You can check the weather, check your emails or even watch videos on your smartphone without even accessing a browser. And not without good reason: app developers have an incentive to keep users inside their apps.
“Many apps have built-in browsers,” says Joerg Geiger from German tech magazine Chip. These allow external links to be opened directly in the app itself, rather than through a separate browser.
That means browser choice is less important for mobile users than for computer users. However, the alternatives can still be worth exploring. Here is a run-down of the best options.
1) Pre-installed browsers
The default browser on iOS smartphones is Apple’s Safari, and Google’s Chrome is typically pre-installed on Android devices. To use other web browsers, Apple users have to accept certain restrictions.
“There are alternative browsers for iOS but they all use Safari to display web pages,” says Kim Rixecker at digital magazine t3n. “Safari substitutes for iPhones only differ in their user interface and several functions introduced for convenience,” he specifies.
The underlying framework, including the web page display, remains the same: Only the settings are different. Apple claims these restrictions on foreign software have been introduced for security reasons. In this regard, Android is a much more open operating system.
Google’s market leader comes pre-installed with many Android devices and achieves good performance scores. “Chrome is popular because it works on all available platforms,” says Christian Van de Sand from German consumer organization Stiftung Warentest.
Once you are logged into your Google account, for example, you can access your bookmarks or currently opened sites on different devices.
For Geiger at Chip, there are few arguments against using Chrome as your main browser. However, “Chrome is not faster than Safari,” he says, which means that if Apple users are looking for speed, they need not look beyond Safari for alternatives.
A longtime favourite alternative to established browsers on desktops, this software developed by the non-profit Mozilla Foundation has not quite penetrated the mobile market.
But there is one plus-point to the browser, says Rixecker. “The advantage of Firefox for Android phones, compared to Chrome, is that it supports extensions.” Users have the option, for example, to install an ad-blocker to avoid annoying ads or malicious software.
Firefox can also be synchronized over several devices.
“If you use Firefox on your desktop, this option might be useful,” says Rixecker. But to benefit from it, you first have to set up an account with Mozilla, a similar process to that required for Chrome.
4) Firefox Focus
Mozilla’s specialist browser is making headway in the “privacy space,” says Geiger. “The browser seeks to block advertising and prevent users’ data from being tracked. It uses the open-source tool Disconnect.me to create black and white lists of trackers. One cool option is the erase button, which clears all your session data.”
The software developed by American mobile technology company Mobotap relies on gesture control. Users can determine for themselves which hand gestures they want to use to control specific functions. They can, for example, call up a site or scroll up and down by drawing a heart shape or an arrow on the display screen.
The software also responds to voice commands. “The Dolphin browser even has extensions for synchronising with desktop browsers Chrome, Firefox and Safari,” explains Rixecker. This means that you could access, for example, your bookmarks on different browsers and different devices.
The Norwegian browser has a practical benefit for hardcore surfers: it uses less data. “Opera is interesting because it offers the option to reduce the volumes of data consumption,” says Sand at Stiftung Warentest.
“Websites and videos are compressed on Opera’s servers,” explains t3n’s Rixecker. The data is then temporarily stored in the cache of a separate server and the site is displayed with a slightly lower resolution. That should lighten your surfing volume and, ultimately, your wallet. — dpa