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Sunday, February 3, 2013

Best Android Web Browser: Which Android Browser Wins the Browser War?

What is the Best Android Web Browser?


What is the best Android browser available now?  Which Android browser will ultimately win the Android browser war?  We’ll compare Chrome, Opera Mobile, Firefox, Maxthon, and the stock “Android Browser” that comes pre-installed with Android OS.

PC Browser War

You may recall the PC browser war in the 1990’s.  The Internet as we know it was just getting underway.  The browser market share was dominated by Netscape Navigator.  Netscape Navigator captured nearly 100% market share.  Then Internet Explorer was released by Microsoft, and it was included with Windows on every PC.  Eventually IE won the browser war and dominated for more than a decade.

Currently,  Chrome from Google and Firefox are competing with Internet Explorer for the top spot.  PC browsers still represents about 85% of internet traffic, with mobile browsers coming in at about 15%.  But the mobile market share of internet traffic is growing rapidly, and mobile browsers may overtake PC browsers in the near future.

Android Browser Comparison

The major Android browser contenders for top market share are Android Browser, Opera, and Chrome.   In addition to these, we’ll check out Firefox and Maxthon.  Our test platform is a 7 inch Android tablet running Android 4.0.4 Ice Cream Sandwich.   All of these browsers are available free.  Android Browser comes with Android, and the others can be downloaded free from Google Play.

The table below shows memory utilization of Android Browser, Maxthon, Opera Mobile, Firefox, and Chrome while running.  Chrome uses the most memory at over 45Mb, Android Browser uses the least at under 2Mb.  Modern Android devices have much more than 45 MB of memory and would be able to run any of these browsers.  The memory utilization does provide insight into the complexity of the browser and the relative amount of resources that it consumes.  This could be an indication of how fast it will run, especially if your Android device does not have a lot of extra computing and memory resources.

Table shows how much memory android browsers use
Table of Android Browsers, Version Number, and Memory Utilization
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher


The following section shows two screen captures from each Android browser.  The first screen capture shows an example web page in the browser.  You can see how .html is displayed and see the interface features of each browser.  The next screen capture shows the tabs interface for each browser.  This is the interface used to open multiple web pages and select which page to view.  The tabs interface is the most noticable difference between Android browsers.

Android Browser

Android Browser screen capture shows example screen
Android Browser GUI
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher

Android Browser screen capture shows example how to access multiple browser pages
Android Browser- Tabs Interface
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher


Maxthon Android Browser

Maxthon Android browser screen capture shows example web page
Maxthon Android Browser GUI
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher

Maxthon Android browser screen capture of interface to select multiple browser windows
Maxthon Android Browser- Tabs Interface
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher

Opera Mobile Android Browser

Opera Mobile Android browser screen capture shows example web site
Opera Mobile Android Browser GUI
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher

Opera Mobile Android browser screen capture shows interface to select multiple web pages in browser
Opera Mobile Android Browser- Tabs Interface
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher

Firefox Android Browser

Foxfire Android browser screen capture shows example web page
Firefox Android Browser GUI
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher

Foxfire Android browser screen capture shows selection between multiple web pages
Firefox Android Browser- Tabs Interface
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher


Chrome Android Browser

Chrome Android browser screen capture shows example web page appearance
Chrome Android Browser GUI
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher





Chrome Android browser screen capture shows tabs interface to select multiple web pages
Chrome Android Browser- Tabs Interface
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher

Best Android Browser Features


Firefox, Chrome, Opera Mobile  and Maxthon all have features to sync bookmarks between your desktop PC and Android devices.  Synching bookmarks with your PC is useful- no more e-mailing links from your mobile device to your PC…

Opera Mobile:  I like the page reload button on main page.  Nice GUI overall.

Chrome: I like the GUI to discard pages in the tabs interface- you can flick them away like cards.  This works well on a touch screen.  Also, it would be nice to have maximum continuity between PC and mobile browsers.  Chrome has a lot of potential to exploit this.

Maxthon: The interface works nicely on a touchscreen- you can slide a control knob to select a pie wedge that you want.  There is a PC version of Maxthon available which I have downloaded for a test drive.


The Verdict... Best Android Browser


The “Android Browser” that comes with Android is by far the most popular browser at this time.  This is not a bad browser and has a small memory footprint.  Most Android users will be happy with this pre-installed browser and will not bother to upgrade.  Maxthon is interesting and worth a try if you are interested in trying something different.

Who will win the Android Browser War?

Like Internet Explorer coming to dominate on the Windows platform, I expect the default, pre-installed browser on Android to come to dominance.  On iPad, Safari dominates- in fact it is not possible to switch to a different default browser on iOS.

The default pre-installed browser on Android OS has already come to dominate market share:  “Android Browser”  is the current leader.  If Google switches to have Chrome as the standard default browser, I would expect Chrome to dominate.  Browsers are enough of a commodity that I think it will be difficult for any browser to become distinctive and maintain technology separation.  Any good browser innovations will simply be picked up by the established market leaders.  And a key factor- most people will simply use the pre-installed browser.

I would expect Google to install Chrome in the Android OS as the default browser in the near future and win the Android browser war shortly thereafter.






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