Instabrowser Review

Our Review by Carter Dotson on July 31st, 2013
Rating: starstarstarhalfstarblankstar :: WHY?
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Instabrowser solves a problem, but is it one that people actually have, and is it worth the cost?

Developer: Red Mage, LLC
Price: $2.99
Version Reviewed: 1.0.4
Device Reviewed On: iPhone 5

iOS Integration Rating: starstarstarstarblankstar
User Interface Rating: starstarstarstarblankstar
Re-use Value Rating: starstarblankstarblankstarblankstar

Overall Rating: starstarstarhalfstarblankstar

Instabrowser claims to be a faster browser for iOS, up to ten times faster than loading a webpage normally? How does it work its magic? By only loading the HTML and optionally the images for a page, it makes pages a lot quicker to load.

It also makes them a lot uglier. Instabrowser feels like going back to the days of WAP phones, where things couldn’t be rendered properly so web pages were full of misplaced and ugly text. Except, this is on purpose in 2013.

However, this is a response to the rise of reader-friendly apps and services, ones that take an already-rendered page and make it easier to read on mobile devices. It’s actually a nifty idea, but unfortunately the problem of just rendering part of a webpage rears its ugly head quite often. For example, the esteemed internet publication 148Apps doesn’t have its star ratings formatted properly, and random links are scattered throughout the header, making it just a generally-unpleasant experience. It does load in a fraction of a second though! Plus, there’s a handy link-handling menu, themes, extensive font customization, and of course, the ability to reload a web page in standard view when necessary.

One of the app’s more clever features that might make it interesting for power users is the ability to easily switch between different user agents with each. User agent strings tell the site which browser is being used to browse a site, and if modified, this can be used to change which version of a site is displayed. Few browsers make this easy to configure, so this browser might be handy to the nerds for whom this is useful. And really, it’s clear that someone who does care about the way that the app should look and how even barebones text and images should as well.

It’s just that most “reader” functions like Readability, Instapaper, and Safari’s Reading List all do a great job of making pages look great in simplified text, and we live in an era where mobile speeds are less of an issue. For those with chronically slow internet speed who need something to load their webpages faster, Instabrowser is the answer. But for most people, the question that it’s trying to answer is irrelevant in 2013. The app's free version is at least worth a shot, though.

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