You may have heard Apple is allowing third party browsers on the iPhone but which is right for you? The first thing you probably need to know is all the browsers allowed on the iPhone by Apple have to be based on Safari. For more on Apple's latest view on jailbreaking and their argument that the iPhone does not need to be more open, see my thoughts from yesterday.
I downloaded and tested five of these browsers and each has its own strengths and weaknesses.
The first is Edge Browser which is free and allows web browsing to the edge of the screen with no pesky URL bar to get in the way. You are pretty much limited to a single website since you have nowhere to type a URL. You can use the options screen to specify the URL, a user name, password and other parameters. I tried to get this working with a security camera which has a web-based console but couldn't. The first problem was the browser seemed to not like URLs that did not start with WWW. So I used a few URL redirection services such as tinyURL and doiop but for whatever reason these didn't work with the Edge Browser. In the end I just used Google as my default home page which was the least limiting option I could think of.
The next browser is Incognito ($1.99) which allows you to surf anonymously. There isn't much to say about this browser except that I wish it allowed me access to my Safari bookmarks.
Shaking Web at $1.99 allows you to surf while riding the bus, etc and it uses proprietary technology to minimize shaking. I gave it to a colleague in my car who gets nauseous when reading and moving and sure enough he immediately gor nauseous using this program. The jury is out on this one... I am just not sure it is useful.
Webmate: Tabbed Browser is a very cool browser as it allows power browsing on the iPhone. Basically when you turn it on by pressing a button on the lower left, it causes every link you click on to be opened in the background in another window. This allows you to focus on the main page and go to the others when ready. Unlike Safari, you can use the forward and back buttons to get to the next or previous browser window (it also does not limit you to eight windows/tabs -- I didn't hit the upper limit but 30 was no problem) and a simple press on the garbage can closes the browser window you are on. This one can be useful.
Webmate Allows at Least 30 Browser Tabs to be Open
WebSave ($.99) is another interesting browser option with a twist. It allows you to save HTML files for offline viewing and when you click on a link such as a PDF it also allows you to save the file right to the iPhone. You can then use WiFi to have the program function as a web server allowing you to get access to the saved files from other computers on your network. When ready to share, the program gives you an IP address like 188.8.131.52:12345. You just have to add a preceding http:// and you can instantly get access to all saved files from any nearby browser.
WebSave Allows You to Save PDFs and other files
While these browser tweaks are useful, it would be even better to have other browser options like we do on our computers. It just seems unfair (is the word anticompetitive a stretch?) that Apple has a Safari browser which runs on a PC but does not allow an IE browser to run on the iPhone. But until this happens, enjoy what the censors in charge of the iTunes app store allow you access to.