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Feb 3, 2011

App Review: Portal for iOS

by Stephen Ashby

Ever yearned for a full-screen web browser for your iOS device? You’re going to want to look at this.

App Review: Portal for iOSSince Apple started allowing other developers so submit alternative browsers to the iOS App Store there have been a few major competitors trying to take the crown. Opera was the first direct competitor for Safari, with SkyFire later offering Flash support (by converting it to HTML5). Now there is Portal, the new kid on the block, and if you feel like you need more screen space it may be just the app for you.

App Review: Portal for iOSApp Review: Portal for iOS

With a simple shake of your phone you can show or hide the dot, giving
you a full screen browsing experience

Portal is a full-screen browser which uses a small spot on the bottom of the screen as it’s entire control input. You can shake to show or hide the spot if you want the full viewing space, and by holding down a finger on the dot, a menu spirals out offering you options for Tabs, Navigation or Actions. moving your finger to another of these offers you even more options. It takes a little getting used to, but it’s a simple enough system with a smooth, stylish design. When you’re loading a page, the loading bar is moved from the top of the screen to an orange line that slowly makes its way around the dot; it looks great.

App Review: Portal for iOSApp Review: Portal for iOS

The button at the bottom of the screen acts as both a control panel and a
loading bar

A new feature, called Research Mode, allows you to search a page for certain text and jump to it instantly. “But that’s just like the Find function!” I hear you cry. Portal has taken the idea and run with it, offering you the ability to create Reseach Topics, and add key phrases to each one. The example they give is buying a new TV; you create a topic called TV, then create key phrases of “HDMI”, “3D” and “1080″, giving each key phrase a different colour. When you launch the search, Research mode will find each word on the page and colour code them, so you can easily see which TVs have all the options that you want. It’s not something you would necessarily use every day, but it’s a nice addition. It works well, and it’s easy to create topics and phrases, but they will tag everything on a page until you turn them off, which can be a little annoying.

App Review: Portal for iOSApp Review: Portal for iOS

The search has 3 pages of choices, and once the page is loaded the two sides
of the socket come together in a pleasing animation

While the app costs £1.19/$1.99 to download, it works really well and it a great addition to your iOS device. If you want a little more space on your iPhone screen while browsing it will be perfect for you. When you’re used to the interface you’ll wow your friends with it’s beautiful design, and it’s quick enough that you won’t be waiting any longer than you do with Safari. An excellent browsing alternative.

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