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Lightning Web Browser for Android

By A.C.R. Development Free Editors' Rating

Editors' Review

shelbybrown Jul 19, 2016

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.

Pros

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.

Cons

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.

Full Specifications

What's new in version 4.5.1

- Fixed bug with folders disappearing on bookmark homepage

- Updated history page

- Updated bookmark page

- Updating target to Android O

- Updating default bookmark favicons

- Fixed occasional bug with bookmark long press

- Updated downloads page design

- Enhanced keyboard shortcuts

- Fixed bug in google search suggestions for certain languages

General

Release November 13, 2018
Date Added November 13, 2018
Version 4.5.1

Operating Systems

Operating Systems Android
Additional Requirements None

Popularity

Total Downloads 11,418
Downloads Last Week 0
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Developer's Description

Lightning is a simple, fast web browser that focuses on design, security, and efficiency. It uses material design, doesn't track you, give you lots of options to protect your privacy. It gets out of the way of the user. I built this browser because I wanted something better.

Design - Lightning's interface was carefully crafted so you can browse as efficiently as possible. Tabs and Bookmarks are all tucked neatly away in side drawers, only a swipe away, allowing maximum screen viewing with minimal interference from the browser's chrome. Dark Mode, Light Mode, Color Mode, Night Mode... Anyway, whatever you like, there's a mode for you.

Speed - By utilizing the WebKit rendering engine that comes built into your Android device, Lightning can ensure a swift, lightweight experience.

Privacy - Use Incognito Mode to browse without leaving a footprint, download Orbot and turn on TOR proxy support to mask your identify and location, use StartPage or DuckDuckGo for your search engine, or disable settings that you think leave you at risk. Whatever your concern, Lightning will try to help.

Features - Full-screen, check. Inverted Rendering, check. All the search engines you want, check. Search Suggestions, Bookmarks, History, User Agents, Reading Mode, whatever you need, Lightning does it.

Open-source - Just as Android open-source, so is Lightning. I believe that the best software is built when communities come together to engineer the best solution. Head over to the repository on GitHub to contribute or translate.

Free - Check out the paid version for AdBlock and Unlimited Tabs. Free version is limited to ten tabs open at a time.

Permissions

permission.INTERNET: Needed to access the internet for browsing

permission.WRITE_EXTERNAL_STORAGE: Needed for downloading files and backing up data

permission.READ_EXTERNAL_STORAGE: Needed for downloading files and restoring data

permission.ACCESS_FINE_LOCATION: Needed for sites that want your location (you can deny location access)

Talk to me on Twitter: https://twitter.com/RestainoAnthony

Fork me on GitHub: https://github.com/anthonycr/Lightning-Browser

Become a beta tester: https://plus.google.com/communities/108746004608718111703