Apple used to keep tight-lid on third-party application support on iOS. That changed with the iOS 7's debut in 2013 as Apple opened gates for the third-party keyboard on iOS. The flow continued with the support of third-party password managers and the ability to delete built-in iOS apps.
The one area which continues to be a sore point for power users is the inability to change the default apps. One still can’t choose a default Browser or Email app on the iPhone.
While Safari is good enough for the majority out there, the rival offerings from Firefox, Google, and Microsoft can’t be ruled out. We have already compared Chrome to Safari on iOS, and in this post, we will be pitting Safari against Firefox for iOS.
Safari for iOS comes pre-loaded and is a part of a whole 13GB package which comes out of the box. Firefox weights around 71MB. It currently enjoys a rating of four stars.
Smartphones are launching with taller aspect ratios, and as a result, more apps are following the bottom bar design for ease in reachability. Thankfully, both the apps have adopted the latest trend with all options at the bottom.
Safari showcases the recently visited websites up front. The search bar is at the top while the tab switcher, history, bookmark, and saved pages are at the bottom.
The tab switcher interface looks like a stack of files in a folder. You can easily glance over the opened tabs and quickly jump among them.
Firefox looks the same. On the face value, you won’t find any differences. My only gripe with the UI is that the library option buries other adjustments like history, bookmarks, saved pages, and download menu.
The tab switcher follows the card-style design which shows more tabs and information at a time.
Both the apps have missed the opportunity to put the search bar at the bottom, which should be the perfect place for the thumbs to reach.
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Safari enjoys the standard benefits of an iOS app. You can directly search on Safari from the Spotlight menu. Siri also uses Safari to deliver relevant results. And due to iPhone’s closed behavior, the third-party apps are forced to use Safari as a default browser app.
Apart from that, you get the limit ad-tracking function, reader mode, and the ability to start a webpage from mobile and continue on Mac. You can also change the default search engine to Bing, Yahoo, or DuckDuckGo from the Settings menu.
Firefox comes with built-in ad blocking and tracking protection. One can also opt for the excellent reading mode, private mode, night mode, and syncing capabilities to access all the data on any platform.
What’s the use of all the features if you can’t access it on other devices that you own? And here is where Firefox nails the execution. The app is natively available on iOS, Android, PC, Mac, Linux, and even Fire TV. Sign in on any of this platform and access your browsing data.
Safari is only limited to Apple platforms for now. But it does have some advantages like the ability to start an article on one device and continue from the exact spot from the other one.
Then again, Apple ignores other platforms, and it could be a headache to move all data from one browser from another.
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Firefox recently released Firefox Lockbox, which is a built-in password manager for the popular browser. The app is available on Android and iOS too. It’s a pretty basic one and gets the job done.
As you continue to sign-in from the Firefox browser, the app will automatically add the data in the Lockbox. You can’t manually add the details though.
Safari uses Apple’s own password management. It verifies the user with biometric authentication and allows adding relevant login details. Again, it works if you own and use Apple products only.
There is no app available for that, and the functionality is built into the operating system.
Safari offers an excellent Reader Mode function out of the box. When loading a certain page, it will inform the user whether a reader mode is available or not. And if it’s available, you can tap on the little icon on the address bar and enjoy the clutter-free reading experience.
One can change the fonts style, color, or even opt for a dark theme or page style theme from the options.
Firefox also packs a reader mode functionality which you can access from the address bar. The mode will strip away all the digital content. One can only choose from two font styles and themes.
You can’t automatically turn on reader mode for both the browsers though. You will have to press the reader mode icon every time to use the functionality.
Even though Safari is a built-in app in the Apple ecosystem, it doesn’t offer any widget support. Granted, you can search for results from any part of the UI (my feed or spotlight), but then again, a widget with all the bookmarks and history info would have been helpful.
Firefox offers a pretty basic widget function. You can directly add a new tab or jump to the private tab from my feed menu.
Note: Safari is a built-in iOS app, meaning it won’t get as frequent updates and new features as Apple only updates them once in a year with major iOS releases. Firefox can add more functions and continuous improvements through the updates from the App Store.
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Which One Should You Choose?
The answer is straight forward here. If you are tied in an Apple ecosystem, then go for Safari. The app is packed with enough features and takes the advantages of cross-device functionality.
Firefox bounces back with cross-platform availability, widget support, and an excellent night mode option. I didn’t notice any speed difference in both apps though.
Next Up: Microsoft Edge for iOS is also a note-worthy competitor of Safari. The app is filled with tons of options and Windows integration. Read the comparison below to see if it's worth a shot or not.