Home iPhone Gets a More Social, Tabbed Web Browsing Experience With Dolphin

iPhone Gets a More Social, Tabbed Web Browsing Experience With Dolphin

If you’ve ever felt underwhelmed by the Web browsing experience on the iPhone, perhaps MoboTap can help. The company just launched an iOS version of its Dolphin Browser, a third party mobile Web browser popular among Android users.

In addition to touting a very Chrome-esque tabbed browsing interface, Dolphin has re-imagined the way that sites and pages are called up and explored within a mobile browser. Its “Speed Dial” feature allows you to designate a page as a favorite, much like you can do with your phone’s contacts. This is in addition to standard bookmarks, which Dolphin also has.

The app supports gesture-based browsing, so you can call up a site simply by drawing a simple shape, letter or other symbol with your finger on the screen. As you browse the Web and find new pages you want to save for quick access later, you can define new gestures for them.

Flipboard-Style Social Content

As if all of this didn’t make for a compelling enough alternative to Mobile Safari, the app also comes with a built-in social content browser called Dolphine Webzine. Much like Flipboard on iPad, Dolphin Webzine lets you peruse status updates and content shared by your social connections on Facebook and Twitter, as well as from various blogs and other publishers.

One feature we’ve longed for in the iPhone’s native browser is the ability to quickly share links to pages via Twitter and Facebook without having to jump into another app. Dolphin accomplishes this by putting a Twitter icon next to the browser’s address bar. We actually missed this feature at first, because we expected to find it under the sharing icon at the bottom of the screen.

Surviving Apple’s Third Party App Restrictions

Once upon a time, Dolphin may not have have made it passed Apple’s application approval process. The App Store used to be more strict about not allowing third party browsers, which would compete directly with Mobile Safari, the Apple-made browser that comes pre-installed on iPhones. For example, when the Mini Opera browser app was first submitted in 2008, the app was rejected. It has since been resubmitted and approved.

The issue with third party browsers may have originally been that they were attempting to use an engine to render HTML other than WebKit, which appears to be a violation of the SDK agreement. Under these rules, a Gecko-based browser like Firefox or Flock would never fly, but an iPhone specific version of Chrome might.

Dolphin managed to avoid this controversy all together by building its browser on top of WebKit. So it renders pages exactly the same as Safari, but with all of these extra bells and whistles layered on top of the UI.

It’s unlikely that an app like this would pose a competitive threat to Apple’s native browser, but in terms of feature set, Safari has some catching up to do. Tabbed browsing is already going to be included in iOS 5 when it launches this Fall, but when it comes to UI design and social features, the iPhone’s built-in browser has room to grow.

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