The Best Browser Alternatives to Safari on the iPad

There are pros and cons to using Safari on the iPad. On the one hand, it is safe, secure, and works well with almost any website you are likely to come across. The cloud tabs integrate nicely with Safari on Mountain Lion, it is easy to navigate, it works well with other apps, and, with perhaps one exception, it is undoubtedly the fastest way to browse the web on the iPad. The offline reading list is great for students who don’t have internet access at home, and I will always be a fan of the excellent Reader mode.

However, it’s not perfect. If you are looking for extra features like a full screen mode, ad blockers, filtered web searches, or the ability to play the last of the web’s Flash based content, then you need to look elsewhere, and there are plenty of options for those that want this. Google’s Chrome, for instance, is a popular alternative iPad browser on iOS right now. It has a familiar look that reminds users of their Chrome desktop experience, but it also lets you sync tabs, bookmarks and passwords across devices.

Chrome iOS

The free Rover app is popular with teachers because it plays Flash content in a filtered browser experience, but it can be a little slow to get the content you want because of the way it streams your image from a remote server. There are other Flash browsers like Photon or Skyfire, but Rover is free, so that counts for a lot in my book and it is a decent way to access some of those legacy websites that have still to upgrade to HTML5.

The Puffin browser is extremely well rated, and rightly so. It is fast, (faster than Safari a lot of the time), and it bypasses the majority of those pesky mobile sites that are usually built for phones, and not iPads. It plays Flash, and even has a virtual mouse trackpad (complete with cursor) for websites that are not optimized for a touch experience. You can go fullscreen with Puffin, and even set a homepage.

Puffin Web Browser iOS

The Diigo browser links up nicely with your Diigo account, Dolphin has a slew of nice features and a great UI, while Yahoo! Axis has a unique search experience that has to be seen to be believed. (Some love it, some hate it). The more technologically minded are often drawn to iCab with its adblocker, Dropbox support, download manager and more. SidebySide is a nice free offering that lets you have two browser windows open at once. You can have a note taking app on one side, and a web browser on the other. This can be useful for students who are taking notes and don’t want the hassle of switching between apps. The notes can even be synced to Dropbox.

In short, the world is your oyster with alternative iPad browsers. Personally, I use Safari 95% of the time because I like it, but also because of the one major drawback that almost none of these alternative browsers can overcome – the ability to open a link from another app. Safari is always the default app for links you tap on in other apps, and probably always will be. Google managed to make their Google+ app offer the option to open links in Chrome, but everything else will open in Safari whether you like it or not.

So, check out my iPad Apps page for a list of my favorite alternative browsers for the iPad, and feel free to leave a comment about your own favorite browser and why you like it so much.

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9 thoughts on “The Best Browser Alternatives to Safari on the iPad

  1. I love the Photon browser for the iPad for those times I need Flash. Unlike Rover, it is a regular, fast browser as you are using it, and, if you come up to a Flash item, you can simply hit a little lightning bolt, that transfers you to their servers for serving up the Flash content, and when you are done, simply hit the icon again and it goes back to being a “regular” browser on the iPad. I find it invaluable, since I need to work on my Weebly web site often, and it uses Flash in some places.

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    • Yes, I also have Photon and I do like how you can toggle Flash on and off when you need it. That helps speed things up a lot from those Flash only browsers, however I also like the various cursor options you have for drag and drop. Those come in handy for things like Weebly! 🙂

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  2. […] There are pros and cons to using Safari on the iPad. On the one hand, it is safe, secure, and works well with almost any website you are likely to come across. The cloud tabs integrate nicely with …  […]

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  3. […] "There are pros and cons to using Safari on the iPad. On the one hand, it is safe, secure, and works well with almost any website you are likely to come across. The cloud tabs integrate nicely with Safari on Mountain Lion, it is easy to navigate, it works well with other apps, and, with perhaps one exception, it is undoubtedly the fastest way to browse the web on the iPad. The offline reading list is great for students who don’t have internet access at home, and I will always be a fan of the excellent Reader mode."  […]

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  4. Chrome is increasingly fragile on my ipad (retina model). Bombs at least once a session.

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  5. Do you have a preference between Puffin and Photon? Which one is safer? Faster? Thanks!

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    • To be honest, I don’t use either as my main browser. I only switch to Puffin or Photon when I need access to Flash. I don’t think either is necessarily safer or faster than the other, but Puffin does get updated more often so it may be more compatible with some sites. You could try the free version of Puffin – it has a limited Flash trial – and see how you get on with that.

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