Seller: CloudMosa, Inc.
Requirements: iOS 5.0 or later
Compatibility: iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4/4S, iPod touch (3rd and 4th gen) and iPad
File Size: 7.2MB
Version Reviewed: 2.2.4
Price: Free (full Puffin Web Browser available for $2.99)
I’ve been trying out the Puffin Web Browser Free, the free version of the Puffin Web Browser for iOS which was brought to my attention by a reader who likes Puffin because it’s really fast and supports Flash video (full paid version).
I’ve only checked out the free version, but Puffin is indeed impressively fast, easily the fastest browser I’ve used on my iPad. The developers say it’s “wicked fast” thanks to the help of “cloud servers.” I’m not sure exactly what that refers to in a technical sense, but evidently it works.
I also like Puffin Free’s user interface, which is straightforward and usefully functional without being gimmicky. Well, some folks might think the “MousePad” feature is a bit of a gimmick. 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! Unfortunately, their implementation is hobbled by what I’ve found to be inconsistent and equivocal UI responsiveness with Puffin, such as when tapping buttons on some sites, and refusal to select in some text fields at all. Evidently, the UI still needs some work.
Indeed, this browser in general has the feel of beta software. I’ve encountered some crashiness, and lost work due to dropped connections. Nevertheless, Puffin is quite a likeable little browser, and the speed will allow you to forgive a lot, with refinement and stability hopefully improving as the app evolves and matures.
The developer, CloudMosa, Inc., says that 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. Puffin Free, described as a newer and faster version of the Puffin Web Browser, now supports loading, panning, and zooming of web pages.
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 most international web pages and input methods, although since CloudMosa, Inc.’s support data centers are in US, users outside US may not be able to view locally geo-restricted content.
Differences distinguishing the free and paid versions of Puffin include:
- Puffin Free is search and ads sponsored - The choice of the default search engine (currently Google) is subject to change, and content ads may be displayed with web pages.
- Puffin Free is feature restricted - The developers say, somewhat cryptically, that “expensive features” (on the server side) may be suspended temporarily on the free version to reduce operating cost.
- Puffin Free will serve as a test bed for new and experimental features, which will be made be available on the free version sooner than on the paid version
- Puffin Free is a preview of the Puffin Web Browser - During the initial 14-day evaluation period, the free version will support the full feature set of the paid version. I’m not that far in yet, so can’t evaluate how things will go after the two weeks are up.
- Puffin Free does not support Flash - Flash videos and games will not play after the evaluation period, although HTML5 videos and games will continue to be fully supported
Speaking of Flash, the iOS version of Puffin supports a full-screen player option that leverages the native video player on your device, thereby providing smoother video streaming. However, the developers note that some video websites (such as Hulu and other TV channel video sites) use a video streaming technology Puffin’s full-screen player doesn’t currently don’t support, and the video streaming experience in the embedded player could be laggy.
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. 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 lack of Flash support is enough to convince me otherwise. Your mileage may vary.
Overall, I can only give Puffin Web Browser Free a 3 out of 5 rating at this point in its development, but I encourage readers to download it and at least check out the speed.