When I first got my iPhone (and later the iPad), I thought that Apple's built-in Safari browser was just about the coolest thing I had ever used on a mobile device. It was such an amazing app, allowing a fantastic browsing experience.
My, how times have changed. It's not that Safari has gotten worse; it's just that there are a lot of other apps that can help browse the web so much better. And although the upcoming release of iOS 5 promises big changes to Safari - including private browsing and tabs - why wait, when you can start using one of these great alternatives right now?
I'm going to cut to the chase, actually, and just declare a winner at the outset - it's the Atomic Web Browser ($.99, link to the iPhone app. Out of all the browsers I have tried, it is far and away the best, for two main reasons: speed and feature set. It's blazingly fast, getting to pages must faster than Safari or the other browsers. And as for feature set, here are just a few examples:
- Private Mode
- Ad Blocking
- Search bar is customizable with any number of search engines
- File downloader
- Integration with Dropbox - you can download files directly to a Dropbox folder
- Color Themes
- Add navigation buttons to the bottom of your screen
- Share web pages using Facebook, Twitter, and email
- Install bookmark scripts to use Instapaper, Read It Later, Delicious, track FedEx/UPS/USPS packages, and more
- Detect phone numbers
- Auto-Fill forms
And I'm just getting started! You really need to try it to see what I'm talking about. It will be the best 99 cents you spend on your iPad.
You should also have one other browser on your iPad, as a just-in-case - it's the Skyfire Web Browser ($2.99, link for iPhone). There's one main reason you need Skyfire - it has the ability to play Flash video. iPads don't support Flash, so if you want to watch a video that's only in Flash, you'll need to use Skyfire. The browser doesn't actually support Flash, either - it takes the video you want to watch, uploads it to its own server and converts it to a format that you can view on the iPad, and then shows it to you. I wouldn't use Skyfire as my primary browser, but I've got it around in the event that I need to watch a flash video - which, I'll admit, doesn't happen very often.
You may be unpersuaded by my loyalty to Atomic, and want to try out some other browsers. All right - have it your way. Here are some links to a few other browsers I have tried, and found wanting:
- Ultimate Browser ($1.99, link for iPhone)
- Perfect Web Browser ($3.99, link for iPhone)
- Diigo Browser - very similar to Google's Chrome browser
There are literally dozens of web browsing apps in the App Store, so if these don't satisfy you, try them out - but I have a feeling you'll be coming back to Atomic in the end.