After the short story on Chrome for Android not entirely living up to the promise of its desktop sibling, I went on a serious Android browser testing spree – fueled by suggestions from readers here and on Twitter. The conclusion? As much choice as there is, they all seem to be lacking in one important aspect: user interface. Ugly, inconsistent, non-Holo, confusing – and this applies to Chrome as much as it does to third party browsers. Since I really want a good Android browser, I sat down, and about 23 seconds later, I realised that all the ingredients for a really good and distinctive Android browser are right here in front of everyone using Android. Also: this approach would result in a tablet interface, all for free!
I have no clue how to use Photoshop or similar tools, so let me illustrate my relatively simple and straightforward perfect Android browser idea with a set of screenshots.
Why don’t we take the tab bar that’s currently usually on top (Dolphin) or tucked away behind a button (Chrome, Firefox)…
…and move it to the sidebar in the left, pretty much in the exact same spot where Dolphin currently puts its bookmarks? This sidebar thing has become incredibly common in Android lately, and it’s a nice place to put something you don’t need all the time.
This sidebar would be accessible though an edge swipe (so not a button, but a true edge swipe like Dolphin also uses) so you don’t need to hunt and peck for a button. This should be animated like how The Verge’s Android application animates its sidebar – I can’t explain why, but it’s incredibly satisfying, way more so than Google’s own applications.
Lastly, give the browser the proper Holo-look, preferably with an option to switch between Holo dark and Holo light, like my favourite Twitter client Boid.
This approach could work for far more applications, and has one huge additional benefit: you basically get a tablet interface for free. On a tablet, in landscape, you could – if it makes sense – make the sidebar permanent. Reddit is fun (terrible name, great Reddit client) already does something like this, and I’m sure there are more.
The fact that even a relative moron such as myself can come up with this means it must have occurred to smarter people as well. Dolphin is like 1/3 there already (too bad it doesn’t place tabs in its sidebar and too bad it’s far, far from Holo), so it’s not like I’m having some sort of grand epiphany here. Of course, I would prefer Google to just adopt this for Chrome, but lacking that, is anybody from the Dolphin, Opera, or Firefox team listening?