Just last month, we looked at the best Chrome-based browsers for Android & the desktop. In that article, I had mentioned that more browser choices were inevitable. And sure enough, this is now the second follow-up to that post. Only this time we’ll be taking a look at the most noteworthy browsers for laggy Android devices. Since there’s a lot to cover, let’s get straight into the article.
Notable Browsers for Low-End Android Devices
For determining browsers, we considered many factors like app launch time, ad-blocking & browsers which made good on the promise of fast browsing without sacrificing on the features. One such browser is Via which has a lot of privacy protections without sacrificing on features. The other browser worth mentioning is Mozilla’s new browser called Firefox Focus.
This browser is the exact opposite of Via, but I found it to be consistently faster than Via which was already considered to be a fast browser. At this point, Firefox Focus is extremely barebones and does not even feature a tabbed browsing experience. But it’s just fast. Really, really fast.
Via has been around for some time but I’ve been using this browser only for the past couple of months. Via’s tagline is Fast & Light. Before looking at the fast, let’s get to the light part. The browser is just under 400KB! No, it does not download additional files after installation.
This is one of the more lighter browsers I’ve tested recently. It’s especially surprising given the number of features it has compared to Firefox Focus which is a 3-megabyte download. Since there are so many features let dive into the main features that are useful or really cool.
Notable Features of Via Browser
- Gesture controls! Ability to swipe the bottom nav bar to go back and forth web pages, built-in volume key scroll & the age-old pull to refresh gesture.
- Saving web page for offline use or built-in translation of foreign language in Chinese & English.
- Screenshot functionality to capture the web page fully or partially.
- Ability to toggle between blocking images when using mobile data & Wi-Fi. Great for data saving.
- View source code which is not available in most mobile browsers like Chrome for Android.
- Full screen & night mode to improve the browsing experience.
- Customise the entire browser by changing the background, UI colours & browser logo.
Firefox Focus, on the other hand, doesn’t have too many tricks up its sleeve but still managed its way to become my default browser on Android. The main selling point of Focus is privacy and it certainly lives up to that promise. It wants to make private browsing the status quo by getting users to follow its mantra of Browse, Erase & Repeat. You can’t even take screenshots unless Stealth Mode is turned off.
While the app doesn’t follow Material Design Guidelines strictly, I still like the look they’ve gone for. The app focuses (no pun intended) on being a browser first and presents the user with one option which is entering a URL in the address bar. Here’s a small list to quickly go over the main features of the browser.
Notable Features of Firefox Focus
- Type the URL and the browser will load the page. Pressing the Trash icon in the bottom right will delete the web page. This is the main goal of the browser.
- The app by default blocks ad trackers, analytic trackers & social trackers. If required, it’s possible to block content trackers but comes at the risk of breaking some websites.
- Yahoo is the default search engine but it can be changed by going to the Settings from the menu icon. The browser language can also be changed according to your preference.
- Stealth Mode prevents the browser from storing a list of frequently visited sites and disables users from taking screenshots. Disabling it does the opposite.
- There’s also an option to block web fonts for slight performance gains at the expense of missing certain assets like images.
- Of course, the option to make it a default browser & disable anonymous data reporting to Mozilla.
As far as cons go the only notable feature that’s missing is tabbed browsing. But if I’m being honest, I never really missed this feature when I was using Focus. And maybe that’s the point of this browser. One tab at a time.
It’s a fair assessment to say that Firefox Focus is a better browser for most people as it as a simpler user interface which anyone can get used to. Via, on the other hand, is excellent for power users who need more options. But one thing that’s common between both is that they’re both great browsers for laggy Android devices.
While that wraps up another round of browsers worth looking at, we should be back with more options soon.
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