(Updated on January 29th: We updated the HTML5Test score for Opera browser. We previously used Opera Mini browser’s score, which is different in nature with the full-fledged Android browsers we compare in this article.)
Yesterday, Chinese web giant Baidu (NASDAQ: BIDU) revealed that its Baidu Browser for Android has two million registered users in Indonesia. The company is pushing it aggressively in Indonesia as part of its launch of eight products in the country. So we wanted to take a look at the new app to see how it weighs up against all the rival smartphone browsers out there.
The one that we’re reviewing is the Indonesian version of Baidu Browser v188.8.131.52 for Android smartphones. Baidu Browser team member Felix Li explained back in December that they want to offer speed, ease of use, and the ability to personalize the web experience on the browser. So far they are nailing each aspect of that.
Focus on speed
Baidu Browser is quite speedy. Behind the scenes, the company’s HTML5-oriented T5 engine technology helps speed up surfing time by 30 percent, it is claimed.
The focus on speed is also seen in the interface, with three ways for you to access your favorite sites: a dashboard shortcut, a desktop shortcut, or a widget shortcut. This is where Baidu gets more local as it recommends shortcuts for sites like Kaskus, Detik, and Kompas. Don’t worry, you can get rid of those shortcuts and make plenty of your own instead. The desktop shortcut tiles can’t be edited, unfortunately. They only come in their default color and font.
While this app is new to Indonesia and several other markets where it’s being heavily marketed this year, the browser itself is not new. It’s been out in China for a few years. Its current look comes from a massive revamp for Baidu Browser in 2012 as the company decided that it needs to shape the web through its own app.
Extra browsing features
The browser offers a few tools to enhance your browsing experience like “night mode”, incognito mode, “scroll button” (which lets users scroll up and down using a button, rather than swiping), text only, and page search. You can also personalize the browser by changing the wallpaper.
Baidu Browser has four more tools and bits of content to help get you through the day: weather, news, pictures, and a QR scanner. The type of embedded content shown will depend on your country or region. You can access all of them from the dashboard or a widget. I’m liking my experience using Baidu Browser so far, but if there’s a critique I have of the app, it’s the gratuitous pictures of sexy girls in the content section of the browser that might not be appropriate for young users.
According to HTML5Test, Baidu Browser on Android scores 436 out of 555 points. In comparison, rival Opera’s score is 478, Chrome gets 462, UC Browser scores 407, and Dolphin gets 278. That’s not related to speed, but it shows how well the browser might display more modern, HTML5-based websites.
China-made UC Browser claims to have over 400 million active users and Opera is almost a household name, so the Chinese search engine giant has plenty of competition. But Baidu’s app, which is localized for dozens of countries and has over 150 million users, has the looks and speed to give it a good chance.
You can download Baidu Browser for Android here.
(Editing by Steven Millward)