Ever since Android has emerged as a smartphone platform it has been increasing in popularity. One of the reasons the system has become such a hit is due to the fact it is entirely ‘open’. Unlike the iPhone and the upcoming Windows Phone 7 platform there are no application restrictions applied. This has resulted in the arrival of numerous browsers, one of the latest being called ‘xScope’.
The main method for an Android browser to stand out is performance. One of the main strengths of xScope over its competitors becomes immediately apparent in the following browser test:
- Xscope: 82810.8 ms
- Opera Mini: unable to perform (failure)
- Default browser (Froyo): 85640.6 ms
- Skyfire: 109391.2 ms
- Dolphin: 87562.2 ms
- Steel: 84276.2 ms
The above test results indicate that xScope outperforms all browsers, albeit marginally. In practice a user will probably not experience major advantages. Nevertheless, the browser is currently the fastest available and indeed does feel highly responsive browsing around the web. The speed advantage, however, is reduced to one-tab use, as the opening of one or several others will result in a slightly noticeable, but still tolerable, performance drop.
[Results from Sunspider browser test at https://www2.webkit.org/perf/sunspider-0.9/sunspider.html, performed with steady Wi-Fi connecting and under the same circumstances. Lowest number means fastest.]
While the performance levels should already be a strong incentive for using xScope, there are other areas where the application shines. Hands-down the best and, above all, unique ‘selling point’ is a one-finger zoom function that is unrivaled by other browsers. This is especially handy for older phones where multi-touch is not (yet) implemented. The ‘lite’, free, version of the application already offers a full blown browsing experience, whereas functionality really increases with the paid version. After paying a reasonable $2.99 a full-fledged task and file manager are added, extending the features of the application considerably. Overall the application has a large variety of features, many of which are now standard for most browsers available from the Android Market. There are no notable features missing, which makes for a rich and satisfying browsing experience.
The default look of the application is very clean and very much resembles the ‘Google Chrome’ desktop browser. Notice the word ‘default’ is used, as one of xScope’s standout features is the possibility of skinning. Users are able to add themes through the Android Market, improving the ‘fun’ aspect of the application. Speaking of which, the overall design is clever, intuitive and, indeed, a lot of fun to use. Cleverly hidden menus that are triggered by various touch commands, make the user interface intuitive and logical to use, almost making mobile browsing a genuinely pleasant experience. Additionally, pages are rendered really well and texts scale while zooming, leaving very little to be desired.
The developer of xScope has indicated that a new version is in the making and due for release in the very near future. This version promises to be a major overhaul and will offer a further increase in performance. While the current available version is already one of, if not the most enjoyable and feature-rich browser currently available on the Android platform, the upgrade should cast away all doubts!