Attack of the Mobile Browsers

Mobile Browser No. 4: Dolphin Browser HD

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There are two versions of the Dolphin browser for Android: the Mini version for Android 1.6 and later, and the HD version built for Android 2.0 and later devices. Both are nice, but most people with the chance to run the HD version should choose it because it has a number of extra features.

The most intriguing feature to me is the customizable command that reacts to a gesture. You can draw your own patterns on the screen, then link them to Web pages or actions. The browser offers a wide collection of standard actions; for instance, drawing a V on the screen will jump immediately to the bottom of the page.

There are even deeper options for customization. Dolphin, like the desktop version of Firefox, offers the opportunity to create plug-ins or add-ons. Some just change the look or theme, but others add functionality. One from Last.fm, for instance, will let you listen to your Last.fm stream while browsing. There are a fair number of interesting add-ons, but the options (about 50) are still far short of the desktop ecologies.

Other neat features are buried in the settings menu. I enjoyed changing the volume buttons into controls that move the Web page up and down. The User Agent is easy to change. These and dozens of other options make Dolphin one of the most intriguing alternatives for those who aren't content to use Android's standard browser.

Mobile browser No. 5: Skyfire
When the Flash war broke out between Apple and Adobe, the developers of Skyfire saw their chance. They compiled a Flash interpreter into their mobile browser for Android and iOS, and now Skyfire users can see Flash presentations even if they're using an iPhone. As I've mentioned, this isn't always a perfect combination because many Flash presentations are so large that they choke the connection or overwhelm the screen, but the possibility is there.

After the Flash integration, the most notable feature is the way the Skyfire browser pushes integration with social networking hubs such as Facebook and Twitter. To save you the agony of waiting several seconds or even longer for the news to arrive from Facebook about your BFF's latest OMG-inspiring tale, Skyfire caches a current version and calls it QuickView. One push and you can toggle between the Web and Facebook friends.

The integration with Facebook goes deeper. The Like button is always floating around on every single page you visit. If you want to share the words and images you're viewing, just one push will send them out to all friends. There's no need to waste seconds by flipping over to the Facebook QuickView.

That's not all. Some versions of Skyfire extract a separate RSS feed of links suggested by your friends. Skyfire will also compile a list of the most popular links throughout Facebook. No wonder Facebook says it's not building a browser -- Skyfire is doing a pretty good job already.

But it's not all Facebook all of the time. Skyfire has similar features that integrate with Twitter and Google Reader. If you want to save bookmarks, Delicious is a click away. If you want to save the text itself, Instapaper and Pinboard are there too.

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

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