Mobile Browsers Battle

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Android Browser Excels in Search Tasks

The main page of the Android browser looks a bit more crowded than that of the iPhone or Palm Pre browser; but overall the Android browser competes very well with its peers. The Android browser is built into Google's Android mobile operating system and tightly integrated with it.

You can search on Android devices by using the universal address bar and Google Voice search. Photo courtesy of Google.
The Android browser's address bar, like the Palm Pre browser's, can function as a search engine (Google) field, in much the same way as Google's Chrome browser works on desktop computers. The Android browser's search bar contains a built-in Google voice search feature (the button with the microphone icon)--a nice touch. You simply hit the button and begin speaking your search terms. To access the voice search function on the iPhone, you must open a separate Google app.

The browser displays the loading progress of a page in the address bar. But unlike on the iPhone browser, you can't initiate actions on the Android browser bar by tapping it. To access another page, you must press first the Menu button and then Go. The only way to zoom in or out on a Web page is by pressing the appropriate translucent button at the bottom. When you tap the screen of the T-Mobile G1, you don't get adaptive zooming, as you would on the iPhone or Palm Pre.

To navigate back to the previous visited page, you just press the “Back” hardware button, while to go forward you have to press the “Menu” hardware button and then press “Forward” on the screen. Refreshing a page also requires a press of the “Menu” button. To locate your position on a page, a persistent opaque scroll bar is present on the left side of the screen. An opaque scroll bar is always present on the left side of the screen, to help you locate your position on a page.

The improved Android interface on the HTC Hero makes viewing pages and browsing through visual bookmarks a breeze. Photo courtesy of HTC.
Switching between open tabs on the Android browser requires another trip to the Menu button. You can load a multiple pages in the background, however--as on the Palm Pre, thanks to the Android OS's multitasking capability. Sometimes when I used the Web browser with a 3G connection, background browser tabs had to reload when I switched back to them, even though I had loaded that tab previously. With the Android browser, as with the iPhone browser, you can have no more than eight browser tabs open at the same time.

One cool feature of the Android browser is that you can search within the text of a page (by tapping and holding the page); neither the iPhone nor the Pre supports this feature.

To save an image in the Android browser, you tap and hold the image. When the image begins to save, a different screen appears, with a download progress bar--and that screen won't disappear until you press the Back button.

Flash content on the HTC Hero. Photo Courtesy of Adobe.
The T-Mobile G1, T-Mobile MyTouch 3G, and Samsung Galaxy handsets do not support Adobe Flash animation. The new HTC Hero, however, breaks the mold by offering full Flash support, a first for Android devices.

For comprehensive coverage of the Android ecosystem, visit Greenbot.com.

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