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Quick Specs

  • Version:
  • Total Downloads:
  • Date Added:
    Feb. 09, 2013
  • Price:
    Free; Requires Android phone
  • File Size:
  • Downloads Last Week:
  • Platform:

Editors' Review

Lightning Web Browser for Android empowers security and privacy to a degree that overshadows most browsers that market themselves as security-focused. It is one of the few fully open-source Android browsers, and it makes its money through a paid version, rather than from built-in ads or selling user data. In fact, the paid version of Lightning (a pretty reasonable $1.50) comes with a built-in ad blocker.


Quick and light: Lightning uses Google's WebKit browser engine, which is built into Android, making Lightning a close cousin of Google Chrome under the hood. As in Chrome, you get a highly responsive browsing experience, particularly with vertical scrolling, which can be a problem in browsers based on Mozilla Firefox. You can also use Google search suggestions as you type, although you cannot log in to a Google account to sync your browser data. However, if you also have Chrome installed (it usually is on Android devices), you can import bookmarks from Chrome or from a backup file. You can also choose any search engine you want. The free version of Lightning limits you to 10 open tabs at a time, but the paid version does not set a limit.

Security awareness: If you've installed Orbot (the Android app that connects your device to the anonymous Tor browsing network), Lightning will detect its presence and offer to configure itself to access the Internet through Orbot. We had some connection issues with this, but we were able to resolve them by disabling the option in Lightning and adding it to Orbot's own list of connecting apps on the device. Lightning can also block all website requests for your location, and third-party cookies. You can set Lightning to automatically erase your cache, history, cookies, or Web storage every time you exit the app.

Display options: Not only can you hide the address bar when browsing, you can also hide the Android status bar, which usually stays parked at the top of your screen no matter what. In addition to a dark theme, which can reduce eyestrain at night, there is a Black Theme that may help with battery life on devices that have an AMOLED screen. You can also reflow text, which resizes it so that paragraphs don't get cut off when you zoom in. If you have a slow connection or a limited data plan, you can disable images.


The ad blocker is basic: If you pay for Lightning, the ad blocker is free. But at the risk of looking a gift horse in the mouth, it would be nice to see options beyond toggling ad blocking on or off. We'd like to know which block list it's using, or if it's a custom list. How often does it get updated? How aggressive is it? Sometimes benign page elements and entire websites can get blocked, causing page display and navigation issues, and you don't want to have to disable the whole blocker to fix the issue.

Some settings could use better descriptions: Most users probably don't know what enabling overview mode in the display settings entails, or what a wide viewport is, or identifying headers. None of these are in the Advanced Settings sections, where it would be reasonable to expect less descriptive options. It's not a big deal, since you can just Google this stuff, but better descriptions would be helpful for less technical users.

Bottom Line

Lightning Web Browser is a very impressive technical effort from a small indie developer. It's open source, Tor-aware, and supported through purchase of the premium app rather than monetizing your usage data. These three elements go a long way toward establishing trust and peace of mind. Browsing feels light and fluid in Lightning, and it has a variety of options to customize and safeguard your overall experience. If that variety extended to the ad blocker, Lightning would arguably be one of the best browsers on the market. Instead, we still have to give a slight edge to Mozilla Firefox, thanks to the Android version's ability to use almost all the major add-ons of desktop Firefox.

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Full Specifications

What's new in version 2.1.3
2.1.3 UI tweaks, random fixes, added ability to add blank page or bookmarks as homepage, just set homepage to about:blank or about:homeIf you get freezes on websites with lots of ads, disable flash, flash keeps crashing jellybean devices on some websites.
Publisher A.C.R. Development
Publisher web site
Release Date February 17, 2013
Date Added February 09, 2013
Version 2.1.3
Category Communications
Subcategory SMS Tools
Operating Systems
Operating Systems Android/2.3.3 - 2.3.7
Additional Requirements Compatible with 2.3.3 and above.
Download Information
File Size 203.54KB
File Name External File
Total Downloads 11,123
Downloads Last Week 2
License Model Free
Limitations Not available
Price Free
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