There is an incredible number of browsers available on Android, but there are only a few that are actually worth considering. That’s because all browsers rely on one of only two rendering engines available on the mobile OS, Firefox’ GeckoView and Chrome’s Blink. That’s why the only thing you’re gaining from using another browser is a slightly different interface. But some developers have added genuinely useful features on top of what Mozilla and Google offer, and that’s why we’re here, helping you separate the wheat from the chaff.
In the post, we’ll go over some of the best web browsers available for Android. You’ve undoubtedly heard of some of them, but we’ll compare them directly to see what you might be missing.
Most of the web browsers available for Android are based on Chromium, the open-source version of Google Chrome. That means they all load web pages the same way, they’re pretty much equal in performance, they have the same quirks, and so on. Firefox is the main exception to this rule — it’s one of the few browsers on Android with a custom rendering engine.
Mozilla released a completely rewritten version of Firefox for Android about a year ago after months and months of beta testing, and overall, this new release turned out just great. The company is still working on getting full extension support back into this new release, though it’s already possible to use any add-on you need by switching to the Nightly version of the browser.
Other than that, Firefox for Android is snappy, comes with much improved scrolling compared to previous versions, offers a bottom address bar (for ease of use on tall phones), and optionally syncs almost all of your data with its desktop pendant. It also blocks tracking scripts by default, though you can choose to lift or tighten restrictions as you wish.
Be prepared to run into one or two broken websites every once in a while, though, since most web developers exclusively target Chrome and Safari (on iOS).
A list of the best web browsers for Android wouldn’t be complete without Google Chrome. It’s the default browser already on most phones and tablets, but Google hasn’t quite rested on its laurels. Chrome updates roll out every six weeks, with each release usually having several new features — even if most of them are for website developers, not end-users.
Chrome is the dominant web browser on both desktop and mobile platforms, so there’s not much to talk about — most of you are probably using it right now, and you probably know what it can (and cannot) do. Because most of Chrome is open-source, and most other browsers on Android use that open-source base, the vast majority of Chrome’s features end up duplicated in other apps.
However, the Android version of Chrome does have a few nice features that you might not have heard about. You can switch tabs by swiping left and right on the address bar, force websites to be dark when your phone is in dark mode, and much more. Check our Chrome tips & tricks roundup for more information.
The main version of Chrome for Android is probably already on your phone, but if you want to try out whatever features Google has cooking in the oven, we’ve also linked the Beta (slightly buggy) and Dev (buggy) versions below.
You may already know that DuckDuckGo is a web search engine focused on privacy, but did you know the company has a web browser too? The DuckDuckGo browser for Android is (very) light on features, but it still provides a nice experience.
This is probably the most basic browser out of this entire list, as there is no desktop sync support, no extensions, and few advanced features. However, tracking scripts are blocked by default, and the browser gives every site a privacy rating with a full list of every blocked tracker. Most browsers have some sort of tracking protection at this point, but DuckDuckGo lays out the information in a very easy-to-understand way.
By default, DuckDuckGo erases cookies after you close a tab (similar to Firefox Focus), but there’s a setting to disable that for your favorite sites. Under the hood, DuckDuckGo uses Android’s built-in rendering engine, so it should perform just as well as Chrome, though it’s missing some of its comfort features like tab switching by swiping over the address bar.
Samsung Internet started out as the pre-installed web browser on Galaxy phones and tablets, but Samsung opened it up to all Android devices in 2017. It’s now one of the most popular browsers on the platform, and it’s jam-packed (or overloaded, depending on your standpoint) with features.
Samsung Internet is based on Chrome, but it has a completely custom interface that fits in with Samsung’s One UI design language. Some of the advantages it has over Chrome include tracking protection, a limited selection of add-ons, and a button layout that is easier to use on tall phones.
My favorite feature is the complete dark mode support — not only can the browser’s interface turn dark, but it can also modify the appearance of sites to make them dark too. This doesn’t always work as intended, but it’s still great to have for late-night reading. Chrome and Firefox can also display dark pages when dark mode is enabled, but only if the site itself has created a dark theme. It’s just a bummer that Samsung recently decided to clutter the new tab page with a discover feed much like the one in Google Chrome, but at least it can be deactivated easily.
Like Chrome and Firefox, Samsung Internet has both a stable version and a beta version. If you like being on the bleeding edge, give the beta release a shot.
Vivaldi was founded by former Opera developers, and it’s quickly become one of the most feature-packed browsers on Android. While it is based on Chrome, it has overhauled the interface and added some nice features, though I feel like it’s much less bloated than Samsung’s browser and its settings are easier to navigate.
Vivaldi uses a tab strip on the top by default, similar to desktop web browsers, which is especially nice on tablets or phones in landscape mode. There’s also a bottom panel for performing key functions without reaching to the top of the screen, an Opera-style ‘Speed Dial’ page when you open a new tab, an optional always-on desktop mode, and an optional blocker for tracking scripts. You can even style websites to your liking, if you’re into that sort of thing (or rely on it for accessibility reasons).
Microsoft Edge is yet another Chromium-based browser for Android, and while it initially only had a few changes compared to Chrome, it’s now distinct enough from Google’s browser interface that there are genuine use cases for it.
Edge’s bottom bar gives you quick access to often-needed browsing features, the new tab page can be customized to your liking, and you can collect rewards by using Bing. There are a few more notable features outside of desktop sync, like integration with Microsoft’s family management tools, but all that said, it’s mostly great for people deep into Microsoft’s ecosystem. Just like its desktop counterpart, it’s nothing but Chrome with a different appearance.
At this point, there’s no way around Brave when you want to create a roundup of the best browsers for Android. The self-proclaimed privacy-first, tracking-blocking browser is among the fastest and most fully featured options out there, there’s no denying. It’s available on all relevant platforms and optionally synchronizes data across all your installations, including its cryptocurrency wallet that you can use to pay creators and websites you care about (disclosure: including ourselves). The browser even allows you to surf anonymously via a native Tor connection and is the first to support the decentralized HTTPS alternative IPFS. The company behind it is also working on a privacy-focused Google Search alternative, so it could almost be the holy grail for privacy-minding folks.
However, we’re still hesitant to recommend this product. For one, Brave was created by former Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich who quickly had to leave this position in 2014 due to some controversy stemming from a 2008 political donation that stands detrimentally against Mozilla’s core values (with no explanation forthcoming). For another, the browser’s opt-in advertisement strategy can be seen as a scheme that mostly earns Brave money rather than content creators. Brave deprives websites of ads and forces them to sign up for Brave’s self-created cryptocurrency to at least retain a fraction of the income lost due to adblocking. It also doesn’t help that users can choose to pocket revenue from viewing Brave ads for themselves instead of donating it towards sites.
Brave was additionally caught injecting referral codes into some cryptocurrency’s trading pages’ URLs, with CEO Eich saying on Twitter that he didn’t see a problem with this undisclosed practice. For what it’s worth, the browser has since made the practice opt-in, but it leaves a sour taste.
The browsers we didn’t include
There are a few popular browsers for Android that we didn’t include on this list. Instead of answering questions about missing apps in the comments, we thought it might be better to explain our reasoning right here.
- Kiwi Browser: Kiwi was previously on this list because it is one of the few Android browsers that supported desktop Chrome extensions, but as of the time of writing (July 2021), it hasn’t been updated since February 2021. It’s definitely not a good idea to use a browser that isn’t regularly updated, especially when new security vulnerabilities are discovered in browsers all the time. The browser is also based on the ancient Chromium version 77 while Chrome itself and other Chromium-based alternatives are on version 90 or slightly lower.
- Opera browsers: We previously included Opera Mini here, because its data saver mode is still largely unmatched (even if it did break many web pages), and Opera’s other Android browsers are generally good products. However, Opera also operates a number of loan applications that previously violated Play Store guidelines and harassed the user’s contacts, which isn’t a great omen for the company’s web browsers.
- Xiaomi Mint Browser: Xiaomi’s web browsers are popular in Asia and other regions where Xiaomi sells most of its phones, but earlier this year, code was discovered in Mint Browser that sent all search queries made in Incognito Mode to Xiaomi’s servers. Xiaomi later added an option to disable this behavior, but it’s not enabled by default, and the browser was only updated after several days of complaints and news coverage.
This article was originally published in June 2020 and has been updated for 2021 to include Brave and to reflect the latest changes and updates to the existing selection.