A little over a week ago, popular Android Web browser UC Browser was removed from Google Play. The removal was reportedly owing to an issue with Google Play policies, and a week later it was reinstated, with UCWeb saying that the setting in question on UC Browser had been fixed. UC Browser is the most popular Android browser in India according to Statcounter, accounting for 45.08 percent of the market, compared to 35.19 percent for Chrome. Opera comes in third place at 9.92 percent, while others are far lower. Globally across all platforms, Chrome accounts for nearly half of the market, although Safari leads the US market at 52.4 percent.
UC Browser is back on Google Play, but that got us thinking – what it if had been permanently removed for some reason? We wanted to know what the best options for Web browsers on Android were, and although we had curated a list in 2015, a lot of time has passed and what’s available has changed. So we checked for recommendations and downloaded a number of them. From that, we’ve filtered down the list to our five favourites, in no particular order.
1. Samsung Internet Browser
The Samsung Internet Browser is a surprisingly good option if you’re looking for a replacement browser. Despite the name, you can install it on any Android phone, and it comes with a number of extensions pre-installed like a CloseBy mode, with gets information about your surroundings from beacons; a QR code reader; and the Quick Menu, which places a button near the bottom of the screen, from which you can use features such as night mode, or open a new tab, for example. You can also add more extensions like an ad-blocker.
Another nice thing about the browser is that although the menu and URL bar are at the top of the screen, other commonly used buttons such as back, home, and tabs are at the bottom, making for easy access with one hand.
Download Samsung Internet Browser for Android
2. Microsoft Edge
Microsoft’s Edge Browser syncs with Edge on your PC so if you’re using it as your computer browser, then you can have a seamless experience, picking up where you left off, as you switch between your desktop and mobile phone.
Like the Samsung Internet Browser, Edge also has its navigation buttons at the bottom, though the URL bar remains on the top. Again, this is nice for one handed operation, and we also liked that it presents the icons for frequently visited pages is a large and easily readable format. It also has a QR code reader built-in and the tab view is well organised. One thing you may not like is that the default search engine is Bing, though you can change this via the settings.
Download Microsoft Edge for Android
Chrome is of course ubiquitous and if you’re browsing the Web on a PC there’s a good chance that you’re already a Chrome user – according to Statcounter, 71.25 percent of all Indian desktop users are on Chrome. Therefore the advantages of using it on your phone are that it’s easy to keep your browsing history synced, apart from the fact that it’s familiar and pretty stable.
On the flip side, we’ve noticed that Chrome can be slow, and have seen pages needing to be reloaded as well. Also, the entire navigation is kept at the top of the screen, which isn’t convenient these days as phones are getting taller. There’s also the additional question of just how much you want Google watching you, but that’s a whole other discussion.
Download Google Chrome for Android
Brave is a free and open source browser based on Chromium, so the overall experience is a lot like using Chrome. However, it coms with a built in ad-blocker, and promises to help you browse faster by blocking ads and trackers that violate your privacy, and cost you time and money.
There’s nothing to set up – the blocker is running from the start, and the home page shows how many trackers and ads the browser has blocked, and an estimate of how much time it has saved you. Once you visit any site, you can also tap the lion icon to see the ads and trackers, and turn off individual controls that do things like enable HTTPS everywhere.
The rest of the experience is essentially Chrome, down to the top menu and interface, but the polished blocking experience is certainly a selling point.
Download Brave for Android
5. Firefox Focus
Although Mozilla’s Firefox is a desktop standard, Firefox Focus is interesting as a privacy-first option. It automatically blocks ads and tackers, lets you choose from a number of different search engines, and doesn’t track your history at all. It’s basically incognito mode all the time, with the goal of “making privacy a habit”.
It’s a very minimal browser with almost no controls on screen beyond the URL bar and menu button. There’s a prominent bin icon on the bottom right of the page, and whenever you’re done browsing, just tap the bin to erase your browsing session history, and go back to the home screen.
If you open multiple tabs, you’ll see a number instead, and you tap that to switch to different tabs, or just tap the erase button there to go back to the home screen. It feels a little radical, but you get used to it quickly, and the barebones design is actually quite appealing and user friendly.
Download Firefox Focus for Android
Apart from these five, we considered a lot of other apps for our final picks. Firefox and Opera are both good picks, and depending on which browser you’re using on your desktop, you may want to choose a matching mobile browser for a seamless sync experience. Another option we thought was interesting was Naked Brower, which is fast and shows a percentage readout to show you how much a page has loaded, but the UI is not appealing at all so we couldn’t recommend it.
Ghostery is similar to Brave though more in-depth. However, it can be a little overwhelming for a regular user, and the interface isn’t as polished either. We also liked Lightning browser but again felt its interface lacked the polish of some of the other options on this list. We tried a few more browsers as well, but they aren’t even worth a passing mention.
Which mobile browser are you using? Tell us and the other readers via the comments.