iOS is a fantastic OS. As far as mobile operating systems go it represents a hell of an achievement in user-friendliness and speed. The iPhone and iPad exemplify the Apple design philosophy at its finest- end to end control over a product’s hardware and software to create a piece of technology that feels less like a gadget and more like art. Using an Apple product is smooth and seamless. It’s one of the real advantages of their “walled garden” philosophy to design.
The downside to the walled garden, though, is that it can be restrictive. Take alternate browsers, for example. If you don’t like Safari, there’s no option to change the browser in stock iOS. That sort of restriction is a bit chafing. Jailbreaking solves that issue, though. With Browser Changer, you can set a plethora of different apps as the default web portal on iOS.
Browser Changer is a great way to make your iDevice your own. It’s a chance to finally replace Safari with something a little more modern. With that in mind, we took a look at the alternate browsers supported by Browser Changer. There are other apps like this that aren’t included here, but they aren’t supported. Here are a few great alternatives to Safari for accessing the internet.
Safari Is The Stock To Beat
Safari is an app with which iOS users are intimately familiar. It’s the official first-party Apple web browser and ships standard on every iOS device. Safari has come a long way in terms of features, but falls short in a few very important areas.
One area in which Safari is quite strong is speed. It’s the only browser which Apple allows to use Webkit, a tool that speeds up performance significantly. Other apps get by fine without it, but Safari still enjoys that little noncompetitive advantage.
Mac users who prefer Safari as their desktop browser will enjoy the mobile version, especially in iOS 6. The new update will bring the ability to sync data between mobile and desktop and send links back and forth.
Safari is still very lacking in a number of areas. Tabs are limited. Private browsing is hidden in the Settings app. There’s no full screen mode. Safari isn’t a bad web browser, it’s just lacking a lot of the really good features that we take for granted in other apps.
We’ve been over Chrome for Android once or twice. Even on iOS, it’s a solid web browser. The tab handling is excellent, speed dial makes things easy, and the auto-completed URLs keep typing to a minimum. Throw in a few more awesome features like Incognito, voice command, and a user agent faker and you’ve got one hell of a web browser.
The real draw for Chrome, though, is that it syncs with your Gmail account. Sign in and you can transfer all the history and bookmarks from the desktop and Android versions of Chrome. It’s a great way to have your data on iOS with a minimum of fuss.
Chrome is a decent browser. Anyone looking for a good alternative would be well served here. However, the real draw is for those heavily invested in the Google ecosystem. For you all, Chrome for iOS is essential.
Dolphin is a highly popular alternative web browsing app on Android. Its iOS cousin is a very different beast, but retains that same high level of quality. Dolphin has all the features we’d expect in a modern web browser, plus a few more.
For example, when you start the app, it throws you into a specialized webzine start screen. News sources like Twitter, Facebook, TechCrunch, The Wall Street Journal, and PC Gamer are all there. On the side is a customizable speed dial designed to get you to your favorite websites.
Dolphin’s most creative feature is its gesture support. Tap the gesture button and you can use the iPad’s 10” screen to draw a symbol that will take you to a customizable website. You can even create your own gestures. It’s very cool.
Dolphin impresses for being fast, stable, and feature-full. The gesture support is the icing on the cake here. It doesn’t target a specific audience, but Dolphin is a great all-around browser.
Opera has long enjoyed a cult following on the PC for its exceptional desktop browser. However, some users are not a fan of it as they think it to be bloated. Opera Mini is precisely the opposite of its desktop cousin- an app intentionally designed to be as lightweight as possible.
Opera Mini is squarely aimed at two groups of people: those on a limited data plan, and those on a low-end device. This app requires very little in the way of resources in order to run. Older iOS devices would do well to try this out.
With regards to limited data, Opera Mini uses an ingenious scheme to preserve bandwidth. Pages are loaded through the Opera servers and compressed before being delivered to your device. The result is a browser that loads very quickly and uses very little data.
The downside of Opera Mini is that it’s sort of a Mini browser. The minimalist design theme means that the app lacks all those nice advanced features that make Atomic and Dolphin such a joy to use. That and an ugly interface are the downsides to Opera.
Opera Mini is a great browser for older iOS devices and those of you stuck on data plans with 2 GB limits. It’s pretty fast, too. Users who prefer speed over features will enjoy this app.
Download Opera Mini
Skyfire HD is another good browser. It’s not particularly great, with one exception. Skyfire is the first (and only) web browser on iOS that can play Flash videos.
Their solution is brilliant. Since iOS does not and will never support Flash, Skyfire’s servers convert the video into a friendlier HTML5 format. Not all videos work and games are entirely unsupported, but it’s better than nothing. With Skyfire, you can actually watch South Park and The Daily Show on iOS.
We were not fans of Skyfire’s performance, though. The app is extremely buggy. It crashed twice in testing and was generally quite slow. Maybe that’s because of its awful and overcrowded interface.
Basically, get Skyfire for Flash, or not at all.
Download Skyfire HD
Atomic Browser is a very un-iOS-like browser. The user interface is mediocre at best, but the features are superb. The description page for Atomic reads like a dream list of everything we ever wanted in a mobile browser.
Seriously. Atomic has unlimited tabs. Switching tabs is easy with multi-touch gestures for jumping from page to page. Those pages can be saved for offline viewing. If you want to take apart a web page, you can view its source code.
You can even hide the middling interface with a full screen mode. We recommend using this when using Atomic’s built-in video output to a TV. When viewing the web on a TV, you may need to visit the settings to adjust the in-page font size.
And finally, Atomic includes all the power user features we know and love. There’s support for downloading files, transferring said files via iTunes/Dropbox/email, a user agent faker, and an ad blocker.
For those of you who value features over speed or interface, Atomic is the perfect web browser. It’s certainly got features enough for the highest of power users.
Is It Worth It to Replace Safari as the Default Browser?
In the end, we couldn’t really find a single web browser that was notably better than the others. All of them are great choices. Hell, even Safari is pretty good. The answer to “What’s the best iOS browser?” ultimately depends on your personal needs. The good news? There’s something for every need.