When Chris Lacy, developer of Tweet Lanes and Action Launcher, announced his intentions to fix the terrible in-app web linking experience in Android, I was thrilled. The fact that Android allows for changes to its default app scheme means that tapping on a link in, say, Twitter, may launch a browser like Chrome, while tapping a link in Feedly opens a web view within the app, means that users can’t rely on a consistent experience. Ever tapped an Instagram image in the official Twitter app? It opens a web browser which then opens Instagram itself. It’s a mess.
Link Bubble is like Chat Heads for links: it opens a web view on top of whatever app you’re currently in; you can stack multiple windows and cycle through them if need be, and you don’t have to leave the current app while they’re loading. It’s a tab hoarder’s dream web browser.
If you don’t understand exactly how it works, I’d recommend watching the video Lacy made and promptly going to the Play Store and spending $5.54CDN to purchase the full version. Merely being able to stack a number of new tabs at once while continuing to scroll through Newsblur, my go-to RSS reader, is reason enough to use Link Bubble, but the possibilities are truly endless.
There’s also the added advantage of being able to quickly share the link by dragging it to one of two tabs: the left side is user-configurable, but defaults to Pocket, or if that’s not installed, Facebook; the right side is the general Android share menu, which facilitates moving the link to one of dozens of apps.
Moving the circles around can tax the system depending on the age and speed of the device; I found the entire UI to slow down considerably after just two tabs were loaded on top of my app, but the Nexus 5 was not nearly as negatively affected. Lacy says he’s already working on improving performance post-launch, and we know that Action Launcher improved a lot in subsequent releases.
Much of Link Bubble’s flexibility comes in the settings that can be changed. For instance, tabs maximize by default once they’re loaded, but this behaviour can be changed if you like to load a bunch of links in the background and read through them one by one. Unfortunately, it’s not yet possible to maximize the web view, so the “browser” window is much smaller than a typical Chrome or Firefox window. Still, it’s easy to load your default browser more room is needed.
Link Bubble is a gift to Android users, and a testament to the platform’s flexibility. It’s not perfect itself, but so improves the default link-opening behaviour in other apps that it immediately nullifies any concerns about using it.