Vivaldi comes to Android, with some note-worthy touches
A very different kind of browsing tune
After being desktop-only initially, Internet browser Vivaldi has made its full-fledged debut on Android smartphones. The browser had been available in beta form for a few weeks and is properly official on the Google Play Store.
The big question that many will ask, of course, is: do we actually need another Internet browser? After all, most Android devices come with Chrome installed out of the box, and Google’s Chrome is pretty much omnipresent on desktops and notebooks as well, be it Windows or Mac. Well, we would say, you can never have too many browsers, quite simply because as the IE-Netscape battle showed, the absence of options can tend to stifle innovation and new features. We mean, when was the last time you got really thrilled about a browser feature…dark mode? (Duh!)
The tabs with them desktop feels
Vivaldi, to its credit, brings some neat touches to the mobile browsing experience. Of course, a lot of the talk has been mainly about its privacy tools, mainly a tracker blocker in collaboration with DuckDuckGo. Although it is turned off by default, it seems very effective. You just have to tap the tiny shield icon on the top left corner of your browser tab and choose from three options: No Blocking, Block Trackers, and Block Trackers and Ads. You can also choose separate options for different sites if you want or just go to the settings and choose a mode for everything you browse (we did that). Vivaldi says that this approach is better than the one seen in most browsers, which is limited to stopping trackers from setting cookies and limiting access. We will only know how effective this is in the coming days but going by the stats the browser displays, it certainly seems to be working.
But that’s beneath the surface for the geek brigade. What we really like about Vivaldi is the UI. It takes the tabbed browser look that many web browsers have, allowing you to see open tabs right on top of the display and switch between them by swiping across them. It definitely makes a change from Chrome and Safari where one keeps opening tab after tab simply because one does not know how many are open. There, you need to hit a button to see the number of open tabs – here you just scroll across them and yes you can even reorder them by holding and moving a tab back and forth. Frankly, this is the way tabbed browsing is supposed to be, not the current version inspired by multitasking app interfaces.
The options at the base of the browser window move next to the address bar the moment you switch from portrait to landscape, giving you more browsing space – a small but significant touch. There is also the option to capture screenshots within the browser itself, although it does mean making a trip to the settings (we would have preferred a camera icon somewhere, like that shield for privacy!).
Speed dial, shuffling search engines and them notes!
There is also the matter of Speed Dial, which is basically a collection of links to websites you want to visit, represented by icons. Every time you open a new tab or launch the browser, you see a Speed Dial option with the sites you visit the most just a tap away. It is simple, it is super convenient. And the same can be said to switching between search engines. In Vivaldi, each search engine has a letter tagged to it, and if you want to switch to it, all you have to do is type that letter in the address bar, hit space and voila you have switched search engines – so you can go from Google to Bing by just typing ‘b’ and hitting space in the address bar.
Then there is our favorite feature – notes. We often end up copying text from different sites and pasting it in a notes app for further reference. Well, Vivaldi for Android comes with an inbuilt Notes feature, so when you highlight any text, one of the options that comes up is “Copy to note” at which the text gets copied into the Notes section of the browser. And you can sync notes, bookmarks, and all across devices if you are using Vivaldi on your desktop as well. The browser lets you sync passwords, bookmarks, and notes, so if you are using Vivaldi across different devices, you are pretty much set. That is hygiene, though, as is the option to switch to desktop view when needed.
Well played, Vivaldi
We had no complaints with Vivaldi on Android in terms of speed and stability. There is a private mode and also a fewer data-hungry mode on board as well. Finally, there are a few themes to change the look of your browser, and before you ask, there’s a dark theme as well.
There are some niggles – the Notes feature which we love, sometimes just does not work (the text would not get copied), and we also would have liked the option to get the URL from where we took the text. Some also might not like the crowd of tabs at the top of the display, especially if you have multiple tabs open on a smartphone screen. And while the “type a single letter to change search engine” element is cool, it can be a little disconcerting when you search for something whose first initial begins with one of the search engine shortcuts – so if we tried to search for “B Gates” on Google, we found typing “b” followed by a space switched us to Bing!
Still, all in all, Vivaldi on Android is easy enough to use and we really love the UI touches that it brings to the table. It might take some getting used to but give it time, and we are sure it will grow on you, Welcome to Android, Vivaldi.