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Taking the iCab – first impressions of the iCab Mobile Browser

A few weeks ago I tested Mercury Web Browser Pro for iPad, which in my first impressions didn’t do so well. I went out again and had a look at a few more browsers, and this week’s choice is iCab. And at a price twice the cost of Mercury (£1.19 to be exact).

At first run I tried to use my company internal websites to see if I could work with them, since Mercury had a problem with popups. Well, the first time I tried my pages everything seemed to work fine, however on second try the next day they would not. Really annoying. I have been playing with the settings, even cleared the cache and uninstalled and reinstalled the app, but no joy. A real shame!

So, now that we established that the app failed at the most critical task for me (I know, it is a really trivial thing, pop-ups, but because this is how the in-house system works it therefore means that I won’t be able to use iCab for work) let’s have a look in more detail and see if iCab can redeem itself (also, screenshots after the break)…

Looking at the features

iCab’s features are many, the nicest ones are:

  • Dropbox integration
  • Custom filters which can be easily added, edited or stopped
  • Fairly decent RSS reader
  • Save images of web pages
  • Multitasking allows for downloads to still run in the background while using another app
  • Modules! The list of modules the developer put into the module are just fantastic! Some of them I won’t need, but quite a few of them are just brilliant and time-saving. See a screenshots of the module listing below:
A list of some modules in the browser itself. In the background you can see the popup problem by the way

 

A list of modules within the app
  • Filters. I really like the ease of use of this setting, very easy to use:
The default filters list within iCab Mobile

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A full list can be found here.

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Comparing iCab to Mercury

Because I was extremely dissatisfied with Mercury I thought I’d check the functionality and compare it to the gripes I had with Mercury – would iCab redeem itself?

Bookmarks: importing and managing bookmarks was a lot less time-consuming than on Mercury, just go over WiFi, remotely access iCab, upload your bookmarks.html file, done. Editing and moving bookmarks was a breeze, and compared to Mercury it worked perfectly, even with a bookmarks folder of over 400 items. I would have preferred to be able to drag a bookmarks.html file into iTunes’s app tab and run it from there, as my WiFi runs over a different network than the main line, but hey, it worked!

NB: bit annoyed that bookmarks cannot be opened in a new tab. A tab in the bookmarks toolbar can, however a bookmark can’t? That’s a bit unusable, no?

Bookmarks / Quickstart grid: once again, where I failed miserably with Mercury, iCab just told me exactly what to do, and I was really pleased with it. Within moments I had my grid set up. What I do not like however is the fact that you cannot close the grid, instead you have to press “back”. Again, why?

The iCab Mobile Quickstarter grid - remember, you can't close it!

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Search engines: Mercury had the problem where all searches ended up using American search engines. Thankfully, iCab allows you to edit search engines as you like, and not only that, you can set it to open any search in a new tab. Very user-friendly!

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Verdict

So, iCab Mobile Browser, what shall I do with you? Shall I keep you? Or do you deserve a similar fate like Mercury and go the way of the uninstall?

Bearing in mind I only played a few hours with it (which is about a few hours more than with Mercury) I can happily say that iCab is a fantastic browser. Overall the integration of some fantastic modules to manage or aid your day-to-day activities is really nicely done and handled, though I would have preferred a unified approach to icons, but this is something that can probably easily remedied in forthcoming versions. The easy (and working) way to manage bookmarks also sets it apart nicely from Mercury and even Safari, though I would wish someone would look at a separate (full-) screen for editing and managing bookmarks, as it would make things a bit easier to work with, especially since many bookmarks I have include a very long title.

Thanks for the modules, the filters, and a great number of settings to work with make iCab my preferred choice – for anything but work. Sadly, the popup problem is something I am really unhappy about, especially since Safari can do it.Once this has been fixed (I reckon that Alexander Clauss is a much more approachable person than the Mercury guys who still haven’t even bothered responding to emails) I’ll update this post and write a more in-depth review for iCab.

Version tested: 4.8.2

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