3rd-Party iPhone Web Browsers: What's Useful, What's not

We've put a few of the available browsers through their paces, and tagged them according to their usefulness and potential for significant improvement.

Apple's decision to allow third-party Web browsers into the iTunes App Store has been met with developer enthusiasm. Coders, elated that Apple has reversed it's previous, anti-competitive stance with regard to at least one application sector (mail clients and SMS applications still appear to be off limits) have pushed through a series of Web browsers ranging from the valuable to the useless, and the promising to the devoid of potential.

We've put a few of the available browsers through their paces, and tagged them according to their usefulness and potential for significant improvement.

Shaking Web (iTunes Link) $1.99. Largely useless, Some potential. Uses an algorithm that compensates for any movement of the iPhone: shaking hands, bumps on a bus or train, or footsteps. In practice, the result of the accelerometer functionality is generally without utility. The browser is usually either overcompensating or under-compensating, and the effect is more jarring then soothing when walking with a page open, i.e. readability is not enhanced. If future versions can improve responsiveness and become more image stabilizer and less ship deck, the $2 price might justifiable.

SafeEyes Mobile Site Link (not yet available in iTunes)). No price yet. Looks Useful. Potential uncertain. We haven't yet had a chance to play with SafeEyes Mobile, but its purpose seems solid. Rather than parents blocking Safari completely on their young ones' iPhones, SafeEyes uses the traditional "blocked-site database" method to bar entry to specific sites. The app's developers say it should be available soon, and we'll report back with further information when it debuts.

WebMate: "Tabbed" Browser (iTunes Link) $.99. Useful. Some potential This browser simulates tabbing by queuing up websites inside a browser that uses backward and forward buttons to sift through the websites one at a time. The utility of this browser lies not in its navigation mechanism, but rather in its ability to load and store pages. Whereas MobileSafari must reload pages when the application is closed and reopened, WebMate can keep pages for later viewing and freely switch between pages without reloads. The current potential in this application relates to bugs. For instance, if a link is set to open in a new page using the _blank tag, it won't work. Some spit an polish could make this a $1 no-brainer.

Edge Browser (iTunes Link) Free. Largely useless. Some potential View web page or web apps in a full screen Safari Browser. No Address or navigation bars--'nuff said. If you find the Safari interface elements irritating, then the price is right for this application. However, the lack of a back button and the apparent inability to enter URLs (seriously?) make this an unusable browser. Check back when some significant feature enhancements have been made.

Incognito (iTunes Link) $1.99. Useful. Significant potential. Priviate browsing on the iPhone, allowing you to browse without leaving any history behind. Great for avoiding embarassing search and URL auto-suggestions after browsing... ahem... questionable content. The interface is somewhat shoddy for the time being, but could be easily enhanced.

Feedback? iphoneatlas@cnet.com.

 

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