Beginners Section

August 18, 2013

Browsing the Internet, and Security

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Your Android phone can do all kinds of neat things with its almost ubiquitous access to the web, and browsing the web is one of its core abilities. Here’s how to make the most of your browser—the app labelled, helpfully, “Browser,” which is the Stock Browser, this is the one that comes pre-installed on your phone.

Navigating with the Browser

A quick bit of history and perspective on your Android browser. It’s built with WebKit, a web browser backend originally built for KDE, a desktop version of the  Linux operating system. Apple, the maker of Mac, iPods, and iPhones, picked up the project and used it as the base for its Safari browser and all of the Mac’s web abilities. WebKit has since been adopted by many software projects, including Google’s Chrome browser, which is from the Chromium browser and, yes, the browser on your Android phone. The Android Browser is not, however, Chrome for Android. It can render full web pages that look as they do on a desktop computer 99% of the time, and, ever since the Android 2.2 update, the Browser can even render sites that require Adobe Flash, putting it ahead of the pack in that regard. There’s no built-in bookmark syncing or importing in Android Browser, but that’s (hopefully) coming soon. A growing number of web sites are automatically detecting Android browsers and formatting their pages in ways that are friendly to smaller screens, and some are using the same formatting they prepared for iPhones, with varying success. In other words, the Browser (as we’ll call it from here on out) is good at what it does, and should get more convenient in the near future.

Since Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean) Flash player does not work as Abode (the owner of Flash player) have removed it and will not support it. Now however Google have implemented HTML5.

Launching the Browser

The main way to open up your Stock Browser and get to a web site is to launch the Browser app. All Android phones have a Browser button that’s located at the bottom of the home screen, either in the app tray or, from an icon on their home screen, it will look something like this  or very similar.  The Samsung and HTC below show the browser circled in yellow.

Samsung-Galaxy-S4-vs-HTC-One-Browser
From the browser screen,you can type in a standard web address—beginnerstech.co.uk, as an example, you don’t have to put the http or  www in anymore, as the browser will add these automatically for you, neat hey.

The Browser will launch and head right there. You can also perform Google searches from this bar by simply typing in your query—”Guide to the solar system,” perhaps. Either way you launch it, your Browser pulls all the information on the Solar system , and if you weren’t searching for something specific, you’ll see a customized Android home page.

Android Browser Home Page

As you’d expect from a browser, the links to other sites are normally coloured blue with any reference in your query shown in bold blue on standard web pages. The Google homepage will try and get a general location fix from your GPS sensor, nearby Wi-Fi spots, or very rough triangulation from cellular towers, unless you’ve turned those features off in your phone settings. With that location fix, you can click the “Near me now” link to see restaurants, banks, or other points of interest nearby, and your searches will return local results near the top. Neat.

Your browser might not look exactly like the standard Android version, but it’s probably pretty close. HTC’s browser just moves some of the Menu buttons around, for example, and changes the shortcut name from “Browser” to “Internet.”

Let’s talk Google Chrome

The most downloaded (Google Play Store link) browser is Google’s Chrome (Chrome website) which has improved just over the last few months, in that it is now nothing like what it was then. The screenshot of the Solar system is from Chrome which is my choice of browser. We’re not going to go into great detail here as the Google Chrome website has all the information for you, but just to give you a taster, I have a Nexus 7 tablet and any bookmarks on it will  sync to my HTC One no matter where it is. Send pages from your computer to your phone or tablet with a single click. You can read them on the go, even when you’re offline. Click on the Google Chrome link above to visit the website.

Just a little note: You will see that Google calls the address bar OMNIBOX the reason for the name is to merge both location and search fields while offering the user some highly relevant suggestions and / or early results. As we did looking (searching) for “Guide to the solar system” and just typing in the web address of “beginnerstech.co.uk”.

So if you want to use Google’s Chrome visit the Chrome home page where you will have lot’s of information to read. Chrome’s How to use chrome page

OK Now let’s Talk Security

The information below applies to Chrome for Android only.
A central design point of the Android security architecture is that no application, by default, has permission to perform any operations that would adversely impact other applications, the operating system or the user. This includes reading or writing the user’s private data (such as contacts or e-mails), reading or writing another application’s files, performing network access, keeping the device awake, etc.

Because Android sandboxes applications from each other, applications must explicitly share resources and data. They do this by declaring the permissions they need for additional capabilities not provided by the basic sandbox. Applications statically declare the permissions they require, and the Android system prompts the user for consent at the time the application is installed. Android has no mechanism for granting permissions dynamically (at run-time) because it complicates the user experience to the detriment of security.

Chrome for Android complements this security framework with a solid multi-process architecture that is designed from the ground up to improve robustness, responsiveness and security. As more and more content on the Internet moves to be active web content, it is necessary to deliver a browser that inherently keeps these separate from each other, in most situations. The multi-process architecture in Chrome for Android, in conjunction with UID isolation across processes, establishes clear boundaries between web page content.

Chrome for Android is in early stages of its evolution to gain an understanding of the key areas and features that will be important on the new platform. Safe Browsing is not supported currently and is being evaluated for upcoming revisions.

Another aspect of browsing with control is to ensure the user is aware of the site they are visiting and what is being expected of them. On mobile devices many sites are prone to redirect navigations to mobile-friendly pages. Making the current site evident in the Omnibox with the relevant connection details through the security indicator ensures that the user can easily understand if a fully secured connection is established. This also allows malicious websites to be flagged when masquerading as reputable sites.

Security apps (Play Store link) are a plenty in the Play Store,and here Android users fall into two camps those that want a security app for “peace of mind” and those that aren’t really bothered as they think they’re not necessary. Some users are from the Windows school that you SHOULD have a security app and therefore feel the need to do the same with their Android devices.

Have Fun 

There are plenty of guides to come, like  Android OS and Tablets  and that’s precisely what we’re covering next.Checkout the Guides in the Beginners Section

 

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Dave Thornton

Senior Editor

Senior Editor
Been involved in technology for many years, more than I care to remember. Live in Dundee, Scotland. I like Android, Windows Phone OS, BlackBerry OS and iOS, and love writing about all things techie. Currently have a Honor 6+, Elephone P6000, Nexus 5, Chrombook C720, HTC One M7, Nokia Lumina 625, Microsoft Lumia 435, Blackberry Q10, HTC Hero and iPad mini