Apple’s Safari browser for the iPhone is fast and secure, but other browsers have more privacy features and greater customization options.
The easiest iPhone browser choice is Safari, which Apple pre-installs, but there are plenty of alternatives, and there are at least eight that deserve a closer look for anyone seeking something a little bit different. Because while Apple frequently touts its focus on privacy, some third-party browsers claim to do even more. Another common thread from other browsers is compatibility with the desktop app and unique user interface features.
With many websites having dedicated apps, some users no longer rely upon a web browser for daily activity. Every major social media, shopping and most financial companies use apps to enhance security while making it quicker and easier to log in with a glance (Face ID) or a press of the finger (Touch ID). Google and Bing searches are even possible via apps, eliminating opening a browser when looking up information online. Something that most apps lack, however, is the ability to open tabs and that convenience and control are hard to beat.
The iPhone’s Safari app is perfectly okay to use as a web browser without looking elsewhere. It’s fast, secure, and well-integrated with the rest of Apple’s ecosystem, making it an excellent default choice for the iPhone. There are, however, good reasons to shop around, with the most obvious being desktop browser compatibility. For iPhone owners that also use a Mac or MacBook, website passwords and bookmarks, tab groups and shipping addresses carry over from one device to the next via Apple’s Continuity features. It’s a different story for Windows PC owners since Apple doesn’t make Safari for Windows. For that matter, Safari won’t work with a Chromebook or Linux computer either. However, if the mobile app matches the installed desktop browser, synchronization data between the two is still possible. For those using Google Chrome on a computer, it might make the most sense to use it on the iPhone as well. The same is true of Mozilla’s Firefox and Firefox Focus, Microsoft’s Edge, DuckDuckGo, Opera and Opera GX, as well as the Brave browser.
Google Chrome is the world’s most popular web browser on the desktop and smartphones. Its share of users on the iPhone is small compared to Safari usage, but plenty of people use and prefer Chrome. Moreover, it’s pretty convenient when also using a device that runs Android. Copy a link and bookmark it in Chrome on the iPhone, and it will be there on the Android phone as well, and vice versa. Chrome also works on Windows, a Mac and a Chromebook, bridging the divide between platforms.
Mozilla also makes another web browser for the iPhone called Firefox Focus, and it’s designed to keep things simple. A somewhat debatable ‘feature’ is a total lack of tabs. Users can open only one web page at a time. After Firefox Focus is installed, a Safari extension with content blocking controls becomes available, providing an extra incentive to get this app. A trash can icon at the bottom of the screen can quickly dump browsing history and close the open page.
Microsoft Edge is the default browser for Windows PCs, making this a good choice for iPhone owners that work or play on Windows computers. Edge is quite different from the old Internet Explorer browser that crumbled under the combined force of Chrome, Firefox and Safari, which adopted modern web standards much sooner. By comparison, Edge feels quick and light, allowing users to earn Microsoft Rewards while browsing. Edge also provides unique tools to help with comparison shopping, such as collections and coupons.
As silly as the name sounds, DuckDuckGo is a real web browser made by the same company behind the increasingly popular search engine by the same name. Naturally, every search made in this iPhone browser gives the results from the DuckDuckGo search engine, so fans of this alternative to Google and Bing will want to check out this web browser. DuckDuckGo also includes a special Fire button at the bottom, which allows quickly ‘burning’ all tabs and browsing data, so no evidence remains on the iPhone.
Opera is another web browser that has been around for decades but always seems to be innovating to add value. Opera Flow is an excellent example of this. It connects an iPhone or Android phone to a Mac or Windows computer to allow more than just syncing bookmarks. Flow provides a short-term shared online space for encrypted file transfers between devices. With a quick QR code scan on the computer screen, the setup is complete, and users can move files back and forth with ease. Opera also can be told to dismiss those annoying cookie permission popups automatically.
A variation on Opera called Opera GX has a smooth gaming flavor with custom theming to showcase favorite games or screenshots and a gaming news feed called GX Corner that appears on each new tab. In addition, the Fast Action Button allows super-fast, one-handed browsing with the swipe of a thumb. It’s one of the most distinctive browsers available and worth a look.
Brave is another privacy-focused browser. A key feature that distinguishes it from others is the ability to lock the browser, so Face ID or Touch ID is required to use it even if the iPhone is already unlocked. This protects browser information if the device is snatched out of the user’s hand while in use, which sadly has been known to happen. DuckDuckGo and Firefox Focus are the only other browsers with this degree of protection.
With so many excellent browsers available on the iPhone, it might be challenging to choose which to use. Safari is an easy and obvious pick and works well. There is absolutely nothing wrong with staying right there. For more advanced privacy controls that lock down the browser and quickly zap away browsing data, Brave and DuckDuckGo are excellent choices. For compatibly with Android and Windows, it’s hard to beat Chrome or Firefox and Edge, although Opera is a multi-platform browser as well with some unique capabilities. The iPhone can handle multiple web browsers. The default browser can be changed easily, so it might be best to install any of these interesting free apps and explore the possibilities.
Next: How To Replace Safari With Different Browser App On iPhone
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Alan is a Tech Writer living in Nova Scotia, Canada. A tech-enthusiast since his youth, Alan stays current on what is new and what is next. With over 30 years experience in computer, video and photo equipment, you can expect useful tips and insights in his writing. Alan has a degree in programming, many years focused on design, editing, and animation. A period of managing logistics and e-commerce operations for a mobile accessories company rounds out a diverse background. Alan is a true jack of all digital trades in this ever-changing computer-enriched world. To stay flexible in mind and in body, he practices yoga, light cardio, and eats a whole food diet, based on minimally processed plants.