- Fullscreen and tabbed browsing
- Imports bookmarks from Safari
- Native iPad version
- Gesture support
- Tremendous number of options and settings
- Phone numbers not clickable by default
- Downloads don't seem to work properly
- A few interface peculiarities
- Number of settings and options can be overwhelming
Atomic is a worthy candidate to replace Safari as your default iOS web browser. Its powerful and wide-ranging features are compelling, but until a few of its bugs and interface peculiarities are addressed, it's not quite ready to supplant Safari.
Doing it Differently Than Safari - The Good and The Bad
As with many of the alternative browsers for the iPhone, Atomic strives to do things differently than Safari. In a lot of cases, this is good, though it introduces some problems in others.
Among the most prominent differences is the ability to view sites in fullscreen mode (a great feature for browsers on relatively small smartphone screens) and tabbed browsing. Atomic's implementation of fullscreen browsing is more useful than Dolphin's, for instance, since it gives you the option to keep a few useful buttons--back/forward, address bar, search--on the screen without reducing the amount of the website you can see. Dolphin doesn't include any such buttons, meaning you have to exit fullscreen mode to perform many functions.
Also like Dolphin, Atomic offers tabbed browsing and a download manager. The tabs are great, but I was unable to ever successfully download anything in my testing. It's unclear to me whether this is a general bug in the app or just in using it on my phone.
Switching from Safari to Atomic is made a bit easier thanks to its bookmark-import feature. Unfortunately you can't import bookmarks directly from the Safari app, but the process--which requires setting up a web account with Atomic and uploading your desktop bookmark file--is easy and quick.
While some of its features are advances over Safari, Atomic's got some odd behaviors, too. For instance, phone numbers aren't clickable by default as they are in other iPhone browsers. You can enable that via a setting, but it seems an odd choice for a smartphone browser.
It also makes some odd interface choices. In many iPhone apps, the button used to close windows or menus is at the top corner of the screen. In many Atomic windows, that button is instead in the bottom right corner. This led me to tap the wrong button many times when seeking the close button. This isn't a major issue, of course, but if you're trying to supplant the built-in browser, making the transition as smooth as possible seems like a good idea.
Speed: A Tad Slower
When it comes to speed in loading websites, Atomic is close to Safari, but not quite there yet. Its Wi-Fi speed is comparable, but 3G lags a bit.
Speed on Wi-Fi
Speed is in seconds to load the full desktop (not mobile) page, Atomic is listed first.
- Apple.com: 4 vs. 5
- CNN.com: 6 vs. 6
- ESPN.com: 6 vs. 6
- HoopsHype.com/Rumors.html: 5 vs. 5
- iPod.About.com: 3 vs. 3
Speed on 3G
Speed is in seconds to load the page, Atomic is listed first.
- Apple.com: 8 vs. 7
- CNN.com: 9 vs. 7
- ESPN.com: 10 vs. 7
- HoopsHype.com/Rumors.html: 6 vs. 6
- iPod.About.com: 5 vs. 5
Atomic has more settings and options than perhaps any other iOS app I've seen--and certainly more than any other iPhone browser I've tested. For some users this will be a godsend; for others, it will be overwhelming and confusing.
For the techies and the cross-browser testers, Atomic is a treat. You can customize almost anything, from the user agent of the browser (what kind of browser Atomic tells websites you visit it is; it can pretend to be Internet Explorer, Firefox, and others) to the color theme of the browser. There are options for blocking ads and integrating with Dropbox. There's even a gesture-based interface. While Atomic doesn't let you create your own gestures like Dolphin does, you can choose from a large number of tasks for each gesture and you can make the gestures right on the screen, not in a special window.
The Bottom Line
Atomic is a good browser. If you need a testing environment on your iPhone or iPad, it's a great option. If you want to replace Safari, though, it's quite there yet. But if it can speed up loading websites over 3G and address a few bugs/interface oddities, it certainly could become many people's default iPhone browser.
What You’ll Need