Then came the iPhone. Although it wasn’t the first smartphone or mobile device to make its foray into the field of mobile browsing, it was certainly one of the first to make the prospect of navigating the Web truly accessible on a mobile platform. Safari, Apple’s proprietary Web browser, sported a streamlined interface, remarkable speed, and a toolset worthy of competing with even the most industrious desktop browsers on the market without being tethered. However, despite Apple’s immense foothold in the mobile browser market in the early days, it’s no longer the only available option. Everyone from the aforementioned Google to Mobotap now touts an exclusive mobile app, quietly bringing tabbed and private browsing, cross-platform syncing, and the utmost simplicity to the forefront of mobile communing. Now, it’s only a question of personal taste.
Here are top picks for the best Web browsers for the iPhone, so you can make the most of the Web wherever you have a network connection. Also, check out our breakdown of the best desktop browsers for a quick comparison of Internet Explorer, Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, and Safari.
(To find other types of apps, check out our organized list of the Best iPhone Apps.)
Chrome is Google’s answer to Safari, a heavy-handed counterpart offering a slew of valuable tools and reveling in a deep-seeded integration with the Google ecosystem. Once properly synced, Chrome grants you access to nearly all data associated with your account, including passwords, search history, bookmarks, open tabs and the like. It’s exceptionally quick, offering an address bar that conveniently doubles as a search box, while touting the ability to swap between an infinite number of tabs or privately browse the Web using the software’s built-in Incognito tab.
Chrome even takes a well-executed shot at Apple’s personal assistant with Chrome voice search, allowing you to enter search inquiries with you voice even when using an older iPhone that doesn’t support Siri. The app’s interface is minimalist and simple, taking a direct cue from its desktop brethren and encasing a slew of functionality inside Chrome’s default, gray exterior. Like any mobile browser, an excess number of tabs can making navigation difficult on a small screen, but browsing is still done in such a way it never feels burdensome – especially considering the app showcases your top sites whenever you choose to open a new tab.
Best for: Those already heavily immersed in the Google ecosystem.
Atomic Web Browser ($2)
Try not to let the the $2 price tag deter you; extensive customization and quality often come at a price. Designed for both the iPad and iPhone, the Atomic Web Browser is one of the most of the fully-featured mobile browsers on the market, offering a bevy of exclusive features that have yet to slink their way into apps on our list. In addition to sporting unlimited tabs and the ability to import bookmarks from assorted desktop browsers, Atomic also comes coupled with a full-screen mode for using the entire iPhone screen to view webpages, and an intuitive ad blocker designed to curtail pesky banner ads via various URL filters. It’s relatively quick, garbed in a default charcoal-gray design, but you can tweak its settings to adjust the font size, lock the screen rotation, and identify the browser as a desktop client in order to curb websites from displaying an optimized, mobile version of their site.
Moreover, the color scheme can be switch between more than 10 colors, and the stable app boasts Dropbox integration and an intensive download manager in addition to a handy passcode lock that appears when the browser is launched. The latter isn’t by no means crucial, but the download manager is the best in its class given the software can decompress zip archives and run multiple downloads simultaneously with little interference. Just don’t expect the the most basic of interfaces, as Atomic’s can feel slightly overwhelming at first glance.
Best for: Those who prefer extensive customization and control.
Opera Mini Web Browser (Free)
Opera Mini began as a simple pilot project in 2004, derived from the king of open-source desktop browsers and built from the ground up to fetch all Web content through a proxy server. Being the case, the mobile browser is one of the fastest — if not the fastest — pieces of software on our roundup, quickly compressing data by up to 90 percent before downloading and displaying webpages and similar content on even the most crowded of networks. It’s lightweight and designed to run on limited bandwidth, so it doesn’t offer the myriad of standard features that rivals bake in.
Although options are limited, bookmarks and top sites can still be synced between the mobile and desktop versions of the software, and various multimedia content can be saved by simply tapping and holding said image, link, text or other content type on the screen. The equipped interface, dark and adorned with larger icons than are typically present on mobile browsers, is also a nice touch, allowing you to easily navigate between tabbed webpages and the dashboard tray at a moment’s notice. If desired, you can view webpages in a welcoming full-screen mode or take a glance at various data usage statistics highlighting the amount of data used in the current session or during the entirety of the app’s lifespan on your phone. And then there’s the informative Help menu outlining each component of the app.
Best for: Those who seek speed and an easy-to-navigate interface.
Dolphin Browser (Free)
Mobotap’s mobile browser could be most unique browser on our list based on the name alone, but it doesn’t stop there. Though it sports a somewhat high learning curve, it’s an incredibly stable browser, one coupled with a girth of valuable features and intrinsically rooted in social networking like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. Once synced with the appropriate accounts, you can share content across social networks with a single click, or save the content directly to their Evernote or Box account. Additional options for altering the homepage’s background image, adjusting the font size, and initiating full-screen mode are also present, as is the opportunity to privately browse the Web and block unwanted ads and various pop-up content.
Despite the mobile browser’s stark contrasts with Safari, it’s just as fast in terms of speed, and boasts syncing capabilities for saving your history, passwords, bookmarks, and other data across mobile and desktop accounts. Although more of a novelty than a crucial function, Dolphin incorporates a Pictionary-esque gesture navigation, encouraging you to draw a swath of recognizable symbols that will in turn initiate various actions. For instance, scribbling the letter “N’ on the dedicated input screen will automatically open a new tab, while drawing the letter “T” will direct the current tab to the main Twitter homepage. It’s not the most useful action, but it is inventive and surprisingly accurate.
Best for: Those who desire greater customization and novelty navigation.
There’s no way around it: Safari is more than capable as a mobile browser (albeit a bland one). The innate app comes preinstalled in all version of iOS, offering a convenient method for browsing the Web from the moment you begin using your phone. It also serves as the iPhone’s default browser — meaning it’s the app that automatically launches every time you click an email link, Facebook link, or otherwise perform an action requiring a Web browser — and as such, it’s impossible to avoid entirely. Regardless, Safari offers cross-platform syncing of bookmarks between devices, private browsing, the ability to save articles for offline use, and a unified smart search field used in predicting the closest match for your search inquiry.
Best for: Those seeking merely the bare minimum.
What do you think of our selection of the best Web browsers for the iPhone? Which do you prefer and why? Let us know in the comments below.