Axis, Yahoo's new standalone Web browser for iOS (and extension for desktop versions of Google Chrome, Firefox, and Safari), embodies some really neat ideas about surfing the Web, especially on the touch screen. The app keeps the bloat to a minimum, and offers tools that make searching and browsing a snap. Unfortunately, like every third-party browser, Axis suffers from Apple's restrictions in that it can't be set as the default browser.
Axis has a helpful tutorial overlay when you get started, but it doesn't take long to explore the cool and unique features of this Web browser. To get a quick look at the features, start by entering a favorite Web address or a search term. Axis gives you a short list of possible search results to choose from with predictive text, but it also gives you a visual representation of Web sites that fit your search term on the right that you can swipe through to make your selection. To narrow your search, you can choose to display either Web sites or Images by touching a button just below the search display on the left and selecting the type of search you want.
Once on a site, you can browse normally, touching links to read more or touching images to see a larger version. But what sets Axis apart is that you can swipe down from just below the top (be careful or you'll accidentally lower the iOS 5 notifications panel) to perform another search without leaving the Web page you're currently viewing. The app also offers visual tabs, letting you touch a button in the bottom center to slide open a drawer of thumbnails of previously viewed "tabbed" pages. To add a tab, you simply touch the plus sign to add another site.
If you have favorite sites you visit often, you can use Axis' bookmarking features. Touch the star to the right of the address bar to save a Web site to bookmarks, and it lets you choose what folder to add the bookmark to for better organization. When you want to see your bookmarks, you can touch the silver ribbon on the far right to see bookmarks displayed as thumbnails you can swipe through, much like the visual search results. All of the interface features use these visual techniques not found in other browsers for iOS and I have to say the controls are definitely intuitive, offering a new option for regular Web surfing.
Another perk of using Axis is that you can continue browsing on another device. Once you sign in with your Yahoo account on your iOS device and your desktop using the Axis plug-in appropriate to your browser, whatever bookmarks you've saved and sites you've marked to read later on your iOS device (for example) will automatically show up on your desktop. The information is saved to your Yahoo account, so no matter which device you use, your Web sites and bookmarks will be there.
Again, the big drawback of Axis (and any other third-party Web browser for iOS) is that you can't use it as your default browser because of Apple's restrictions. This means that when you touch a link out of an e-mail or text message on your iPhone, Safari will still be the browser that opens to display the link. Obviously, this isn't Yahoo's fault, but it's something to consider when downloading any third-party Web browser.
Overall, Axis keeps it basic while making regular Web surfing more fun and intuitive. If you've been looking for a different way to browse the Internet or just want to check out the unique features in Yahoo's latest software, take Axis for a test drive.