IPhone Browser Teardown: Chrome Vs Safari

Safari has long been a popular browser on the iPhone, but after Apple finally unveiled secret Safari speed improvements for other browsers back in iOS 8, it’s now possible to ditch Safari entirely for another browser. Chrome is the most obvious choice for this. But is it worth it?


You have several browser options on iOS, but most of them, like the privacy-focused Brave , the gesture -based Dolphin, or the speed-focused Opera Mini , fill a niche instead of trying to be your daily driver. In this regard, Chrome and Safari are the leaders. Here is a brief description of their functions:

  • Safari : Safari is the default browser that we’ve all known so well over the years. It does everything a browser needs, including private browsing, bookmarking and, starting with iOS 9, ad blocking . Safari is deeply integrated into iOS, which means you can search for something in Spotlight and open it in Safari, and by default most apps will open any link in Safari.
  • Chrome : When Chrome originally came to iOS, it was slow, but still managed to work so well with other Google products that people used it anyway . Both are now equally fast. Beyond the features you’d expect from any browser, Chrome for iOS has several Google-specific features such as a built-in QR scanner, Google Now support, translator, and more. Chrome also tends to hide much of its interface, ditching the bottom navigation bar common in Safari, and putting everything at the top instead. It’s an aesthetic thing, but design is important enough that you might prefer how one works.

The browser you choose depends partly on your preferences, but it also matters which other applications you use. Let’s see where Chrome makes more sense than Safari, and vice versa.

Chrome Voice Search works really well

If you want to search the web using your voice, you want to use Chrome. Google is heavily promoting its voice assistant in Chrome on iOS, and it works stupidly well. By pressing the Chrome icon hard, you can search even before you open the app, and once you enter Chrome, you will find the voice search icon everywhere you look.

More importantly, voice search is accurate and matches most of the results perfectly. It sounds like a minor feature, but if you can’t or can’t type on the small keypad on your phone, what is essentially a dictation function comes in handy.

For its part, Safari has the usual old dictation button built into iOS, but it’s not designed for voice search and doesn’t work either. You can of course also search using Siri, but it’s not as fluid or useful as Chrome’s voice search.

Chrome does a great job with all Google apps, Safari does a great job with everything

Apple recently introduced a “deep linking” feature that allows applications to communicate with each other. While not a replacement for “stock” apps like on Android, it allows developers to do things like open a URL link from Gmail in Chrome instead of Safari. As you’d expect, Google took full advantage of this .

If you’re a user of many Google services, from Drive to Gmail to Maps, you can make all of these apps interact with Chrome. For example, when you click a map link in Chrome and it opens Google Maps, or when you click an email link in Chrome, it opens Gmail. If you invest deeply in Google, this works great and allows you to ignore Safari altogether.

If you’re not an avid Google user, things get less interesting. Safari is still the default browser, which means that URLs you receive in text messages, Apple Mail, or links you look for in Spotlight go through Safari. While some third-party apps, like Spark or Airmail , have an “Open In” option that lets you choose your browser, this doesn’t apply to all apps, so you’ll definitely use Safari from time to time. If you’re not very keen on Google, Safari is probably your best bet, so you don’t have to constantly switch between them.

Both sync with their desktop apps

There is another important reason why you would prefer one browser over the other. Both Safari and Chrome sync with their desktop counterparts. This means your tabs, history and bookmarks are synced from your phone to your desktop. If this is important to you, you will want to use the same browser that you use on your computer.

Personally, while syncing always seems like a cool idea, I never use it, so it’s not as important to me as I originally thought. If you’re in the same boat and don’t actually use this, don’t assume that you can influence your decision about which browser to use.

Safari Reading List is great, but Chrome has another one on the way

An often overlooked feature of Safari is its Reading List. Here you get a list of articles you saved for reading later, in Instapaper style. Great if you read a lot on your phone and aren’t interested in more advanced features like Pocket or Instapaper.

Chrome doesn’t offer this at all yet, but rumored to be coming soon . Until we know how it works, Safari is your best bet. Of course, for now, Chrome users can still use third-party apps like Pocket or Instapaper .

Safari can block ads and trackers

If you are someone who blocks ads or third-party trackers with an ad blocker , then your choice here is very clear: use Safari.

The “content blockers” introduced in iOS 9 only support Safari, and there are no plugins of the same type in Chrome. These content blockers are not related to ads, they also block cookies, strange page elements, certain URLs, comments, and more. So, if you want to tinker with any of these, you should stick with Safari.

Verdict: Chrome is good if you are deep in the Google ecosystem, Safari is better for everyone

The choice of browser depends on many factors, including general preference for how it works. Some people like Chrome’s more minimalist aesthetic where features don’t really matter. Others love the fact that Safari integrates automatically without any customization. Anyway, if you like the “feel” of one over the other, know that they are both equally fast and full-featured, so there is no reason to actively avoid the same.

One clear difference arises if you are an avid user of Google products. Chrome does a great job of communicating with the rest of Google’s apps, just enough to make you almost feel like you’re not even on an iPhone. In this case, stick with Chrome and you should be happy. If you search for other apps that deeply link to Chrome, you can pretend Safari doesn’t exist.

For everyone else, stick with Safari. It has come a long way over the years and works great. A bit boring? Certainly. But how immersive should your browser be?


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