Recently, web ads have become a hot topic of debate on the internet. They’re poorly designed and poorly coded. They invade your privacy by tracking your every move on the web. This means that web pages for the top news sites on the internet are a lot heavier and take longer to load.
On desktops, it’s pretty easy to block ads and tracking (I’d recommend you start out with Ghostery). On Android, you can’t enable OS wide ad blocking unless you’re rooted (browser ad blockers exist). Apple, whose business model isn’t dependent on ads, surprised everyone by introducing “Content Blockers” in iOS.
What this feature does is it allows developers to create apps that will block ads and tracking directly in Safari (and apps that use Safari View Controller to load web pages). Not in third party apps though.
New to iOS 9?: Check out the 9 new and awesome features in iOS 9 you should know about.
How to Install and Enable Ad Blockers
As you’d expect, there is a wide collection of ad blocking apps available. Most of them are paid and some of them are free. But doesn’t matter which one you pick, most of them work in the same way.
Here are a few ad blockers that are worth trying.
- Crystal ($0.99)
- Purify ($0.99)
- BlockBear ($0.99)
- 1Blocker (Free + 2.99 in-app purchase)
- Blockr ($0.99)
- and more.
Right now, content blocker apps are just a list of links that are to be blocked, that’s it. The way the apps differ are based on the lists they use. There will be minor variances between the apps. The apps aren’t tracking your browsing data.
Talking about performance, The Brooks Review put 15 of such apps head to head and found that 1Blocker came out on the top. It’s also one of the few blockers that gives you control over specific content to block. If you want to block all ads, 1Blocker is free to use. But if you want to individually block trackers, social widgets or adult content, you’ll need to upgrade by paying $2.99.
Once you’ve downloaded one of the apps, you’ll need to enable that particular Content Blocker from Safari’s settings.
So go to Settings -> Safari -> Content Blockers and enable the app you want.
Mostly, that will be the end of your road. But some apps do let you customize your experience and whitelist sites.
Some apps are letting ads through: Recently there’s been a brouhaha about apps like Crystal and Purify being paid to let some ads through. This is nothing new. They’re basically running the same program as Ad Block called “Acceptable Ads”. The good news is that this feature is turned off by default.
How to Load Pages Without Content Blockers
If you want to reload the current page without content blockers, just press and hold on the Refresh button and select Reload Without Content Blockers.
You can also add sites to the whitelist. How this works differs from app to app. You might find the option in the app itself or as an extension. Purify has it as an extension.
All or Nothing
The biggest limitation currently with iOS 9 content blockers is that you can’t pick and choose what exactly you want to block. You can’t say that ads from one network or text based ads are ok.
Some apps, like BlockBear and 1Blocker do provide options for only disabling trackers or sharing buttons. But as it stands right now, the only way to make sure all trackers are disabled, is to block all ads – because (almost) all ads are tracking you.
Yes, it’s great for your iPhone battery life and loading times that ad blockers are finally here. But do remember that as it currently stands, the majority of free websites make their money from ads. So if you’re a fan of a website that serves unobtrusive ads, do add them to the whitelist.
Last updated on 03 February, 2022
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