How to choose the best browser for Android in 2021
When you’re busy and want to look things up on your Android phone, it’s worth having a whip smart browser. We’ll show some of the best to help you customise and find every page you need.
What are the best browsers for Android devices?
We almost take our smartphone browsers for granted, especially when searching for something during a hectic day out or at home. They are just there and they are all the same, aren’t they? Not always.
Whether you are using Safari, Google Chrome, Firefox or another one, web browsers all have their good and bad points; these factors affect important things like your web security and how your data is managed – even more crucial on a device that’s easily lost or stolen. So you might not always want to go with the Android browser that was in the box when you first bought your phone.
It’s worth having a good look at alternatives, to see what their upsides might be. Let’s take you through some of the best on the market.
Let's review 9 of the top browsers for Android
Beyond Android, Google Chrome is the most popular web browser on the planet but that doesn’t mean it’s for everyone. If you are happy to be part of Google’s ecosystem, you will have made peace with how it uses your data, in which case Chrome is an obvious choice, as the default browser on your phone.
You may also use Chrome on your desktop, so synching between your mobile and computer will be an easy way to manage web pages, bookmarks and passwords. Chrome offers some other powerful features to help your everyday digital life, such as storage for payment methods, a data-saver mode, automatic translations of dozens of languages and malicious ad blockers.
Google Chrome is a reliably solid web browser; not the most customisable and not the best for privacy but that’s the price you pay.
The wily old Firefox browser has been around a few years and tends to be the weapon of choice for the more discerning and adventurous of digital buccaneers. If you already use it on a desktop then, as with Chrome, you will enjoy the ability to synch your passwords, history and bookmarks with ease. If it’s your bag, then Firefox is a web browser that offers a lot of customisation and tweaks to make it ‘just so’. If you want to choose how every tab is displayed in your browser, what colour everything should be and what features you want accessible: then Firefox is for you. If this sounds like a nightmare, read on for other options.
Opera can be a nifty contender in the Android browser stakes, allowing you to serve up web pages that little bit faster. Opera’s calling card is a data-saver mode that compresses videos as well as standard web pages. This means pages ping up faster, thanks to the reduced data, and if you don’t enjoy one of the bigger data plans, you won’t burn up your monthly allowance too quickly.
Even with its many features, Opera remains one of the fastest web slingers around, with only Chrome outperforming it. Best to note it comes in two variants: Opera Mini is all about the data-saving side of things and Opera Touch is geared towards one-handed browsing, if you’re out and about or juggling things at home.
It may feel a little like cats hanging out with dogs but Microsoft’s Edge browser offers another decent option for Android smartphones. Under the bonnet it’s powered by something called Chromium, which just means some clever boffins have put some thought into making a better experience for customers.
Edge is a great browser for downloading. It integrates well with Microsoft services, which may be a factor if you have work apps on your phone and you can also import Chrome (not Chromium!) bookmarks, favourites and settings over to the browser.
While sporting a name that doesn’t involve Chrome or similar, DuckDuckGo is the undercover agent of Android browsers: security is its thing. DuckDuckGo is focussed on keeping your online activity private, with a button to the right of the search bar which simply wipes all your activity with a tap.
The app also eliminates any of those pesky ad-trackers that may be following you and will automatically default to the highest standards of web encryption on sites you visit. While it doesn’t offer a VPN (Virtual Private Network) service, DDG is also known as a search engine that, unlike Google, never tracks your search activity for use at a later date.
Puffin offers you some speed with a side order of security. Based in the US, one potential downside is the geolocation feature will often show your location as being in America; potentially blocking some local content (such the BBC iPlayer).
Puffin does has a few tricks up its sleeve, such as VPN (Virtual Private Network) functionality for more privacy, faster loading times and Flash support; if that is something that interests you. A bit of a curio in this field.
Named after the Italian composer, Vivaldi is a browser for all seasons, especially on Android devices. Vivaldi is all about offering the best user interface, as you can pretty much customise every aspect of the browser experience; from themes, fonts, menus, colours and toolbars.
It also looks sharp and could be one of the most compatible browsers on Android. If you find yourself doing some research, one handy feature is the built-in rich text Notes tab, there is also a full-page screen capture widget, which is great for capturing those Pinterest moments if you’re looking at home decoration ideas. Look out also for the ability to switch to different search engines and tools, if you’re precise about that kind of thing.
Brave was an early exponent of mobile ad blocking, which you can see now with powerful options in that area. You can mix and match search engines if you like and if you used the Brave browser on a desktop, the synching on bookmarks and passwords will be easy there. As a stand-alone Android browser though, it is not really that different or special comparted to others on our list.
Another mobile browser that might have a limited fan club, Flynx has a quirky trick up its sleeve. When you hit on a link in Flynx, instead of immediately taking you there, the link opens up a bubble to the side of your screen. When you are ready to read it, tap on the bubble and it will expand to a full-screen window. This could be handy if you were doing research on something and had multiple tabs open at once – Flynx would let you continue reading the original page.
Choosing the best Android browser for you
For most people the best browser will be the one works and that comes pre-packaged with their Android phone. If you have no worries about data and the whole Google set-up, then Google Chrome does a variety of jobs, very well. However, if you don’t use Chrome on any of your computers, you may find it better and more productive to match a browser you use on your desktop (or laptop) to a mobile app version.
Also, if you have any concerns about internet security on your Android phone, you may want to look at browsers that are strong with ad blocking and other privacy features we’ve talked about. As ever, the answer is probably in finding out a little bit more and then choosing what’s important to you and what makes your digital life that little bit easier.