I’ve always had a hard time getting a really good browser on my modestly powered Android phone. In the past, I’ve rampaged all over some tech sites reading article after article on good “lite” browsers and tried a handful of them to an overwhelming disappointment.
The truly lite mobile browser out there that I’ve used and continue to, is arguably Opera Mini. To win that slot means it sacrifices a lot and this necessitates another browser to fill the gap where it stumbles spectacularly – most apparent is the lack of java script, which is the hefty price one has pay for the savings made on their data plans.
A worthy mention goes to UC Mini which follows along the same footsteps by also offering a respectable server side compression labelled “Speed Mode” which unlike Opera’s, can be turned off to enjoy a standard web experience.
They also go a notch higher by offering a roster of customizations which Opera has just started catching up with (night mode, incognito browsing), a fully integrated free cloud storage (UDisk – sadly shutting down this September thanks to some legislations) and topping it up with one heck of a download manager.
Despite all these high points, the browsing experience has always been a lacklustre one, sometimes terribly slow even when using that aptly titled speed mode. But it’s worth clinging to for its download manager and what used to be a handy cloud storage.
Enter Zirco Browser
That brings me to my latest discovery on this matter. Years back after rooting my phone I froze the play store before doing away with it completely a while back. Reason for that, I found something better. There are plenty of third party stores out there that people don’t actually know a thing about (and for a good reason as some seem malicious) but in the pile there as some really good ones.
One of them is F-Droid – “F” here stands for Free Open Source Software (FOSS), a term you may have seen in your rounds across the web. As you would expect, all apps offered here are not only free but open source – think no ads and certainly no malware. That sounds spectacular and it did for me over a year ago when I stumbled on it. The client app is also well thought out with a handful of categories and a search button to sift through the hundreds of apps available.
It is here I discovered a little known browser called Zirco. Don’t be discouraged by its less than appealing name. This little browser comes in a very small package weighing only slightly above half a megabyte yet manages to pack a full featured mobile browsing experience with an integrated ad blocker. Some of its notable features include:
- Unlimited tabs (switchable by swiping right/left)
- Ad blocker with a white list option
- Enable/Disable Java Script
- User Agent Customization
- Google Mobile View (GWT) List
- Option to set Custom Search Engines
- Customizable UI
- Easy Access to Bookmarks
- Firefox Bookmarks Synchronization
- Plenty of Pivacy Settings to tinker with
- Customizable actions for the Volume Keys
- Enable/Disable Plugins – flash
- Support for System Proxy Settings
- Compatible with Android 2.1+
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The features really speak for themselves. I should also mention it uses a different interface than what you’re used to, preferring to hide all menus so to maximize the web page view. The menus can be easily toggled using a bubble on the bottom right-edge. The position of the bubble can also be changed to the left or to both sides just in case you’re left-handed. It does take time to get used to it but it’s nonetheless a welcomed addition especially for phones with smaller screens. In addition to this, there’s a full screen mode that can be turned on in the settings.
Like every good thing Zirco is hardly devoid of an ugly side. Some of my qualms with it include:
• the download manager is not as powerful or intuitive as some of its competition
• google mobile view (weblight) doesn’t seem to work – always stuck in loading
• hasn’t been updated for some years now – this may explain the previous point
The last point is quite a deal breaker however based on my use it’s a very functional browser otherwise I wouldn’t be reviewing it. It even loads Quora quite well, a site I’ve had problems with on countless browsers being updated regularly.
If you’re using gingerbread or something lower or just need a lightweight browser, this is definitely worth giving a try. You can get it from F-droid or the Google Play Store.