Attack of the mobile browsers
Firefox, Opera, and a horde of mobile upstarts give iPhone, iPad, and Android users plenty of alternativesFollow @peterwayner
Mobile browser No. 6: Miren
If there are any Web users who still believe that English is the lingua franca of the Web, they might want to try out the Miren browser for Android. While the English-language version is easy to understand and use, there's no doubt that the browser comes from China. I had to use the Google translator to read through Miren.cn and discover that the company's name can be roughly translated as "charming browser," a description that's a pretty good match.
On one hand, this browser doesn't offer any features that make it stand out from the other candidates. There are tabs and a nice set of bookmarks that appear on the splash screen, as with so many other browsers. But by the same token, Miren isn't missing any essential features. Most of the features that now seem sort of standard -- Flash, multitouch, pinching, and so on -- are supported. It's a very usable tool.
Miren may not be as slick or as graceful as other mobile browsers such as Opera, depending on your preferences. It felt a bit sluggish as I paged around, but I never encountered any glaring crashes. It's a perfectly nice Android browser.
Mobile browser No. 7: UC Browser
English-speaking users will feel even more behind if they download the English version of the UC Browser. The Chinese version gets all of the latest code, while the new features take their time working their way down to the English iteration.
This is a competitive browser with many of the features we're used to seeing. I enjoyed using the "open in background" option that calls up a Web page in a hidden window. When you switch to the page after a bit, it's more likely to be loaded. It's like holding down the control key while browsing on a desktop.
Another nice feature is "reading mode," a process that intercepts the mouse clicks and uses them to control the scrolling. A tap on the top moves up, and a tap on the bottom moves down. This is a nice feature for reading longer pages.
In other cases, I felt lost. When I tried to swipe my finger up to find an address bar for a new URL, it wasn't there. I found myself hunting for features that are probably closer to the standard way of accomplishing things in English-language browsers. English-language users may become more aware of the UC way of doing things because the browser is growing in popularity. It recently won the 2011 About.com Readers' Choice award for best mobile browser.
Mobile browser No. 8: QQ
For the ultimate in Chinese browsing, I turned to QQ, a browser for Android that has no English-language version that I could find. Although it's possible to enjoy the Web by guessing at many of the characters, it's just not feasible for non-Chinese speakers to use this very often. The mechanism seemed to work well, but I felt like the rendering of English characters wasn't as readable as in other browsers, something that shouldn't be a surprise.
Mobile browser No. 9: Atomic Web Browser
Atomic Web Browser for the iPhone and iPad is a pretty little browser with an emphasis on privacy. My favorite feature may be the way that a three-finger tap toggles the full-screen mode that hides the controls. The other big feature that may attract iPhone users is a competent tab implementation that's easier to negotiate than using the hidden pages. The three-finger maneuver is simple enough that you don't mind giving up the extra real estate to the tabs.