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This chapter is from the book

Understanding the Android Browser

One of the most anticipated applications on the Android platform is the web browser. Not surprisingly, many people are looking to Android and the Android phone to be a fully functional web device that offers a surfing experience close to that of a laptop or desktop.

With the release of the Google Chrome web browser just weeks before the official announcement of the Android phone, many experts believed that the web browser included with the Android phone would be a mobile version of Chrome that was quickly dubbed "Chrome Lite." That assumption wasn't entirely correct, but many people still refer to the browser as Chrome Lite.

The browser that's included with Android is actually built on an application called WebKit, which is an integral part of Google Chrome. WebKit is an open source rendering engine that enables the web browser to quickly scale and rescale a website to provide the most "normal" view of the Web possible on a mobile device. This means that when you pull up a web page on your Android phone, you see the actual page, not a scaled-down, mobile version of the page.

It also means that the Android phone loads web browser pages faster than most other mobile web devices because of the way WebKit renders the pages. It takes two passes at the pages, loading first the "easy" elements of the page and then the page elements that take longer to download. This gives you the appearance of a faster-loading page and enables you to surf with fewer interruptions.

Users have only one complaint about the web browser so far: It doesn't support Flash. However, it's believed that Google will add support for Flash during a future update, and it will most likely appear on future Android-based devices. Of course, this isn't the official word from Google or the Android developers, so it's also possible (although not likely) that Flash support will never be part of the Android web browser.

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