A significant (and growing) number of people are surfing the internet from a mobile devices running Android, and not all of them are using the stock Android browser. In fact, there are a whole host of third party browsersavailable across the various Android platforms, each with its own unique quirks and features. Today, we'll take a look at a bunch of interface tips and tricks you might want to be aware of when looking at a range of common Android browsers.
Browser syncing is a feature that tries to bridge the gap between desktop and mobile browsing by allowing you to sync your bookmarks, and sometimes even entire browsing sessions, across two devices. Google Chrome, for example, allows you to sign in with your Google account on both desktop and mobile browsers, which in turn allows you to access your desktop bookmarks while on your smartphone, and vice versa. Additionally, you can sync your open tabs in the "Other Devices" section whenever you open up a new tab. This allows for near seamless switching between desktop and mobile browsing. Many other browsers, such as Opera and Maxthon, include similar browser syncing or cloud tab functions.
Some mobile browsers, such as Firefox, or Kindle's Silk browser, feature a "Reader Mode" for trimming off clutter. This includes banners and other formatting fripperies that get in the way of a clean read. Alternatively, you can also reduce clutter with add ons like AdBlock (provided you're using a browser that supports extensions). More on extensions later.
If the built in functionality of mobile browsers isn't enough, a number of browsers, such as Firefox (which pioneered plugins on the desktop) and Dolphin, include the option to install extensions in order to provide extra features. Added functionality ranges from tweaking appearances to the ability to save webpages as PDFs. There's even mobile versions of some of our favorite desktop extensions, like AdBlock Plus.
A number of websites now include mobile-friendly versions that offer a reduced level of content and features in order to avoid unduly straining the resources of a tablet or smartphone and to limit the data required to load pages. Unfortunately, sometimes, the trade-off is functionality. However, your gear is good for it, you can set manymobile browsers to request the full desktop version of a website. While you might get a website interface that requires more resources to load and isn't designed with a touch interface in mind, it does offer full functionality. You can, for example, load up Microsoft Office Web Apps and edit documents, rather than simply reading them from the mobile site.
Just about every mobile browser has its own way of handling bookmarks in order to meet the challenge of the touchscreen. Still, one thing that you can do with just about any of them is simply save the bookmarks as icons on your home screen. Another common browser feature that is easily overlooked is a bookmarks widget that you can pin onto your screen for easy access.
Another desktop browser feature sometimes forgotten by mobile users is Incognito / Private / Privacy Mode. When enabled, this feature does not track your search or browsing history and removes any cookies associated with the Incognito browsing session. It's great for the paranoid and for those who want to conceal searches or browsing on a shared device (such as when gift shopping for a loved one). Chrome, Maxthon, and Dolphin are just a few of the browsers that feature some sort of Privacy Mode.
Good apps don't just attempt to copy the desktop experience. Instead, they try to take advantage of the unique interface offered by a smartphone or tablet. Each browser has its own quirks and features designed for the smaller touchscreens of smartphones and tablets. These include tab management through pulldown menus and buttons, Dolphin's customizable gesture bookmarks, or Chrome's voice-activated search.