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Best web browsers – alternatives to Safari

When you want to ‘browse better,’ these are the apps to try

The internet underpins much of modern life. It’s therefore vital your browsing experience is solid on any device you use. Safari for iPhone is a good browser, with useful features, not least tracker blocking and the reader view – along with allowing you to adjust these settings on a per-website basis.

But with other browsers being available, are you selling yourself short by sticking with what Apple provides? This round-up aims to find out, recommending the best web browser alternatives to Safari for your iPhone.

Changing your default browser on iPhone.

Note: If you’d like to make a different browser your default, access its page in Settings and select it under Default Browser App.

Google Chrome (free)

Best for Google Chrome users

Flat tab thumbnails in Chrome better Safari’s 3D view.

Web browser stats should be taken with a pinch of salt, but there’s no doubt Google Chrome is dominant, especially on the desktop. Much like Apple prizes cross-device usage, so too does Google. If you use its desktop browser on a PC, Mac or Android, you can share bookmarks with its iPhone incarnation, and open tabs recently used on other devices.

Beyond integration with Google’s ecosystem, there are other benefits. Voice search is a tap away and faster than Siri. Tabs display as a flat grid, making finding one much faster than in Safari’s dated 3D view. And built-in language translation is a boon whenever you view a foreign-language website.

Chrome lets you get at pages recently closed on other devices.

There are concerns about Google’s disregard for data privacy, but if you’re ensconced in Google services, you probably don’t care about that anyway. And do ignore nonsense you might read elsewhere about Chrome being a resource hog on iPhone – unlike on desktop, it uses the same browser engine as Safari and so is no more likely to impact on your iPhone than Apple’s browser.

Get Chrome

iCab Mobile (price $3/£3)

Best for customization and features

Opening eBay by scribbling an E on a virtual trackpad.

The only paid entry in this round-up does a lot to justify its price-tag – mostly by packing the browser with so many features that it might initially overwhelm. The tab bar features nine buttons. Tap the puzzle piece and you’ll see a massive list of scrolling modules. Tap settings and you’ll find dozens of things to configure. It can all feel a bit too much.

But for anyone keen to fine-tune their browsing experience, iCab Mobile is superb. Take time to explore and you find those modules can be pruned. You’ll discover the browser’s superb configurable gestural controls, for performing actions or even opening favorite websites.

So. Many. Settings.

It also has features you otherwise only tend to see on desktops and iPads, such as pinned tabs, multiple user accounts and split screen. The last of those can feel cramped, but is nonetheless useful when making comparisons across multiple tabs, without having to switch back and forth. In all, this is a great choice if you want more from your iPhone browsing experience.

Get iCab Mobile

Insight Browser (free)

Best for adding insight to web browsing

Sub-tabs add context and insight when you shop online.

This browser enables you to install – or even build – extensions. These then automatically provide you with additional context – or insight, as per the app’s name – when you browse. For example, when you access a product page on Amazon, automatic sub-tabs become available so you can check how the item’s price has changed over time, and what the item’s rating would be if dodgy reviews were removed.

Elsewhere, extensions exist to dismiss ‘open in app’ upsells, block ads that masquerade as content, and power up search by opening user-defined sites when looking for specific subject matter. The app also overrides YouTube niggles, letting you watch without adverts and use picture-in-picture mode – which we imagine Google isn’t too thrilled about.

Extensions are the heart of Insight Browser – and you can even make your own.

At present, the app is free, and although the developer has stated a paid tier is coming, it’s as yet unclear what that will entail. In the meantime, Insight Browser probably won’t replace Safari as your default iPhone browser, but it’s great to use alongside it for specific tasks.

Get Insight Browser

Ghostery Privacy Browser (free)

Best for no-nonsense private browsing

One tap and you can view an outline of everything Ghostery has blocked.

Although Safari blocks trackers, Ghostery is an entire business built around keeping browsing private. To that end, its iPhone version defaults to the DuckDuckGo search engine and bundles a bunch of blocking (trackers; ads; pop-ups). Whenever you visit a site, you can tap a button at the left of the address bar to view a privacy report. This outlines what is being blocked on the page. If interested, you can dig into a more detailed analytical report about the site.

The other main feature the app offers is the option to remove all browsing data with just three taps: Ghostery icon > Clear all browsing data > Delete now. On the confirmation screen, browser storage and tabs are selected by default, but you can also choose to remove all browsing and search history, downloaded files and even bookmarks if you wish.

Want to nuke your browsing history? It takes only three taps to do so.

Like Insight Browser, Ghostery is more geared towards specific use-cases than a full replacement for Safari. But whenever you prize privacy over all else, this browser is a robust, clean, elegant option.

Get Ghostery Privacy Browser

Also consider…

DuckDuckGo Privacy Browse‪r‬ (free): Like Ghostery, this simple browser values privacy. Its ‘fire’ button erases browser history in an amusingly unsubtle and not at all nuanced way.

Puffin Browser Pro ($5/£5): This curious app accesses a cloud server that runs a browser, enabling you to view desktop-oriented content that would otherwise be incompatible with your iPhone.

Microsoft Edge (free): One for Windows users, Edge syncs with its desktop equivalent. Its most interesting feature is Newsguard, which aims to warn you about dodgy news sites – although it’s too lenient.

Firefox (free): Again, we’re in ‘if you use this on the desktop’ territory. But Firefox is also a privacy-first non-profit that offers multiple levels of tracking blockers.

Opera (free): Rather than be a desktop sync, Opera for iPhone doubles down on speed, with an interesting one-thumb interface for quickly getting to important features.

Featured image courtesy @ulna_