Dolphin HD is the third in a line of Dolphin browsers and consequently the most feature rich. There is also a Dolphin Mini browser and a more basic Dolphin browser, but this roundup focuses on full-featured browsers available. Dolphin claims to be the most intelligent mobile web browser available, with its add-ons and speedy performance.
- Customizable features
- True tabbed browsing
- Near desktop experience
Speed: Although many users wrote reviews in the Android Market that lauded the browsers fast performance we didnt have the same experience in our tests. Unfortunately, this was one of Dolphins worst features as it seemed incredibly slow to load pages and navigate site-to-site. The Dolphin HD browser loaded CNNs mobile site in about 7 seconds, which is still a tad faster than the speed of the stock browser. However, when loading CNNs full site the browser floundered in the waves for 45 seconds before finally completing loading thats at least 10 seconds longer than any other browser tested in the roundup. While 10 seconds may not sound like a long time, on a page-by-page basis that can seem like an eternity in a mobile scenario. Scrolling around the page and zooming in was a bit jerky. That said, using the pinch-to-zoom feature worked fairly well. We should note that jerkiness during scrolling was an issue with almost every browser tested.
Page Display: Dolphin did a great job displaying pages. Embedded Flash videos played fine without requiring any add-ons other than the standard Flash Player installation. It was refreshing to see a page display on the DROID 3 by Motorola like it does on a desktop computer and mimic desktop browsing experience with embedded videos and properly rendered pages. There werent any issues scrolling to a new part of the page and we didnt have to wait for the rest of the page to load. We appreciated the full screen mode, which removes the top and bottom bars making the most of a cell phones display.
Navigation: One of the best features in Dolphin HD is the true tabbed browsing. Like most desktop browsers, Dolphin kept each individual tab opened at the top of the browser window with the title displayed on each one, making it a breeze to jump between tabs. Dolphin is an incredibly customizable browser, and its reflected in the UI.
One of the most inventive features is the use of gestures for navigation. Tapping on the lower left or lower right portion of the display and then draw a shape on the screen that will direct the browser to do whatever that shape is mapped to do. For example, drawing an M on the screen will bookmark your current page, while drawing a back arrow goes back a page. Users can also create new gestures to do other actions leading to an incredibly personal and customizable experience. While this is a cool feature it didnt always work as well as expected. For example, we would draw the gesture to go to the previous page and suddenly be visiting Facebook. Its also easy to access bookmarks and the add-ons by using the sidebars, which open by swiping to the left or to the right respectively from the side of the page.
Extra Features: Dolphin HD has lots of features to help make the browsing experience unique. Aside from gestures, there are also several add-ons available that do everything from save passwords to stream music. Some of the more notable ones include LastPass for storing passwords; Dolphin Read Later for saving pages locally to visit later; and Dolphin FM for streaming music in the browser. Finally, the User Agents are a cool touch that can used to disguise the mobile browser as a desktop browser and vice-versa for those sites that dont display as well on a cell phone or if for accessing the full unlocked site.
Overall: The Dolphin HDs use of customizable features and the unique gestures it incorporates are a definite plus. The user interface and tabbed browsing deliver an experience close to that found using a desktop browser. However, the general lack of speed in the browser and jerky movements within a page make it difficult to wholeheartedly recommend this as an automatic mobile browser replacement. This browser is a good choice for those with patience, dont mind a bit of scrolling whiplash, and want a browser that simulates a desktop experience with great customization.
UPDATE: According to a recent CNET article, Dolphin HD recently came under scrutiny for how the browser checks URLs to see if they can be viewed in the Webzine format. By sending the URL of every page the user views back to their servers to see if there is a Webzine format of that page available. This creates privacy/security concern with the practice of sending unencrypted data about users browsing habits across the web to their servers. The company does not store this data, and has promised to fix the issue by encrypting the data.