Here’s a pretty good indication that competition among mobile browsers is heating up: MoboTap, the company that makes Dolphin Browser HD for Android phones and tablets, just got a $10 million in funding led by Sequoia Capital. MoboTap will use the money to hire more people, make partnerships (to get pre-loaded on Android devices, most likely) and expand to new platforms including the iPhone, TechCrunch’s Jason Kincaid reports.
Those seem like worthy pursuits to me. First-party smartphone browsers tend to be stagnant, touting speed gains and little else with each new operating system version. It’s taken Apple two OS updates to add tabbed browsing to the iPad, and neither Apple nor Google have figured out faster ways to switch browser windows on smartphones. Extensions? Gesture commands? Custom home screens? Forget about it.
Dolphin Browser HD provides all those features. And crucially for tablets, it lets users identify the browser as a desktop to avoid frequently awful mobile websites.
The problem, right now, is that phone and tablet users generally don’t bother venturing beyond their devices’ stock web browsers. Dolphin, for instance, has 8 million downloads to date, compared to 130 million Android devices activated worldwide.
My hope is that the years ahead bring big gains for cross-platform mobile browsers like Dolphin (once this iOS thing pans out), Firefox (if it ever expands beyond Android and Maemo) and Opera. If these alternative browsers get big enough to threaten first-party browsers, OS makers might stop comparing themselves to each other with little speed tests and start addressing their missing features. Dolphin, at least, is getting serious about moving that ball forward.