Portal – The web browser from the future [App of the Week]

Those familiar with the iPhone layout will be well aware of the four slots on the homescreen reserved for your most frequently used apps. For me, these are the apps that are key to everyday use – think ‘Messages’, ‘Phone’, ‘Mail’ and ‘Music’. Until recently these were set in stone, but now there is a new app on the block – Portal.

Portal – What is it?

Portal is a web browser that can be downloaded to your iPhone for surfing the internet on the move. It has many features similar to Safari, the iOS default browser, but adds a unique look and feel to the user experience.

The key difference between Portal and traditional browsers is the clear interface – no menu, status or address bars, just an unobtrusive semi circle at the bottom of the screen which can be hidden with a shake to utilise the full screen.

For more app recommendations, see our app review page.

Five reasons to try Portal

  1. Full screen web browsing
    The iPhone screen is small enough as it is, so why make it make it smaller? Portal does away with the address bar and navigation pane along top and bottom of more traditional browsers to display each webpage in true full screen. By my calculations it extends the height of the display area by over 35%.
  2. Choice of search engines
    The simple search function allows users to type in their search phrase then, instead of automatically letting Google retrieve the results, you can select what type of search you would like to perform. There are 18 options to choose from ranging from search engines like Google and Bing, to specific sites such as YouTube and IMDB (The Internet Movie Database).
  3. Research Mode
    If you’re always hunting for specific information on the web then Research Mode could really help you out. Create research topics by entering key information you are looking for, then when you’re browsing anything matching up to your topics will automatically be highlighted. You can save relevant web pages as Research bookmarks for viewing at another time.
  4. Custom user profiles
    Custom user profles allows users to select different browsing settings at the touch of a button. Default and Private profiles are automatically given but you can create many more. For example, I have created a ‘Quick’ profile, where images are prevented from loading, making web browsers much quicker – perfect for when I have a weak 3G signal.
  5. Fast web navigation
    As the interface on this broswer is rather unique it does take a while to get used to the functionality. However, once you have mastered it then web navigation can be really fast (see video below). There are also 13 gestures which Portal will recognise to speed up browsing.

Lewis’s first impressions of Portal

I have to admit, the first day using Portal was a bit of a struggle. The menu system is so different to anything I have ever used or even seen before, it all seemed a bit foreign. However, now it is probably one of the apps I use the most on my iPhone.

One thing that always annoyed me with Safari is opening multiple windows – if you have several open at once it can be quite frustrating when going back and forth. Although Portal doesn’s have tabs, the process for switching between open pages is much slicker and I actually think it’s a better system than tabbed browsing for this specific device.

Overall Portal is a great replacement for Safari, not least because it is different what the majority of iPhone owners are currently using. The only downside I have come across so far is that Safari is, and always will be the iPhone default browser. That means, any website shortcuts saved to the homescreen and any links in emails and texts will automatically open Safari to display the content – something that I feel needs to be addressed.

Download Portal now

For iPhone – Portal

Have you tried Portal out? Or maybe a different web browser? Let us know what you think in the comments below.

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