Safari may be the default browser for iOS, but it’s far from the only choice. There are plenty of great web browsers for the iPhone and iPad, so whatever on the features you want — whether it’s third-party plugins or tab syncing with your desktop — you have options. Last week we looked at the five best Android browsers, so this time around we’re picking out the five best for iOS.
One area where iOS browsers can’t really compete is raw performance. Because Apple doesn’t allow browser developers to embed their own engine, no one has a speed or rendering edge on anyone else. We acknowledge that, but there’s more to a good browser than its rendering engine. Let’s take a look at your five picks for the best of breed.
Apple’s Safari comes stock on every iOS device, and it’s a natural pick for the top five. It’s feature-rich enough to make mobile browsing easy and functional. You get plenty of tabs, and Safari’s “Reader” mode, which highlights the text of an article in an easy-to-read view without ads and other fluff that can clutter up a web page. When you have finished reading, you can add the article to iCloud to read again on the desktop or simply for safe keeping. Safari supports bookmark syncing via iCloud as well, and lets you add your favourite sites to your home screen as shortcuts so you can get back to them quickly. Fast, free and right there on every iOS device: it’s no wonder many of you don’t bother with anything else.[clear]
Atomic Browser is our favourite web browser for iOS, mostly because of its deep feature set. It will set you back $0.99, but for that price you get ad blocking, form autofill, password management, Dropbox support for downloaded files, the ability to download and expand ZIP archives, private browsing and tap-to-call phone numbers. Atomic has some other useful features as well, including the ability to skin the browser with themes, the ability to save web pages for offline viewing, and configurable gestures for navigation. It’s a feature-packed app for a buck. [clear]
Google Chrome for iOS may be less than a month old, but it has already captured the hearts of many readers. That’s no surprise — if you use Chrome on the desktop, it’s a great alternative for your iPhone or iPad, since you can sign in to Chrome Sync and enjoy all of your bookmarks, search history and passwords seamlessly. The way Chrome handles tab management in iOS — essentially by letting you “stack” tabs on top of one another if you want them out of the way for a moment — is unique, and definitely helps you keep track of what you’re reading. Plus, Chrome for iOS supports Incognito Mode, so you can surf privately without being tracked or leaving (much of) a trace. [clear]
Dolphin Browser is one of our favourite choices on the Android side, and there’s a lot to love about it on iOS as well. Dolphin saves passwords and some form data, and will sync bookmarks and other data using its new Dolphin Connect service. Dolphin for iOS also comes with Dolphin Sonar, a speech-to-text engine that allows you to search the web or navigate to your favourite sites just by speaking to your iPhone or iPad, and supports custom gestures for browser navigation (forward/back/jump to top/go to bottom) and for your favourite sites. Dolphin also includes “Webzine,” which is similar to Safari’s “Reader” view, stripping out the ads and fluff for a streamlined reading experience. Dolphin even supports third-party plugins. [clear]
iCab is a name we hadn’t heard in a long time. It will cost you $1.99, but for the money you get built-in ad blocking, form auto-fill, the ability to import and export bookmarks and bookmark folders to and from the desktop, and even a fully-featured download manager that lets you download anything you could from a desktop browser. The app supports Dropbox, so you can stash downloads there. iCab also supports gestures, custom links to Facebook, Evernote, and other third-party services, and more. It’s the most expensive option in the roundup (Atomic is $0.99 and everthing else is free), but you definitely get features for the money.[clear]
This week’s honourable mention goes out to Opera Mini for iPhone and iPad, which some of you praised for being fast and lightweight, even though it’s designed to stick to the mobile web and doesn’t offer a lot of add-ons or features.
Have something to say about one of the contenders? Want to make the case for your personal favourite, even if it wasn’t included in the list? Make your case for your favourite — or alternative — in the discussions below.