Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Dolphin Browser HD improves gestures and syncs bookmarks, but keeps the old tab popup

Dolphin Browser HD is not the fastest web browser for Android, but it's the most versatile browser on any mobile operating system. Its tab layout is better than the tabs in Opera or the native Android browser. The sidebars with bookmarks and plugins are a nice touch, and if it's all too much for you there is a mini version with most of the fat trimmed off.

What's new?

New in the latest version: bookmark syncing. It requires an add-on, so it only works in Dolphin HD, not in Dolphin Mini. And you'll need to set up an account at Dolphin. Wouldn't it be easier if you could just sync bookmarks through Gmail?

Also new: the gestures got more accurate. My gesture to get to the top of the page looks like ^, my gesture to go back to the previous page looks like <. The old Dolphin often mixed them up, just like it did for my "next" gesture (>) and my "bottom of page" swipe (v). But not anymore. The latest update really made things more precise, so now I'm no longer sent to the top when I want to go back to the last page. If you use gestures that look like "O" and "Q" you should notice the difference too.

Old & annoying

There are two old annoyances that Dolphin did not fix.

The first is the "new tab" dialog.

When you long-tap a link you can select "open in new tab." This launches a popup that lets you choose between opening the link in a foreground or background tab. I'd rather have this choice straight in the main menu instead of in a popup. But what really annoys me is that the popup comes with a "remember my decision" checkbox that's checked by default.

Having the box checked by default really makes no sense. Remembering the decision is a one time event, so it's no big deal checking the box once. Not remembering your choice is something that you'll need to tell Dolphin over and over again. For obvious reasons the box should be unchecked by default.

Worse yet, if you accidentally open a new tab without removing the checkmark you're screwed. You can't undo it in the settings menu. The only way to get the old behaviour back is by going into the settings and restoring all Dolphin settings, which includes gestures, bookmarks, etc. All because you want your choice between foreground and background tabs back.

Update: the new tab popup issue has been fixed.

The desktop version of Firefox has a menu editor add-on. The makers of Dolphin should have a good look at this.

The second annoyance is the exit dialog. You can switch it off, but that only works if you exit Dolphin from the button in the menu. If you try to get back to your home screen with a tap on your phone's back button the exit dialog still pops up.

Update: the latest version of Dolphin HD lets you kill the exit dialog.

The verdict

The flaws of Dolphin are only minor. So minor that I keep Dolphin as my default browser because the shortcomings of the stock browser, Opera, Skyfire, Maxthon, xScope, Firefox, Miren etc. are much worse. Still, it would be nice if the makers of Dolphin can sort things out in the next update.

Dolphin Browser (Android Market)
Dolphin Mini (Android Market)
Dolphin Bookmark Sync

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