It was a fairly quiet event when tabbed browsing came to our desktops, but a damn important one. No one just has a single web page open any more, and the ability to flick seamlessly between them has become as essential to web browsers as background apps are to the iPhone.
Although Safari does manage tabs quite well on the iPhone’s native browser, there’s always been a distinct sensation of peeping at the Internet through a letterbox when surfing on the small touchscreen. Tabs aren’t quite at your fingertips, either, so it’s no wonder developers are always looking for new methods of putting the iPhone online.
3D Web Browser isn’t exactly what you’d call “feature rich,” but the features it does have are very carefully selected and very useable. It’s still very much a tabbed browser, but it doesn’t treat the tabs as pages, so much as the sides of a cube – or a polyhedron, to be a little more accurate.
Each tab is quickly accessed by tapping the soft button in the lower-left corner, which brings up ‘back’ and ‘forward’ arrows. Although when talking about a web browser, perhaps ‘next’ and ‘previous’ might be a better definition.
Tapping either button rotates the three-dimensional shape around which the tabs are built, so you can quickly – and mightily attractively, it should be noted – switch between multiple open web pages. In essence, this is no real difference to any other form of tabbed browser, but it feels very immediate and is a pleasure to use.
The lack of required buttons also leaves more screen real estate for actual browsing, too. It might only be a half a centimetre of extra web page, but it feels like a lot when browsing on such a small screen. The additional buttons, such as Home, Back, Forward and Bookmarks are accessed in the same way as the cube; a soft button in the lower right corner reveals the controls when they are actually needed.
As a browser the app also performs very neatly. It’s restricted to the landscape orientation, but this isn’t the limitation it might sound like. There’s no grating number crunching going on in the background as it tries to flip the screen around when you’re not holding the handset perfectly straight, and you don’t need to muck around with rotation lock if you’re using the iPhone bed.
The pages load fast and accurately, and it’s not constantly refreshing pages when switching between the web browser and other applications – something Safari has a nasty habit of doing.
All in all, 3D Web Browser presents itself not a feature-packed app, but a refined and slick one. It sheds a lot of weight seen in similar applications and focuses instead on its core purpose – web browsing. That’s no bad thing, as far as we’re concerned.