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Our 5 Best Privacy Browsers Picks for iOS

/ data privacy, web browsers

This post was originally published on 2 APR 2021; it has since been updated and revised.

Unfortunately, you can't just outright delete Safari on a regular iPhone.

But you can absolutely minimize your use of it by downloading, installing, and using a browser focused on your privacy!

(Another option is configuring Safari for privacy on iOS.)

The privacy browsers you'll find listed in this post are all available in the App Store.

It's also worth noting that they're in no particular order here. Each browser has its unique strengths. You should keep in mind your individual wants and needs from an iOS browser - above all else you should look to stay true to your threat model.

NOTE: Apple's iOS environment forces all browsers on iOS to use its WebKit rendering engine. This is the same engine that powers Safari.

Firefox Focus

firefox focus logo

I've covered a bit of what Firefox Focus is about in other posts.

In fact, I've compared Firefox Focus and the Brave Browser (which is also on this list) in depth in a separate post. You can find more updated information by visiting the Privacy Browser Comparison Tool.

Firefox Focus is a cousin of the regular Firefox. They're both developed by Mozilla and share many similarities such as browsing engines and to some degree, their respective logos.

However, Focus is all about simplicity and user privacy from the jump. It's also only available on mobile operating systems such as iOS and Android.

One of the first things you notice about Focus is its minimalism. It literally has no frills; it doesn't even have tab management.

It also doesn't save any information between browsing sessions.

This means that Focus is always in that "private browsing" mode, similar to that of Safari. There's no bookmarking or saving login information.

For some people, this level of minimalism in a mobile browser might be a deal breaker.

But let it be heard that Focus has killer (read: excellent) tracker blocking features.

It can block trackers from ads, social media, and analytics tools found on many sites. Focus can also block content and web font downloads.

The coolest feature of Focus is its ability to integrate with Safari. Integrating Focus with Safari gives you its tracker blocking abilities while browsing the net with Safari.

Unfortunately, the tracker blocking features aren't as robust as they otherwise would be while actually using Focus or another privacy browser.

With all that said, if you're looking for a more full featured browser, there are privacy browsers that can totally replace Safari as much as possible in this list.

Alternatively, you can just go with the standard Firefox, but you won't get the same tracker/fingerprinting protection as you would while using Focus or any of the other browsers we've listed in this post!

Firefox Focus Review
Download Firefox Focus


brave logo

Like I have done with Firefox (and its cousins), I've talked about Brave in a few separate posts. Again, I've compared the two browsers here.

Compared to the likes of Firefox, Brave is more of a newcomer to the overall browser scene. It started in 2016 as a project maintained by former Mozilla developer Brendan Eich.

Brave is an open source and fully featured privacy browser that's designed to replace Safari as much as possible (because in the current iOS environment, replacing Safari entirely is impossible without jailbreaking your device.)

Brave's tracker blockers are called "shields," and it certainly has plenty of them. They're also exceptionally good at what they do; blocking ads and trackers.

As a default, Brave's shields block the likes of ad and analytics trackers. It also can force the HTTPS version of whatever website you're visiting, without you having to do anything extra.

Additionally, you can configure Brave to block all website scripts and provide fingerprinting protection.

It does all of this on top of allowing you to save bookmarks and saving cookies between sessions.

If you don't want Brave to save any data between browsing sessions, you can set it to a permanent private browsing mode similar to Firefox Focus.

Brave also has a unique feature: its reward system.

Brave has gotten into hot water over its reward and ads system. Utilize discretion if you decide to opt-in.

This rewards system is opt-in, meaning that you can choose to participate or not. Therefore, its usage isn't compulsory at all, but the fact that the developers seem to push users to use it and its BAT cryptocurrency may be a turn off to some users.

With that said, Brave is a fully featured browser that provides good privacy options and fingerprinting protection for your iOS device. It's biggest plus is that its highly user friendly and has decent privacy from right out-the-box.

However, before downloading and using this browser I highly suggest familiarizing yourself with the privacy issues/controversies that have surrounded/currently surround Brave.

Brave Browser Review
Download Brave


duckduckgo company logo

You might know about DuckDuckGo's search engine that respects your privacy by not tracking you.

Did you know that they also released their own privacy browser a couple years back?

The DuckDuckGo privacy browser is only available for iOS and Android.

DuckDuckGo is a streamlined browser. I wouldn't call it a minimal or a full-featured browser. For example, it features tab management but doesn't have the ability to sync across devices.

The browser has some neat privacy and security features too.

In addition to providing tracker protection, DuckDuckGo forces the HTTPS protocol on just about every website you visit. Forced HTTPS is a part of its overall "privacy upgrade" feature for the websites you visit.

Forced HTTPS means that you'll view the more secure version of a website automatically. The information you exchange with a website is encrypted, keeping the data's integrity.

The DuckDuckGo browser also has a "Fire" button.

This fire button torches (read: deletes) all of your browsing data - think cookies and history - with a single tap.

What's cooler is that you have the option of selecting which websites you want to "fireproof." Fireproofing a website means the data saved by the website onto your device doesn't get deleted.

The browser also has some additional features and some nice customization options.

If you're looking to replace Chrome or Safari and improve your data privacy at the same, the DuckDuckGo browser is a solid pick.

Not to mention, the #ComeToTheDuckSide hashtag the company launched as part of its marketing campaign is pretty catchy too.

DuckDuckGo Review
Download DuckDuckGo


snowhaze logo

SnowHaze is a pretty unique browser because it's a privacy browser and a VPN wrapped into one app.

While the privacy browser and all of its features are free, the VPN is part of SnowHaze's premium features. This means you must pay to access the VPN service.

Fortunately, the browser isn't necessarily lacking free features. In fact, SnowHaze is a fully-featured browser that has a ton of privacy and security settings for your adjusting needs.

Like the Brave browser and the DuckDuckGo browser, SnowHaze forces the HTTPS versions of websites.

It also blocks ad trackers and invasive analytics trackers. It even can block popovers, which are a slightly different breed from your average popup.

In fact, SnowHaze claims that it has the most amount of known HTTPS websites in the iOS store.

Pretty bold claim, right?

It also has a ton of different settings, which range from privacy to appearance customizability.

One other thing that is really cool is that you can set different "rules" for different tabs.

For example, you can have all JavaScript blocked in one tab, but allow JavaScript in another.

It's worth mentioning that SnowHaze is based out of Switzerland, where there are strong consumer data privacy laws. SnowHaze's VPN and browser claim to keep no logs on its users.

SnowHaze was originally a closed-source project, but as of a couple of years ago has become open-source.

Again, this browser is only available on iOS devices for the foreseeable future.

SnowHaze Review
Download Snowhaze

Onion Browser

original onion tor browser

The Onion browser is one of a couple iOS browsers that connect to Tor.

What is Tor? To keep it simple, Tor is short for "The Onion Router." Tor provides anonymity from many websites or web apps you may visit; it hides your location and your true IP address.

It does this by directing traffic through volunteer-led "relays." Due to the "relays," a connection through Tor is noticeably slower.

The Onion browser is a project created and led by Mike Tigas, who is a developer over at ProPublica.

It is open-source, with its source code available on GitHub.

The browser itself has been available on the App Store since about 2012. Originally, it was a paid app but as of recently is free. It's supported via donors and Patreon backers.

It helps to know that the Onion browser is officially backed by the Tor Project.

This browser also has a mostly stable NoScript mode, which is also found in a couple of other browsers on this list. It even features user agent spoofing.

(User agent spoofing is where you tell a website what browser and device you're on so that it can serve up the best version of the site for you. The Onion browser spoofs this for you so things appear as they would in a more mainstream browser.)

Now, it must be said that the Onion browsers lacks in features you may be used to enjoying in other browsers. The number one complaint is that it doesn't even have tab management.

However, what this browser lacks in features it makes up for in privacy. With the power to make you anonymous to the websites you visit, Tor is only outclassed by VPNs on this front.

Download the Onion Browser

Final Thoughts

There are many mobile privacy browsers on Apple's App Store that claim to be the "most private."

However, it's important to realize that true privacy browsers offer more than the equivalent of local private browsing (of which you can find in Safari's "private browsing" mode) and rudimentary ad blocking.

The privacy browsers we've put on this list give you good privacy protection when compared to many of the other web browsers out there.

Picking a browser from this list is a solid start to ensuring your data privacy on the mobile web.

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