Whenever you buy a new phone, the web browser is something that’s usually preloaded on the gadget. It has always been like this since the days of Windows 95 PCs which preloaded Internet Explorer. On an Android smartphone, you’re usually going to get something that’s designed by the manufactures i.e. the Mi Browser on Xiaomi’s phones, Samsung Internet on Samsung’s phones and similar stuff. Along with this preloaded default, you will always get Google’s Chrome browser which you obviously get since Google is the maker of Android.
But there are issues with preloaded web browsers — they often are Trojan horses for harvesting user data. Recently, a Forbes report claimed that Xiaomi’s Mi Browser was collecting data of its users even in incognito mode. Xiaomi, of course, denies this claim and we haven’t heard the end of this. Xiaomi, though, for its part has made some basic changes to its browser. On the other side, you also have Google’s Chrome which is known to be very good – but also is known to collect some data which supports Google’s advertising-supported business model. On top of this, many of these browsers have user interfaces designed for a very outdated continuum of a smartphone.
Enter the Vivaldi browser for Android — yes, the new mobile browser by Jon Von Tetzchner, the co-founder and former CEO of Opera which is still regarded as one of the best browsers around. The Vivaldi Android browser is built around the aspect of privacy, adaptability and power user capability which is why I feel, it should be the go-to Android browser for most people, especially if you are dissatisfied with the stuff that’s already available on your phone.
- The most striking thing about Vivaldi for Android is its user interface. To the uninitiated, it will feel a little antiquated considering it borrows a lot from its desktop variant. You get a dedicated tab bar which was annexed when browsers were being purpose-built for smartphones in the 2010s. But I believe that’s an outdated concept as back in 2012, the average size of the smartphone display was less than 4-inches, today the same number is upwards of 6-inches. There is plenty of real estate for the tab bar to return which Vivaldi brings back and it is a wonderful experience especially if you are someone who has more than 6-7 tabs open at the same time. This concept also works well on Android tablets and Chromebooks.
- Our smartphones are also much more powerful today than they were back around a decade ago. It can be argued most high-end phones have more horsepower than 3-year-old notebooks. That’s how far we have come, which means we should also have the native ability to open desktop applications. Mobile networks today provide high-speed data, while fast Wi-Fi is the new normal – especially in the post COVID19 era and work from home scenarios. One should be able to open full web apps like Google Docs and work in that web browser container. Heck, they have even added a note-taking facility within the browser ensuring that you don’t have an excuse to leave it. You can do that easily on the Vivaldi on Android, though, I can’t say the same about some of the other browsers.
- Privacy is one of the most important tenants behind the design of the Vivaldi browser. Vivaldi has a sophisticated ad-blocker at the heart of the experience. It also gets a tracker blocking system which is based on the DuckDuckGo Search engine using heuristics which allows it to learn how websites interact with pages. It also gets the DuckDuckGo search engine as one of the options for default though users can also revert to Google Search and Bing.
- Privacy isn’t the highlight of Vivaldi; it’s also a huge play for Brave — however, the system that Vivaldi has adopted is friendlier towards users. Unlike Brave, which replaces standard web advertising with its own advertising protocol, it simply blocks ads. This works better for privacy fiends as the end goal of ad blocking is happening, and the web page isn’t being broken in order to block the ad which retains the browsing experience.
Apart from all this, you also have to hand it to Vivaldi that they have made a browser which is stable, fast and secure which should fit into the workflow of an average user. It’s certainly my favourite indie browser, now I can’t wait for them to come up with a solution for iOS which works both on the iPhone and iPad.