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Smart browsers to go!

tech reviews Updated: Sep 25, 2012 01:01 IST
Gagandeep Singh Sapra

Imagine a car that is getting faster, better and cheaper — while its steering wheel remains rooted in old style. You could almost say that about mobile browsers. A lot needs to be done on Internet browsers, and chances are that you are not satisfied with your experience when you surf the net on your mobile phone.

But some brave companies are making changes to help you browse the Web better on your handset or tablet. Other than the browsers that come bundled with phones, such as Apple’s Safari for the iOS devices (iPhone and iPad), or Chrome that comes with Google-backed Android platform or the Internet Explorer with a Windows device, there are other options — some paid and some free. Let us taste a couple today.

Price: Free (but added features may be priced)
Platforms: Android and iOS

The Dolphin browser, which has been making waves since its arrival, allows full-screen browsing — a luxury in hand-held devices. It allows room to see a Web page without a bar sitting at the top or bottom. It offers gesture support (Draw an upward pointing arrow and it takes you to the top of the page and a downward arrow takes you to the bottom). You can add more gestures — like drawing a G will open or a T will take you to Twitter. You can synchronise bookmarks between devices with a Dolphin browser. You can have a cool-looking speed dial page that — like a desktop — gives you the icons of the websites that you use most often, so you can surf straight from the start screen.

The navigation interface is nice. You can slide from the left to the right corner to get your bookmarks bar and you do the opposite, and you get your tabs list. You can also add a function called Sonar that lets you search, share and navigate the Net by speaking to it.

Dolphin also lets you configure it to tell your websites that it is a desktop browser. This helps access the desktop version of the sites - if that is what you want instead of the mobile version. Another cool feature is the “webzine view” of a website that makes the site take the appearance of a magazine — though this did not work with some sites I tried out. This is particularly useful if you are using a Dolphin browser on a tablet than a phone.

Opera Mini & Opera Mobile
Price: Free
Platforms: Symbian, Windows, Blackberry, iOS, Android

Opera Mini / Opera Mobile browsers are designed to make sure that you save money while you use this on your mobile phone/tablet. Here is how it works: every Web page you request is first crunched at the Opera servers and then sent to your device. So, if a regular browser took in 200 KB for a view, Opera Mobile can bring it down to as little as 40 KB. If your browsing is priced by the bit, this can dramatically lower the cost. Since the data is running through Opera servers, this is like taking a roundabout route and this may slow your downloads — but then you save a lot on data transfer, with overall gains likely.

The Opera browser does not support a full screen mode, but has a dashboard-based start screen. You can choose to start from a blank page or start from the dashboard screen. You can also save pages for offline access as well as see your data usage. Though I would have loved to see a full screen mode on it, I find the bookmark management and the bookmark synchronisation of Opera better than that of Dolphin.

What should you choose?

Each browser gives you an alternate way to browse the Internet than the built-in browser. Overall between the two, if you are on an expensive data plan and would like to reduce your data consumption I would suggest you go for Opera. Dolphin is great for home use on a tablet, with its full-screen interface and gesture support.