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Picking a mobile browser

Despite the popularity of smartphones, tablet computers and other handheld devices, there's a scarcity of reviews for mobile web browsers -- which are specifically optimized to fit smaller screens. We found plenty of web chatter and a few single-product reviews but very little comparative testing.

Smartphones come with a browser already installed, but there are a number of mobile browsers that can be downloaded to any phone. Internet Explorer, Safari and Firefox are all available as mobile apps. Google's Android phones have a native browser, but there's currently no downloadable mobile Chrome browser. We had trouble finding updated standalone reviews and head-to-head match-ups for these browsers.

We did find a generally positive 2010 review of Firefox Mobile on KnowYourMobile.com. The reviewer likes the way Firefox Mobile mimics the PC version, but found a few glitches with syncing and video.

The comparative reviews we looked at focused on three lesser-known browser apps, Opera Mini, UC Web (renamed UC Browser) and Skyfire. Care4Tech.com summarizes the features of each browser, making a comparison easy, but the site does not select a favorite. UC Web (now UC Browser) wins a 2011 readers poll on About.com, but reasons for the choice aren't available. In 2010, Opera Mini was the pick.

Opera Mobile 11 also gets some buzz. A review on PCMag.com of the Android app praises its clean appearance and speed dials but faults its lack of customization. Editor William Fenton favors Dolphin Browser HD 4.5 (Android-only) for its custom themes, add-ons and Flash support. Fenton doesn't like the stripped-down Dolphin Browser Mini 2.1 as much, mainly because of speed and lack of synchronization.

The lack of strong comparative reviews makes picking a mobile browser tricky at best. Compatibility is also an issue. Dolphin's mobile browsers are available only for Android; Skyfire is compatible with iPhone, iPad and Android. Opera Mobile 11 and Opera Mini are available for iPhone, Android and Windows 7 phones, as is UC Browser. If you're not happy with the built-in browser on your smartphone, we recommend trying out a few third-party browsers until you find one with the features you need.

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