360 Web Browser – Desktop Class Browsing on iPhone

It’s often the hardest to convince yourself to pay for an app that’s very similar to another free app. That’s a big reason why most iOS users just stick with Mobile Safari for browsing from iPhone or iPod Touch; it’s included with their device for free, and just works. If it’s not broke, don’t fix it, right?

For everything that it does well, though, Safari is still pretty lacking. It’s great at rendering standards compliant sites, and even works decently to switch back and forth between several pages. But start trying to multitask between multiple sites and Safari’s shine starts to wear off. Web browsing on iPhone feels so similar to browsing from your computer, it’s easy to start using it more like it’s a computer until you’re frustrated that Safari is reloading sites each time you switch pages and can’t do things you’ve done for years in a normal browser such as viewing the source of a site.

Clearly, a better solution is needed. While all browsers on the App Store have to use the built-in Webkit rendering and Javascript engine, many designers have set out to improve on Safari within these constraints. Today, we’re going to look at 360 Web Browser, a newer alternative browser app that packs tons of features into a mobile browser. With a bold look and more features than we could possibly cover in a review, it’s definitely one interesting browser. Keep reading to learn more about it.

Getting Started

Browsing the web, even from a mobile device, is so simple nowadays that we do it without thinking. 360 Browser includes more features than your average mobile browser, though, so before you start browsing you can flip through the included guide to view its most popular features.

360 Browser: A bold interface that still feels intuitive

360 Web Browser’s icon and interface didn’t stand out to me at first, but don’t worry if you don’t find them attractive. The browser’s main interface looks much like Mobile Safari, only with a tab bar and extra buttons on the bottom.

The good news is, browsing is incredibly snappy. 360 Web Browser handled multiple tabs and rich sites with ease, and didn’t reload pages when switching between tabs. If you were only looking for a tabbed browser that worked as good as Safari, you could use the app just like you would any other browser and you’d be fine.

As you’re using 360 Browser though, you’ll likely start noticing some significant differences. Tap and hold on links and images, for example, and you’ll see a popup with options that look more like a right-click menu on a computer. Now, just swipe your finger down to the option you want, and you’ll have your other page loaded in a new tab or bookmarked quicker than you could in Safari.

Browsing in 360 has a more desktop feel, complete with mock right-click menus

Browser, Meet Multitouch

360 Browser’s most unique feature is the arc menus. Tap the circle button in the middle of the bottom bar to open it, then drag your finger up and select the option you want. You can’t just open the arc menu and then select an option; you have to tap and drag to the option you want in one motion. This is a quick way to increase the font size or bookmark a page in one tap.

Plus, in full-screen mode, the arc menu gives you even more options so you can take advantage of tabbed browsing while maximizing your screen space. You’ll have to play with the arc menus for a while to get used to them, but after awhile, it’s almost like using a Swype keyboard.

Arc menus offer quick access to features

You can also use multitouch gestures to navigate between pages and more. Similar to mouse gestures in Opera and several popular plugins for other browsers, you can swipe with two fingers to switch tabs or go to previous pages. You’ll find settings for each gesture in the browser settings menu, or just try out the different gestures to see how they work for yourself.

Gestures in browsers finally make sense on a touch screen

Taking Your Mobile Browsing Further

Even though 360 Browser already pushes the envelope with its included features, it doesn’t stop there. Just like in Chrome, Safari, or Firefox on your computer, 360 Web Browser lets you add even more features with addons.

Tap the gear button and select Add Plugins to get started. You can choose from a variety of prebuilt plugins that let you view a site’s source, translate it, save it to Instapaper, and more. Tap the plugin for more info, then install it if you wish.

Plugins in a mobile browser? You bet!

Now, to access your plugins, press the gear button and select Plugins. This time, you’ll see a small bar on the bottom of the page with your plugins. Tap the one you want to run. Here you can see the source code of http://techinch.com/ right on my iPod Touch. If you’re a web developer or are just curious about how sites are made, you’ll likely find this one plugin extremely useful.

View site source, save to Instapaper, and more via plugins

Another very useful included feature is the offline pages mode. Tap the gear icon and select Offline Pages to open pages you’ve already saved, or press the plus button on the offline pages bar to save the current page. This is a great way to make sure you can read the sites you want on the go, even if you don’t have an internet connection.

360 Browser also lets you download other files to access later, though sadly, this was one area the app didn’t work quite right. You can theoretically view flash videos and save them through 360 browser, but most sites didn’t work with it and the ones that did offered html5 videos already. We tried to save documents to the downloads folder, but they simply opened in a new tab.

Download sites or files ... just make sure that's the actual file you want

Tweaking 360 Browser

With many features come many settings, and 360 Browser includes a ton. The gear menu gives you quick access the the things you’ll need the most, but to tweak the browser further, select Settings. Here you’ll be able to choose the user agent, set a default search engine, lock rotation, and more.

Want settings? 360 Browser has settings galore.

The browser also includes several free themes that you can preview and apply if you don’t like the default look. There are also a couple of paid themes you can buy with an in-app purchase if you wish. I personally liked the default interface, which is almost like a darker version of  Mobile Safari’s UI, but if you’re one that likes to personalize everything, there’s plenty to choose from here.

There's a 360 style for everyone!

Conclusion

360 Web Browser just may be the iOS browser with the most features. I was impressed at how good they integrated everything and made the app feel simple to use even with a barrage of options. It provides a much more desktop-like browsing experience than most other apps, and handles multiple pages great. Plus, if you have an iPad, you’ll be able to use 360 Browser on it with their upcoming Universal update.

What browser do you use on your iOS device? Have you switched to 360 Browser or another browser app, or just kept on using Safari? Let us know in the comments!


Summary

360 Web Browser brings many of the features of desktop browsers you love to iPhone. Get tabbed browsing, gesture support, addons, and more right on your iOS device.

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  • http://xanato.net maique

    i’m partial to cyberspace, after trying a bunch of others.
    and now i’m trying this one too, thanks for reviewing it.

    • http://techinch.com/ Matthew Guay

      Cyberspace is a very nice browser, and definitely fits in well with the iOS model of only doing one thing at one time. For long-form reading, especially, Cyberspace is great. However, I’m a bit too used to using tons of tabs when browsing, so that’s where other 3rd party browsers come in. You can’t beat Cyberspace’s clean interface, though!

  • Ian C.

    Used AtomicWeb Browser always on iPad, but this one looks interesting

    • http://techinch.com/ Matthew Guay

      On iPad, iCab Mobile is my personal favorite. It handles multiple tabs so much better than Safari, and really hardly ever reloads them. It’s keeping me content with my iPad 1 for now :)

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  • Marek

    Looks horrible IMO. Does not fit iOS UI at all. Themes suck also.

    • http://hito.fr Hito

      Same opinion as Marek. Don’t like the skin…
      I also think that there is too much thing in the interface.
      Maybe it’s need more clarity.