System Requirements: iOS 4.3 or later
Compatibility: iPhone 3GS/4/4S, iPod touch 3rd/4th gen, iPad
Availability: Out now
Want to experience the fastest iOS Web browser performance? If so, you’ve gotta’ try Puffin, which is the speediest iOS browser I’ve encountered yet. It blows Chrome into the weeds, beats out Safari as well, and feels like it got even faster with the latest 2.2.7 release.
I check out a lot of Web browsers, but have pretty much settled on Puffin Web Browser Free (the free version of the Puffin Web Browser for iOS) as my main alternate to Safari, thanks to its prodigious speed, and also its superior text selection support. There is also a $2.99 commercial software version of Puffin that supports Flash video.
Puffin is, as noted, impressively fast, easily the fastest browser I’ve used on my iPad. The developers say it’s “wicked fast” thanks to its leveraging of a massive Cloud computing data center to pre-process Web pages; not only accelerating page rendering speed, but also reducing network data usage. Puffin’s superior speed is highlighted even more on slower mobile connections, and the developers contend that once you experience “the thrill of using Puffin,” using regular mobile Internet just feels like torture. A bit of exaggeration there, perhaps, but the speed is seductive.
I like Puffin Free’s user interface, which is attractive and usefully functional. Puffin Browser also includes ingenious virtual mouse technology to bridge the divergence of mobile and desktop experiences. Users can activate the trackpad through the virtual mouse at any time and use it just like a trackpad on laptops. I think it’s great; just tap the little mouse icon down in the left lowermost corner of the browser window and a translucent virtual touchpad appears on screen, allowing you to navigate and click with an arrow-shaped cursor icon. I still much prefer mouse-and-cursor input to touchscreen modes, and this is the next best thing. I wish that not just all iOS browsers, but all iOS apps had this feature.
Aside from the speed, another thing I like about Puffin is that finally someone has done something about the iOS’s wretched little blue dot default text selection handles. Puffin substitutes decently-sized yellow arrows instead. Bravo!
Other Puffin Browser Free features include simple bookmarking from a pull-down menu, Search Suggest, a popup blocker, and option to clear browser history, cookies, or cache, and support for most international web pages and input methods (but see notes below).
However, it’s not all sweetness and light. Puffin’s stability has improved significantly over the last five updates or so, and it has less of the feel of beta software about it, but it still tends to crash (open pages restore so quickly, so it’s not as big a deal as it would be with a slower browser). Also, from time to time, Puffin takes little “time outs,” becoming unresponsive as it attempts to re-establish connection, presumably with the remote proxy server.
Nevertheless, in general I find Puffin a quite likeable little browser. As I said, the speed will allow you to forgive a lot, and presumably refinement and stability will continue to improve as the app evolves and matures.
The developer, CloudMosa, Inc., says the $2.99 paid version of Puffin, which was launched in 2011, has sold more than 700,000 licenses, and ranked as the #1 paid iPad Utility in more than 10 countries. However, there are some restrictions. Since CloudMosa, Inc.’s support data centers are in US, and the cloud servers can only access public web sites from US geolocations, users outside the US may not be able to view locally geo-restricted content. For users outside the US, local content, especially videos of local interest, may not be accessible from the US due to geo-restrictions in your home country. For China users, Puffin has been blocked by the Great Firewall of China since 6/1/2012 due to censorship issues. Consequently, Puffin Web Browser is no longer sold in China.
So, is the paid version worth the three bucks, or is the Free version good enough? That probably depends mostly on how important Flash support is to you. For all users, CloudMosa suggests trying the free version before buying the full version, and that at this moment in time, the only difference is the 2-week trial of Adobe Flash support for the free version. Personally, I’ve always found the degree of functionality available in free browser software more than adequate for my needs in both OS X and on the iPad, and I don’t think the lack of Flash support is enough to convince me otherwise. Your mileage may vary.
I can now give Puffin Free Web Browser Free a 4 out of 5 rating at this point in its development (5 out of 5 for speed).
Download Puffin Web Browser Free