Verizon’s Droid is a big hit, the kinda hit that’s close to 100 million units sold, but for all its Android 2.0 greatness, the stock web browser lacks something that lesser smart phones with Android versions 1.6 and 1.5 have, multi-touch browsing.
Score one point for Dolphin, a new free Android browser that not only brings pinch-to-zoom browsing to Droid’s Android 2.0 OS (why it’s not there already we’re not sure), but offers tabbed browsing, lots of support for Google services like Reader and Bookmarks, and a cavalcade of options to share information. With all that functionality, Dolphin comes closer to a full web surfing experience than either of the other Android browsers.
Most of our favorite Dolphin features are in the video hands-on below. But if you want a quick rundown of all the hottest features this browser has to offer, you can scroll down for a list.
Pinch-to-zoom is finally available! Or depending your Android phone (the Hero, Eris), it’s still there!
There’s a ton of commands that can be assigned touch gestures: saving a link to read it later, searching a web page, adding links to Del.icio.us, all can happen in a stroke of your finger.
Like other Android browsers, Dolphin lets you scroll through a thumbnailed series of your open Web pages to switch between them quickly, but unlike those other guys, you can also open new pages in tabs. Maximum number of tabs/pages is 6, which is one more than the stock Android browser, but two less than Steel’s 8.
Share content without leaving the browser
Through a Share Page button, you can sends articles, blogs, and other links via Twitter, Facebook, Delicious, and GMail.
Dolphin’s caretakers claim that their browser is faster than others. In our simple tests on the Droid, Dolphin loaded webpages much faster than the included Android browser and just a smidgen faster than Steel, another popular browser.
It took the stock browser well over a minute to finish loading tmz.com (though, in 13 seconds enough of the site loaded that we could start scanning the page for Tiger Woods updates), Steel took 40 secs to complete the same page (we could move through the page in 23 secs), and Dolphin took 28 secs (we could start scrolling content in 12 secs).
When you visit a Web page in Dolphin, the browser scans the page for RSS feeds and ands them to the notification bar atop the screen. If you want to subscribe to the feed, you can drag down the notification bar and select the feed and Dolphin opens up Google Reader.
Dolphin automatically loads the full web version of pages (if you put in the that particular URL, i.e. www.nytimes.com) but if, for the sake of time and convenience, you want to load the more simple mobile version of the site, there’s an option called “Compact Page” to force the browser to that site.
Dolphin has a homepage that gathers your most visited sites, your bookmarks, “Read It Later” links, Delicious bookmarks, and every Google service (links to Google Maps, Reader, Photos, Books and more included but some did not work).
More to Come
Dolphin doesn’t feel glitchy or incomplete, but there is some functionality that isn’t available yet. The video on Dolphin’s site showcases a feature that allows user to comment on a Web site and see which other Dolphin users are looking at that same webpage as well, but the “Comment” option doesn’t appear in the versions we tested (the Droid and the HTC Hero with Android 1.5). There are also plans in the works to customize the browser with different themes.
If you want to see some of these features in action, check out the hands-on video below. And if you’re a card-carrying member of the Android revolution, download Dolphin in the Market and getting busy swimming the web with the fish. I’m pretty confident you’ll enjoy experience.
Oh, and let us know what you think in the comments!