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If you’ve ever browsed the web on a mobile phone you will know how tricky it can be sometimes. Whether you have an advanced browser that supports multi-touch or a standard interface for viewing websites, you will regularly come across something that challenges your ability to enjoy a desktop-quality browsing experience on your phone.
Fortunately for Android users there are several solutions that can be used, from choosing a new browser to installing plug-ins. Here's our guide to web browsing on Android.
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If you’re considering looking for a new browser on your Android phone, the first thing you might think of is Firefox – after all, this is the obvious alternative browser for a PC, and it is also available for Linux and Mac OS X. It might not be your preferred option, however…
Also available for Android is the XScope browser, an attractive alternative to the native option that apes the UI of the Chrome browser. This browser is also customizable, offering you the ability to download new themes from the Android Market – but best of all, it’s a fast browser that offers superior speeds for page loading.
There are plenty of other options for browsing the World Wide Web on your Android phone, from Opera to Dolphin, but choosing the best option for you could prove tricky. Using our own summary of each of the most popular options should save you plenty of time looking, leaving you with plenty of time to browse!
You might find that certain websites just don’t work as well as you would like them to with the native Android browser – which is why you should try looking for a suitable alterative in the Android Market. For instance, the official Facebook app for Android makes accessing the popular social network so much easier than waiting for the browser-based version to work!
Similarly, the official Photobucket app for Android provides a streamlined and easy to use interface to the online photo sharing service, enabling you to quickly and efficiently upload images to your account straight from your Android photo gallery! As with any Internet-connected app, of course, you will need to keep an eye on your data use to make sure it doesn’t send your bill beyond your budget.
One increasingly popular use for Android phones is to access Google Documents. Sadly this isn’t really practical via your browser, but there are several apps that offer an alternative interface to the online document editing and management service. Some of these also require a permanent connection to the web, however, so choose with care…
Of course, there is more to browsing on Android than just getting a shrunken view of a favourite web page. Why not browse the real world?
“Augmented Reality" apps such as Layar can give you a whole new view of the world, allowing you to find interesting new information about a new city, for instance.
Another example of an augmented reality app is Wikitude World Browser, which will display useful information on your Android display via the camera. The app is simple to use – simply launch, hold your phone up to capture your surroundings and the app will do the rest. Note that you will need to have your device’s Internet connection active when using an augmented reality app.
One of the most common uses for the web is to find and download photos, music and videos, and to do this most efficiently on your Android phone you will need a really good download manager. Several are available, but only three are really worth trying out.
Another use of the web is to view streamed content, and to do so you will often need Adobe Flash Player. This is particularly useful for viewing streamed video from YouTube, for example, and once installed it should enable the majority of browsers with the required functionality to handle and playback FLV files.
If you’re concerned about getting a high bill for your Internet use, one option is to use a downloader for FLV files and YouTube videos, particularly ones that you expect to view repeatedly. There are various alternatives for doing this, from installing dedicated apps to making use of purpose-built websites.
Among the many files and folders that you might find online are compressed archives, often in ZIP or RAR format. Compressed files are not natively supported in Android, and as a result you will need a third-party app in order to browse, open and extract data from these.
If you’re unable to view the website you want satisfactorily on your phone or are simply caught short without a wireless connection for your laptop it is possible to use an Android phone as a tethered modem. This is a way of connecting to the Internet using the data connection on your phone, and is compatible with Linux, Mac OS X and Windows computers.
Many tethering apps are available, depending on which version of Android you are running. If your phone is Android 2.2 Froyo then a native tethering tool is included, otherwise you might need to use the Wireless Tether for Root or PDANet apps, available from the Market.
Finally, if you’re a regular user of the web or apps that feature an online component you should take steps to secure your Android phone with a firewall. This is software that can protect your phone from remote intrusion, something that becomes increasingly likely as smartphones become more popular.
- Android logo credit: Wikimedia Commons/Sertion
- Image credit: Android Market, https://market.android.com/details?id=com.adobe.flashplayer