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Samsung's mobile browser comes to an Android near you

The hardware giant's browser, which syncs with Chrome and promotes ad blocking, now works with a wide swath of phones.

The Samsung Internet browser now works on other phones besides those from Samsung.
The Samsung Internet browser now works on other phones besides those from Samsung.

You may not have heard that Samsung's been building a mobile browser, but the company said Wednesday that the software now works on any relatively new Android phone -- not just on its own devices or Google's scarce Nexus and Pixel models. 

The Samsung Internet browser is still being tested, but Samsung is releasing it gradually worldwide on Google's Play Store.

Most phones powered by Google's Android software use Google's Chrome browser, but Samsung's browser shows the company hasn't lost its ambition to become powerful in software. Earlier Samsung software efforts, like its Android apps and its Tizen competitor to Android, have had only middling success.

The Samsung browser requires a phone with Android 5.0, aka Lollipop, or later. Like other modern browsers from Google, Apple, Mozilla, Microsoft and Opera, it can synchronize your bookmarks and open tabs. However, if you want to sync with a browser on your personal computer, you'll have to install Samsung's Chrome extension.

The new version  includes a high-contrast display mode to make the browser easier to use for people with visual impairments. It's got a selection of ad blockers built into the menu -- joining rivals Brave and Opera with another warning to the online ad industry that there's a real backlash to their technology.

Also included, though disabled by default, is support for WebVR, a technology that brings virtual reality to browsers. For those who enable it, Samsung Internet offers WebVR support to Samsung GearVR headsets. Google already ships WebVR support in its Android version of Chrome, and on Tuesday, Mozilla added WebVR support to its Firefox browser for personal computers.

Samsung bases its browser on Chromium, the open-source project behind Chrome, but is eager to have you know it's not just copying and pasting Google's work.

"We don't just pull in features from Chromium but actively contribute into them and into web standards," Samsung Internet developer advocate Peter O'Shaughnessy said in a blog post.

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