Mercury is My New Default Web Browser

I really like Google Chrome, but I often wish it had a few more features. I don’t like the way it handles javascript, and when it comes to mobile browsing, it’s just less efficient for me than Safari on iOS. There’s no doubt that as a whole package, Chrome can’t be beat — it’s just lacking for me in small details. I figured it was time for a change.

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.

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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.

Welcome to the Mercury Browser.

Welcome to the Mercury Browser.

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.

Mercury has a really nice landscape mode that recedes into the screen.

Mercury has a really nice landscape mode that recedes into the screen.

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.

The app is filled to the brim with settings.

The app is filled to the brim with settings.

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.

Settings are easily accessible from any page in the app.

Settings are easily accessible from any page in the app.

There’s also one other huge feature, for me, that bears some discussion. This is the Reader mode. Every time I use my Android devices, I miss the reading mode in Safari on iOS. I’ve got a couple of JavaScript bookmarks in Chrome to being up a Pocket-like reading expletive, but I don’t like the JavaScript experience in Chrome. It requires typing in a word, so I’ve configured my bookmarklet to work any time I type “Read now” into the URL bar (and I use “Read Later” to sync with Instapaper, my preferred read later app). This is cumbersome.

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.

The Reader, seen in Dark Mode on the left and Light Mode on the right, is beautiful.

The Reader, seen in Dark Mode on the left and Light Mode on the right, is beautiful.

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.

Sync

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.

Final Thoughts

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.


Summary

Mercury Browser is my favourite browser for Android and a huge win for anybody that finds Chrome or the stock browser too wanting for their tastes.

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