Safari is a very popular browser, it’s fast, powerful and even syncs open tabs to all your other devices. But is Safari a browser worthy of your sole dedication? It is not the only browser for iOS, there are a lot of really impressive alternative browsers for your iPad, iPhone and iPod. I’ve spent a few hours testing out around 10 different browsers, and I’ve settled on my top 4 Safari alternative browsers for iOS.

Some are so impressive, you may not even go back to Safari.

To start off we’ll look at Chrome, one of the most popular Safari alternative for iOS.


Chrome Browser for iOS

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Chrome for iOS is a very fast and a powerful browser, it’s even made better if you are more into the Google ecosystem than the Apple ecosystem. For instance, Safari uses iCloud to sync your settings such as Reading List and open tabs, Chrome uses your Google account.

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Chrome synced tabs on an iPhone

I have to say, after using Google Chrome for a while on my iPhone and iPad I am incredibly impressed with its syncing speed. I’ve always found iCloud open tab syncing to be unreliable and slow. With Chrome the syncing process was almost instantaneous across all my devices including my Mac.

It’s also very smooth, all the graphical niceties such as switching, swiping away and opening tabs flow effortlessly. Tab management with Chrome on an iPhone and iPod is very impressive, and in my opinion vastly superior than that Safari. In the Chrome browser, to close a tab simply swipe it away with your finger, to switch to a different open tab scroll to the tab and watch as the tab windows elegantly slide open to show a preview.

It also has built in voice navigation that works surprisingly well. For instance, just tap the mic button and say “Google latest sports scores”. Chrome, unlike Safari has the ability to change a website from the mobile view to a desktop view as well.


Mercury Browser for iOS

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Mercury for iOS is another one of my favorite browsers for iPhone, iPod and iPad. It really stands out with its RSS / News Reader ability and it even lets you customize the way it looks with themes. Oh, and lets not forget that it can also use plugins.

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Mercury Browser on iPhone

The iPad version of Mercury is a bit more feature extensive than the iPhone and iPod versions as only the iPad version has the built in RSS reader. Mercury stands out for its customization and plugin ability, you can even have it download files directly to your Dropbox account.

The plugins are built into the app, you just need to enable them (if you want). The plugins included are Ad Block, Instapaper, LastPass, Pocket and Translate. It’s themes are also already added into the app, you simply choose a style. Unfortunately this means that there isn’t a public plugin / theme repository that you can choose from, just the ones included in the app.

Mercury also has bookmark syncing, you can choose to either sync with Chrome (Google account) or Firefox (Firefox account). Just like Chrome, Mercury can also turn a mobile version of a site into the a desktop version.


Puffin Browser for iOS

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Puffin for iOS is different from the average browser for your iPad, iPhone and iPod. It actually allows you to watch flash videos and even play online flash games. To start off I should mention that I didn’t partially enjoy the navigation and graphical look of Puffin. It doesn’t really look that nice, however if you want a browser with flash capabilities then Puffin will do the job well.

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Puffin Browser on iPhone

One of the other features that separate Puffin from the other browsers is the ability to enable a virtual gamepad and virtual trackpad. The gamepad and trackpad can be use for online flash games.

There are also a few other browsers in the App Store that have flash capabilities, however from the ones that I tried out, Puffin loaded the flash content the fastest and the virtual gamepad and trackpad are a nice touch. It can also use plugins, however they are mainly just sharing plugins.

There is a free version of Puffin and a paid version. The free version gives you a 14 day flash trial, after that you have to purchase the app to continue to view flash content. Currently it is $2.99.

Quick tip to those who try the virtual trackpad while playing flash games, to click use two fingers on the trackpad (ashamed to say it took me a minute or two to figure that out).


UC Browser for iOS

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UC Browser HD for iOS is another impressive Safari alternative browser. It has built in cloud features than can increase your browsing speed, easy access to sharing features, impressive view it later (offline) capabilities that also saves videos, and you can even download files to the device or cloud. The home page has a nice weather widget, and other buttons that you can customize to your favorite websites.

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UC Browser on iPhone

Do you have a slow internet connection or want to save data? UC Browser HD can compress content to make it load faster and use less data, costing you less and saving you time. On an iPhone or iPod tap the Speed Mode button, on an iPad tap the Cloud Acceleration button. Alternatively for even extra speed you can tap the “Text-Only” button. This will prevent all pictures and videos from loading, just the text will be shown.

If you enable Speed Mode while browsing this site, you’ll notice that all images look really… crappy and some of the upper navigation as well as the styling is different. This is simply its compression method at work. As you can see from just looking around this site, I like to use large images and make things look… pretty. Although this usually isn’t an issue since I try to counter react that by hosting AppDucate on extremely fast servers with CDN, it’s not always possible to have a high-speed internet connection to connect to it with. UC Browser HD can compress any websites content to make it load faster.

I think what really makes UC Browser HD stand out however is its download capabilities. It can even download YouTube videos for viewing offline. There’s no setup for it either, just simply press the download button on any video.


Final Thoughts

Here’s my quick summary of everything above:

  • Use Google Chrome if you want sync with Google and want a really impressive and fast browser.
  • Use Mercury if you want a really nice RSS Reader and want to use plugins.
  • Use Puffin if you want to access flash content.
  • Use UC Browser if you want to have awesome offline capabilities such as downloading videos easily.

Each one of the browsers listed above are very impressive browsers and there are a lot of features in each one that I didn’t go over, since I wanted to keep this article below 1000 1300 words. Safari is a great browser, I use it everyday, however after seeing all the options out there it’s really difficult to just solely stick to one browser. Be sure to check these alternative browsers out, they really do impress.