Quick Review: Atomic Web Browser for iPad, iPhone Has Tabs, AdBlock, Offline Mode and More



Mobile Safari’s method of handling multiple pages groks well with the iPhone’s small touchscreen, but on the iPad, it seems slow and cumbersome when there’s plenty of real estate for desktop Safari’s standard method of navigating between open websites: tabs.

Atomic Web Browser ($0.99, Free) brings tabs back to the iPhone OS. Better, it does so elegantly even on an iPhone or iPod Touch.

But Atomic Web Browser’s advantages over Mobile Safari don’t end there. Atomic Web Browser boasts excellent full screen reading mode that minimizes navigational clutter, user agent switching, built-in Adblock, Facebook and Twitter integration, support for any search engine you care to throw at it (even site-specific search and find-on-page), rotation lock, offline page viewing, adjustable (and saveable!) fonts, bookmarks with folder support, automatic tab restoration, image block, a large library of bookmark scripts, source viewing, and the ability to assign your own multi-touch gestures. Wow.

Unfortunately, it isn’t all good. We have complaints. For one, the theme is certainly ugly compared to Safari (although the “Safari” color theme helps somewhat), and the app icon, like the browser’s skin, is ghastly. Also, because it doesn’t get privileged background status in iPhone OS, Atomic is slower on initial load than Mobile Safari, and since you can’t specify a default browser in iPhone OS, links in other applications will still open automatically in Safari (although there’s a javascript bookmark you can install to easily open a page in Atomic). Finally, Atomic makes the same mistake as Safari in that it treats the location bar and search bar as distinct, long after Google’s Chrome browser has proven that they can (and should) be merged.

The biggest issue, though, is that every time you close or re-open Atomic, it forcibly reloads all your open tabs. Even worse, your navigation history (forward and back buttons) resets. What this means is that Atomic can’t be used seamlessly: without saving the user state upon exit, no amount of functionality in the world can help it compete with Mobile Safari, which is always running and always remembers what you were doing when you exited.

These aren’t quibbles, but I hope these issues will be righted with time. As it is, this might be the most full-featured browser on iPhone OS. Do yourself a favor and at least try the lite version. Even if Atomic is unlikely to replace Mobile Safari as your go-to iPhone OS browser, there’s a lot here to recommend taking it for a spin.

  • Braden Parker

    I like it much better than the Safari offering from Apple, though. The tabs feature is quite nice, especially on my iPad. I also like the interface a lot better. The theme doesn’t really bother me at all, in fact, I think it’s quite neutral IMHO.

  • Malinda

    I like Atomic Web much better than Safari.  And if you have the full version, you can change the theme colors.  Also set you default homepage, which crappy Safari won’t allow you to do.  And when Atomic loads, it loads to your homepage, not the damn bookmarks which you have to exit before you can even do surfing.  I like how Atomic has the multi tab feature built in like IE has and you don’t have to do switching from the bottom of the app.  Overall, it’s so much nicer than Safari.  And the Icon for the app is wonderful.  I’m currently trying to figure out how to make it my default browser so I never have to use Safari.