Enhance Your Browsing Experience With Dolphin Browser

Safari on the iPhone is an extremely well designed browser. It’s simple, useful and very powerful. There are a number of alternatives on the App Store that offer extra functionality, but personally, none of them live up to the expectations, and I always tend to switch back to Safari after a while or even without thinking about it.

Dolphin Browser was originally available only for Android smartphones, and is pretty popular on that platform. It was recently ported to the iOS line, and in this review I’m going to see if its popularity on Android is well justified. Follow on after the break.

Getting Started

Launching Dolphin is quick (perhaps a little slower than Safari, but barely noticeable) and you’re first greeted by Speed Dial. Speed Dial (just like in Opera) allows you to have your most visited websites right there when you launch the app or open a new tab. It is a major point for Dolphin, since it’s a lot more comfortable than the behavior Safari has when you open a new tab. It’s completely customizable, of course.

Speed Dial and Browsing

Speed Dial and Browsing

While broswing a website, you get all the expected behavior. Tap to scroll, pinch to zoom, double tap to zoom to a portion of a page, etc. You even get tabs, which is pretty cool and makes browsing through multiple pages much easier. There is something I didn’t expect though, and that is that you can’t tap the status bar to scroll to the top, although you can tap the lower right hand corner icon to view the address and tab bars. You can also quickly share a link to Twitter and Facebook by tapping the Twitter icon to the left of the address bar.

Options while browsing a website

Options while browsing a website

There are a number of things you can do while on a website. By tapping the third icon from the right on the bottom toolbar, you get a menu with six options. You can add a bookmark, find something on the page, pin the page to Speed Dial, copy the page url (which I found pretty useful, actually), and mail a link to the page. There’s also a Create Gesture option, which I’ll talk about next.

Gestures

One of the cool features of Dolphin are the gestures. See that hand icon on the bottom toolbar, right in the middle? Well, tap it, and you’ll get a sort of drawing board where you can draw. Dolphin comes with a list of predefined gestures, like one to go to Twitter or Facebook. You can add custom ones as well.

Performing a Gesture and the list of predefined gestures included with Dolphin

Performing a Gesture and the list of predefined gestures included with Dolphin

There are a number of ways to create a gesture. Gestures that take you to a website can easily be created within the site itself. Remember the previous section? There’s an option that’ll create a gesture pretty quickly. The second way to create gestures are from the gesture list. Simply swipe to the left on your screen to reveal a sort of hidden menu, tap Gesture, then New and choose from the list. There are a lot of cool actions you can choose from, and my personal favorites are Add to Speed Dial and Add Bookmark. I have to say, gesture recognition is impressive! I drew some pretty complicated patterns and Dolphin always got them right.

Adding a new gesture

Adding a new gesture

Webzines

Dolphin does have a killer feature actually: Webzines. They’re a way to see your RSS, Twitter and Facebook feeds in a cool way. From the Speed Dial screen, swipe to the left to reveal the list of Webzines. Each one shows its content in a simple way, and makes it easier and clearer to read all your feeds.

Viewing a Webzine on Dolphin

Viewing a Webzine on Dolphin

You can even add new Webzines, simply tap Add Columns and look for the Webzine you want. There are also websites that show a little icon on the address bar (like iPhone AppStorm!) that can show you the content in Webzine format.

Adding a new webzine

Adding a new webzine

Download Manager

One of the upsides of using Dolphin is that you have the ability to download files, a feature sorely lacking in Safari. You can save PDFs and other simple file types in Safari, but ZIPs and more complicated documents can’t be downloaded. In Dolphin, they can!

Downloading a file and the download manager

Downloading a file and the download manager

Just tap on the download link, tap on Download and Dolphin will store the file in the Download Manager. To reveal the Download Manager, just swipe to the left and tap on Downloads. You can then review the files and open them on whatever app that supports it, or even change the file’s name.

Bookmarks & Settings

Swiping to the right from any website or the welcome screen reveals the bookmarks bar. They work as you’d expect, and in a pretty similar way to Safari’s bookmarks. Adding one is as easy as browsing to the webpage, and choosing Add Bookmark from the action menu I showed you a few steps back.

Bookmarks bar and adding a new bookmark

Bookmarks bar and adding a new bookmark

You can create gestures that enable/disable Desktop and Private mode as well, which is pretty useful and faster than going to the settings pane.

The app’s settings (accesible from the right toolbar, by swiping to the left), don’t let you customize much, but there are options to disable the iPhone’s auto-lock feature, enable Desktop Mode and Private Mode. Desktop Mode is a very useful feature, since it loads websites as if you were on a normal computer, skipping the mobile version.

Final Thoughts

Few iPhone browsers are good enough to be able to replace Safari. Most of them aren’t fast enough, offer too many features that clutter the interface, etc. Dolphin, on the other hand, is quick, simple and has features one really uses, like gestures and a download manager.

I’ve already made the switch to Dolphin on my iPhone and on my iPad. It’s a great browser; it has all the features I need and none of the features that aren’t really necessary. It has worked great for me so far, hasn’t crashed, gesture recognition is incredibly accurate and it’s a very fast app. I recommend you give this browser a shot, and after all, it is free.


Summary

A smart Safari replacement for your iPhone.

10