The best mobile web browsers for Android

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By 28 Sep 2017
best free web browser android

Millions of people around the world use Android phones, and they can support lots of different web browsers. If you're not too keen on the one that's pre-installed on the phone, there are plenty of others to choose from.

 

Brave Browser 

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'Brave' is a browser from the Mozilla Project, and their aim is to reduce the time that websites take to load by removing lots of the unnecessary stuff (adverts, tracking cookies and other privacy-invading bits of software).

It does that very effectively, and without changing the website you're looking at too much. Brave also loads your web links in the background, so you won't see the new page until it's fully loaded and ready to view.

Brave's top features:

  • Link Bubble: The 'Link Bubble' feature was originally a browser all by itself, and ended up evolving into the Brave browser we know today. Link Bubble is how Brave loads websites - instead of tabs like most browsers, you're given 'bubbles' which float above whatever app you're currently in, and sit there until you're ready to view the page. That way, you aren't left watching a blank screen while you wait for a page to load.
  • Brave Shields: This is what Brave calls its ad-blocking and anti-tracking features, which can be turned on or off at the touch of a button. It puts all of the privacy features in one place, blocking slow ads and stripping tracking cookies and other bugbears automatically as the page loads. You can customise just how protective the Brave Shields are in the settings – so if you want to allow website tracking, but force sites to load securely, you can set it up however you want.
  • Share Picker: This is great for sharing links to websites. When you drag one of your bubbles around the screen, you can choose three buttons to 'drop' the bubble onto. Drag it to the bottom of the screen to close the tab, or choose one of the two top buttons to share the site - one sharing button can be set to your favourite messenger app, and the other button will always ask you which app to share the link with.
  • Domain Redirects: You might not want to use Brave for every site you visit, and you can set it to open certain links in a different browser, using 'domain redirects'.

Dolphin Browser

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Dolphin was originally one of the only Android browsers to support 'gestures', which let you get around the internet using swipes and patterns drawn across the screen. There are other browsers that also do that now, but Dolphin's speed and reliability, along with some other useful features, mean it's still one of the best browsers.

Like Brave, it also has ad-blocking built into it, which is an important feature for any browser these days: letting you read the sites you're visiting without being directed through various adverts along the way.

Dolphin's top features:

  • Dolphin Connect: This lets you send an open tab from your phone to your browser, or vice versa. Install the Connect extension for Firefox, Chrome and Safari on your PC or laptop, then sign in with a Facebook, Google, or Dolphin account. Open Dolphin on your phone or tablet, press the Menu button, and tap share. Choose Devices, and pick your PC or laptop from the list to share your tabbed page.
  • Wi-Fi Broadcast: Similar to Connect, 'Wi-Fi Broadcast' lets you share your open tabs with other users – but this time from mobile to mobile over a shared Wi-Fi network. To use this feature, drag your finger from the right-hand edge of your screen into the centre to open the Add-ons menu. Tap Wi-Fi Broadcast, then Share This Page to post your open tab to the other kit connected to the same Wi-Fi network.
  • Sonar: This is a type of voice searching. When it's turned on, just shake your phone to bring up the search screen. You can ask a question, zoom in or out, or say a page you'd like to visit. There's a full list of commands at the Dolphin website.
  • Physical buttons: When setting up Dolphin for the first time, you're asked to choose a function for your phone's volume keys. When you're browsing, you can use these buttons to either scroll up and down a webpage or switch between your active tabs. Or if neither of those functions interest you, you can carry on using your volume keys to change the volume.

Chrome

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Chrome is Google's own internet browser, and comes pre-installed on a lot of Android phones and tablets – but it isn't always set as the default browser.

Chrome is really easy to use, which is why a lot of people prefer it. There's only one menu button, which lets you open all of your options and settings with a couple of screen taps.

Chrome's top features:

  • Synced bookmarks: What makes Google's software so popular is that it connects with your other Google kit. Signing into Chrome with your Google account lets you share your tabs, bookmarks and passwords with other kit that's also signed in on your account.
  • Bandwidth Management: Chrome can also reduce your mobile data usage by up to 50%, letting Google process your browsing data through their servers. This means most of the hard work is done by Google, and not by your smartphone, causing less data to be downloaded to your handset. To turn this mode on, press the Menu button and go to Settings. Scroll down to Bandwidth Management, tap on it, then choose Reduce Data Usage. Press the On switch.
  • Incognito mode: If you're always lending your phone or tablet to friends and family, you might be interested in 'Incognito mode' – a secure section of the browser that doesn't record your browsing history, passwords, or other data until you switch back to the regular mode. This means you won't have to worry about people leaving their accounts signed in on your device, or other users getting into your email, or shopping accounts.
  • Imported bookmarks: This lets you import your bookmarks from another browser. Press the Menu button, then tap Settings and press the Menu button again. You'll be asked if you want to import your bookmarks. It'll search your web browser for any saved bookmarks, then copy them into Chrome's bookmarks list.

UC Browser

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This browser makes it very easy to get around the internet. You can drag your finger from the left edge to go back one page, or a swipe from the right to go forwards. The menu is easy to understand, with all your settings in one place. There are also plenty of themes to let you personalise the look of the browser.

If you're using an older, or smaller smartphone like a Galaxy Ace, you might want to try out UC Mini - a lightweight version of UC Browser for small screens or slower hardware.

On the other hand, if you've got a powerful, large-screened tablet or smartphone, you should try UC Browser HD, which gives you a much clearer, better looking experience.

UC Browser's top features:

  • Videos Manager: This section of the settings menu keeps track of all the videos you've watched, liked, or downloaded – making it easier to find them if you want to watch them again.
  • Night Mode: Looking at a bright screen before you go to bed can affect how well you sleep. UC Browser has a 'Night Mode' that helps by dimming the screen and changing some of the backgrounds to make it a bit easier on the eyes.
  • Auto Pager: Some websites spread their content across a few pages, meaning you need to find and click a button before you can continue reading. UC Browser tries to do away with all that with its 'Auto Pager' feature. This creates a 'seamless reading experience' by automatically loading the next page in a series when you reach the end of the current page.

Opera

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The Android version of Opera doesn't support extensions yet, but it does still include tabbed browsing, an excellent download manager, and 'Discover', which is a news feed that pulls stories from around the internet. If you use Opera for PC, make sure to sync to 'Opera Link' to keep all your bookmarks and saved passwords in one place.

The full version of Opera for Android is only supported on kit that uses Android 4.0 and above, so if you're using something a little older, give Opera Mini a try. It's a more lightweight version of Opera, that's ideal for older, or slower, handsets.

Opera's top features:

  • Off-Road Mode: Some internet connections can be slower than others, so 'Off-Road Mode' helps by sending websites to one of Opera's servers, where it's compressed into something much lighter and faster to download. This mode can also help reduce your data usage.
  • Download Manager: Keep track of your downloads from inside your browser, without having to search your phone looking for a downloads folder or notification. From inside the Download Manager, tap the menu button and choose settings to choose how you want to deal with new downloads, and also to choose where to download your items to.
  • Discover: This feature of the browser can be opened from a new tab (or the settings menu), and gives you top news stories from around the internet. While browsing Discover, tap the cog icon to open the Discover settings. From here, you can choose new topics or news sources to collect information from.

Hopefully that's you sorted, but if you need more help, you can get in touch with a Team Knowhow Expert here.

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