Android has a ton of ways to browse the web, but it's up to you to choose which works best for your needs.
Web browsers are the one app you just sort of always expect to be there, which is often a good thing and a bad thing. Everyone knows accessing the web is a critical part of almost every device today, but a surprising number of users rarely use something other than the browser that was included with their phone.
While we're usually big fans of only fixing things that are broken, there are some truly impressive browser options out there for Android users to enjoy. So many, in fact, we decided to gather up ten of the best to help you decide whether or not what you're using right now is really the best option for you.
1. Chrome Browser
As an Android user, there's a good chance you already know about Chrome. It probably came pre-loaded on your phone, unless you've had your Android phone for a little while or you just didn't notice it. Google's Chrome for Android is a powerful extension of the Chrome browser for Windows and OSX, and one of its best features is the ability to sync your browser tabs from one device to another, making it so you can be looking something up on your laptop and pull it up on your phone when you're out and about. If you're an Android 5.0+ user, Chrome for Android can also split out its tabs as individual windows so they look like their own apps in the app switching interface.
It's also pretty great at navigating the web, offering a great mix of fast mobile-friendly experiences and full desktop browser capabilities depending on the needs at hand, and includes settings for data conservation and an incognito mode for browsing sites you don't want to be tracked or logged through. As far as decent all-around browsers go, you're unlikely to need too much more than Chrome.
2. Chrome Beta
Google's usually quite good at releasing new features for Chrome and keeping the browser updated with big fixes and optimizations, but like Chrome for the desktop there's a special version of the app that lets you check out features that aren't fully baked yet. Chrome Beta puts you on the bleeding edge of Chrome features, whatever they may be at the time, and guarantees that you're always enjoying the newest thing from Google. Of course, since things are perpetually in a beta state on this version of Chrome, you're likely to encounter some instability from time to time. If that's not the sort of thing that bothers you, Chrome Beta is likely to be a worthy addition to your app list.
3. Opera browser for Android
A surprising number of devices in your life either currently run or have run some version of the Opera browser in the past. This is because the company prides themselves on being able to make browsers that are fast, lightweight, and safe, and for a long time the company has been able to successfully maintain those claims. Opera browser for Android is an extension of that promise, but since your Android device is often running some perfectly capable hardware under the hood, this version of Opera can flex a little and offer something more than just access to the web.
Like many other mobile browsers, Opera focuses on making the mobile web an extension of the desktop experience. You can sync bookmarks and the "Speed Dial" of sites you frequently visit across devices, but you can also use Opera Private Mode and Off-Road mode to browse discreetly and with as little data as possible. Opera's browsing experience is often hailed as one of the fastest across all platforms, and on Android that experience is well worth experiencing for yourself.
4. Opera Mini mobile web browser
Having a web browser that focuses on delivering a desktop-quality experience is incredibly cool, unless you've only got a little bit of mobile data to play with every month. If that's you, every kilobyte counts and most browsers don't make data conservation a priority. The best you get in most situations is image compression and auto-play videos disabled, and while those tools can help a lot the folks at Opera have a special version of their browser that promises up to 90% data saved for most browsing experiences.
On the surface, Opera Mini isn't all that different from Opera — which is to say it's not all that different from any other browser. Where you really notice a difference is if you try to go to an image-heavy website like Facebook or Tumblr. Images that do show up are often a little on the blurry side when compared to other browsers, but the tradeoff there is often huge savings in your monthly data plan.
5. Firefox Browser for Android
The folks at Mozilla pride themselves on offering products that represent the purest possible form of the Open Web. They try to rely on standards across everything they do, and shy away from anything and everything proprietary. Their browsing platform, Firefox, has always existed as an extension of those beliefs. Firefox for Android tries to take that experience and make it uniquely mobile.
Mozilla's feature set for mobile Firefox is fairly standard stuff. Privacy features keep you from being tracked but don't keep you from being served ads, you can sync with Desktop Firefox if you're a fan of that experience on your other computer, and the home panel for the app is customizeable with the sites and services you appreciate. Where Firefox stands out is the application of these features, focusing on swiping gestures and simple interfaces that work well on smartphones and tablets. It's a great overall experience, and a perfect example of how a simple touch interface can be great.
6. Dolphin Browser for Android
Everything we've talked about up to this point exists largely as an extension of the desktop version of the same app. While that's cool, especially if you're already using the desktop version, the experience creates insular experience — leaving one browser winds up meaning you have to leave both to get the same features. The folks behind Dolphin browser started out on mobile devices, and as a result their sync features extend to all of the popular desktop browsing experiences. dolphin has also grown up right alongside Android, which means it's got no shortage of features that make it special.
Aside from the custom voice search and browse feature, gesture controls to access sites you frequently visit, and a third party add-on service with plenty of extra options, Dolphin is one of the only browsers with its own theme engine. You can customize your browsing experience however you choose, and the entire experience is free. If you need desktop sync but aren't a fan of the big names offering the service, Dolphin is absolutely worth a look.
7. Ghostery Privacy Browser
Tracking cookies are a fact of the Internet as we know it today. They get used for just about everything, but the thing you mostly hear about is ads in some form or fashion. If you've decided this aspect of the mobile browsing experience is something you'd rather avoid, there's a good chance you've either considered or already installed an ad-blocker for your existing browser. While that is certainly an answer, it's not nearly as complete or as useful as giving the Ghostery browser a shot.
As an extension of the Ghostery plugin for desktop browsers, Ghostery browser gives you the ability to see exactly what every website you go to is doing to track you, and offers you tools to deal with that as you see fit. If there are sites where you'd prefer there be no tracking whatsoever, you can push that button. If you're alright with a less combative form of browsing and find yourself regretting that decision after you get to a site, clearing your cookies can happen almost instantly. Ghostery also features tracker-free search engines like Duck Duck Go, and makes it incredibly simple to get the exact browser experience you want.
8. Link Bubble Browser
It doesn't matter how fast your mobile web browser is or how great your mobile data connection is, there's always going to be some delay between pressing a link and getting the content you want. You tap the link, and are whisked away to another app to wait while the page loads. Chris Lacy had another thought for how a web browser should behave, and he called it Link Bubble.
The concept is unbelievably simple — when you tap a link for something you want to read, the browser loads in the background and creates a bubble for the website you want to go to. While the page loads in the background, you can continue doing whatever you were doing before and check out that bubble when it's ready to go. It's a clever browsing experience for just about any situation, but is particularly useful if you aren't constantly on the fastest Internet around and would like to load your pages before leaving your fast connection. It requires a little mental adjustment to adapt to the slightly different workflow, but if you can manage the experience is in a class by itself.
9. Puffin Web Browser
Remember back when Adobe Flash on mobile devices was a super huge deal, and even if the experience was absolutely awful people still wanted the option to exist on every mobile browser? Yeah, good times. HTML5 has rescued us from a bunch of those experiences, but not nearly enough of them. Flash still exists, and the most elegant solution to a quality browsing experience that also includes Flash on Android is through the Puffin browser.
Puffin works well because it cheats a little, and in this instance that's a good thing. When you access a Flash site through Puffin, you're actually accessing that site through a Puffin server. Puffin handles all of the tricky Flash business on their end, and delivers what is basically an interactive video on your screen. On a decent internet connection, even visually intense games written in Flash are both playable and enjoyable on your mobile device. Puffin is also a great browser for non-Flash things, using that same technology to make your regular browsing experience nice and fast.
10. Mercury Browser for Android
Every browser claims to be fast, and with a name like Mercury Browser you expect the app to live up to its name, but the truth is this browser isn't noticeable snappier than any other high end browser out there. Fortunately, that means Mercury is still a decently fast browser with plenty of other features to make it a compelling experience.
Fans of the dark side of things will appreciate the native Day/Night mode that will automatically flip the color theme from light to dark to match the time of day, and as one of the few browsers out there with app-specific brightness controls you get the feeling the Mercury folks are big fans of control. Mercury includes a basic ad blocker, private mode, and passcode lock if you don't want anyone to just pick up your phone and thumb through your browser history. There's also a batch share function built into the browser that lets you push links to multiple social networks at the same time, if that's your thing. It's a fun browser to play with, and well worth considering as a replacement for your regular browser if you're looking for a mobile-focused experience.