Android's well-deserved reputation for flexibility extends to how you browse the web. Google's mobile OS allows you to set any browser you like as the default on your Android smartphone, creating a thriving market for third-party browsers in the Play Store. But which one is the best Android browser for you?
Each of the Android browsers we've considered here nails the basics, differentiating themselves with variations in focus or added functionality that may make them better suited for certain users.
Based on our testing, Google Chrome stands out as the best browser for most Android users, but the mobile versions of Opera and Firefox also deliver for fans of those desktops offerings.
News and Updates (Updated Sept. 2019)
Vivaldi, a web browser that's been around since 2016, is now available as a beta for Android. The mobile version of Vivaldi sports many of the same features you'll find on the desktop, including shortcuts for search engines, a Speed Dial page that links directly to your favorite sites, and the ability to jot down notes as you browser. You'll be able to sync your activity on the mobile Vivaldi app with the desktop version, too. We plan on testing out Vivaldi for ourselves to see where the Android web browser ranks.
The best Android browser for most users
If you have made your peace with living in the Google ecosystem and benefiting from the company knowing most everything about your online life, then it's hard to justify getting away from what is the default browser on most Android devices. Chrome is the obvious choice for mobile browsing, particularly if you already use the desktop version.
Syncing between mobile and desktop editions of Chrome is helpful, giving you the option to access passwords you've stored in Chrome (provided you don't use a better stand-alone password manager, that is). As the dominant browser on the market, Chrome is also the most reliable option, as every web developer considers Google's browser when building a website.
Chrome offers extensive additional features like secure storage for payment methods, a data- saver mode, automatic translation in dozens of languages, a malicious ad blocker and a pop-up blocker. It's not quite the abundance of features that you can install on Firefox or Opera, but Chrome definitely ticks most of the mission-critical features.
If you want a glimpse at whats coming soon to Chrome, or you want to test out some features that may never make it to the main Chrome browser, there are three additional Chrome apps starting with Chrome Beta, then Chrome Dev and finally, Chrome Canary. Each step down is trading a bit of reliability, so you will likely want to turn to the traditional Chrome Browser for vital tasks.
Fast and great for saving data
Opera is another mobile browser with a desktop counterpart that boasts all the benefits that come with that for users of both versions. Opera differentiates itself with a data-saver mode that compresses videos as well as standard web pages. As a result, pages load faster thanks to the reduced data, and if you don't have an unlimited data plan, you won't burn through your monthly data allotment as quickly.
Opera also offers a built-in free VPN in Opera gives you a virtual IP, although notably, you can't use both the VPN and data-saver mode in tandem.
Even with its many features, Opera is also one of the fastest browsers that I tested, with only Chrome consistently outperforming it. One slight frustration with Opera is its convoluted interface: you may be distracted by menus at both the top and bottom of the screen.
Powerful alternative if you want to avoid Google
As with Google Chrome, there's a strong motivation to carry over your Firefox use to your Android phone if that's where you do the majority of your desktop browsing. All of your passwords, history and bookmarks will carry over.
For better or for worse, you can customize Firefox to an astounding degree with different themes and extensions that can tweak just about every aspect of the browser. If you are the sort of person that wants to decide how the tabs display in your browser, what color everything should be and exactly what features you want accessible, then Firefox is for you. If that sounds like a nightmare, you should look elsewhere, as even a basic setup of Firefox warrants some tweaking.
Firefox fans who are particularly security conscious should take a look at the newer Firefox Focus. It drops some of the functionality of its elder sibling in favor of privacy protection. Alternatively, there are more experimental versions of Firefox, Firefox for Android Beta and Firefox Nightly for Developers.
Good browser if you value privacy
DuckDuckGo doesn't have all of the bells and whistles of its competitors. But DuckDuckGo makes up for what it lacks with its singular focus on keeping your activity private. A button to the right of the address/search bar will wipe all your activity at any moment with a tap.
DuckDuckGo also eliminates any ad-trackers that may be trying to follow you around the web and automatically will default to the highest encryption available on the site you are visiting.
While the browser itself isn't reporting any of your activity back to DuckDuckGo, this still falls short of a full VPN. If you are looking to keep your activity secure from even your carrier or the Wi-Fi network you are connected to, then you will need a separate VPN app for that purpose.
Fast browser with a fantastic Read It Later mode
Microsoft finally got its act together and delivered a compelling modern (Chromium-based) browser in the form of Edge. While the Android version hasn't undergone the major revamp that the desktop browser just went through, it's still a decent option that syncs up with your Microsoft account.
Microsoft Edge lacks extension support, but it does offer a number of extras that are sometimes extension-based in other apps, such as an ad blocker, translation services, password manager and something called NewsGuard. That latter feature assesses news website based on their “journalistic standards of credibility and transparency.”
Edge's reading-list feature is quite well done, as it delivers the full page rather than an abbreviated or text-only version of an article. If you prefer a more text-focused version of a page, just tap the book icon in the address bar for a clean reading view.
Unlike the desktop version of Edge, the mobile browser lets you swap out the default search engine easily, so you can use Google search in your Microsoft browser.
Works well as a second browser
Flynx is a very competent Android browser with one interesting trick up its sleeve. When you click a link in Flynx, rather than immediately taking over your screen with a still-loading browser, the link opens in a bubble off to the side of your screen. When you are ready to read it, you simply tap on the bubble, and it will expand to a full-screen window.
It may sound like a small thing, but if you're conducting research or engaging in browsing where you have to open multiple tabs, Flynx's approach lets you continue reading the original article or source. I find this to be an excellent time-saver when I’m juggling a large volume of tabs in my mobile browser. Flynx also offers a quick add to its offline reading function by simply double tapping any link.
Flynx really can't serve as the sole browser on an Android device for a couple of reasons. Because the app specializes as a link-opening and read-it-later tool, there isn't an address bar or even an option to just launch into the browser without clicking a link. Beyond that, the app will simply fail to render a web page properly on occasion, though it's not a constant problem; still, Flynx offers the ability to open the page in a designated fallback browser you can select in settings.
Fast browser with a few unique tricks
Puffin Web Browser is focused on speed and security, sending encrypted data to its data centers in the U.S. That’s a potential downside to users in other countries, as your browser’s geolocation will show up as the U.S., potentially blocking you from some local content.
When testing Puffin, I occasionally lost connection with the Puffin servers. A handful of times over the course of a day, I would see a “reconnecting” message across the top of my phone’s display for 3 to 5 seconds. Even with that drawback, the upsides of a built-in VPN, data saving on most content, faster page load times and Flash support are going to be worth it for some users.
Puffin’s free version requires that you agree to always-on location tracking. The company indicates this data is anonymized and used with third-parties to improve relevancy of ads, maps and search results. If you don’t want to grant that permission or just want to get rid of the ads, you can buy Puffin Browser Pro for $4.99.
While it doesn’t have as deep a feature set as some of our top options, Puffin does have some clever touches. I really enjoyed the gesture support in full-screen videos that lets you scrub through the timeline and adjust volume and brightness without interfering with playback. And while it’s not widely useful, the virtual trackpad and gamepad that you can pull up as an overlay on the browser are perfect for some tasks.
How we test Android browsers
We conducted browser testing on a Pixel 3 running Android 9 Pie, though your experience won't differ all that much from phone to phone. We tested more than half-a-dozen browsers, focusing on apps that are regularly updated. With Android 10 (formerly known as Android Q) due out soon, we'll revisit our testing to make sure that nothing's changed with the latest OS update.
Our testing process involves using each browser as our primary way to surf the web on our Android phone until we get an overall impression of current features and user experience. We also test loading speeds and see how each of the ranked browsers handles websites not always suited to mobile devices (a bank website, for example, and several local restaurants). We also visit a website that features a lot of pop-up ads to see how each browser performs at stopping pop-up ads.