A couple days ago I started hearing about the update to Dolphin Browser which brings in pinch-zoom multi-touch capabilities to the application and in turn to any Android powered phone, including the Droid. Well, I didn’t think much of the news then, because I have an HTC Hero which has built in pinch-zoom in the default web browser. You see, I am more of an organization/simplification type of person. I run most my life utilizing the 5S rules, whether on purpose or not that is how I do it. So, the thought of an additional web browser taking up space and resources on my phone just seemed out of place for me and illogical. That is, until I actually tried the Dolphin Browser for myself. UPDATEDI have been using the Dolphin Browser now for a few days and I’m already really liking it. I’ll cut to the chase, the number one reason is this: It’s fast at loading a page. I’m not sure what was done or how, but this thing loads my pages much faster than the stock browser does. If that’s not reason enough to give it a try, continue reading.
Like I first stated, I wasn’t keen on the idea of having two web browsers on my phone. I loath when a pop-up appears on my call phone asking which app to use for a certain task I’m wanting to do. However, for the purpose of reviewing the browser, I decided I’d bite the bullet and take the plunge on this one. I immediately started to see the benefits of this browser as it loaded my homepage with ease. Then I was even more surprised, pleasantly, with the Start Page.
The Start Page is easily accessible at any time by pressing the menu button at any time while in the browser. The Start Page has a title bar up top, a search field under that and in the main layout on the left is a column of icons for various site groups and on the right the list of sites in each group.
At the top of the group column is “Most Visited” which reflect your personal website viewing habits and by pressing menu again, you can access your history. Next comes your “Bookmarks”, which you can sync, import and label via the menu button. Moving on down brings the user to “Most Popular”, which is similar to “Most Visited” only it’s for all users of Dolphin Browser. *See the last paragraph for my thoughts on this.* After that, the user comes to “Google services” which is a list of Google pages, including search, maps, Gmail, etc. Next is “Read it later” which appears to be a short term bookmark. I have to admit, I have not found a use for “Read it Later” yet, but I guess if you don’t want to bother bookmarking something and then deleting the bookmark later, it’s useful. Next to last, there is a “Del.icio.us” section, with a set of your del.icio.us bookmarks. Finally, there is a Contact us section (not shown) which has links for feedback, sharing, emailing, etc.
Back to the Browser itself. Up top it has tabs, setup similar to any recent tabbed browser for your desktop PC. You can hide the tabs one of two ways. Either by hitting menu then “hide tab” or by setting the default to auto hide tabs when the page finishes loading. Hitting menu brings up the options for going to a web address or searching google, bookmarking the current page, going to the Start Page, bringing up the other tabs or adding a tab if you have only one open, stopping the page load, sharing the website via various social sites, hiding the tabs and finally more.
More brings up more options, as expected, including the “read it later”, find on page, subscribe to RSS, select text and settings. Most of those options are self explanatory, so lets look at the settings.
Settings brings you into a standard Android style settings page, black background, white text with some check boxes and options. There is a section for “Themes” which plainly states, “More themes will be available later”. Interesting. It also contains the options for auto hiding tabs as mentioned before, showing zoom buttons, showing an RSS notification if RSS is avalable for the site you are on etc. It also links to the default Android system settings for the web, such as cache and history clearing etc. I won’t go into depth with all those options, except for Gestures.
Gestures comes with a whole list of available commands, some have predefined gestures assigned to them. You can assign a new gesture or redo a gesture to your liking. Commands such as forward, backward, home, refresh, etc are all there. After you setup your gestures, there are a couple of ways of using them in the browser. First is via a gestures “hot” zone on the screen, which you can change the location in settings, that after tapping brings up the gestures overlay. Then you draw your gesture with your finger, such as a lower case “h” for home and “ding” the browser goes to your home page. The second way to access gestures is to simply hold your finger down on the screen for a couple seconds to bring up a secondary menu, a partial do-nut around your finger, which has a gestures button, a zoom in, a zoom out and depending on where you hold your finger. Over an image, it will bring up and “Image” button with options to save or view, over a link brings up a “Link” button with options for opening the link in a new tab, saving it, sharing it etc.
Along the lines of gestures is the multi-touch pinch-zoom. It works as described, but was a little laggy on my phone, HTC Hero. I think the standard browsers pinch-zoom is a little better. However, if you don’t have Sense UI, then this is your only option for now. Also, I found scrolling and sliding between pages to be a little laggy too, however it isn’t something I’d say is a show stopper.
That is the bulk of the browser, the great thing is, there is much more I haven’t really covered. It’s got many options, settings and features that just kind of pop out at you after a little use. I have almost used it exclusively since installing and don’t see going back to the default browser any time soon.
Last Paragraph. Well here I am going to talk a little bit about the social part of the Dolphin Browser. This brings up a question, “How are they obtaining this data?” I have an email into the developers with questions. Essentially, they are having your history and web browsing data sent back to their server where they aggregate it and create their lists. THIS FEATURE IS NO LONGER INCLUDED IN THE APP. There is no option in the settings to turn this feature on/off. Since I don’t really care much who sees what websites I visit, I’m still using the browser, however, I can see many people being turned off by this, so take warning now. I will update if I get a response from the developers about that feature.
UPDATE: I received a response to my questions from the developer and they stated they released an updated copy of Dolphin Browser which removes the shared browsing feature altogether. This is excellent news and the only fault I had with it.
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