Best Free Web Browser for iOS

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Introduction

Apple iOS operating systems are used in all of apple’s portable touch screen devices. Apple specifically has designed there operating systems to be secure, stable and easy to use, with apples latest incarnation iOS7 being the best yet.

Whilst all iOS devices come with Apple’s own Safari browser built in, there is a big choice of 3rd party browsers available for free via the Apple App store, which do the same job as Safari.

Discussion

Apple Safari

Safari is the benchmark of all my reviews due to it being inbuilt into all iOS devices, and because it is the most popular web browser used with Apple users. With the launch of iOS7, Safari has been updated to include some very useful features. Although Safari is the same on all iOS devices, the layout is different between the iPhone, iPod touch and the iPad. This is basically due to the limited amount of space on the iPhone and iPod touch; therefore Apple has had to alter the layout.

Main Features accroding to manufacture

Bookmarks Synchronization
Share Sites
Reading List
Gestures
Full Screen Mode
 
Review
 
After tapping the Safari icon, Safari loads within a second. One negative issue is that it does not have a home page. The last page you view appears every time you load Safari. This is fine, but if you’re like me and like to start every session with the same website (which in my case is Google) this is annoying. 
 
Safari, on the whole, is fast but at times it does feel slow when loading webpages. Another problem is that Apple does not support Adobe flash player. This means that there some websites that do not display correctly and certain features such as videos are unavailable. 
 
The layout of Safari is very good, with all the main features easy to find and it has a very clutter free appearance.  The new tab button works instantly as does the bookmark button. 
 
Safari has a lot of useful gestures such as holding a finger down on a word, website, etc.… brings up the options: Copy, Define, Open in New Tab, and Add to Reading List, which I find to be a big help.
 
One of the best new features in Safari is the Reading list function. This basically allows you to save websites so they can be read when your device is offline. This is perfect if like me, you go to places where there is no or very slow Internet.
 
With Apple's iCloud service, all your bookmarks are instantly shared among all of your iOS devices and laptops/desktops. However, it will only share with Safari web browser and not any other browser. However, this works instantly between your devices and is a very useful feature.
 
 

Google Chrome

Main Features according to the Manufacture

Search and navigate fast, directly from the same box. 
Open and quickly switch between an unlimited number of tabs. 
Sign in to Chrome to sync your open tabs, bookmarks, passwords, and omnibox data from your computer to your iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad. Pick up right where you left off.
Send pages from Chrome on your computer to your iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad with one click.
 
Review
 
For people who like using the desktop version of Google Chrome, this will be very appealing. But can Google chrome for iOS live up to the reputation of it’s desktop brother?
 
The first time you load Google Chrome, you are greeted with a welcome screen that very simply gives you a product tour. You also have the option to sign into a Google account so you can share your bookmarks. Google has also added a feature of being able to share your open tabs on any other device running Google Chrome.
 
Google Chrome for iOS is very minimalistic which is an advantage on small screen devices. Like most browsers the address bar doubles up as a search box.  All the usual features: “Refresh”, “Back”, “Bookmarks”, etc.… are well laid out and very easy to find. Webpages load up instantly, and the speed is as fast if not faster than Safari. All webpages are displayed correctly as you would expect, and there is an option called “Request Desktop Version” which will display the full version of website instead of the mobile version.
 
New tabs are displayed very quickly by pressing a grey button next to an open tab. Google Chrome then gives you the choice of displaying your most visited web pages or Bookmarks.
 
The downside is there is no option to start Chrome with a home page. Instead, like Safari, it loads the last website you visited.
 
My favourite feature of Google Chrome is the “Speak Now” mode. There is a microphone symbol at the end of the address bar which when pressed, you simply say something and it will automatically search Google for you.  This works extremely well, only very unusual words cause a bit of a mix up.  This is a very good option for anyone who finds typing using the pop up keyboard a bit tricky. Although Apple has a version of “Speak Now” called “Seri” which is available on all new iPhones and iPads; "Seri" is not comptible with older gernerations of Apple mobile devices and "Seri" is only comptible with Apple Safari when searching the web.
 
Another good feature is the “New Incognito Tab”. This loads a new tab that makes your browsing private. Your search history and Cookies will not be stored. 
 

Mercury Browser

Main Features according to the manufacture

Mercury is the most advanced and elegant web browser for mobile devices. 
The rich feature set includes themes, Download, Full screen Browsing, File Sharing, Adblock, Tabs, Multi Touch Gestures, User Agent Switcher, Private browsing, Passcode Lock, Save page, Facebook/Twitter integration and a lot more.
 
Review
 
Mercury web browser is a very interesting option. Mercury’s theory is to make a web browser for iOS that is more like a full desktop browser rather than a cut down version. 
 
Mercury browser installs quickly and opens as quickly as any other browser I have reviewed. There is no tutorial to get the user started, which would be a good idea due to the vast amount of features available to the user. The first thing that struck me was that it’s very cluttered and not very well designed for mobile devices. However, Mercury has thought of this and has a full screen option that hides all buttons and allows the browser to use most of the display. 
 
Webpages load very quickly and are rendered perfectly. Mercury has an option called “Readability” that reloads a webpage and makes the page more comfortable to read. This works very well on webpages that contain mostly text such as Wikipedia. However, “Readability” didn’t work on some websites I tested it with. It would also occasionally crash and close the browser for no apparent reason.
 
The big plus side to the Mercury browser is the amount of settings available. Just about any setting you can think of are available. For example: “Gestures”, “Brightness”, “Passcode”, “Scroll Bar”, “Set Home Page”, to name a few.  There are quite a few full desktop browsers that don’t have the amount of settings Mercury has. Okay, the average user will probably not use most of these options, but I would rather have them than not.
 
My favorite feature of Mercury browser is the “ad blocker” setting. When this is enabled it will block all adverts on a webpage. This is a fantastic feature because there is nothing more annoying than having loads of ads filling a website on a mobile device.  
 
Mercury also comes with a “Downloads” manager. Anyone who has used a desktop web browser will know how useful this is. Mercury also has very good integration with “Drop Box”, “Face Book” and “Twitter”. 
 
There is no other browser that has the vast amount of features Mercury has. Although I found some feature didn’t work correctly and I found the browser felt quite unstable at times, these problems will hopefully get fixed and this will result in very good alternative browser.
 
 
Puffin Browser Free
 

Main Features according to the manufacture
 
Puffin Web Browser is wicked fast. Once users experience the thrill of using Puffin, regular mobile Internet just feels like torture. Puffin Web Browser Free is the free version of the Puffin family.
 
Review
 
I hadn’t heard much about Puffin web browser before I started this, but I soon found out that it has a fairly big fan base. This web browser stood out to me because the manufacture claims that it supports flash and that it is “wicked fast”. To do this Puffin uses a large Cloud data centre which pre-processes web pages which increases speed and reduces the amount of network data usage.

When you first open the browser you are greeted with a tutorial which shows you all the features the browser offers. The layout of the browser is very well designed with a relatively clutter free appearance with settings and the various features very easy to find. However, you do get annoying adverts popping up randomly.

By default the homepage is set to ‘Most Visited Page’ which as well as displaying your most visited webpages, it also has links to all the most popular websites such as ebay, You Tube, Wikepedia, etc.. The appearance of the ‘Most Visited Page’ is similar to the ‘Start’ screen in Windows 8 with a tile like appearance.

The browser has a good amount of settings allowing you to customise most of the features you would expect. One downside are the bookmarks. Although it is very easy to open your saved bookmarks, there is no way to import them from any other browser which may put a lot of people off. But clicking on the bookmark icon displays all links clearly and it is easy to add bookmarks.

A very good feature is the inclusion of a Game Pad and a TrackPad. By clicking on the Game Pad icon located at the bottom of the window on an iPad, or in settings menu on an iphone, a nicely laid out Game Pad appears. There is also a settings button on the Game Pad which enables you to change the functions of the buttons. When you press the Trackpad icon, located at the bottom of the window on an iPad, or in settings menu on an iphone, a small Track Pad is displayed at the bottom of the window. By moving your finger across the Trackpad, the curser will move across the screen. The advantage of this feature is that it makes it possible to draw images with your finger on compatible websites.

The biggest advantage to this browser is the Adobe flash support. I wasn’t expecting this to work very well but it does a decent job. It is not able to play flash games which is a shame due to the Game Pad feature. However, flash video seems to work well and the sound is next to perfect.  But sadly flash is only available as a two week trial on the free version of the web browser.

The browser displays webpages very fast and renders them very well. The browser is probably the fastest browser I have reviewed. But there is a bit of a lag at times, such as when you type queries into a search engine, the characters take half a second to display.

Puffin web browser is an interesting browser with positives and negatives. It is very impressive how fast it loads websites, but with there being no flash support on the free version and with adverts popping up randomly, this makes it hard to recommend this browser.

 

Opera Mini
 
Main Features according to the Manufacture
 
 Speed: Browse up to 6 times faster, especially on slower or crowded networks.
 Data savings: Compress up to 90% of data traffic.
 Speed Dial: Get to your favourite websites with a single tap.
 Visual tabs: See all your open webpages and quickly switch between them.
 Opera Link: Sync your bookmarks and Speed Dial with other devices 
 
Review
 
When first started, Opera’s welcome screen shows the main features the browser has to offer. But it doesn’t actually say how to use these features, nor does it provide links to any form of instructions. But anyone who has used a mobile browser shouldn’t have a problem and there is a decent help option in settings if needed.
 
Opera web browser manages to load and render websites very quickly, probably the fastest out of all the mobile browsers I have reviewed. It also is the fastest browser I have tested when using a slow Internet connection. For speed alone, Opera Mini gets full marks.
 
I found Opera Mini to be very stable and it didn’t crash in the entire time it was tested. I found the browser displayed and renders all websites very well. The browser’s appearance is very simple with no extra bars of buttons eating into the screen space on the iPad version. However, on the iPhone/iPod version, there are bars at the top and bottom of the screen that makes viewing websites a bit difficult. But the top address bar does disappear when you scroll down a page making it a little easier.
 
The homepage and new tab page shows a page called “Speed Dial” which I found very useful. “Speed Dial” displays your favourite websites using big icons allowing you to easily select your favourite websites with one tap. It is very easy to add any web pages to “Speed Dial” by tapping the plus sign.
 
Favourites are easily added by tapping the “Star” icon next to the web address. This gives you the option of adding the website to favourites or adding it to “Speed Dial”.
 
Opera has a good feature of being able to press and hold onto: an image, text, website link etc.… which results in an option menu popping up allowing you to: save images, select text, open images, etc. Although most browsers have a similar feature, Opera’s version is very simple to use and works very well.
 
Another nice feature is the new tab button. When pressed this shows very clearly what tabs are open using preview screens and makes it simple to open new tabs or close them. 
 
Opera web browser settings are easily selected by tapping the big O on the top left of the screen. It certainly doesn’t have as many settings as some browsers, but it has all the settings you would expect and some unique ones such as “Data Usage”. “Data Usage” clearly shows you how much data you have used in your current session and how much data has been used overall. I also like the help button, which will come in useful for any new comers to Opera Mini.
 
Sadly though, there isn’t an option for importing your favourites from another browser. There is also no setting for changing the homepage, which is disappointing.
 
There is not much to dislike about Opera Mini. There are only a couple of things that let the browser down from being highly recommended. It does everything Opera claims and has some good unique features.
 
 
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Quick Selection Guide

Safari
4.5
 
Gizmo's Freeware award as the best product in its class!

Is a web service or web application
Fast Good-Layout Very Good Features
No Flash Support
Unrestricted freeware
This product is portable.
ipad, iphone, ipod Touch
Google Chrome
4.5
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Unrestricted freeware
This product is portable.
ios5
Opera Mini
4
 
Is a web service or web application
Fast. Good unique features
Can't transfer favourites from other browsers.
ios5 or ios6
Mercury Browser
2.5
 
Is a web service or web application
Fast Vast amount of Options and Features
Not all Features worked Unstable at times
Unrestricted freeware
There is no portable version of this product available.
iOS5
Puffin Browser Free
1.5
 
Is a web service or web application
Nice addition of a Game Pad and a Track Pad. Loads websites very fast.
Pop-up adverts. Only a two week trial of adobe flash is included with the free version of the web browser.
Unrestricted freeware
ios5 or ios6

 
Editor

This software category is maintained by volunteer editor ITnight. Registered members can contact the editor with any comments or questions they might have by clicking here.

 
Tags

best free browser for Apple iOS, best free mobile web browser, top free mobile web browser, best free web browser for mobile device, free browser for smart phones

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