This is Dolphin. It’s a neat web browser for iPhone. You could easily be forgiven for saying: “What’s the point of having an extra browser? Mobile Safari does everything I need.”
Which is true. Safari does everything you need. But try Dolphin for just a few minutes, and you’ll discover a browser that does everything you need but in a totally different way. A way that’s much better suited to using on your phone while you’re moving around.
Safari feels like it was made by looking at the desktop app and trying to re-think it as a mobile app. Everything from the URL bar, the toolbar at the bottom, and the way the tabs work.
But Dolphin feels, and looks, very different. It feels like it was designed for mobile first. It’s brighter, more colorful, and comes with some clever and useful controls that are well suited to using with one hand while you’re on the move. And that gives it the edge.
Take Dolphin’s home screen. There’s a URL bar, for the few of us who still bother to type in URLs. More centrally, there’s a big search box, and below it a set of customizable “speed dial” shortcuts to your favorite sites. It’s very clearly an improvement over the empty window you see when you open Mobile Safari, because it’s ready for your thumbs: tap on Dolphin to open it, tap again to go places.
That search box even supports Google’s autocomplete. And if you don’t like Google, you can switch to a variety of other search engines in the settings.
Now, the gestures. These are user-defined web shortcuts that you can invoke by drawing your finger on the screen. Dolphin comes with a few: draw a G to go straight to Google, an N to open a new tab, a T to open Twitter. But it’s the gestures control panel where you can really start having some fun. Almost every browser command you can think of can be given a gesture to control it, including advanced stuff like toggling Private Mode, showing the History, and clearing the Cache.
I would be impressed enough with the basic navigation commands, but including all these advanced ones means you can, if you wish, control Dolphin entirely with gestures.
All of this adds up to one thing: Dolphin is made for browsing while moving, and is really very good at it. If you’re walking from A to B, or even just sitting in the passenger seat of a moving car, it can be very difficult to get your fingertip tapping on precisely the right spot to hit normal controls. Gestures remove that problem at, um, a stroke. Your only challenge, if you set lots of them up, is remembering them all.
I have only one minor complaint about Dolphin: the first time you open it, you’re greeted with a huge Terms and Conditions document that you’re expected to read. It’s not terribly welcoming, and doesn’t sit well with the app’s otherwise friendly feel.
That aside, if iOS offered us any kind of option for changing default applications, I would probably have made Chrome my default iPhone browser a long time ago. But as of this morning, I’d be seriously tempted to switch to Dolphin, if only to see how I got on with it. As it stands, I’m certain that I’ll be keeping Dolphin installed for the time being, because I’ve got no doubt it will come in useful while I’m on the move. And that’s what should define a good iOS app, isn’t it?
- Source App Store