While Android is known for its openness and hackability, it’s not often when developers harness it to create something totally new, unique, and useful. This is one of these rare moments. There’s a new kind of Android browser out there. It goes by many names. The popup browser. The bubble browser. The multitasking browser. Android and its slurry of developers are never really great at agreeing on default names.
Anyway, here’s the sitch. Clicking on a link and being tossed over to your default browser, waiting for it to load, reading, and then pressing the back button to go back to your previous app is all very jarring and rote. What is this, 2011? We can do better. How? By using popups first made popular by chat heads in Facebook Messenger. Chat heads just like that, only instead of opening a chat, there will be a web page.
The Battle of the Popup Browsers
Yes, they’re great for multitasking but I like them for other reasons. They’re easier to use and they genuinely add value over a basic mobile browser. They’re fast, stripped down.
But because they’re not really browsers, there are limitations. You can’t copy any text, for example. But I think the advantages far outweigh the faults.
Let’s compare the top three popup browsers and by the end you’ll know which is best for you.
Flynx is Free, Fast, and for Everyone
Flynx is a relatively new app, but it has impressed everyone by its speed and reliability. I like it for a couple of reasons. First, it defaults to a reader view. That means by default, the web page is stripped of ads and formatting. This is like reading an article in Pocket without having to actually send it there.
Flynx also comes with a read later feature (akin to Pocket). After you’ve made the app the default browser, you can simply double-tap on a link anywhere and it will be saved to Flynx. You can also do this from the share sheet. The article will then be available to read offline in the Saved section of the app.
Flynx, right now is completely free. There are also no ads. The app lets you change the text size and there’s a dark mode. But an option to change fonts is lacking.
Note to the devs: Guys, don’t shy away from adding a meaningful Pro tier.
Flynx takes the chat head approach and you’ll see bubbles for each web page at the top.
@pixeldetective we had kept that limitation while we were in beta, we’ll remove it in our upcoming update.
My biggest problem with Flynx is that it only opens 4 links at once. I talked to the developers about it on Twitter and turns out it was a beta restriction that was carried forward. After an upcoming update, Flynx will be able to theoretically open unlimited links.
Javelin takes a different approach to Flynx here. First of all, the app has a card-based layout. You swipe up to switch between articles. And Javelin loads the web page as is by default. You’ll need to press the reader button to get to the reader view. And in the free version, you’re restricted to just 10 instances. You can pay $2.99 to upgrade to the pro version and unlock the reader mode limit and get more features.
Link Bubble Browser Should Be an After Thought
Link Bubble Browser has a free version of the app but it’s nothing more than a trial. Using the free version, you can only open 1 link. How’s that for multitasking?
You can upgrade to the Pro version for $2.49 and unlock the limit and more features like themes, reader mode, and more.
Which One Is for You?
For most of us, Flynx is the best option. Yes, the 4 link limit can be a pain (which should be taken care of in 1-2 weeks) and it could do with better sharing options and more features for the read later section (maybe auto-sync with Pocket?). But I’m excited to see what they come up with in the future release.
If you’re looking for a browser replacement, you might as well just embrace Javelin. On my OnePlus One with 3 GB RAM, it opened 11 links before it finally crashed. So opening 7-8 links should not be an issue.
And, amidst the competition, I can’t figure out who Link Bubble is for. I don’t like the app’s UI and the fact that it’s basically unusable in the free version. It doesn’t have a meaningful free tier and for an Android app that’s a basic requirement. I would suggest staying away from Link Bubble.
Yay for Multitasking
Popup browsers really do make browsing on the web and reading articles online easy.
Do you have any other favorite Android app that makes multitasking really easy for you? Share with us in the comments below.