You will come across several mobile web browsers for Android offering the same core functionality but with a few unique features. According to Statcounter, majority of the mobile web browser users in India (over 55%) use UC Browser whereas Chrome comes in second. Apart from the popular browsers, there are alternatives that provide interesting features often overlooked but equally necessary.
Social media apps and news readers, and in fact almost every app out there are bundling an internal browser to open web links. But these browsers are made just to display the text and no other multimedia content. If you’re more interested in only reading the text rather than exploring the photos and videos, then you should opt for the internal browsers which are actually switched on by default.
When you spot something interesting in an online story, the first thing you’d do is take a screenshot and share it on social media. Conventionally, it’s a long process where you take a screenshot, then head over to an image editing app, doodle over it and then share it. To make everything super easy, Mercury Browser includes several plugins (we’ll be covering a few) such as an internal screenshot and doodle function. You can take a screenshot, crop and then doodle over it, and then save the image. Right inside the browser you can navigate to the Files folder of the browser and then share away to wherever you want.
It’s a pain when you have to switch to a browser to open a web link while scrolling through Reddit or Twitter. Flynx works the same way as the chat bubbles for Facebook Messenger. Every link opens in a pop-up bubble which loads in the background while you continue using the current app. This makes it quicker to switch between the app and the browser rather than having to wait until the entire page loads. You can open up multiple links as well, making it more convenient to open up several links in one go and switching to the browser once you’re done scrolling. It has a good looking minimalistic UI and if you’re interested, Brave Browser is another one with the same features in a different design.
Not everyone would be comfortable in sharing their browsing history but then you would suggest browsing in the incognito or private mode. But what if you want to save your history without giving anyone access to it? Mercury Browser lets you add a passcode through its privacy options so that all your history is hidden from uninvited users, unless you share your passcode too.
News buffs already have a separate app dedicated to serve them with news everyday. Since we move towards minimising the number of apps on our phone, UC Browser will be a really useful one for such users. The integration of UC News right inside the browser has ruled out the necessity of installing an extra app for news. It’s embedded in the app and appears on the homepage itself. You can browse through various categories such as Cricket, Entertainment, Humour, Gadget etc., and also edit them according to your preferences. The articles open up in optimised windows, putting readability first.
If you visit a link where you want to save all the images listed on that web page, Mercury Browser makes it quick. Such scenarios occur when you visit an image rich website and want to save several of the images on it. The plugins tab includes a Gallery Mode which pulls all the images on the web page, where you can select the ones you need and download them. This saves time in individually selecting every image and saving it.
Low-end phones fall short on storage space and the default browser only includes the barebone features to surf the web. Additional features costs you a lot of space when using other high-end browsers, but with the APUS Browser, you can get the regular ones such as ad blocking, offline reading, night mode, etc. in under 2MB.
Adobe Flash was discontinued but that hasn’t motivated several websites to update their content, making it incompatible with newer browsers. Puffin Browser makes sure that all the Flash content is still playable through their remote servers that act as a medium to enable support.
If you’re on a tight budget on a data pack, or have poor connectivity in your area, it’s wiser to opt for a browser that optimises web pages by using less data. Opera Mini has been ruling this area for a very long time and still they are going strong. The ‘Extreme Mode’ will ensure that the basic website is loaded while compromising on rich content and sometimes, even making it difficult for some webpages to work properly. But at the end, it gets the job done based on the first two parameters mentioned.
There are times where you want to search for content on specific websites and not just Google. Rather than using search queries, Mercury Browser includes quick buttons to directly search on websites such as Amazon, Wikipedia, YouTube etc. This feature comes up when you tap on the search bar, where you can toggle between the other websites. For quicker access, you can also add them as a notification bar through Notification Bar Options > Favourite Search Engines. If you can’t find the necessary website or search engine, you can manually add it through Search Engine Options > Search Engines > Add Search Engine and entering the title and URL.
If you’re a paranoid user who wants to stay completely anonymous on the internet, then the Tor browser must be your default desktop app. It’s also available for Android in the form of Orfox which is built over Firefox. You will also require the Orbot proxy app to connect using the Tor proxy servers, ensuring complete anonymity. Still under a Beta phase, the app keeps getting updates incrementally.
Websites are collecting a lot of your information through cookies and the regular mobile browsers can’t scan any of that data. The Ghostery Privacy Browser does exactly that and lists down all the trackers active on the websites you visit. It’s completely upon you whether you want a few trackers to be active but if you hate any kind of tracking, you can switch them off in one tap.
There must have been times where you wanted to open two web pages at a time when you needed to refer to some article while reading another. Although this can be done by switching tabs as you read, but a better way is to have a multi-window panel. Atlas Web Browser includes this very useful feature in its paid Atlas+ add-on, which is especially good for larger screens.
Taking screenshots is easy as mentioned above, but what if you wanted to take a screenshot of the entire page? ONE Browser offers the option to screen captures of the visible area, selected area or the full page.
This article was first published in November 2016 issue of Digit magazine. To read Digit's articles first, subscribe here or download the Digit e-magazine app for Android and iOS. You could also buy Digit's previous issues here.
A Star Wars fan and sci-fi enthusiast. When I'm not playing games on my PC, I usually lurk around the Internet, mostly on Reddit.