With that in mind, I decided to give Mercury Browser a shot. Its focus on design and flexibility is refreshing for me, and I love some of the features it brings to the table. Within minutes of use, I made it my default Android browser on my Nexus 4. Read on to find out if Mercury Browser is right for you.
Back to Basics
Mercury looks different from Chrome, and I don’t mean that in a bad way. The browser has an omnipresent bottom toolbar with quick access to tons of important controls and settings, and uses a geometric design with clean lines to make finding your way around as easy as possible.
The browser uses the Speed Dial convention of bookmarks, much like Chrome on the desktop, and allows you to easily change your preferred quick tabs. One of my favourite parts of the experience is a Dark Mode. It doesn’t affect your web content, but it affects any browser-related part of the interface. In other words, the toolbars, the Settings screen, and other related parts of the experience become much easier on the eyes.
The Dark Mode has a scheduler, which is a new feature but still an unsatisfying one. I’d be much happier if I could allow the Dark Mode to turn on automatically when the sun sets in my region, which would be as easy for me as a user as enabling Mercury Browser to gain access to my location.
The app also has a really nice landscape mode. Until you request them, the toolbars disappear, making good use of your entire phone’s screen. I can’t recommend this enough for graphically intensive pages, like the Nexus 5 webpage.
But as far as the user interface goes, there isn’t much here we haven’t seen before. The app looks lovely and feels great to use, and it’s worth noting that it’s insanely fast. Of course, the iOS version of Mercury Browser is limited in that it can’t use Apple’s Nitro speed in Safari, but the optimizations the development team made to Mercury to enhance its speeds are made even more obvious on Android — where there are no speed limitations. In this case, the winner is certainly the users.
Filled With Features
Despite its simple — and dare I say beautiful — appearance, Mercury Browser is simply loaded with features. It’s easy to change your search engine — with a single tap, you can search anything from Google or DuckDuckGo (perfect for those times when you don’t need Google remembering you searched for proper nose hair trimming techniques), all the way to eBay, Vimeo, or Wikipedia. The list is actually fairly exhaustive, but notably missing are social networks like Twitter, Facebook, and Google+. I could use a quick Twitter search now and again, so that’s a little sad.
Speaking of DuckDuckGo and enhanced privacy, the app does offer quick access to Private Mode. When I first started researching the app, I found out that Mercury Browser is so detailed in its security that many spouses use Mercury specifically for pornography. Let’s be clear: there are other reasons privacy is a welcome feature. Private Mode is one tap away, it’s apparently incredible secure, and I think those of us worried about our data being monitored would do well to consider using Mercury from time to time.
The app also allows you to spoof a User Agent request. I’m sure, since most of our readers here at Android.AppStorm are very techie, that many of you know what that means. For those that don’t, it simply means that Mercury Browser can spoof another web browser’s identity. You can browse sites as if you’re on your Android device, an iPhone, iPad, or desktop. It’s especially a handy feature for web developers, but also very useful if a website is giving you any trouble — This is notable because Mercury’s browser sometimes fails to load every asset in a page unless you use a different User Agent, for example I had trouble with my creative firm’s website until I spoofed it with a different User Agent. It’s worth noting, for those who are interested, that changing the User Agent will often change a site’s typography and some other aspects of its interface.
The Reader mode in Mercury saves me all the hassle and parses the text really well. It presents it in a very readable view, and changes depending on whether you are using Day or Night Mode.
Likewise, the app also offers the ability to log into a Pocket account to make it easy to save web pages for later reading. As I said earlier, I prefer Instapaper and wish that Mercury synced with it as well, but this is a welcome improvement over the stock Android browser or Chrome.
Finally, it’s worth noting that a browser extension for Chrome and Firefox on the desktop allows Mercury to sync bookmarks and open tabs, just like Chrome would. It’s easy to install and painless to use. Just think of the Mercury extension on the browser as your new bookmark settings.
There are always going to be power users who get a lot out of Chrome, but I’m not one of them. I find that my implemented workarounds detract from my overall browsing experience, and end up impacting my productivity.
In that sense, Mercury Browser provides a welcome alternative. It’s fast and easy to use, arriving with a plethora of features that are sure to satisfy both casual browsers and power users alike, and solves almost all of the problems I have with Chrome without compromising on design and usability. In other words, Mercury is a nearly-perfect Chrome alternative that improves on that browser in almost every way for me. I just wish that it offered even more features than it did, like Instapaper integration and a location-influenced automatic Night Mode — but complaining practically feels like a crime when Mercury already offers so much.