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Browse the web from your wrist with µBrowser

Have you ever looked at your Apple Watch and thought, “I wish I could browse the web from my wrist!” Alright, probably not. But now you can anyway, thanks to the $0.99 µBrowser from developer Arno Appenzeller, who specializes in fun little utilities like PiPifier and TV Cards.

(Given its use of the Greek letter mu, which is short for the SI prefix “micro”, µBrowser should probably be pronounced “microBrowser”, but most people will probably call it “ubrowser”. Don’t search for “ubrowser ” in the App Store, because that will show several apps with that name that aren’t µBrowser. To me, it’s all Greek! But if you want to type the character µ on the Mac, it’s Option-M.)

Recognize the limitations of µBrowser

µBrowser actually works quite well on the small Apple Watch screen, although almost all sites, including ours, sorry! Once you get past that, the TidBITS site displays faithfully. Some sites with custom fonts, like Daring Fireball, don’t, but even then Daring Fireball doesn’t look terrible.

Besides the quirk of the custom font and the small screen, the main downside is that you have to hit a “Login” prompt every time you load a website, even if you’re not logging into anything. Arno explains when setting up µBrowser that this is an Apple requirement and that you don’t transmit any personal information when you do so. Hopefully Apple will remove this requirement soon.

uBrowser Login Prompt

There are also other limitations. Arno warns that µBrowser can have problems with JavaScript and large web pages. Also, don’t expect to be able to connect to most online services with µBrowser.

Browse the web from your wrist

On µBrowser’s main screen, there are three ways to navigate to a website: URL, DuckDuckGo search, and bookmarks.

As you can imagine, typing URLs on the Apple Watch screen is frustrating – tap the globe button to start typing a URL. Since I wear an Apple Watch Series 4, I’m forced to use Scribble, unlike Series 7 owners who can use a full keyboard. But I’m not even sure it would be much better. You can use voice dictation instead, which works well for most sites, like “twitter dot com”, but forget about trying to navigate to “slashdot dot org” that way (it will type /..org).

Entering a URL on µBrowser
Left: Tap the globe to enter a URL or the magnifying glass to search for DuckDuckGo. The previous URL or search term remains until you change it. Right: Entering a URL.

However, voice dictation works well with µBrowser’s search feature, which you activate by tapping the magnifying glass on the main screen. I also found out that at some point Apple made it possible for you to enter text on the Apple Watch with your iPhone, much like you’ve been doing with Apple TV for quite some time. It’s a nice feature but seems to thwart the point of navigating from your Apple Watch.

Prompt to enter text Apple Watch with iPhone

Arno’s solution to the URL typing problem is µBrowser’s iPhone companion app, which lets you create bookmarks that sync with your Apple Watch.

µBrowser Companion

I don’t know how useful you will find µBrowser, but I really enjoyed it. Plus, it can sometimes be legitimately useful, especially on a cellular-enabled Apple Watch with no iPhone available.