Atomic Web Browser 2.9 review
Full-screen mode is a real bonus on the iPhone. Traditional tabbed browsing, gestures and other worthwhile features more than balance out the drawbacks.
Review Date: 27 May 2010
Price when reviewed: from the App Store
Reviewed By: Alan Stonebridge
Browsing the web on Apple's touchscreen devices is so easy because of the gesture-driven navigation of pages. Atomic Web Browser develops that aspect, and it packs in some extra features that aren't found in Safari.
Its full-screen mode makes great use of the iPhone's limited screen space. You access it by tapping with three fingers, and you can place up to seven semi-transparent buttons over it to provide access to various features, which you get to pick. You can add a link to your bookmarks, back and forward buttons, and even direct access to the settings screen, and they still take up less space than the toolbars they replace.
Multiple open pages can be shown as traditional tabs or as a vertical list, complete with thumbnails. Both are faster to navigate than Safari's implementation. If you're only dealing with a handful of pages at once, you don't even need to use these mechanisms to get from one to the next. Just swipe left or right with two fingers.
That gesture, along with swiping up and down with two fingers and the three-fingered tap, can be overridden with a variety of other actions. These include going back and forward a page and jumping to the top of the page. Normally tapping the clock does that but you can turn it off to save even more space.
One of the great things about Atomic is that you can configure so many of its options to what works best for you. For instance, you can turn on just the status bar in full-screen mode to keep an eye on the time, while hiding the larger interface elements that consume a valuable portion of the viewing area.
There's also an ad blocker to which you can add your own domain filters, and you can stop images loading altogether. That's great if your network connection drops to GPRS or Edge speeds for a prolonged time.
The search bar works with several websites, including Google, Bing and Wikipedia, and more can be added. Sadly, the ability to search within the current page caused us problems when the item we were trying to find was in a Web 2.0-style collapsed section of the page.
The browser was also a bit less responsive in forms than Safari, even on our iPhone 3GS. Once a field had the focus it was fine, but the sticky pause beforehand is an uncomfortable throwback to when Apple's browser suffered from a similar issue.
Atomic is a universal app, so it makes full use of the iPad's increased screen resolution. And while full-screen mode isn't really necessary on that device, the additional gestures make browsing a bit more comfortable.
However, bookmarks aren't synced over MobileMe, so you can't keep them in sync with your Mac, although Atomic can import bookmarks exported manually. We'd also like to see integration with something like 1Password, especially as you can lock the browser with a Pin code, in case you leave your device unlocked.
Atomic wins out over Opera, which recently appeared on the App Store, as it retains the gestures you've learned in Safari and extends them. Even so, it's not perfect. If you tell it you want to see the same pages next time you open it, it reloads them all, putting an unnecessary load on the application. We hope this will change in an update, given that iPhone OS 4 allows apps to save their state when closed.
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