Dolphin Sonar Brings Voice-Powered Browsing to iOS

MoboTap, the startup behind the wildly popular Dolphin web browser for Android, is today releasing the iOS version of its recent Sonar add-on for Dolphin, which allows for voice-controlled web browsing. Dolphin Sonar has already been well-received on Android, according to Edith Yeung, Head of Marketing for Dolphin Browser.

“We’ve received overwhelmingly positive feedback from our users since Sonar for Android,” Yeung said in an interview. She wouldn’t share usage or uptake statistics related to Sonar, which might be an indication that the add-on, which is a paid upgrade, so far has only niche appeal. Even Apple’s well-publicized Siri voice-powered assistant, which comes pre-installed on all iPhone 4S devices, is only used an average of once a month by 87 percent of users.

Siri isn’t exactly gathering dust, but it definitely hasn’t replaced traditional forms of input like touch for daily use, and it’s built into the phone. Dolphin, by contrast, is a paid download from the App Store, lacks the ability to be set as the default browser on Apple mobile devices, and Sonar is also an additional cost add-on that requires an in-app purchase. In other words, it has a much steeper barrier to entry than Siri.

Yeung indicates that Dolphin is more about a long-term play to put the brand at the forefront of mobile browsing tech, rather than an attempt to go toe-to-toe with Apple’s own native solutions. “We already revolutionized mobile browsing with our Gesture, Webzine, Add-on features,” Yeung said, talking about previous Dolphin upgrades that improve touch-based controls, readability and organization of text-heavy content, and plug-in expansion. “Now with Dolphin Sonar, we’re again redefining how users interact with their browsers by bringing voice-controlled browsing and navigation.”

In the long-term, Yeung also sees Sonar as a way to make mobile device navigation in general easier for users. “We see voice as not only the future of Web browsing, but as the future of mobile navigation,” she said.”With Dolphin Sonar, we want to help everyone forget about typing. It lets people use their voice not only for browsing on mobile devices but also for navigation and sharing. The part I am most proud of and excited about is that Dolphin Sonar eliminates steps between thinking about an action and actually performing the action on a mobile device.”

For example, she mentions how you can simply say “Facebook John Doe” to search the social network for that person. If the app has no trouble understanding you (and it’s powered by Nuance voice recognition tech, arguably the best in the business), that requires much less time and far fewer steps than completing the same action with an on-screen keyboard.

Dolphin has a revenue model in place, as most of its apps are either paid or have paid upgrades available, and Yeung says the company is “still doing fine” with its $10 million Series A funding raised in August of last year. The company is doing well in terms of its goal of pushing the limits of browser tech as a pure-play mobile player; time will tell if that’s enough to secure it a long-term place in a market that’s sure to remain dominated by platform operators for the foreseeable future.

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