There’s little that our smartphones cannot do these days. We have become so dependent on them, from setting alarms to reminders to browsing for information on restaurants and movies — activities in which the browser plays a crucial role. HT looks at mobile browsers, and how things are changing.
Depending on the Android phone you are using, Google Chrome may already be the default browser. If it is not, you can you can download it from the app store. Chrome has voice-based access. So, if you want to search for Amitabh Bachchan’s movies, just open the browser, tap on the microphone button and say “Movies of Amitabh Bachchan”. Bingo! You get the results. It recognises most accents.
The browser is designed to render content fast on your screens, and lets you synchronise bookmarks and Web page history across the Google Chrome browsers on your PC, tablet or laptop.
You can also compress Web pages using Google servers if you are on a mobile network and roaming, though this works only on regular Websites. Facebook or e-commerce sites are not compressed. The “ Incognito” setting lets you search Websites without history getting saved.
You may fumble a bit if you are a first-time user, especially to open new tabs and to find settings.
OPERA MINI [iOS, Android]
Opera Mini was one of the first mobile browsers to compress Web pages before they hit your mobile phone. This gave great browsing on the slowest of networks, and crunched your data-download bills. After years, Opera has given a complete makeover to its iOS version. The Android version has not been tampered with yet, but it may be just a matter of time.
The new Opera Mini lets you switch between the default compression mode and a brand new Turbo Mode. The original compresses data by 90%; the ‘Turbo’ compresses data without changing the appearance of the Website, unlike the old mode.
Opera has also incorporated a built-in QR code reader. There is even a search selector that lets you toggle between Google, Wikipedia, IMDB and dictionary.com, and a slider that lets you correct URL mistakes.
Voice search and full-screen mode are absent, but compared to Google Chrome, Opera is super fast.
[iOS, Android, Windows Mobile]
If you are using a Windows-based smartphone, this is an alternate browser for you, though the iOS and Android versions are good as well. Like Google Chrome and Opera Mini, UC Browser also has a compression mode, which can compress up to 85% of the Web pages. But it has a rendering problem on some compressed Websites. Not as fast as the Google Chrome or Opera Mini, but some of its functions are neat.
The UC Browser on iOS lets you save YouTube videos for offline viewing – download in a wi-fi zone, watch them later, save on your data bills. You have the choice of using their UCloud, where you can have big files downloaded. Simply select the files you want to download using your mobile browser, and the files get downloaded directly to the cloud. It is a neat feature, though a bit cumbersome to get going.
Opera and Google have made mobile browsing pleasurable. The voice integration in Google Chrome and its recognition of various Indian accents is great, and the speed of the Opera Mini 8 on iOS is fantastic. Both browsers perform well with compression on and compression off, giving you options depending on whether you are using wi-fi or 3G, helping you optimise bills.
It is not possible to cover every browser in an article like this. There are some other notable browsers out there, such as the Opera Coast for the iPad and the iPhone, and the super fast BlackBerry browser on BB OS10 that renders HTML5 pages at super high speeds.