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This week I take a look at Dolphin, a highly intelligent smartphone web browser that Safari can learn a lot from.
When it comes to browsers, I’m quite a weird guy. On the Macbook I use at work, I just can’t decide which one I like more: Firefox is incredibly stable and supports tree-style tabbing (it’ll change your life), but looks a bit too rigid. Chrome has the awesome “speed dial” screen when you launch and the aesthetically pleasing tabs with soft corners delight me (it’s the little things that count), but it doesn’t perform so well under pressure. I tend to work with one for a week and then switch back to the other the next week.
When it comes to mobile browsers, I’ve tried a couple but nothing really came forward to claim the coveted spot that Safari currently occupies on my dock. There was one, which I can’t for the life of me remember what it was called, that claimed to be designed and optimised for one-hand browsing, which ended up being unnecessarily complex and a complete waste of US$2.99 in the end. A few more that were designed to bring the desktop browsing experience to the small screen, which to be completely honest will never happen. So I’ve kept on using Safari, and have been entirely happy with it, but I always thought there had to be something else out there.
There when I needed it
This week I stumbled upon Dolphin Browser by Mobotap Inc. The iTunes description and high ratings seemed too good to be true, so I downloaded it and, as one does when you’re incredibly busy with other things throughout the day, completely forgot about it…until Safari froze up on me while I was updating my Superbru picks for Round 2 of the Rugby World Cup. So I fired it up and gave it a spin.
Upon launching for the first time, Dolphin gives you a quick overview of how the app works and which way to swipe for each action they’ve built in. As a rule, whenever I’m checking out a new app, if it takes me five minutes to read through the usage instructions, I get worried. So, hesitantly, I moved onto the main screen, the Webzine page. This immediately impressed me as it’s a lot like another one of my favourite apps, Taptu, that formats your most frequent sites in an article by article fashion that is highly functional and looks good as well. Swipe to the left and you’re on the speed dial screen, which like Chrome allows you to pin certain websites to a quick launch page that saves you time and the hassle of scrolling through bookmarks or typing in the URL.
Dropping the best tabs
Dolphin is by far the best example of how tabbed browsing should be done on the iPhone. Bringing in the + button that we all are so familiar with on our desktop browsers, a simple tap creates a new tab (with the speed dial page loading first) and you’re not limited when it comes to adding tabs. I know that Safari limits you to eight pages for performance reasons, but Dolphin seriously outperforms its biggest competitor in handling massive amounts of information by staying smooth and taking full advantage of the iPhone’s slathers of processing power.
Something interesting that the developers have added that I haven’t really found any use for yet is the gestures option. Simply click on the gestures button at the bottom of the screen and use your finger to draw out a preset gesture on the screen. For example, drawing a T on the gesture screen automatically loads up Twitter, draw a G and you get Google. You can create custom gestures as well if you’d like, although I doubt I’ll be using this much at all, it is very clever and innovative.
Another really clever, simple feature they’ve added is the Twitter button next to the address bar. When tapped, the app shortens the URL of the page you’re on and allows you to either tweet it to your followers or share it on Facebook.
Overall, the design and UI of this app is smooth, soft and incredibly good looking. The natural gestures are expertly thought out (swipe left for bookmarks, right for settings) and the tab button on the menu bar that, when tapped, displays all your current tabs at the top of the screen (regardless of where you are on the page) are all extremely intelligent and well crafted browser innovations.
Dolphin really is the browser that is thinking outside the box when it comes to browsing on the small screen. All I can say is, Safari, watch out.
Name: Dolphin Browser
Publisher: Mobotap Inc.
Size: 3.8 MB
Available for iPhone & iPad – and Android as Dolphin Browser HD