App

Privacy-focused browser continues to look out for internet users

Price: Free
Version: 7.0.4
Size: 30.6 MB
Platform: iPhone & iPad
Developer: DuckDuckGo

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When exploring a new internet browser on iOS, to move beyond using the default browser begs the question – what does it do that Safari doesn’t?

DuckDuckGo’s interface is delightfully simple

Safari actually has some decent privacy tools – you can tap the private button and the browser won’t store any of your browsing history, and an option in Settings can try to block websites from tracking you. However, veteran safety-first search engine DuckDuckGo believes we need to go even further down this path.

With the latest update to its web browsing app, it brings this conscientious approach to the everyday iOS user. And unlike Safari, DuckDuckGo actually pulls back the curtain on the worst offenders.

Tabs are laid out in a straightforward and unique way

But first, a quick history lesson: DuckDuckGo has been around since 2008 as an alternative to Google search, calling itself “the search engine that doesn’t track you.”

While over the years there have been some frustrations with the service, as it lacked many of the search tools which made Google so popular, in recent years the browser has got this covered. Users can select what information they’re happy to give up, rather than doing so by default, and this concept is translated straight through to its iOS privacy browser.

The browser gives each website a privacy grade, which can be accessed by tapping the letter to the left of the address bar

DuckDuckGo has been an option as the default search engine on Safari for a number of years too – so why use the official app? The answer is simple: it makes high security and user privacy the default, not an exception. The idea is, when you search, or when you browse the web, websites are blocked from tracking you. You know when you make an internet search and then Facebook or Google or Amazon start showing you a ton of ads that correspond to what you searched? That’s no coincidence, and it’s pretty creepy, right? DuckDuckGo’s whole ethos is to protect you from this kind of behavior.

It’s a pretty decent web browser in its own right, too. The design is darker than most browsers, which can take a bit of getting used to, but its home screen is charmingly simple, offering up a search bar front and center where users can either put in a web address or a search term to get started.

You can do a deeper dive to find out why websites might receive a bad score

One of the browser’s key iOS features is that at any point you can tap a large fire icon on the bottom menu and it will clear your entire browsing history, closing all tabs and expunging any data contained therein. Taking this privacy further, you can also set up a Touch ID or Face ID lock for the browser, so if you have left any tabs open, only you can access the browser.

If you do want to dig deeper into the exploitative nature of some websites, the browser supplies a grade for each site you visit. For example, its own search engine, predictably, has an ‘A’ grade for not tracking you and being open about its practices, whereas a site like Facebook gets a ‘C’ grade for leaving ad trackers on your browser, and having unclear privacy practices. It’s eye-opening to see how few websites are given top marks for respecting your privacy.

Additional features include locking the browser with TouchID

The only real issue we noticed was that sometimes the odd website may prove unresponsive or won’t load properly due to the app’s security restrictions. Sometimes we wondered if DuckDuckGo was going overboard in its hard-line approach to scrubbing untrustworthy web pages from your life – occasionally, good websites can get caught in the net too by virtue of the way they’re coded. If you do make the switch, be prepared to retain an app like Safari on call, just in case.

We’re big fans of the steps the browser has made over the years and we’re extremely impressed by its app which is easy to use, yet comes with all the expected features such as tabs and bookmarks. DuckDuckGo comes highly recommended for anyone with even passing concerns over their online privacy.

Review: DuckDuckGo – privacy focused internet browser
Leader of the pack when it comes to privacy-conscious internet browsing
For
  • Simple to use but full of features
  • Clear all browsing data with one tap
  • Lifts the curtain on tracking practices
Against
  • Certain websites may not load properly
5.0Overall Score