Which is the best web browser for the iPhone? Safari is the default option pre-installed on every new iOS device, but there are plenty of excellent alternatives. In the past, Safari held a considerable advantage, due to the fact that it was impossible to change the default browser, but since the launch of iOS 14 you can now choose which one opens when you click on links.
With this in mind, we’ve tested and rated seven of the best third-party browser apps, all looking to take the crown from Apple’s own Safari.
If you want to learn how to switch default browsers, as well as email and music apps, take a look at how to change your iPhone’s default apps. Or, if this inspires you to try a new desktop browser too, find out what we think is the best Mac browser.
Pros: Based on the same ‘design language’ you will experience throughout the rest of iOS, meaning many features and defaults will feel more natural to use. Tightly integrated with iPadOS, macOS and watchOS
Cons: Behind rivals on some features
What about the built-in Safari web browser? Safari is behind its rivals on certain features and no doubt has its critics, but there are some big reasons to stick with Apple’s own browser.
For a start, Safari is integrated into iOS in more intangible ways than other browers – the overall design aesthetic, for example. This means that Safari feels like a natural extension of the iPhone and its menus and settings. We love that we can create a link to a particular web page and have it as an icon on our Home screen, for example. (To do that, tap on the Share icon and choose Add To Home Page).
If you want to surf the web incognito you can just tap on the tab in the bottom right to open the tabs view and then tap on the Private button on the bottom left to open a new private page – you can tell it’s private if the URL bar is grey.
Safari boasts a great Reader mode that can turn busy websites into simple text pages to read more easily, plus you can add articles on web pages to your Reading List where you can come back to them later when you’ve got more time. There’s also the Handoff feature, which allows you to pick up where you left off when you move between iPhone, iPad and Mac, not to mention iCloud Keychain, which securely holds your passwords for sites and shares them across devices logged into your account.
Finally, there are the advantages held by any incumbent: it’s the easiest option, since it’s preinstalled and you don’t need to invest any time looking into alternatives; and it’s comfortable, because you’re already used to the way it works. All the other browsers here will require some getting used to – but if you find one that’s worth sticking with that’ll be a one-off investment.
Pros: User-friendly tab organisation and navigation; many useful features
Cons: Google-phobes may dislike the company’s tendency to track and sync, and if you don’t want to sign in you lose some of the advantages
Google’s Chrome browser for iOS is well made and a pleasure to use, particularly if you’re deeply entrenched in Google’s ecosystem. If you use Chrome on the Mac, for instance, you can sign into Chrome on both and sync your tabs, reading lists, bookmarks and passwords.
Chrome includes a voice-search mechanism, translation capabilites to render sites readable no matter what language is used, plus there’s the option to enable Handoff so that you can move from iPhone to iPad to Mac without losing your place on a site.
Chrome’s tab management is excellent, with simple controls allowing you to quickly open new ones (regular or incognito), switch between them via a 2D flat-plan view, as well as access recently viewed pages. This all feels a little more modern than Safari’s dated 3D-page view for tabs.
The general interface is strong, too: back in the main view, tapping on the left or right arrows in the bottom corner takes you to previously viewed tabs, and we like the user-friendly ‘drag down to refresh’ that you get on all web pages – something we wish Safari would adopt.
Chrome offers to cut your data usage with a Data Saver optimisation mode which, according to Google, could reduce things by as much as 50%.
If you use Chrome as the browser on your desktop that’s a good reason to use it on your iPhone and iPad too. You will miss out on some iOS features built into Safari, such as Apple Pay and the general integration, but Google Pay is a good alternative.
The only real drawback is that Chrome is known to be something of a resource hog, using up RAM when running. But this tends to be more of an issue on the desktop than on iOS, as we didn’t experience much in the way of slowdowns even with multple tabs open.
Pros: Plenty of useful features; great for use with a Windows 10 PC
Cons: Requires Microsoft account to access full feature set; slightly blocky design
If you like Chrome but aren’t keen on the whole ‘Google having your data’ thing you might be interested in Microsoft Edge, aka Edge Chromium.
Back in 2020, Microsoft switched to the Chromium engine for its browser, hence a similar feel to Google’s Chrome app, but Edge has its own design and approach.
If you use a Windows 10 PC, then you’ll like how Edge allows iPhones and PCs to link together and exchange web pages, bookmarks, Cortana settings and a few other things. Edge also includes attractive features such as tracking prevention (which Chrome doesn’t offer) and the ability to block ads. You can also browse in private.
Edge is a fully fledged browser replete with tabs, password manager, reading list, language translator and plenty of additional goodies, plus you can sync your browsing history, open tabs, auto-fill data and passwords across various devices if they’re logged into the same Microsoft account.
A recent new addition is Collections, which acts as a Pinterest-style scrapbooking feature where you can select web pages and add them to themed folders. This is cool, especially if you’re planning an event, holiday or something similar.
It’s a great browser for Windows users, but pretty decent for everyone else too.
Pros: Slimline design; Cryptowallet; built-in ad-blocker; made for one-hand use
Cons: No bookmarks or online syncing
Opera is widely understood to be the connoisseur’s choice of web browser software. It occupies only about 1% of the browser market on desktop, but its users claim (not without some justification) that it’s the best product around.
On iPhone, Opera now has the Touch browser, seemingly replacing all that came before with a slimline app focused on speed of use, simplicity, and a one-hand interface.
The company states that this was designed primarily for use on the go, which explains the rather sparse, if admittedly interesting, layout. The controls centre on a purple circle that resides at the base of the screen. Tapping this once will cycle through either the browser’s Home screen or the last tab that was open.
Holding the button down opens a quick menu where you can open a new tab, close the current one, access all open tabs, go back to the previous page, start a search or send the page to your ‘Flow’, a feature that we look at below.
Opera has decided to leave bookmarks out of Touch, which is a controversial decision, so if you’re heavily reliant on lots of folders and links then this isn’t the one for you. It does provide a history of your browsing, plus there’s the aforementioned ‘Flow’ feature where you can link the Touch app to a desktop version of Opera and send articles and web links back and forth.
Curiouser still is that while Touch has a stripped back, mobile-first approach to features, the company has seen fit to add a built-in Cryptowallet that can handle cryptocurrency such as Ethereum. Add to this the ad-blocker, pop-up stopper and cryptomining protection, and you have a strange new breed of browser, albeit one we find quite intriguing.
Pros: Free unlimited VPN; gesture control is both convenient and cool; solid privacy protection
Cons: Best VPN features requires signing up to (admittedly inexpensive) premium tier
Cake is one of the newest entries on this list and is unusual in that it doesn’t have a desktop counterpart. With this mobile-focused approach, the developers have employed a heavily gesture-based interface that actually works rather well.
For example, when you search for something online, swiping left and right loads each linked page that appears in the results, so you can quickly find the site you’re after. It’s a simple idea, but it seems crazy that we’ve not come across it before.
When you find something you like, tapping the Menu icon on the bottom row opens a small pane where you can select from a number of options, including Adding it to your bookmarks or Pinterest-style Collections, using the Find on Page feature to locate specific text, saving images or even opening the page in Safari.
Cake has plenty of privacy protections, with tracking blockers, ad-blockers, Force HTTPS, passcode protections, plus a built-in free VPN.
The latter is a nice touch, but if you want faster servers, the option to select where the server is located, not to mention being able to use the VPN with any app on your device, then you’ll need to move to the Premium tier which costs £1.99p/m or £19.49p/a.
This is a good alternative to Safari with plenty of interesting ideas. Now, a desktop version would be the icing on that Cake.
Pros: Blocks ads, analytics, social and tracking data, making it one of the most security-focused browsers on iOS; simple to use
Cons: No history, menus or tabs; very basic browser
Firefox Focus is a browser that puts privacy at the top of its agenda, and we found it did exactly what it said on the tin (or App Store), in that it blocks a wide variety of trackers, allows you to easily clear your history and putting you in control of your internet history.
However, it is limited – you lack a history, menus, or even tabs! This is a major drawback, but if security and privacy are the most important things on your agenda it’s a compromise you may want to make.
Should this be too much of a sacrifice, there is still the normal Firefox browser which boasts a full complement of features and plenty of additional tools.
Pros: Very strong privacy and anonymity features
Cons: Nature of app means it isn’t feature-rich
If you don’t like advertisers tracking your browsing habits, Ghostery is the browser for you.
The app is designed with privacy – and anonymity – as its primary aim. There are no cookies, no signups and no collection of user data by the app itself (unless you opt in to provide anonymised data to help Ghostery compile its database). And if the web page you’re on is using any ad trackers, Ghostery will spot them and report how it has protected you.
It’s a little on the basic side for power users, but if you just want to surf the web without worrying about who is monitoring your activities, then you should at the very least download Ghostery as an accompaniment to Safari.
Duck Duck Go
Pros: Keeps you safe online; clears all history and data when you finish using app; can leave specific sites untouched
Cons: Simple feature set
Another champion of protecting people’s online activities is Duck Duck Go. You may know it as one of the alternative search engines you can use in Safari and other browsers, but the service also has a dedicated app of its own.
Like Ghostery, Duck Duck Go employs various privacy tools to keep your browsing anonymous and safe. When you’re finished using the app you can tap the Fire icon on the main page, which will then close all tabs and delete the data (cookies, browsing history, etc) so that you leave no trace behind.
If you want, you can mark certain sites as Fireproof, so that they will maintain your login details and cookies, making the app usable day to day rather than just as a burner.
DuckDuckGo is a simple app that keeps out of the way but watches your back.