1. Download our Official Android App: Forums for Android!

xScope Browser Lite (free): A swipe in the right direction

Discussion in 'Android Apps & Games' started by pundroid, Jun 8, 2010.

  1. pundroid

    pundroid Lurker
    Thread Starter
    Jun 7, 2010

    Jun 7, 2010
    Note: I'm far from an expert on everything, including browsers. This is all novice opinion here. If you want an expert's opinion, look to your left (note: I am not an expert on the location of experts).

    That stock browser (the one that came with your phone) sure is good, ain't it?

    But most of the people who use Android are inherently explorative. Sure, the stock browser runs fine. But no tabs? Mobile sites? Bland design (at least, to me it's bland)? I got bored with it pretty quickly. So I hit the Android market in search of something more.

    There are a ton of great browsers out there. But what about itty-bitty xScope?

    Some reviewer info:

    Tech expertise: some computer know-how (holds dreaded title of "tech guy" in the family)
    Phone used: Motorola Droid running stock 2.1
    Reason for not having a rooted phone: on the fence (but leaning towards rooting)
    Time spent with app: about a few months
    Preferred user agent: computer (desktop)

    The Review:

    The App:

    For a browser, it's fairly tiny. At the time I'm writing this review, it's only 363 KB (version 5.26). But for a little thing, it's pretty fast and full of decent features. It loads up fairly quickly; no waiting screens or anything. Aside from the occasional hiccups, it's very solid.

    Some Features:

    Before you read any further, it might be best to read the developer's tutorial (located at http://sites.google.com/site/xscopefaqs/). This broken English walkthrough is actually very detailed. It only takes around a minute or so to absorb that. It has images, arrows, etc. Pretty straightforward.

    You can find the tutorial on the favorites page, in case you need a refresher after downloading this browser. Next to it, there's a "Do you know?" link (found at http://sites.google.com/site/xscopefaqs/doyouknow-1/) that quizzes you for additional help.

    (Side note: the tutorial is pretty big in non-mobile browsers. It almost freaked me out when I took a look at it in Firefox.)

    Talked about in both links are the three zooms: the kinda annoying tap zoom, the always awesome pinch zoom, and a flagship "pin zoom" (done by double-tapping anywhere on the screen and moving your finger). Also talked about are things like swiping for the navigation bar, the notification bar, tabs, etc. Those features, after learning, make the mobile browser experience seem less cumbersome.

    The must-have feature for me was tabbed browsing. You can watch the progress on loading pages, without having to click "Menu -> Windows -> [Click your choice of window]". Tabs are easy to close, too; just click on the current tab and it's gone. That can be annoying at times, though (if you're waiting for a page to load and accidentally tap a page closed). Two more things that are bothersome are the 6-tab limit and the inability to expand tab titles (you can scroll through the tabs, so why make them tiny?). But they're easy to accept.

    Long-pressing on different elements will bring up some additional options. Coupled with the navigation bar and menu button options, it makes productivity very fluent.


    The default skin could get boring quickly. If it does, you can skin xScope with different themes from the market. You might not find the best designs in the world, though. For most, the default should be enough.

    The menu button provides options for looking at downloads, managing tasks, settings, favorites, clearing cache/history/data forms and exiting. Since opening files and killing tasks are only usable in the paid version, these options are just clutter.


    Rendering is alright for whatever user agent you choose. You can choose custom user agents for domains, if you prefer (only 10 custom domains in the free version). Some images (if there's enough of them) won't display right away. Reloading or opening in another tab fixes this.

    The tutorial page mentions (and brags about) the Sunspider benchmark test. It really is a zippy browser, at times. For a novice (like me), it might be hard to notice. But I'm sure you wanna brag, too. "My browser eats Dolphin for breakfast."

    The favorites are pretty bad, as of version 5.26. If you hate the zoomed look of mobile pages, you'll hate the thumbnail and small icon views. List view isn't a whole lot better, either. If you figure out which one is acceptable, you'll still have to get used to the bland look. The free version is limited to about 11 favorites only (boo, developer!). Editing them is easy enough, although also fickle. There is no real option to import bookmarks from the default browser. But you might see your old bookmarks pop up when typing a URL.

    Then you have your settings, your home page, and most the other features you'd expect from a browser. There's a session restore that might be painful if you need to take a leave and text someone. If you're good with memory, you should be fine. But be careful, as xScope can be a mini memory hog at times. When handling heavy loads, it might crash all-together, with none of your tabs saved. That's soul-crushing. But you can reload them through your history, if they weren't bookmarked.


    Now I know I'm not an expert on this. But it seems secure to me. Your passwords can be saved. If you order things, have as much confidence as you would the stock browser (or Android as a whole). That's not a bad thing. I've ordered things online and paid my bill. No signs of any illegal activity yet. I'd say you can trust it. But carry your own security measures, please.

    Updates & Paid Version:

    The developer updates frequently, implementing new features for both the free version and the paid version ($2.99 USD). The paid version includes additional features like file opening, task killing and more favorites/custom domains. But with Astro and other file managers in the market, I'd only recommend paying if you want more bookmarks or to encourage the developer. Maybe there's a difference, but to most users, it'll be the same.


    If you read all of that, then congrats. I didn't even do that (disregard the errors, including the factual ones). But if you're like me and you skipped a lot of it, I'll give you the noteworthy stuff:


    -- Fast, stable, tiny browser
    -- Robust layout
    -- Brilliant use of touch screen controls
    -- Quick and easy tutorial
    -- Some customization


    -- Bad favorites design
    -- Not entirely eye-pleasing
    -- Restrictions (in the free version)
    -- Some complications/irks
    -- No real reason to buy paid version (except for favorites extortion)


    If you're patient, understanding, and willing to cope, then xScope is probably a great choice for a web browser. Out of all the browsers out there, this one feels the freshest to use. It's recommended to take a bit of time to discover the features. After a while, they'll feel like second nature and you'll never want the clunky stock browser again.

    If you can't muster the stamina to love this app, but want something similar, then Dolphin HD (or its normal counterpart) is probably a safer bet.

    The $3 USD for the "more featured" browser is more like a donation. If you have a (free) file manager like Astro, then you essentially have "xScope Web File Task". If you're tricky enough, the favorites limitation is easily avoidable (psst... I hosted a simple .html file in my Dropbox account; I had to connect to the internet, anyways).

    Reviews for apps could are seemingly short-lived. Depending on the developer, an app can flourish or erode. My money is on xScope improving. As it stands, it's a solid browser, with a "makes sense" touchscreen style. And the developer does reply to emails. I'm hoping it'll continue to improve. It is currently my favorite browser, and even with its flaws, I recommend it.

    Stability: 4/5
    Design: 3/5
    Speed: 4/5
    Security: 4/5
    Features: 4/5
    Ease-of-use: 5/5
    Updates: 5/5

    Total: 4/5


Share This Page