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Smaller web browsers target mobile

Despite the popularity of smartphones, tablet computers and other handheld devices, there's a scarcity of reviews for mobile web browsers specifically optimized to fit smaller screens. We found plenty of online chatter and a few single-product reviews but very little comparative testing. The vast majority of tests were for Android devices, most likely because Safari is already installed on Apple devices.

Smartphones come with a browser already installed (called a "stock" browser), and many people don't even know they can change their mobile browser. Firefox and Google Chrome offer mobile versions, for example, but reviews are generally focused on the desktop versions. As a result, most of the mobile reviews we looked at focused on three lesser-known mobile browsers: Opera Mobile, UC Browser and Dolphin Browser.

Basics like speed, page-loading and a simple user interface are very important for mobile browsers - especially Web browsers for smartphones. Smartphones are working with very limited space (called "screen real estate in industry lingo) and mobile Internet connections can be spotty. Browsing on a phone can be challenging enough without the speed concerns. As with traditional web browsers, Chrome is a good overall browser for simplicity and fast page loading on mobile devices.

Alternative mobile browsers offer speed and features

Opera Mobile (for Android) is a leader in speed; not only does it offer fast browsing, but smartphone users stuck with a poor connection can use its "Off-Road" mode. It caters to people with slow connections by tapping into basic versions of websites. The page views aren't the prettiest, but if you're stuck with a poor connection it can be a lifesaver. (Off-Road mode is also available on Opera's desktop browser.)

Dolphin Browser was developed for Android and is a popular alternative for smartphone users. It offers voice and gesture navigation (write an "N" on the screen with your finger and it will pull up a new tab.) It also has multiple search engines built in. Like many mobile browsers, private browsing is available but is not the default. (Privacy and security aren't the top concerns of mobile browsers, which instead focus on speed.) UC Browser compresses pages to speed up mobile browsing and is the best for managing file downloads. 

Apple users have fewer options, as Safari dominates the Apple mobile market, and it's automatically your default browser if you use an iOS device. You can access websites via another browser like Opera Mini or Chrome, but if you click on a URL in your email, for example, it will automatically open in Safari. (Changing the default browser requires "jailbreaking" your device, a process that isn't easy and voids your warranty.)

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