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Android Options Mean "Best" Browsers Might Surprise You 251

Posted by timothy
from the an-actual-figurative-ecosystem dept.
An anonymous reader writes with this quote from Tom's Hardware: "Due to Apple's anti-3rd-party browser stance, and Windows RT's IE-only advantage on the 'Desktop,' Android is the only mobile platform where browser competition is thriving. The results are pretty surprising, with the long-time mobile browsers like Dolphin, Maxthon, Sleipnir, and the stock Android browser coming out ahead of desktop favorites like Firefox, Opera, and even Chrome. Dolphin, thanks to its new Jetpack HTML5 engine, soars ahead of the competition."
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Android Options Mean "Best" Browsers Might Surprise You

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  • by crazyjj (2598719) * on Thursday December 06, 2012 @09:24AM (#42203209)

    There are plenty of other Safari skins available!

    But seriously, these walled gardens make me long for the 90's, when you could sanction a company [wikipedia.org] for even *including* their own browser with an OS, much less outright forbidding other browsers from being installed.

    • by telchine (719345) on Thursday December 06, 2012 @09:30AM (#42203291)

      But seriously, these walled gardens make me long for the 90's, when you could sanction a company [wikipedia.org] for even *including* their own browser with an OS,

      The reasons those sanctions came about was because Microsoft had a near monopoly on the operating system market. None of the companies in the mobile space have a monopoly.

      • by bondsbw (888959) on Thursday December 06, 2012 @09:42AM (#42203437)

        It depends on what you mean by monopoly. IANAL, so I don't know the legal definition. But I would argue that Apple's approach to deciding the market on its devices is anti-competitive behavior.

        It's not just that browsers must wrap Safari. It's that they must use a crippled version of UIWebView, one that is much slower than Safari's Nitro engine. The result is that web pages take almost exactly double the time to load in other browsers.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by pauljlucas (529435)

          Apple's approach to deciding the market on its devices is anti-competitive behavior.

          They're Apple's devices and should be allowed to do whatever they want with them. Don't like it? Don't buy one.

          The difference with Microsoft is that they had a monopoly on virtually all other manufacturers' hardware since (at the time) they made no hardware of their own. Now that they make Surface, they should be allowed to do whatever they want with it. The market will decide its fate.

          • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 06, 2012 @10:24AM (#42203909)

            They're Apple's devices

            Then I guess I had better give the one I've got back.

          • by h4rr4r (612664) on Thursday December 06, 2012 @10:24AM (#42203913)

            They are Apple's devices?
            I thought they sold them to people, not leased them. Am I mistaken?

            • I thought they sold them to people, not leased them. Am I mistaken?

              yes, you're welcome to use your property as a standalone device (or hipster-compliant paperweight). As soon as you use any of Apple's services, you incur an agreement that says that they have full control of the device.

          • by DJRumpy (1345787) on Thursday December 06, 2012 @10:25AM (#42203921)

            A monopoly is not illegal. If you abuse a monopoly, thats when it becomes a legal matter. Microsoft threatened vendors when they wanted to put other browsers on their OEM builds and that's what made it illegal. just bundling your own browser is not illegal. Threatening to kill a vendors access to the market dominant OS if they put a competitors browser on is definitely illegal.

            Apple is not a monopoly, they are not doing anything illegal, and they can put whatever browser they choose on their devices. I agree with the parent. If you don't like it, don't buy it, and obviously many don't since Android is the dominant OS, no?

            The market health seems fine to me.

            • Microsoft threatened vendors when they wanted to put other browsers on their OEM builds and that's what made it illegal.

              Do you have a citation for this? I've never heard this particular statement before. Furthermore, if the problem was that they threatened vendors, shouldn't that have been what the lawsuit was about, and not about bundling the browser?

              It seems silly to me that the argument went like: "You are threatening vendors and forcing them to not put other browsers on OEM builds. Therefore, we require that you remove your own browser, even though that's not the problem, that's not what was illegal, and there's nothi

              • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

                by GoogleShill (2732413)

                Here's the best citation you can get: http://www.justice.gov/atr/cases/f3800/msjudgex.htm [justice.gov]

                There were TONS of things they did to violate antitrust laws with regards to IE, including coercing ISPs to make their websites IE-only by including ActiveX components on the front page and using FrontPage extensions which would create non-standards-compliant HTML and only render correctly on IE.

            • That's not what happened.

              Microsoft threatened Compaq's license not because they wanted to include a different browser, but because they wanted to remove IE.

              They had no problem with MS including a different browser, so long as IE was kept as well.

              • by DJRumpy (1345787)

                I suppose it could be viewed either way. The end result is the same. OEM's were prohibited from removing IE and putting any other alternative browsers under threat of losing their Windows distribution licenses for Windows 95. They didn't threaten OEM's with removal until Windows 98, when they then claimed it was integrated and couldn't be removed.

                [Complaint: U.S. v. Microsoft Corp.] (source: http://www.justice.gov/atr/cases/f1700/1763.htm [justice.gov])

                18. Second, Microsoft unlawfully required PC manufacturers, as

        • by tlhIngan (30335)

          It's not just that browsers must wrap Safari. It's that they must use a crippled version of UIWebView, one that is much slower than Safari's Nitro engine. The result is that web pages take almost exactly double the time to load in other browsers.

          That's because Nitro compiles to native code and runs it. I don't know about you, but you should have alarm bells ringing at that - remote code downloaded, compiled and executed. Forget any other security hole, this is actually a security nightmare.

          On iOS, this is r

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        People keep spouting this like it's gospel, and it might be legally correct, but that doesn't make it any less crappy for the consumers. Apple is on the way to be a more evil version of Microsoft when it was worst, and I think the world would be a better place if they were forced to be slightly more open.
        • by Rob Riggs (6418) on Thursday December 06, 2012 @10:00AM (#42203633) Homepage Journal

          I think the world would be a better place if [Apple] were forced to be slightly more open.

          The question is "who is going to force them?" In this case (browser choice on smartphones), I think that market forces can do that just fine. There are enough choices available right now. That said, I can certainly see where Apple could be considered guilty of tying [wikipedia.org] in this case since an argument could be made that the browser is a distinct program and that this is harming competition and innovation.

        • by Bogtha (906264)

          it might be legally correct, but that doesn't make it any less crappy for the consumers

          It does, and that's the point. If you don't like the way iOS does things, you can switch to another platform without too much difficulty. When Microsoft got done for bundling Internet Explorer, switching to another platform meant things like your online banking failing to work because they'd coded it specifically for Internet Explorer. They were slowly turning the web from a cross-platform system to a Microsoft-co

        • As long as Apple isn't able to significantly damage Android using dubious lawsuits, etc, there's no reason to consider it "Anti-consumer" in that sense. Right now, saying Apple is abusive for those reasons is like saying MacDonalds is abusive for offering tasteless, expensive, hamburgers (which it does, I think we can agree on that.)

          You can always go to Five Guys. You don't have to go to MacDonalds. You don't have to buy an iPhone, and quite honestly, I'm still baffled that platform is so popular, just a

      • by JDG1980 (2438906)

        I know that's how the law is written currently, but it seems to me that the law hasn't kept up with the times. The rule should be that if you have any kind of substantial market share (more than 25% or so) you can't engage in these kind of anti-competitive activities.

    • by Dupple (1016592)

      They're not all skins, but they mostly use webkit, or does that make Chrome a skin as well then?

      The only real difference is that other browsers don't have access to Nitro Java Script engine

    • Microsoft makes one component of a computer and bullies the OEM to building it their way. Apple makes hardware and their own OS so it's not really the same thing. It's also why no one moans about the PS3 or Wii or many other devices having only one browser.
  • by paulsnx2 (453081)

    Walling yourself up and limiting consumer choices and controlling the platform ...

    It works for Apple for the natural 20 percent of the market where people will tolerate limited choices. Apple got ahead of the curve with the IPod, IPhone, and IPad. But they are destine to drop back to their natural 20 percent. The rest of us demand more control, more chaos, and more competition.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Desler (1608317)

      The rest of us demand more control, more chaos, and more competition.

      No, the vast majority of Android users are people buying it because the phones are cheap. Not because they care about being able to root the phone, install alternative browsers, or wanting "chaos". The XDA-like crowd is a pretty niche minority.

      • by jkrise (535370) on Thursday December 06, 2012 @09:41AM (#42203409) Journal
        the vast majority of Android users are people buying it because the phones are cheap. You mean low cost, not cheap. Android phones can do everything an iPhone or Windows Phone does, at a lower cost. So it is not cheap, it is a more valuable option for the customer. And the reason for that is because the underlying platform is more 'open' and less tightly controlled by a bunch of perverted sadists and corporate trolls.
        • You mean low cost, not cheap.

          There are also cheap android phones out there. Ones that are nwe, but low spec and a bit clunky and not as capable but cheap. As in, don't cost much money as in cheap.

        • by JDG1980 (2438906)

          You mean low cost, not cheap. Android phones can do everything an iPhone or Windows Phone does, at a lower cost. So it is not cheap, it is a more valuable option for the customer.

          Most Android phones don't offer as polished or clean an experience as iOS. Samsung's phones are an exception, which is why Apple has been trying to cripple them via lawsuits – but the good phones like the Galaxy Note II are as or more expensive than an iPhone. The majority are crammed full of un-removable carrier crapware.

        • Hmm, I'll get labelled an Apple fanboy, but I disagree. Android made great inroads with cheap phone that were underpowered and in many ways a poor experience. The HTC Desire is one phone that springs to mind, web browsing like molasses, horrible jerky scrolling, games would get 4-10fps, etc. There were quite a few of those sorts of phones on the market, and they drove Android adoption like crazy. They were cheap in the cheap sense.

          I don't know what the situation is now though.

          • The HTC Desire is one phone that springs to mind, web browsing like molasses, horrible jerky scrolling, games would get 4-10fps, etc.

            That has probably more to do with the terrible skins and bloatware that HTC puts on their phones. The HTC Desire has roughly the same specs as my Nexus S (1GHz single core, 512MB ram on the Nexus S vs 576MB on the Desire), yet my Nexus S runs extremely fast with stock Jelly Bean.

            • Perhaps, but I also had experience with a Samsung phone of the same era, and it wasn't much better. I agree that there have always been better Android phones out there, but the low-end stuff was pretty poor last I looked about 18 months ago.

              • You're right. I think alot of that has to do with Froyo or Gingerbread on those old phones though. ICS and Jelly Bean fixed alot of those UI issues. My Nexus S definitely felt like a brand new phone when I upgraded from Gingerbread to ICS.

        • by jader3rd (2222716)

          Android phones can do everything an iPhone or Windows Phone does, at a lower cost. So it is not cheap, it is a more valuable option for the customer. And the reason for that is because the underlying platform is more 'open'

          Or it's because user tracking and ad targeting are what the 'open' platform is built on, which subsidizes the phone by making Advertisers the customers of Android and the device owners part of the product.

          • by h4rr4r (612664)

            Because clearly Apple or MS would never do that. I could not even keep a straight face while saying that.

            If you are concerned you do know you can get android build from outside google right?

        • the vast majority of Android users are people buying it because the phones are cheap.

          You mean low cost, not cheap. Android phones can do everything an iPhone or Windows Phone does, at a lower cost. So it is not cheap, it is a more valuable option for the customer.

          This "low cost" Android-using Slashdot user disagrees [slashdot.org]: "I own an Android device myself. But the only thing on it that's usable at all is Maps. There are tons of super-cheap Android devices sold that don't have great touch screens and thus people don't use them much except for the basics like email and maps and texting."

          Yeah yeah, it's one person's opinion, he didn't specify what Android device or if it's even a phone, and one anecdote doesn't make it data. But, his opinion/experience is just as valid as yo

          • by Nerdfest (867930)

            If you check the history of the person who made that comment, he an iOS developer and a major Apple fan. I'd be curious about the device as well, as I use a 3 year old Android device and it's quite usable for everything.

      • by ozmanjusri (601766) <(moc.liamtoh) (ta) (bob_eissua)> on Thursday December 06, 2012 @09:45AM (#42203469) Journal

        The XDA-like crowd is a pretty niche minority.

        But the people who want a choice of screen sizes, durability, features, looks and yes, even cost are a real majority. The price and popularity of Samsung's Galaxy models should tell you that the "cheap Android" slur is just FUD.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Desler (1608317)

          But the people who want a choice of screen sizes, durability, features, looks and yes, even cost are a real majority.

          No, the real majority just care about costs. I know this because I know people who work at the stores selling these phones. The people zoom in on what is the cheapest looking phone that looks the coolest. That's about it. They couldn't care about the resolutions, the CPUs cores, the amount of memory, etc.

          The price and popularity of Samsung's Galaxy models should tell you that the "cheap Android" slur is just FUD.

          And worldwide, those phones represent around 5% of all Android phones. If you look at the Android phones being sold in China, Africa, etc. they are not phones like the Galaxy models. They are basically

          • If you look at the Android phones being sold in China, Africa, etc. they are not phones like the Galaxy models. They are basically phones that are just steps up from feature phones.

            China actually has some pretty nice android phones that are on par with the iPhone 5 or the Galaxy S3.

            The Xiaomi M2 [engadget.com] has a 1.5GHz quad core, 2GB ram, 720p screen, and it runs MIUI 4.1 (Android 4.1 with a custom chinese rom). It costs $310, which is less than half the price of an iPhone 5 (and it has better specs than the iPhone).

      • by X.25 (255792)

        No, the vast majority of Android users are people buying it because the phones are cheap. Not because they care about being able to root the phone, install alternative browsers, or wanting "chaos". The XDA-like crowd is a pretty niche minority.

        You seem to personally know the vast majority of Android users, it appears.

        Funny man.

      • The rest of us demand more control, more chaos, and more competition.

        No, the vast majority of Android users are people buying it because the phones are cheap.

        You prefixed it with the word no, but then you agreed with what he said. The very people you just described, are showing their demand for control, chaos, and competition. Take away the control, chaos or competition that they demanded, and they wouldn't be able to have the phone that they ended up choosing.

        If you don't understand this, then try loo

  • ...they would get smacked around for the same anti-competition behaviour which hurt Microsoft during the XP days, forcing them to change this "One browser" approach (and maybe for other apps as well). In a sense, they are lucky their rather unusual philosophy - where instead of designing products to meet the demand, you shape the demand yourself - hit the wall before they became a monopoly.
    • by Quakeulf (2650167)
      Wrong. Every politician with decision power have already blindly hopped on the i-bandwagon and will not want to oppose Apple in any way because, hey, it works, and it is not like they even want to have any insight on this matter.
      • Apple has almost zero lobbying presence in Washington. Politicians may be idiots, but they don't blindly hop onto anything for free, and they're certainly not blind to the fact they're NOT receiving any real money from one of the biggest companies in the country.

        Remember, the DOJ didn't hesitate to take on Microsoft, a hugely successful company in the mid-90s that was far closer to monopoly status than Apple ever will be over a general market area.

  • by ProbablyJoe (1914672) on Thursday December 06, 2012 @09:38AM (#42203383)

    While some of the results are interesting, I don't think this is a particularly good comparison. For a lot of the tests they said "This doesn't work on this browser, so we didn't include that test". Surely that should be a win for the browsers that DO support it, rather than just ignoring that feature. Personally, I'd care more that a browser can render more things, rather than if it can render some things a few seconds faster, but fail at others.

    Not to mention, it completely ignores things like features, reliability, usability, security, etc, which are very varied between the different browsers. That's what I base my choice on anyway, and many that I've tried either crash, fail to load some pages, render pages incorrectly, or lack important features. Personally I find Firefox works best for me, but results would probably vary with different phones/OS versions, and some features are more important than others for different people

    But hey, everyone loves benchmark numbers

    • by afidel (530433)

      Yep, the fact that Chrome on my phone syncs my bookmarks (and open pages!) with my other machines is a killer feature for me, as is the fact that with 1 click I can get the exact same site I would get in desktop Chrome. Firefox Fenec just eats too much ram for me, it basically pushes everything else out of ram on my current phone and on my previous phone with 384MB of ram would push out not only all user apps but would actually push out my launcher causing a 30+ second delay when I dropped back to the home

      • by sp332 (781207)

        Fennec has officially been promoted to Firefox for Mobile, for about a year now. They also removed XULrunner in favor of more native code, so it uses a lot less RAM. The Firefox Beta I'm running scores slightly higher on HTML5test.com than the desktop Aurora version of Firefox I'm running now.

        • by afidel (530433)

          Perhaps I should give it another shot, I had basically given up on it on my last phone and only used it for sites that would force me to a broken mobile site unless I used FF with the user agent switcher and then never installed it on the new one since it came with Chrome.

    • by fermion (181285)
      When I choose a tool my question is whether it gets the job done for me for a reasonable cost, not whether other people like it or if the numbers are good. For instance, on the desktop i still use Camino . It is not going to be the best in terms of numbers, and there are things it can't do, but for everyday work it is good. And I have no problem keeping several browsers on my computer and switching when I need to. The right tool for the job and all that.

      I do use Chrome, particularly when I use Google

    • by CastrTroy (595695)
      Yeah, in my Opinion all the Browsers suck, at least on Gingerbread. The stock browser had this funny behaviour where you'd have to "force close" every day or it would refuse to load pages. I used Dolphin for a while but it just stopped working one day, and hasn't worked since, even with uninstalling and reinstalling it. Firefox worked well, but was very slow and sucked down my battery pretty fast. Chrome only runs on ICS and above. I've settled on Opera, because it seems to be the most stable, but many
  • Firefox & ABP+ (Score:5, Informative)

    by Luthair (847766) on Thursday December 06, 2012 @09:41AM (#42203427)
    In my usage I've generally found Firefox with ABP installed to be much faster than Browser & Chrome. Its amazing how much snappier sites are on arm processors when they don't load ads, and as an added bonus accidental clicks are eliminated.
    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      Is that the only ad-blocking android browser? My only android device is too old to run Firefox.

      • Or even with better privacy controls? I tried all of the browsers in the article, when I read it yesterday. None of them had any cookie management options other than block-all and accept-all. They all also only had a 'delete all' option for cookies, no selective deletion. Why does even Firefox have the same set of privacy options as the default Android browser?
    • You should try Dolphin and AdAway (host file based ad blocking). They blow away FireFox + ABP.

      • by idontgno (624372)

        Yeah, but there're still some pretty crippling limitations. Without NoScript, you wind up with your recent browser history (your "back button" history) polluted with dozens of copies of the same pages you're looking at already, except for slightly different embeded ad content URLs... you have to spam the back button until you hopefully climb out of the hole o' advertising fail and back to the actual predecessor page you meant. Assuming you don't overshoot.

        You don't see the ads, but they still screw up your

        • I have never seen an Ad URL embedded in the webpage URL. That is extremely poor coding. And I am not sure how NoScript prevents this. Does NoScript by some means modify history and remove any thing that should not be part of an URL? I am not sure how ABP can prevent this either (ABP does exactly what AdAway does actually).

  • by lord_mike (567148) on Thursday December 06, 2012 @09:51AM (#42203529)

    ..except that it's a major battery hog. Most of the third party browsers for Android are, with the notable exception of Chrome (which has gotten worse,lately) and Opera Mini (Opera Mobile still hogs battery big time). Even the "stock" browser that shipped pre-Jelly Bean sucked battery power, too. Battery drain is an important consideration in a mobile browser. Also, on this list, only Firefox mobile supports Flash at the moment. All the others either explicitly don't support external plugins or refuse to allow their use on JellyBean OS's.

    • by Spad (470073)

      It's not the browsers so much as the wireless/cellular data that's a battery hog and it's Adobe that don't support Flash on 4.x rather than anyone else.

      • by rwa2 (4391) *

        I run with OSMonitor, and I can pretty much see the CPU spike up whenever I'm scrolling (which is a lot on a small screen). I'd assume with Jetpack it would be using the GPU to scroll more than the CPU, but this doesn't appear to be the case.

        It used to be possible to set the volume keys as page-up / page-down, which would likely save a lot of CPU cycles... Unfortunately they've been moving or removing a lot of this functionality over the past few months.

        Dolphin moves their UI stuff around too much... it to

  • by Revotron (1115029) on Thursday December 06, 2012 @09:59AM (#42203617)

    ...and the stock Android browser coming out ahead of desktop favorites...

    You mean, people are picking the stock browser over mobile versions of Firefox or Google Chrome? Wow. What could possibly be the meaning of this? Let's deconstruct it and find the real truth in all this...

    Oh, here it is. It's a combination of No one cares and the mobile versions suck!

    Firefox and Chrome may be competitive browsers in the PC realm, but in their transition to mobile platforms, they're bringing over all that bloat and feature creep and trying to cram it all into a small screen. My Android smartphone has acceptable (but not ideal) battery life when I use the mobile browser for quick things here and there, but when I've tried to use mobile FF/Chrome apps it drops like a rock. I suppose if you sit there tethered into the wall jack you'd be fine, but at that point, why not just whip out your laptop?

  • "Due to Apple's anti-3rd-party browser stance" - iOS may not have all the choices and a bit restricted on functionality but there are many options like Mercury, Atomic, Dolphin, Opera and even Chrome.

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