Now that Firefox is available for iOS, after much anticipation, it is the perfect time to thoroughly compare the three major browser on iOS: Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, and Apple’s Safari.
All three major iOS browsers feature gestures. One gesture that all three have in common is swiping right from the left side of the screen to go back to the previous webpage; or swiping left from the right side of the screen to go forward to the next webpage. Although they all use those same gestures, the three web browsers handle them differently. In Safari and Firefox, the previous or next page moves with your finger as you complete the gesture, while in Chrome it does not. This is because Safari and Firefox keep visited webpages loaded on the device, so that they do not have to be reloaded whenever reopened with these gestures. Chrome does not do this, making its backward and forward gestures slightly slower, since the webpages have to take time to load again. The other gesture that the three have in common is the ability to swipe to close a tab. Although the browsers support similar gestures, Chrome contains a set of quick action gestures that the other two do not have. These include gestures that close the current tab, refresh the current page, and create a new tab. To make use of them, simply pull down from the top of the page and move your finger to correspond to the icon that represents that action that you would like to complete. The aforementioned quick action gestures make Chrome win the gesture battle, as they dramatically increase the efficiency of completing actions that are very common while browsing the web.
All three web browsers include Google, Yahoo!, and Bing as available search engines. Aside from those three search engines, the browsers offer others on a browser by browser basis. Chrome offers Ask and AOL; Safari offers Baidu and DuckDuckGo; and Firefox offers Amazon, Twitter, Wikipedia, and DuckDuckGo. The winner of the best search engines is a little less clear, since it honestly boils down to what search engine you prefer. But, if just one winner has to be picked, it would be Firefox due to the fact that it offers more search engines than Chrome or Safari.
Chrome is the only browser with true voice search, so it easily wins the best voice search out of the three major iOS browsers. There is, however, a workaround to use voice search in Safari and Firefox. Just use Apple’s keyboard’s built-in dictation feature to dictate your search.
Safari and Chrome have somewhat similar tab views, aside from the fact that the tabs in Safari are slightly angled. Firefox’s tab view is different from that of the other browsers, as its tabs are either in a square or wide yet short rectangular shape, depending on your settings. Keeping the aesthetic differences out of mind, Chrome has the most efficient tab view, due to the fact that it allows both private tabs (which are called Incognito tabs in Chrome) and standard tabs to be visible side-by-side. This is not possible in Safari or Firefox. In those two browsers, you have to either view your standard tabs or your private ones, not both at the same time. Due to Chrome’s clean and efficient tab view, it wins the best tab handling.
Safari and Firefox are the only two of the three major iOS browsers to offer a reading view, which, in theory, eliminates distractions while you read articles on the web. Safari’s reader view boasts many customization options. These include the ability to choose one of eight fonts to view the article in, ranging from Apple’s new San Francisco font to Times New Roman. You can also select a color scheme of white, sepia, grey, or black as well as increase or decrease the font size. As you scroll in the reader view in Safari, the top and bottom bars collapse and disappear, thus eliminating all unnecessary clutter from your view. The reader view in Firefox is similar, as it allows the user to choose between either Sans-serif or Serif as the font, increase or decrease the font size, adjust the screen brightness, and choose between a “Light,” “Dark,” or “Sepia” theme. It also has some issues which may or may not be unintended bugs, such as a repeated article title and the exclusion of some images which can happen on occasion while viewing certain articles. Also, the reader view toolbar in Firefox does not collapse or blend into the article’s theme while scrolling, causing it to become an ugly distraction. For these reasons, Safari has the best reader view and can eliminate distractions the most effectively.
Oddly enough, Safari is the only one of the three browsers that does not include any extensions. Chrome contains a Today extension, which is essentially just a widget in iOS’s Notification Center. The extension is able to open a new tab, initiate a voice search, or open a copied link in Chrome. On the other hand, Firefox comes with three share extensions: one called “Send Tab” that allows you to send your current tab to another device that is signed into your Firefox account, one called “View Later” that automatically opens the website that you are on in Firefox the next time Firefox is opened, and another simply named “Firefox,” which allows you to either add your current webpage to your Firefox bookmarks or your Firefox reading list. Keep in mind that these extensions can be used in browsers other than Firefox, thus increasing Firefox’s iOS integration. Due to how the Firefox share extensions gracefully incorporate Firefox’s features into other iOS web browsers, Firefox has the best extensions of the three browsers.
Chrome, Firefox, and Safari all offer a method of synchronization across platforms that use each browser. This category is a tie between the three browsers since they all do relatively the same thing when it comes to synchronization.
Out of the three browsers, Chrome is the only one that offers a way to save data. It does so with a feature called Data Saver. Basically, when Data Saver is turned on, the website that you’re trying to visit in Chrome is sent to Google’s servers, compressed, then sent to your device using less data than it would have used had it not been reduced. Although it is very helpful, this feature is not available all the time. It cannot be used on secure websites or when using Incognito mode. Since, Google Chrome is the only iOS browser of the three to offer a way to conserve data, it wins the data compression category.
Since it won more categories than any of the other browsers, Chrome is the best web browser available on iOS. Its superior gestures, voice search, tab organization, and data compression renders its competition inferior. Firefox is a solid second best browser for iOS, due to its myriad of supported search engines and its helpful extensions. Safari, although last in the browser hierarchy, still has the best available reader view of the three major web browsers for iOS.