What Android browser do you use when you surf the internet? There are plenty of them out there, all with different features, speeds, and privacy options available. Google Chrome, even though it’s the stock browser in most cases, isn’t a bad choice either. However, if you’re really looking to shake things up, it’s time to try an alternate browser.
I have a few of my favorites I want to talk about, all with their own perks. I’ve used some of these more than others, and I still use Firefox today, mostly because I’m a creature of habit. However, even as stuck in my ways as I am, I’ve still had room to try out a few alternate browsers before I made my final choice.
1. Orbot: Proxy with Tor + Orfox
If you haven’t heard of Tor before, it’s a browser that’s all about privacy to keep your browsing protected. Privacy is a large concern for plenty of Android users, especially after more information has come out about some apparent vulnerabilities. Orbot, in conjunction with Orfox, is an alternate browser that I can easily recommend, but it has a bit of a learning curve.
Something worth noting is that Orbot isn’t actually the browser itself, but it works in conjunction with another browser of your choice, or Orfox, to use the Tor network for true internet privacy. If you’re concerned about your browser working with Orbot, the app still tests your browser to see if it can connect. If it can’t, you get this:
At this point, it’s easier just to download both Orbot and Orfox and to use them with each other. That way you’ll have seamless private browsing. Before I go into features, setup, and advantages, I’ll put a link down below for each.
Since the Tor browser has a lot to work with, let’s go through the first time setup, some of its most impressive features, and what you’ll expect to use it for over other popular browsers, or in conjunction with them.
Orbot First Time Setup
I’ll be explaining the first time setup for every browser I cover, but Orbot is going to be the only browser that needs this kind of attention to this section. There’s a lot to do here, so let’s run through it.
Step 1: Opening Orbot
This part is simple enough, just open Orbot and get to the main screen that’ll look just like this:
Step 2: Before You Start
There’s a start button right in the middle when you’re ready to go, but before we do that let’s check out some of the options we’re working with. Press the hamburger menu in the top left corner to see app VPN, and bridging options.
The app VPN function is used to help apps you want to use get around firewalls or other little annoyances, while the bridging function is for when your mobile data provider blocks Tor use. For browsing purposes, bridging is going to be the most useful, but leave it off for now until you run into problems.
If you open your settings menu off to the right you’ll see a slew of different options that I can’t completely go into here.
Just know that as far as tweaking your experience and privacy goes, there isn’t an option available that has more potential than Tor. There isn’t anything in this menu you want to later yet, so back out of it for now.
Step 3: Starting up Tor
Before you can browse with Tor you need to start it first, so hit the start button and wait for the process to finish.
Once it’s done, hit the browse button, select the browser you want to use, or Orfox will launch automatically if you have it installed. From here using Orbot or Orfox is as easy as using a normal browser.
Orbot + Orfox Features with Advantages and Disadvantages
Since I’ve talked about Orbot for most of the first time setup, let’s spend some more time looking at Orfox. If you’re as familiar as I am with Firefox you’ll think you opened Firefox again by mistake.
This is because Orfox essentially is Firefox, but with a few changes to ensure your privacy is always protected. Because of this, I’ll be talking about the bulk of Orfox’s features when I cover Firefox next.
Instead, the only point I have to bring up that makes Orfox lose points again Firefox is the speed. Since the Tor browser keeps your data safe, and unidentifiable by your existing network, or anyone else, data transfer speeds take a hit. It’s a small price to pay to keep your data safe and protected, but a price worth mentioning.
Aside from this, the two browsers are virtually the same, unless you tweak your Tor browser options, which is possible using Orbot in conjunction with any safe browser, not just Orfox. Because of this, Orbot itself adds the functionality of Tor to almost any browser on this list once configured, making it a safe choice for your browsing needs.
- As private as private can be.
- Works with multiple browsers.
- Feels familiar if you’ve worked with Firefox before.
- Slower than most browsers.
- Has a learning curve to use effectively.
2. Mozilla Firefox
Firefox has been a popular web browser for a very long time now on almost any internet capable device, so it’s easy to see why a lot of Android users use it. I made the switch from Chrome to Firefox years ago, and haven’t looked back since, except when I accidently tap the Chrome icon I haven’t removed yet.
If you haven’t tried Firefox yet, here’s a link for the app:
Since the setup for Firefox is much easier than Orbot + Orfox, I won’t need to spend much time on it.
Firefox First Time Setup
Once you’ve installed the app, which shouldn’t take long, let’s get started.
Step 1: Open Firefox
Self explanatory, but necessary to get anywhere. Once it’s open, we’re going to take a look at some of your options to set up browsing the way you want.
Step 2: Open Your Settings
From any tab, tap the three vertical dots in the top right corner to open a new menu, and then your Settings.
From here you have several customization options at your disposal, which isn’t even covering add-ons yet.
Explore each of these options and tweak them to your liking, either setting them to something similar like you had with your previous browser, or even something new to shake things up further.
Once you’re done, back out to any of Firefox’s previous screens.
Step 3: Install Add-ons
From the start, the webpage for installing add-ons is bookmarked for you by default. Switch to your bookmarks screen by swiping to the right from the main page.
After that, you’re already good to go! You can spend as much time as you want customizing your experience, or just start using Firefox from the second you install it. Speaking of customization, that’s one of the browser’s most important features.
Firefox Features with Advantages and Disadvantages
In my opinion, Firefox’s two biggest strengths are high speed and high customizability. Even without factoring in add-ons, you have options to tweak your experience from just your settings menu.
If you haven’t taken a moment to flip through your settings yet, you should; I’m sure you’ll find something you want to tweak or change to suit your needs. Aside from customizability, Firefox has an easy to use interface, and fast transfer speeds.
A small feature that I’ve always loved about mobile Firefox is the desktop site request button. Right above your option for settings is a checkbox, filling this in will let you bring up the desktop version of a webpage instead of the mobile version. There are easy ways to do this in browsers without this button, but having the option is helpful.
The only negative I can put on Firefox’s record is related to reliability. I’ve had most of my browser crashes with Firefox, and I still haven’t been able to pin down a reason. They don’t happen often enough to make me try another alternate browser, but it’s enough of a problem to be annoying.
- Very easy to use.
- High speeds.
- Very customizable.
- Not always reliable.
3. Puffin Web Browser
Puffin is the only browser on this list with built in flash support for Android, and is the second best at data compression for users with bandwidth caps. It’s a little strange that a web browser good for playing games online is also great at saving data, but Puffin is great at being multipurpose.
You can download the browser here:
Puffin First Time Setup
Puffin’s first time setup is a little more involved than the browsers I’ve mentioned before it, but it won’t take long to get through.
Step 1: Open Your Browser
Upon opening Puffin you’re greeted with a few different screens to scroll through reassuring you that your data will be kept safe, transferred quickly, and at a low cost to you if you have a small about of bandwidth.
Then you need to pick your preference for either mobile or desktop webpages, and you’re ready to start customizing your browser experience.
Step 2: Explore Your Home Page
Right from the start there’s plenty to see on just your home page.
You have five different sections for: Most visited sites, bookmarks, search history, downloads, and then data usage and savings. There won’t be much to configure in any of these sections save for the last one.
Once you’re done look at all five, head to the data savings section.
Step 3: Configure Data Settings
Every different line in the data savings section is a setting to configure or toggle based on your usage.
This is something you’ll need to decide for yourself based on your own browser usage, but the more you use Puffin, the more you’ll be able to track your own use if you don’t know much about it already.
Step 4: Using Different Control Methods
Where Puffin greatly differs from other browsers on this list is control methods. At any point in time you can enable either a digital mouse, or a gamepad to use in the browser.
On any tab, press the three vertical dots in the top right corner to pull up a new menu. Here are two toggle switches for either the mouse or the gamepad. The gamepad is a great way to play games with support using Puffin’s flash functionality.
Puffin Features with Advantages and Disadvantages
Puffin has a diverse feature set that lets you control your browser in different ways, and save on large amounts of data while you do it. It’s the only browser covered here with flash support, and it does a good job of making flash games playable on your device.
Much like Firefox and other browsers it offers an incognito mode to keep your history and searches a secret, but limits you to certain search engines if you’re using the free version of the browser. In order to get the complete package, you need to pay a fee to unlock the pro version, but Puffin is still perfectly usable without paying any money.
- Has built in flash support.
- Has different control methods.
- Helps you save data with different options.
- Is fast and keeps your data safe.
- Locks some features behind the pro version.
- May lag on low-end devices.
DuckDuckGO is another great way to make use of Tor without having to fiddle with most of Tor’s advance settings. This browser puts privacy above all else, but thankfully doesn’t have as intimidating of a start that Orbot does, even if it requires it.
DuckDuckGO is primarily used to search for stories and news, but can search for anything you need. To get started, download the browser from here:
DuckDuckGO First Time Setup
There isn’t a lot of setup involved with DuckDuckGO, even when you plan on integrating it with Tor.
Step 1: Open Your Browser
DuckDuckGO opens quickly, and gives you a selection of news stories and facts right on your homepage. Since stories are one of the browser’s main focuses, let’s look at how to change what stories show up in your feed.
Step 2: Picking Story Sources
Next to the search bar is a new menu, and opening that lets you get to your settings.
There, under Stories is Sources, where it’s easy to turn on or off which sources you want to see on your homepage whenever you load the browser. You cannot add your own sources, but you can suggest sources with the suggestion button at the top of the page.
Toggle any source you want to see on your page to on, and any you don’t to off before backing out to your settings.
Step 3: Further Data Compression
Doing this will severely limit the amount of data the browser uses without your permission, but be warned, refreshing the available stories will still use just as much data as before.
DuckDuckGO Features with Advantages and Disadvantages
DuckDuckGO prides itself on being secure with the help of Tor, and providing users with a constant feed of stories from trusted news sources, and entertaining websites. This makes it great for private searches and constantly updating news, but other than that, the browser does a poor job of suiting other needs.
DuckDuckGO does a great job with it’s specific skill set, but is unfortunately lacking in other areas, so I can only recommend it to users with specific needs.
- Easy to use and update story feed.
- Private browsing through Tor easily enabled.
- Isn’t bogged down with extra fluff.
- Doesn’t excel in many areas.
- Only lets you toggle story sources, not add new ones.
5. Opera Mini Browser
Opera Mini is without a doubt the fastest and most data light browser on this list. At the cost of form, Opera Mini is all function with room for nothing else in between. It is by no means the prettiest browser on the list, but it’s a fantastic, data light alternative.
You can pick it up here:
Opera Mini First Time Setup
Opera Mini has a small first time setup, and some loading time on your first startup, but after that it’ll be blazing fast.
Step 1: Open Your Browser
It’ll take a little time to load, but it shouldn’t be more than a few seconds the first time you open Opera Mini. Once it loads, you need to choose a language.
Then choose if you want to enable ad block, and you’re ready to start using Opera Mini.
Step 2: Exploring Your Setup
Opera Mini’s homepage is very minimalistic by design to save on data, and increase speed. By default, when you open Opera Mini you’re greeted by current news stories, if you want to customize these all you need to do is scroll down and select the option, or press the Opera button in the bottom right corner to pull up your settings.
From your settings, you can change your theme, start page content, and your app layout. Take the time to explore each and tweak them to your liking.
Step 3: Set Data Saving Measures
While you’re still in your settings, scroll down until you hit Data savings. Tap it to open the data page that you need to configure before you continue.
One of Opera Mini’s highlights is how much data it can save, so tweak each setting here until you feel comfortable.
Step 4: Set Favorites
Your home page only has one of two things, new stories, and your favorite webpages. When you first start up Opera Mini it gives you a few common ones that most people visit. At any point in time, just press the plus next to the last favorite to enter an address for a new one.
After that, you’re free to search and customize Opera Mini how you want.
Opera Mini Features with Advantages and Disadvantages
While being a lightweight, fast browser, Opera Mini still has a lot of customization tools that even more bloated browsers lack. On top of a robust system for saving data, it has different themes, and home page customization under the hood.
It isn’t the most flashy browser by any means, especially in its high power data saving modes, but it’s great for what it is, and has all of its features remain free from the start. It still has limitations, especially when taking advantage of its most impressive data saving features, but that’s a small price to pay for someone with a very limited data cap.
- Very friendly to users with strict data caps.
- Easy to use and navigate.
- Offers a good amount of customization.
- Is simple in design.
- Doesn’t load some pages properly with data saving modes turned on.
Changing to a different browser is an easy way to change how you interact with your Android, or even use it more efficiently. Depending on what your needs as a user are, hopefully one of these alternate browsers is right for you. If you want an overall look at a few more browsers, there are even more I didn’t cover here that are worth your time.
If you have a favorite and different browser that I didn’t mention here, please let me know about it down below!