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Tech Review: Other apps give you web browser options

NORAD Deputy Commander Lt. General Alain Parent, center,

NORAD Deputy Commander Lt. General Alain Parent, center, of the Royal Canadian Air Force, takes phone calls from children asking where Santa is on Dec. 24, 2012. Photo Credit: AP

The poor, unappreciated Web browser. While it is the most-used app for many mobile-device owners, most users simply run the built-in stock browser that comes with their phone or tablet. But there are third-party apps that add features and speed whether you're an Android or iOS user. These browsers are among the new wave of Web surfers.

Chrome

(iOS, Android; free)

This official app from Google delivers features that make Chrome one of the most popular browsers for desktop computers and adds a few especially for mobile devices. Perhaps most useful is the voice-search function, where you can access Google's signature search engine by speaking commands. Your Chrome desktop bookmarks will be synced to your mobile device after you sign in with your Google account. Some mobile users who like to close apps when they are done with them complain there is no easy way to exit Chrome.

Opera Coast

(iOS; free)

Apple's Safari is the stock browser on its iOS systems, but some users are looking for alternatives. This nicely designed app simply looks better and more stylish than Safari, and because it was built especially for mobile devices, it makes better use of the touch screen than browsers such as Chrome or Safari that began their lives in desktop versions. You can sync your bookmarks and history with desktop computers using iCloud. There is a separate version for Android, called simply Opera (free).

Dolphin

(iOS, Android; free)

You may not have tried this browser, but it is hugely popular, with more than 100 million installations on Android and iOS devices. Dolphin is both powerful and fast, and it also features scores of add-ons you can download that make it perhaps the most customizable browser available. You can sync bookmarks with Chrome, Firefox and Safari desktop browsers.

Firefox

(Android; free)

Somewhat late to the mobile-browser party, Firefox leverages most of the features that make its desktop version one of the most-used programs on many desktop computers. Add-ons include password managers and an ad blocker. Firefox developer Mozilla says a dispute with Apple is preventing it from producing an iOS version.

 

Tech bytes

 

Dueling Santas

Microsoft and Google are slugging it out in a new battleground: the North Pole. The tech giants are offering rival Santa Trackers, each featuring a countdown clock. Google's tracker (nwsdy.li/santa-goog) is fueled by its exclusive "sleigh-tracking algorithm." Microsoft's tracker (nwsdy.li/santa-msft) receives its top-secret information from the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), which has been tracking Santa's big night for 60 years. -- PETER KING

Crash protection

An iPhone in midair hurtling to an impact with the ground is a frightening sight. But Apple may someday have a solution. Tech website AppleInsider reports that Apple has been awarded a patent for a "futuristic iPhone protection system" that could sense when the phone is in freefall and alter its landing point to protect easily breakable components like the screen. -- PETER KING

Twitter to track your apps

Twitter will begin tracking third-party apps installed on users' mobile devices so the social media company can deliver more tailored content, including ads. The feature, called "app graph," will allow the company to see other applications users have installed on phones or other devices. Twitter said it won't collect data from within the applications and users can elect to turn the feature off. -- Reuters

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