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Puffin Web browser 3 for iOS review

Sections: iDevice Apps, iPad, iPad mini, iPhone, iPhone/iPod touch/iPad, iPod touch, Reviews

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Version 2 of the Puffin web browser for iPhone and iPad was already the fastest iOS Web browser, but Puffin 3 is even faster. Puffin’s developers at CloudMosa Software describe version 3 as “wicked fast,” borrowing a term I heard originally applied to Apple’s desktop supremacy Mac IIFX back in the early ’90s. They aren’t exaggerating.

Puffin Web browser

Puffin’s other marquee feature—bringing Flash video support to the iOS—is also back with version 3, which was updated to version 3.0.3 late last week. Even without that convenience, Puffin would be one of my favourite iOS Web browsers, thanks to its deep and innovative feature set, and little touches like seven options in the press-and-hold contextual menu, including Open in Background and Open in Google Docs.

The secret of Puffin’s unmatched speed is that it connects to the Internet through Cloudmosa’s massive Cloud computing data center proxy server that pre-processes Web pages. This system not only accelerates page rendering speed, but also reduces network data bandwidth usage. Puffin’s speed advantage 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. That is a bit of an exaggeration, but Puffin’s speed is seductive.

The main downside of your Internet input feed being filtered through a proxy server is a slight lag when switching into Puffin from another app, while the connection re-establishes. However, after that the turbo boost kicks in.

CloudMosa, Inc. says its proxy server has 32 cores and 768GB memory, and an Internet backbone with 10Gbps bandwidth and 1ms latency to major web sites. As a result, they claim that Puffin can execute JavaScript 5x faster than its closest competitors, and that based on SunSpider JavaScript Benchmarking, Puffin is 550% faster than the iPad’s built-in Safari browser, and 1600% faster than Chrome and other alternative browsers on the iOS platform. I can’t vouch scientifically for those metrics, but Puffin is definitely the fastest iOS browser I’ve used, and not by just a small margin.

Note, however, that Puffin Web Browser’s data centers of are in the U.S., and the cloud servers can only access public web sites from U.S. geolocations. Consequently, for users outside the U.S., local content (especially videos of local interest) may not be accessible from the U.S. due to geo-restrictions in your home country. For more information, check the Puffin FAQ.

New in Version 3.0.3 are:

  • Fix bug of black screen at launch.
  • Fix bug of handwriting input.
  • Add localization strings.

The Puffin 3.0.1 update, released May 13, restored close buttons to the tab list in the iPad version (see more on this below), introduced downloads in Flash, improved Flash plugin stability, and included a variety of bugfixes.

Puffin Version 3.0.0 was a major overhaul and interface redo, featuring:

  • Whole New Tabs Browsing
  • Download to Cloud (Up to 100M per file)

Puffin Web browser

  • Theater Mode for videos or games
  • Add-ons functions (Pocket, Evernote, Facebook, Translator and more)

Puffin Web browser

  • New pop out settings and control bars on the left and right

The most visible interface change in Puffin 3 is that the page tabs row has been moved to the bottom of the screen from the more normal top. I’m quite used to tabs at the bottom from using the Sleipnir browser for iOS and Roccat in OS X, but it’s not my favorite location for tabs. I even keep the Dock in OS X on the right rather than at the default bottom position. However, at least Sleipnir’s bottom tabs are thumbnails, incorporating the page load progress bars no less, and you can close tabs with a simple downwards swipe.

Puffin Web browser

Initially, Puffin 3’s bottom tabs were just page names, with tab closing made much more cumbersome, and the former close buttons banished from the tabs. Instead, in order to close a tab, you had to click the “X” button located in the main menu bar’s upper left-hand corner, which confusingly disappears when you navigate to a second page in the same tab, replaced by the “back” icon. To close the tab, you either had to click on the Pages icon at the other end of the menu bar or swipe upwards from the bottom of the screen, either of which will open a Windows 8-ish tile view of all open tabs, from which you can click the applicable close tab icon on the corner.

Puffin Web browser

However, the CloudMosa folks thankfully proved responsive to criticism and have restored the tab close buttons in the version 3.0.1 update released May 13. Thank you, folks!

It would still be nice if the tabs could be made resizable, or a little deeper. With my iPad in my favorite open face folio cases, it’s tricky to nail Puffin 3’s skinny tabs.

Going to a new page by copy/pasting or typing in a URL is also more cumbersome in version 3. You have to open a new tab by clicking the + button, then summon a pop-up with an entry field for the new address.

Puffin Web browser

Puffin 3’s two new slide-out vertical menus on the left and right-hand sides of the browser interface are summoned to appear by swiping from the respective edge of the screen towards the center.

Puffin Web browser

Puffin Web browser

The new add-on functions (plug-ins) include pre-installed:

  • Share to Facebook
  • Share to Twitter
  • Share to Google+
  • Use Readability
  • Save to Pocket
  • Open Pocket

The three share modules should be self explanatory, function-wise.

Use Readability is to reformat a page’s text into a simplified view format, somewhat similar to Reader in Safari. Save to Pocket and Open Pocket require that the user have an account at getpocket.com, into which you can drop a web page, using Save to Pocket, and read it later offline using Open Pocket.

Puffin Web browser

There is a library of other add-ons from which you can select, accessed by clicking Edit from the add-ons menu which is accessed from the right-hand menu strip that also contains Home, Bookmarks, Add-Ons, Downloads, More, Theater, Mouse, Keyboard, and Gamepad.

Another new Puffin 3.0 feature is the ability to download files from a web site and save them to a local holding facility within Puffin, or to DropBox.

Puffin Web browser

Puffin 3 still has decently-sized yellow text selection arrows instead of those tiny blue dots in other browsers and most other iOS apps.

Puffin Web browser

Puffin’s unique virtual mouse technology is intended to help bridge the divide between mobile and desktop computing experiences. Users can activate the trackpad through the virtual mouse at any time, and use it in a manner similar to using a trackpad on a laptop. 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.Puffin Web browser

Puffin’s virtual trackpad feature and virtual GamePad that can simulate arrow keys and buttons are back. To launch the virtual GamePad on an iPad, tap on the GamePad button at the right-bottom corner of the user interface window. To launch virtual GamePad or trackpad, open the right hand menu strip and press the appropriate toggle icon. When virtual GamePad shows up, tap the setup button to configure the mapped button

Puffin Web browser

Getting back to Puffin’s Flash support, it works quite well. Lip synch is sometimes not great, and there’s some audio drop-off at times—at least over my relatively slow wireless broadband Internet service. But it beats the whizz out of no Flash support at all, and as noted, Puffin is an attractive general purpose browser for a whole raft of other reasons.

Puffin Web browser

Puffin is compatible with iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, iPhone 4S, iPod touch (3rd generation), iPod touch (4th generation), and all iPad versions.

A free (ad-supported) version—Puffin Web Browser Free—is also available, and includes most of Puffin’s features except Flash support, although there’s a time-limited demo so you can evaluate whether that’s worth ponying up the $2.99 four the paid version.

CloudMosa suggests that all prospective Puffin users try the free version before deciding. This will let you confirm that the Puffin Web Browser works for you before committing any cash.

I like Puffin so much that I’m tempted to give it a 5 out of 5 rating, but it’s not quite that perfect, so a strong 4 out of 5 is about right.

Appletell Rating:
Puffin Web browser review

Buy the Puffin Web browser

Category: Utilities
Seller: Cloud Mosa, Inc.
Requirements: iOS 5.0 or later
Compatibility: iPhone 3GS/4/4S/5, iPod touch (3rd/4th/5th generation), and all iPad versions.
File Size: 10.6MB
Version Reviewed: 3.0.2
Price: $2.99 (free version available)
Age Rating: 17+ (because of the naughty stuff you can find on the Internet)

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