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iPhone 4 App Review – Dolphin Browser

By on October 17, 2011
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Smart browsing.

Good: smart and effective GUI; sleek and fast to load; speed dials are well implemented; webzine is pretty darn good; it's free
Bad: gestures work but are useless.
Price: AED Free
* The price is the Suggested Retail Price at the time of review. Please call a retailer to confirm the latest price for this product.

Browsing on the iPhone is pretty great, for the most part (a.k.a no Flash support). But other than the neglected short comings, iPhone’s Safari is another stumble block that Apple needs to address if it wants to chew on that coveted market share.

But like everything else, there is an app for that, and there are no short supplies for Internet browsers on the App Store. Since developers are not allowed to use a different browser engine, innovation is then focused on the interface, features and ease of browsing. There are some great examples, such as Atomic Browser, iCab, Mercury, etc. However, they have their own stumbling blocks as well, but in a completely different way: they are trying to be desktop browsers, not a smartphone one.

This is where I found MoboTap’s Dolphin Browser, to use a cliché, a breath of fresh air. There are no pretentions to it – it’s a smartphone browser. It might not be full-featured like its competitors, for example no adblock, but it expertly uses screen space, swipes and gestures to deliver a clean, clutter-free browsing experience. And that’s not matched by many.

Interface:
The tab bar instantly reminds you off Google Chrome, and it behaves similarly as well. You can either enter a web address, or switch the keyboard to input a search term on the address bar; the latter results in a search on Google. Unfortunately, there is no way to change the default search engine (but why would you?), and since Google is annoying by selecting the preferred region without your permission, your searches will be in Arabic (not the actual links, of course).

The bottom bar is fixed, giving you access to the basic options: back, forward, gestures, bookmarks and the tab bar on/off switch.

If you aren’t fond of tapping, you can swipe from left to right from the left edge to bring out the bookmark menu. Click ‘back’ on the bottom bar and it will disappear. It’s simple and intuitive to use, and makes for a great visual experience. And that’s where the devil is, isn’t it? It’s super-fast to load as well, making it work better than any bookmark system I have used in other browsers.

Similarly, if you swipe right to left from the right edge, you can access more of the browser’s options: the downloads section, gesture editor (I will get to it in a bit, promise!), clear data and settings. The settings menu is bare bones: you can turn off auto screen lockdown, enable private mode and enforce desktop mode. And that’s about it.

Gestures:
Using gestures is a staple part of my browsing experience on my PC. To browse without them is like using a ball mouse. It’s bad. Dolphin Browser tries to do something similar as well, and although it does work, it’s sort of useless on a touch-based device. You can tap – even on a 9.5” screen of the iPad – much faster than drawing gestures. And the nature of the gestures is that, the more you use it, the more complicated it gets making them as different from others (unless you are creative a genius).

Disregarding that, the gestures work, and are as customizable as any extension on Firefox or Google Chrome. You can use it for a number of things, like closing tabs, opening new pages, bookmarking, etc.

Speed dial:
You can add up to 9 speed dials on the iPhone, and plenty more on the iPad. It again reminds you off Chrome, with its speed of use and elegant, minimal styling. It’s a great addition, and it’s not cumbersome as many other browsers that sports this feature.

Webzines:
This is probably the browser’s best feature. It takes articles from your favorite websites (not us, yet, sorry), stacks them into a neat interface and throws away the clutter and mess that websites usually bring. And it’s not just a small list of websites, its categories ranges from news, technology, gaming, sports, and hell, even politics, fashion and education.

I do have a small gripe with it, though. I wish it would take a large chunk of the article it collects, instead of just a few lines. I know it is done to preserve traffic for the participating websites, however not every website is mobile friendly, and with rising costs of data plans, it could work as a nice data-saver.

Conclusion:
Dolphin Browser is not brimming with features. Yet it’s so simple, intuitive and effective to use, not mention it looks great as well, that it makes up for what it lacks. I do not want to go as far as saying that it is the best browser on the App Store; it could do with some more features. But it’s right there with the top. And guess what? It’s free.


About

Mufaddal Fakhruddin is the Editor for IGN ME and thinks writing in third person about himself in an about me section is weird.

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