ‘Copy Link’, ‘Open in New Tab’, ‘Open in Background Tab’, ‘Open with Reader’ etc.
The number of tabs opened are displayed on the tab button at the bottom. You can tap that to bring up vertically lined up previews of all open tabs, or you can use gestures. To quickly switch from one opened tab to another, swipe right or left across the screen with two fingers, or if you want to close the current tab, swipe left with three fingers.
The built-in reader is one of the few things that gives Mercury a slight edge over Chrome for Android and Chrome-inspired third-party browsers. Like in mobile Safari, links opened within the reader can be shared with others, and you can also set the font size to your liking. All copy/paste and share functions work throughout the reader. When you’re done, hit the check mark in the top-right corner to go back to the original webpage.
The menu button brings up the various browser options that the user can tinker with. These options are split into ‘Functions’ and ‘Settings’. The User Agent option can be found in the ‘Functions’ menu. If you’re not aware of the purpose this serves, look at the screenshot above. If it still doesn’t make sense, allow me to explain. There are websites out there that can’t be viewed properly or at all unless you’re using a certain browser or platform (Android, iPhone, iPad or Desktop, in this case). By selecting an agent here, you will be basically tricking the website into believing that, for example you’re using an iPad. Or if you want to access the website as you would on your computer, you can set the User Agent to Desktop. This is useful for developers as well as users who wish to access content that is typically unavailable on a certain platform.
The ‘Files’ section under the Settings tab houses all downloaded files and it neatly arranges them into folders named by file type.
The function of ‘Private Mode’ is no mystery. Unlike Chrome, however, the browser doesn’t open a separate tab for this purpose. Instead, as soon as this option is turned on, it simply stops keeping any record of your online activities across the entire browser and makes sure that it closes all tabs once you exit it. Normally, the browser resumes your session from where you last left off.
The ‘Settings’ menu houses tweaks such as font size, brightness, an independent rotation lock and a very handy day/night mode switch. With Night mode on, the entire interface of the browser inverts all bright white accents to a dark grey while dropping the brightness a bit as well.
Doesn’t feel like much of a Night mode, to be honest, but that isn’t really the browser’s fault. Considering most websites have white backgrounds, you’re much better off adjusting the brightness manually from the settings menu. However, there is a solution for all that white glare when you’re browsing in the dark: You can turn the white backgrounds of websites to a greyish tone.
To do so, hit the plugin button in the bottom-right corner of the browser following by the gear icon in the popup that appears to access more plugins that the browser comes bundled with. The one you’re looking for, is ‘Light-out Mode’. Once enabled, it will turn the white backgrounds in websites to a dull grey. Ad Block and Dropbox support can also be enabled from the same screen.
The aforementioned ‘Plugins’ popup, houses three of the most frequently accessed plugins, the ‘Reader’ (which we’ve already discussed before), ‘WiFi Transfer’ (turns your device into an FTP server) and Google Translate (for quick translation of foreign pages).
In the extended settings menu, you can tweak your privacy settings, bookmark options, define a homepage, enable ‘Auto Fill Forms’ and set Mercury as your default browser. In Privacy Options, a passcode can also be set to prevent unauthorized access each time the app is reopened.
The landscape view smartly removes the lower ribbon to offer a full-screen experience. To navigate, you can use the back button on your device or the one on the screen, or to bring up the ribbon anytime, hit the button in the bottom-right corner of the screen.