Ah the ubiquitous web browser. What would we do without one? Not much, that's for sure. No matter if you're seated at your desk or roaming about with mobile in hand, you depend upon a web browser. But which browser? That's the key. There are browsers for every type of user, especially in the mobile landscape. Most users, however, simply live with the default. On Android, that's Chrome. What would you say if I told you there were better options?
There's Firefox, Opera, Puffin, Dolphin, Naked Browser, Orfox, Ghostery, and so many more. But one particular mobile browser tends to fall through the cracks. That browser is Via Browser, and it is certainly worth your time. Via Browser is a lightweight, fast, customizable, mini browser that doesn't feel like a "mini" browser at all. In fact, outside of the fast speeds, Via contains enough features to make it feel like its full-blown brothers and sisters. Via is also really stable, with a developer that actively works to fix bugs and add new features.
Let's install Via Browser on Android and see if it might make you want to switch from your default.
The installation of Via Browser is quite simple. Here are the necessary steps:
- Open the Google Play Store on your Android device
- Search for Via Browser
- Locate and tap the entry by Lakor
- Tap Install
- Allow the installation to complete
That's all there is to the installation. At this point, you should see an icon for Via on the home screen or the App Drawer (or both). Tap to launch the browser.
Out of the gate, you'll be warned about the necessary permissions. The developer has done a great job of explaining these permissions (so users won't grow paranoid that the browser is spying on them in any way - Figure A).
Dismiss this warning and then okay the necessary permissions (Storage and Location).
Using Via Browser is incredibly intuitive. From the homepage (Figure B) tap the search bar and either type a search string or a URL. If you type a search string, the results will appear in a Google search. If you type a URL, guess what? The site in question will appear. Simple.
If you don't want Google as your search provider, you can tap the Menu button (three horizontal bar icon in the bottom right of the Via homepage) and tap Settings. Tap General and scroll down until you see Search Engine. Tap Search Engine and select from the available options (Figure C).
One option I like with the default Chrome browser is the pull down to refresh gesture. Fortunately, Via includes this—only it's not enabled by default. To enable this option, go to Settings | General | Operation. In this screen (Figure D), tap to enable the Pull to Refresh Gesture.
Out of the box, Via Browser has Do Not Track and Block Ads enabled and Location Access disabled. There is also an included Incognito Mode, for use when you want to leave nothing to chance. To get to the Incognito Mode, tap the Menu button and then tap Incognito Mode (Figure E).
I have to admit, I really like how the Via Browser handles tabs. At the bottom of the window, you'll see a small square with a number. That number is now many tabs you have open. Tap that square to reveal a popup that allows you to quickly access any of those open tabs (Figure F).
Closing an open tab is just a matter of tapping its associated X.
Why I use Via Browser
Of all the mobile web browsers I've used, Via offers the best ratio of speed, options, and simplicity. Are there better browsers? Sure. On the desktop, Firefox is my go-to, but not so much on my mobile devices. When I'm on the go, I need fast, simple, and lightweight. That's Via Browser to a tee. If you've yet to find that perfect mobile browser, I highly suggest you give Via a try and see if it doesn't wind up your default.
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Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website jackwallen.com.