Why search for alternative iOS browsers?
All iDevices are preloaded with Safari. As far as default browsers go, Safari is pretty adequate. It offers a decent amount of features and options, and it is easy to use. But for some people, Safari isn’t enough. Maybe Safari isn’t aesthetically pleasing enough, maybe it’s not convenient enough, maybe it’s not secure enough. Regardless of what you’re dissatisfied with, the App Store has plenty of other Internet browsing alternatives. From well-known names like Google, to less known independent developers, there are a lot of iOS browsers out there. Here is a list of some of the best that are currently available.
10. Ghostery – Free
Ghostery is a browser that serves a more niche selection of users, but I think that its emphasis on secure and simple browser earns it a spot on this list. Ghostery is basically just like all of the other iOS browsers, and it comes with all of the standard features that one would expect from a web browser. There isn’t much pomp and frill. Ghostery prioritizes user privacy over more glamorous features.
Ghostery allows you to look at the ad networks that track your activity across different websites, and prevent those ad blockers from tracking you any further. For instance, suppose you’re browsing Amazon for a new pair of headphones. Ad networks will see that information, and they’ll give you headphone advertisements. If you’re put off by this level of corporate nosiness, Ghostery can help. Ghostery is all about transparency, and you don’t need to sign-up or anything to use the app. Ghostery’s source code is available online, if you really want to make sure that they’re as honest as they say.
Ghostery isn’t as pretty as other browsers, but I greatly admire their developers’ dedication to providing a safe and private user experience.
9. Night Web – $0.99
You may or may not know this, but the light coming from your iDevice’s screen isn’t actually white. It’s blue. This becomes readily apparent when you see someone using their iPhone in a movie theater. This blue-ish light makes a display look more appealing than a plain white light, but it’s also harsh on your eyes. Studies have shown that viewing a glowing screen bef ore bedtime is a bad idea, since the blue light basically tells your brain to “wake up”. The tweak f.lux can be installed on a jailbroken iDevice to change the brightness of the display as the sun sets. However, if you’re not on a jailbroken device, you’re out of luck.
The developers of Night Web saw this hole in the App Store market, and they filled it. Night Web is a browser with standard features and with a standard interface, but there’ s a slight catch. As the sun goes down in your local timezone, Night Web changes the brightness of your screen while you browse the web via their app. (This change is only present while you’re in their browser.) Essentially, a darker filter is laid on top of the browser, which allows the screen to use a brightness level that is lower than Apple’s stock lower limit. The “color temperature” is also changed, which tweaks the standard blue-ish light to become a warmer light.
Night Web is a Safari alternative that is quite literally easy on the eyes. I personally spend a lot of time browsing the Internet from my iPhone late at night, and Night Web is perfect for someone with that level of late-night use. Your retinas will thank you for this one.
8. Puffin Pro – $3.99
One of the biggest things that Apple users want is native Flash support. I remember when the iPad first came out, and people were so disappointed that they had this seemingly perfect media viewer that couldn’t view Flash video or play Flash games. As HTML5 becomes a more popular format, Flash seems to be dying out a little bit. However, there is still a fierce, albeit small, group of diehard Flash loyalists out there. Puffin Pro is a browser that’s very different from Safari, in that it isn’t really a mobile browser in the traditional sense. It’s not really mobile at all.
Puffin emulates a desktop computer to create a mobile Internet browsing experience that is much more like a desktop web browsing experience. This means a number of things for Puffin users. A lot of websites don’t allow a mobile user to view the regular, desktop version of the site. This means that if you have to find something on a poorly-optimized mobile website, you’re out of luck. Puffin lets you view desktop versions of websites, from your iDevice. Puffin’s claim to fame, however, is their support of Flash players. Now, don’t jump to conclusions. This doesn’t mean that you can jump on Puffin and play all of your favorite 3D Flash games. I’ve found that Puffin’s Flash support is most well-suited for viewing Flash videos. Most Flash games require controls inputted via keyboard, and some are too intensive for the average iDevice to handle. Puffin has a couple of extensions that allow you to emulate some input devices, but I’ve had mixed results with them.
Puffin’s Flash support was considered revolutionary at the time of its release. So, why is Puffin so low on this list? Since you’re using an emulation of a computer desktop, you’re basically using Puffin over a separate, private network. Although I have heard varying accounts from different people, Puffin is notorious for being slow. Yes, Puffin markets itself as being “wicked fast”, but some users will tell you the opposite. Puffin’s slow speeds would be understandable, since it’s having to carry out so many processes to deliver a desktop experience to a mobile device. Slow is still slow, though, and browsing with Puffin can be a pain.
7. Opera Mini – Free
If Puffin Pro is a heavyweight app, then Opera Mini is a ballerina. Opera Mini is a one of two browsers developed by Opera, a relatively big name in web browsers. Opera Mini is unique as a mobile browser, aimed at individuals who are browsing on a data plan. Opera Mini makes a lot of economic, efficient choices, which result in a data-friendly, battery-friendly, and time-friendly application.
Browsing the Internet on a mobile device tends to eat up a lot of data, as your device struggles to fully load a large amount of text, images, and scripts. Opera Mini sacrifices the quality of some of these web elements to speed up browsing, and also to spare data usage. As an example, Opera Mini will deliberately load pictures in a lower quality than normal, just to save that extra little bit of data. If you’re looking for a really rich and deep browsing experience, you won’t find that with Opera Mini. Although Opera Mini does take steps to mimic the interface of the beautiful standard Opera browser, priority is placed on data-efficiency above all else.
It’s difficult to compare Opera Mini to some of the other browsers on this list. How could you compare a bicycle to a diesel truck? Opera Mini offers a nice selection of browser extensions, with the intention of speeding up the overall browsing process. Opera Mini knows that it isn’t anything special or world-changing. They’re a quick browser that people use when they’re running out data, and they want to make that experience as easy for you as possible.
6. Opera Coast – Free
Speaking of Opera, let’s talk a little bit about Opera Coast. While Opera Mini is economical, Opera Coast is extravagant. Opera Coast, like Opera Mini, has a user interface very similar to that of the default desktop Opera browser. However, it has been played with just a little bit to better suit the mobile platform. Overall, Opera Coast is an aesthetically pleasing, easy to use, user-friendly experience. Opera Coast is a little different, and it takes getting used to if you don’t typically use Opera, but its quality becomes apparent once you get used to it.
If I had to say anything about Opera Coast, it would be that it’s absolutely beautiful. I’ve always been disappointed in Opera’s lack of mainstream success as a web browser, because I personally believe it’s the best looking “big” web browser out there. Opera Coast is no different, allowing you to customize color schemes, interface options, and a lot more. Opera Coast isn’t just a pretty face though. It also has a filter in place that scans websites for malicious content. Opera Coast will notify you when you open up a web page that they consider to be unsafe. You can browse with style AND peace of mind!
Opera Coast has another feature that has seen mixed reception from its users. When you search from the Opera Coast search bar, results are displays as images instead of as text. For some, this is a “if it ain’t broke” scenario, and the new way of displaying results is just change for the sake of change. Others, however, think that it’s innovative and more convenient than text-based results. Personally, I don’t mind either way, and I think both formats are equally easy to browse from.
5. Mercury – Free
Mercury isn’t quite as popular as some of the other applications listed here, but I think that it’s a powerful, well-supported, versatile iOS web browser that deserves a little bit of recognition. Mercury doesn’t have any gimmicks, it doesn’t have any feature that is particularly headline-catching. It’s an all-in-one browser that has pretty much anything that you would ever need out of a browser.
There are too many features to list, but if you can think of it, Mercury probably has it. File manager? Check. Theme library? Check. Private browsing? Check. Bookmarks? Check. Tons of plugins? Check. Nice to look at? Check. Granted, Mercury doesn’t do everything perfectly. In my extensive experience with the app, I’ve found that sometimes tap response is a little buggy. I’ll go to open an image in File Viewer, and I won’t be able to until I refresh the page a few times. It’s not app-breaking, but it’s a little irritating.
Regardless, it can’t be denied that Mercury is a great all-around iOS web browser for someone who wants a little bit of everything. Plus, Mercury has a very active development team, and the app updates regularly. Mercury is constantly growing and changing, which is nice in a category of apps where stagnation is easy to come by. If its stability improved by just a little bit, Mercury would have ended up higher on this list.
4. iCab Mobile – $1.99
iCab Mobile, along with Atomic Browser (now dead), were probably the two most popular iOS web browsers five years ago. Fast forward to today, and Atomic Browser’s development was abandoned in 2013, and it has been taken off of the App Store. iCab Mobile? Still going strong, and its most recent update was a day ago, at the time of writing. iCab Mobile turned heads when it first released by having its own file management system, which at the time had never really been done before. Today, its file management system is still a great feature, though it has since been joined by many others.
iCab Mobile, like Mercury, is a great multi-purpose browser. If you want a browser that looks good, iCab Mobile will be a browser that looks good. If you want a browser that is highly configurable, with an assortment of different unique functionalities, iCab Mobile can be that too. iCab Mobile pays such astonishing attention to detail, and the app can be as cluttered or as clean as you would like it to be. Not to mention, iCab Mobile offers Apple Watch support, which it does surprisingly well with.
iCab Mobile is a bit of a rarity in the iOS app world, because it’s an app that has become a recognized name, and has yet to be run through the mud. iCab Mobile has a devoted development team, and the app itself seems determined to remain relevant. Luckily for them, whatever they’re doing seems to be working.
3. Mozilla Firefox – Free
Firefox is one of the “big three” as far as web browsers go. Recently, Firefox has been in an impossibly tight race with Google Chrome as who reigns as Shah of web browsing. As far as desktop browsers go, Firefox is probably the winner. It offers functionality on par with Chrome, and it consumes a lot less memory. In the iOS market, Firefox still dominates. Whether it because it’s such a recognizable name or because the app actually shows promise has yet to be seen.
Firefox is kind of new to the iOS world, with its first iteration releasing onto the App Store late last year. As it currently stands, its features are sort of minimal, and it doesn’t seem to have a lot to offer beneath the surface. Firefox has a friendly and familiar user-interface, and Firefox users will be pleased to know that it very closely resembles the browser layout of standard desktop Firefox.
As you can imagine, Firefox is being very actively developed. It was only released in November of last year, and it’s already on its second version. The Firefox team is very well-equipped, and they’re dedicated to improving the Firefox app more and more each day. It may not be fair to place an app this high on the list based on potential, but I think that within a year or so, Firefox could be the browser for iOS devices. Keep your eye on this one.
2. Dolphin – Free
If you’re an Android user, you’re probably intimately familiar with Dolphin and all of its finer details. Dolphin came to the iOS market a while ago, and it has arrived to the same level of success that it reached on the Android platform. Dolphin is a simple, functional browser, and it’s pretty easy for a Safari user to make the transition over. Dolphin has a variety of different features, and most of them are pretty standard. You can create bookmarks for any website you’d like, assign websites to an auto-dialer, activate an ad-blocking extension, and the list goes on. However, there is one particular feature that Dolphin has to thank for its recent fame.
Dolphin allows the user to create custom touch gestures. Uninteresting, right? Not really. Dolphin lets you assign these custom touch gestures to websites, making for a potentially lightning-fast browsing experience. Maybe you want to check your email? Just swipe your finger in the shape of a star. Want to check up on the front page of the Gazette Review? Swipe your finger in the shape of a heart. The possibilities are endless, and it’s surprising that no one came up with this innovative feature before.
The web browser market is really competitive, and Dolphin should really top this list. It probably would have, were it not for the web browsing giant that lies ahead of it. Yep, I’m sure you know where this is going.
1. Google Chrome – Free
Who else? Google Chrome has absolutely taken over the desktop web browser game over the last couple of years, and that didn’t change when it moved over to iOS. I’ll admit that when it comes to desktop web browsing, I’m a bit of a Firefox fanboy. Even so, I can’t even deny that Chrome is by far the best web browsing app available for iDevices. Chrome for iOS provides a smooth, convenient, and intuitive experience that one would come to expect from Google.
Google doesn’t really bring anything game-changing to the table, but it takes all of the standard web browsing features that you would expect and it executes them to perfection. I never find myself thinking, “Why would they make it look this way?” or “Wouldn’t it be more efficient to do it like this?” There are very few things that I think you can hold against the Chrome app. It suffers from a few stability problems, but when you consider how much the app actually does, it’s easy to excuse them.
Chrome offers the same level of synchronization and ease of use that you’ve probably seen if you’ve ever used desktop Chrome. You’re able to quickly translate entire webpages, you’re able to synchronize bookmarks and browsing history across an array of different platforms, and you can do all of this quickly and easily. Web browsing should be easy, and Chrome makes it easy. And that’s what has always set Google apart from the competition.