“Want a more socially focused web browser than Safari? Then you need this on your iPad.”Free
Dolphin has a tough task to prove that it has enough killer features to persuade users to switch from Safari. It covers the basics well, but where Apple’s browser leaves gaping holes, Dolphin dives straight in with a wealth of extras. For example, social networking has been put at the centre of the experience; Flipboard revived aggregation for iOS users and Dolphin has worked this into its browser.
Dolphin provides a proper ‘home’ for your web experience in every new tab with a Speed Dial option at the top, showing shortcuts to your favourite sites, and the Webzine below, which is a personalised area for news feeds. Switch to landscape mode and Speed Dial moves to the left with the Webzine on the right. Speed Dial is similar to Google Chrome’s New Tab, and you tap Edit to add/remove sites. There’s an Edit button for the Webzine too, and you’ll be presented with a selection of news feeds in 12 categories. It looks and behaves like Flipboard’s feed selector but the list is more exhaustive here. The downside is that there’s no way to turn a site that isn’t on the list into a news feed (as is the case with Flipboard). Speed Dial is the only option for that scenario.
Viewing feeds from the Webzine is fantastic. The white background of the homepage fades away to a textured yellow so that the white boxes for news stories stand out. Tap on an article and it will display fullscreen. The grey bar to the right of the article is actually the source website running in the background, tap it to show the site.
Back in the main browser, the tabs behave identically to Safari’s in iOS 5, but Dolphin offers a handy fullscreen mode to hide the address bar and tabs. Bookmarks are more intuitive, too. Swipe quickly left to right to see your bookmarks and history, while a right-to-left swipe reveals your open tabs, which is only really useful when you’ve hidden the normal tabs.
Dolphin’s killer feature is gesture-based browsing, something that Safari has been crying out for given that the iPad is all about touch! Open your favourite site with a custom stroke, such as an ‘a’ for Amazon or ‘e’ for your webmail account. Gestures work by drawing on the grid area that pops up when you tap the hand icon in the top-right of the screen. To add a gesture, tap Gesture List > New Gesture, type a URL then draw your symbol, or create one from a web page that you’re already on. You can also add commands rather than web addresses. It seems gimmicky at first, but other browsers now feel lacklustre without them.