Two alternative web browsers for Android phones and tablets on test - Samsung Internet and Firefox Focus

Chrome is the obvious web browser to use on an Android phone or tablet, but it is not the only one. It may not even be the best one and there are alternatives that might better suit you.

There is nothing wrong with Chrome and it is a great browser, but alternatives offer a different set of features. There is more to a web browser than simply displaying web pages and the interface, menus, and extra features and functions can make a difference.

Here we have two very different web browsers and the first is only for Samsung Galaxy devices, but the second can be installed on any Android phone or tablet.


Samsung Internet

Price: Free | By: Samsung Electronics | Size: 127MB installed | Android: 5.0 and up

Samsung is well known for duplicating existing apps and offering alternatives to the stock Android apps. This is a source of irritation when you do not want the the duplicate apps and cannot remove them, but some of them are genuinely different and are quite good, as with this one.

Samsung Internet is a web browser that is designed solely for Samsung Galaxy devices. Although the app can be seen in the Google Play Store on other Android devices, it will not install. There are a lot of Samsung Galaxy phones and tablets and Samsung battles with Apple for the top spot in the mobile phone market. If you have one then read on.

The app may or may not already be on your phone or tablet, but if it isn’t, it can be installed from the Google Play Store.

Samsung Internet is based on Chromium, as is Google Chrome browser, and this means that it has similar capabilities when it comes to rendering web pages. There should be little difference between accessing a web page in Chrome and Samsung Internet.

The main differences are in the interface and features. For example, there is a floating semi-transparent button near the bottom left corner of the screen and this displays a menu.

Among the options is Night mode, which enables you to switch to a dark interface that is easier on the eyes if you are using your phone in the evening in low or no light. In normal mode the screen can be so bright it hurts your eyes in the dark, but night mode is better.

 Samsung Internet web browser for Android Samsung Internet web browser for Android night mode

It also enables the text size on the web page to easily be adjusted, new tabs created and the sharing options accessed. The button to access this menu is hardly noticeable on a busy web page, but it can be disabled if it is not wanted.

The address box at the top and toolbar buttons at the bottom automatically hide when a web page is being viewed.

What is the feature that Chrome users on Android want the most? Extensions is a likely candidate and it is frustrating the the mobile version of the browser does not support them. However, Samsung Internet does, although there are only a handful to choose from.

Tap the menu button and then Extensions, and seven extensions are available. Some are built in and just need enabling with an on/off switch, but others must be installed. A tracking blocker based on Disconnect blocks the technologies that websites and advertisers use to track you. Cutting down on the scripts trackers use can speed up browsing a little and it increases privacy.

 Samsung Internet web browser for Android Samsung Internet web browser for Android extensions

There is a small range of content blockers and these include AdBlock and AdBlock Plus, AdClear, Adguard and Crystal. If adverts get in the way of your web browsing, these extensions block them to give you a clearer and less irritating view.

Samsung phones have an ultra power saving mode to maximise the battery life and Samsung Internet is the only web browser that is allowed to run. The app also has 360 video and Gear VR optimisation, and a high contrast mode in the accessibility settings.


Firefox Focus

Price: Free | By: Mozilla | Size: 7MB | Android: 5.0 and up

According to Mozilla, “Firefox had a baby and named it Focus!” This web browser from the developer of Firefox is designed to be small, fast, and private. The aim was not to compete with other browsers on features, but to strip it down to the core functions so that it is fast and lightweight.

Firefox Focus is a tiny browser and it uses just 7MB of storage. Compare this to the 127MB that samsung Internet requires and you can see how small it is. Unlike Samsung Internet, it works on all Android phones and tablets.

Imagine browsing the web permanently in Private Browsing or Incognito mode and that is what Firefox Focus offers by default. The aim is to give out as little information as possible in order to maintain as much privacy as possible.

 Firefox Focus web browser for Android Firefox Focus web browser for Android settings

Focus blocks trackers by default and these include website analytics, advertisers and social trackers. There are switches to enable these in the settings, but the whole point of the browser is privacy, so most people will leave them turned on.

Other content can be blocked, such as web fonts, but they may cause problems with some web pages, so the switches are off by default.

Tap the menu button in the top right corner and you can see how many trackers have been blocked on the current web page.

There isn’t much to say about Focus because it doesn’t have a lot of features, but that is the point. It’s tiny, it’s fast, and it’s private.