Any Android phone or tablet comes supplied with a web browser installed — depending on your carrier or manufacturer you’re likely to find that it is either terrible or just about bearable. But few people stick with the default browser for long and there are now plenty of alternatives to choose from. The likes of Chrome, Firefox and Opera prove about as popular on mobile devices as on desktop computers, but in fact there is even more choice. Next Browser comes from the company best known for producing Go Launcher, and we thought we’d take a look to see how it compared to the competition. Like the article? You should subscribe and follow us on twitter.
In many respects, a browser is a browser. Things have developed over the years but these days there is little to choose between the big names in terms of features. Rather than breaking much in the ways of new ground, Next Browser serves as more of a “best of” compilation, cherry-picking odds and ends from other browsers.
Search is borrowed fairly heavily from Google; type in a search term and you can then limit results to news, videos, images etc. Opera is apparently the inspiration for Next View which serves as a start screen displaying news and stories from your favourite websites.
Something few web users could live without — and there’s no reason why mobile browsing should be any different — is support for extensions. At the moment, there are very few extensions available (just two), but the fact that extensions can be used is exciting and helps open up a world of opportunity.
Nice to See UI
Next Browser’s interface is one that is unlikely to win many prizes for innovation, but it’s still one that works well. It is not just the look of the interface that’s important, but how users find their way around it and interact with it. Fire up the app and you’re greeted by the three-way start screen. The initial screen provides you with access to searching, pinned websites (referred to as hot sites), and bookmarks. Swipe to the right and a list of your most frequently visited sites are shown, swipe to the left and you can access the aforementioned Next View. Here it’s possible to subscribe to news feeds so you can view related content all in one place. It’s a basic, tiled RSS reader, and it gets the job done.
Gesture support is a welcome inclusion, and you’d be forgiven for thinking the means of interacting with tabs could lead to issues. Closing a tab can be achieved with a downward swipe, and you might think there is potential for a scrolling motion to be misinterpreted leading to accidental closures. In fact, the way tabs work means that switching between and viewing open tabs takes place on a separate screen, but it would still be possible to mistakenly swipe a tab into oblivion.
Sync and Share
Bookmarks can be imported from your existing browser, which is certainly useful, but the bookmarks you have saved on your phone or tablet can also be synced to other devices.
All that’s needed is a Facebook or Google account, and once you are signed in your bookmarks will be automatically pushed to any other devices on which you are using Next Browser. Pages you browse to can be shared through a number of channels – which is partly dependant on which other apps you have installed – but accessing the share option means having to navigate through a menu rather than just tapping a button.
Missing the Mark
All of this is great, but Next Browser is not perfect; there are several key features that are notable by their absence. Support for extensions is all well and good, but when there are only two available, this is rather a moot point.
There’s potential for extensions to make or break Next Browser, but this is not a browser that’s going to become a pack leader when the only add-ons allow for clipping with Evernote or Pocket. There’s no private browsing mode, and for many people this is going to be a serious issue. Sure, it’s possible to clear browsing data, opt out of storing cookies and prevent personal data from being stored, but that’s an all-or-nothing approach. Data wiping will remove any saved personal information, not just that which you might want to keep private.
Oscar Wilde once said ‘talent borrows, genius steals’. I’ve suggested that Next Browser borrows ideas from its contemporaries, but it would probably be more accurate to say that dear old Oscar’s quotes sums it up neatly. Next Browser does not innovate or reinvent. It does not break new ground or inspire. However, it does take some ready-made ideas, tweaks them slightly and brings them all together in a neat package that makes for a great browser. Not the best one, but a great one nonetheless.
Browsing is pleasingly swift and smooth, and this may be enough to push you into making this your default browser. How long it stays that way hinges on how soon updates are pushed out. There is still work to be done here, but there are no glaring problems that could not be easily addressed — whether they are remains to be seen.