There’s no shortage of general purpose browsers to help you explore the Web on your iPhone, so why should you care that a company called RockMelt has released a new version of its browser?
One reason: It’s not a conventional browser. Instead it’s dedicated to helping you find new content on the Web while making it easy to stay current with the activities of your friends and colleagues on Facebook and Twitter. And you can do it all with a finger or two.
RockMelt made a bit of a splash a few months back when it launched a tablet version. The new version (available on iTunes, but only for iOS 6 and later) is much the same, but it has been scaled down to fit the smaller screen. The interface is simple and fairly intuitive: Tap on a story to read it, swipe to the left to close it, and swipe to the right to save it for later. Tap the RockMelt “R” logo to return to your home stream.
Because the screen is small, you can wind up with a long string of tiles representing Web sites and activities you might want to look at. But RockMelt has a neat workaround: Shift your iPhone into landscape mode and you’ll have two columns side by side.
I haven’t tried the iPad version, but other reviewers have mentioned that your friend list and sites you’ve followed are synchronized between the iPhone and iPad versions, as are the pages you’ve saved to the sidebar.
RockMelt’s developers have cranked out a number of iterations of the product. It started out as a social browser for the desktop in 2010 and has since gone on to attract about 4 million users for that product. In early 2011, the company launched a version for the iPhone that was more focused on browsing. That version is now gone.
RockMelt for the iPhone can be used as a standard browser, but frankly, it’s not very good at that. Typing in the name of a URL doesn’t actually bring up the website, but rather a list of tiles, one of which will likely take you to the website itself, but there’s no auto-complete feature to make it quicker.
All in all, RockMelt is a good companion to your favorite mobile browser, but it won’t replace Safari or Opera Mini on your iPhone.
San Francisco journalist Bill Snyder writes frequently about business and technology. His work appears regularly in CIO.com and the publications of Stanford's Graduate School of Business and the Haas School of Business at the University of California at Berkeley. He welcomes your comments and suggestions.