One of the great features of Android is that it offers its users choice. Whether you're downloading apps from outside of the Android Market, swapping out the user experience with a new desktop replacement, or simply choosing a different phone-dialing application, you'll appreciate the platform's flexibility.
Though I might consider the standard Android client to be a better-than-average browser, there are alternatives that add features to improve the mobile experience. Just last week, Opera announced its Mini 5 beta Web browser for Android. With it, and the Dolphin Browser, now I have two fantastic apps fighting for my attention.
I should point out that by downloading any Web client for Android, you're not required to remove the preloaded browser. Like on a PC, you are free to have more than one. As I do with Firefox and Chrome on my desktop, I like to use both Dolphin and Mini 5 for various reasons.
One of the big selling points in Mini 5 (hit the link for our First Look video) is that it compresses data on Opera's servers before it's sent off to you, which results in pages that load considerably faster. This is especially handy for people with slower or touchy data connections. I bounce between T-Mobile's 3G and EDGE connection throughout most of my day, so Opera helps make the transition less noticeable.
When you load the browser, you're presented with nine quick bookmarks called Speed Dials. As I typically don't have too many bookmarks, the ability to store nine pages covers my bases. Opera Link lets me sync my bookmarks and Speed Dial pages to and from my desktop, although I've yet to use the browser on my PC. Other features include pinch zooming, tabs, a handy navigation bar, and download manager.
Released last year, Dolphin Browser also gives users a better mobile Web experience than the standard client. With support for multitouch zooming, sharing links through social-networking services, plus fantastic RSS functionality, and a clean interface, I tend to use Dolphin as my preferred browser.
Though Dolphin also offers tabbed browsing, I like Opera Mini 5's design--if only for the smaller footprint. If you're a fan of Google bookmarks, it's possible to synchronize them from the browser and cloud. I really enjoy how Dolphin automatically detects whether or not a site has an RSS feed and offers it up to me. As I stated above, I don't bookmark too many sites, but I can't seem to get enough RSS feeds to sites.
If you value space and memory on your phone, you'll be happy to learn that Dolphin lets you store the cache to your memory card. Furthermore, it's a breeze to wipe the cache completely upon exiting the application.
One feature that Dolphin offers that I've yet to really take advantage of is the use of gestures. There are a handful of preset gestures for common tasks such as closing tabs and adding a bookmark. It's also possible to create your own should you not like the current setup.
Both Opera Minia 5 and Dolphin Browser are free applications available in the Android Market. It's not that one option is better, but some days one of the browsers fits my needs better than the other. I recommend downloading them and trying them out. I'm sure you'll encounter other hidden gems.
Which browsers are you using with your Android handset? Leave a comment below and share your favorites.