Smart phone users usually expect more from their mobile browsers. The way we view websites on desktops is not always the same pleasant experience when we use our phones’ smaller screens. With this demand came a range of browsers for Android, all competing to meet a variety of user expectations.
If you have an Android smart phone, chances are you’ve used (or are still using) Dolphin Browser, Opera, Google Chrome or Firefox Beta. For the longest time, I was pretty happy with having Dolphin as my default browser – until Boat Browser came along. I gravitated towards its simple, clean interface with a resolution slightly larger than Dolphin’s. I was so pleased by its cool original features that I decided to make it my default app for opening websites.
There’s something refreshing about Boat Browser’s interface. I like that there aren’t many toolbars so that the webpage itself has more screen space. All other controls are neatly tucked away as well, and can be viewed by tapping on the arrow button on the bottom left, or by pressing Menu.
Menu Options in Boat's main screen
In addition to its distinctive icons and minimalist design, one unique feature is being able to edit the toolbar. You can choose from several buttons – each labeled with their corresponding functions – to replace the default ones. Just drag an icon on the list to the bottom bar or the tool drawer on the right side. Below is a visual guide:
Customizing the Toolbar Tutorial
Tabbed browsing is enabled by default with this app, but there is an option to disable it in case you would rather not have the feature. Other than tapping on a website’s tab to navigate back and forth, there’s a Windows icon on the bottom to view all open tabs in one screen. I find it easier to close a tab this way.
Although not technically as fast as Dolphin, pulling up websites feels quick enough that the difference is not really noticeable. This is one thing that the app could improve on, as this slight delay may be a deal breaker for more advanced users.
However, stability is not an issue with this app, as it is able to load multiple tabs efficiently without any lag or force closes. In this regard, Boat Browser succeeds where most browsers fail. It may not bring you the fastest load time, but it can deliver smooth, uninterrupted browsing.
Boat Browser has a small number of add-ons at the moment, with a note from the developer saying they’re adding more in the future. All add-ons are free and can be downloaded separately from the Play Store.
Although I’m not typically that fond of add-ons, I found the URL shortener and Facebook add-ons quite handy.
Facebook Add-on Interface
The Facebook integration with this app is impressive. You can view your News Feed and Notifications on a separate pop-up window, where you can also post Status Updates or comment on other posts. You can even view the number of Facebook notifications from the Tools draw, where all installed add-ons are placed.
Boat Browser boasts of being the first to have voice command and search functionality in a browser. Just dictate the website you want to open and it should pull it up for you. Tap the Voice button on the toolbar and it will activate the feature.
Voice command prompt
The Find function is a great tool for scanning long articles online. Hit Menu then tap More and you should see the “Find on Page” button.
If this is something that you’ll use often, you can always put a permanent button in the fixed toolbar on the bottom.
Find a keyword on a web page
It’s great that I was able to import my bookmarks with this app, but what’s even better is the way they are presented. You can batch edit the bookmarks, rearrange, or sort them in a specific way (by time created, alphabetical, visit count or visit time). Adding a new bookmark can be done by two taps – one for the Add Bookmark button, and one for hitting OK – provided that you don’t want to make any changes to the bookmark details.
Another great feature is being able to take screenshots without having to install an add-on (which is the case for Dolphin). This is one of the options seen when tapping on the toolbar drawer. The screenshot is shown immediately after taking it, with an option to either share or save it to the SD card.
Sometimes less is more – and this app is proof of that. Boat Browser is a simple, compact and efficient browsing tool. It’s a great alternative for people who prefer a minimal UI and a few clever features. This browser focuses on giving you full web content with zero distractions. The ability to tweak the control buttons is one of its best and unique features, giving you control of how the app operates.
Speed is not this app’s best quality, but it makes up for it by running smoothly even during heavy use. If you’re not too fussy about how fast you can open websites and value a more flexible interface, then this browser will float your boat.