Ditch your phone’s built-in web browser for these seven alternatives
Protect your privacy, save data, navigate faster, and more.
We do a lot of our web browsing through our phones: More than half of site visits originate with mobile devices. Android and iOS phones both come with default browsers made by the platform’s developers. On Android, Google Chrome takes pride of place, while iPhones and iPads rely on pre-installed versions of Apple’s Safari. However, these are far from your only choices.
Just like your computer, your phone offers a variety of options to help you navigate the internet. We collected seven feature-packed web browsers that protect your privacy, reduce your data use, boost your speed, and more.
1. Mozilla Firefox
Mozilla Firefox may be the best-known independent web browser. If you like its popular desktop version, you should try the smart and speedy app for your phone. It really excels at protecting you from the web trackers that want to follow you around the internet.
With this option, you can disable tracking with a couple of taps, or work in private-browsing mode. The Android version of the browser also supports extensions for everything from ad blocking to password management.
In addition to tracking protection, Firefox has a clean, smart interface. The front page provides a list of your most-visited sites, along with recommended reading based on pages you’ve bookmarked in the past. And like its computer-based cousin, the phone version of the browser lets you save your passwords, bookmarks, and browsing history. If you already use the desktop version, you can sync all of this information, allowing you to jump between devices with ease.
2. Opera Mini
If you’re browsing on the go, then you want to keep data use to a minimum. Opera Mini has the solution: a built-in data-saving tool that compresses websites and page elements before they arrive at your smartphone.
By sending you compressed versions of pages, the browser works very well on limited or slower internet connections. This also prevents you from blasting through your data plan too quickly—open the app to check on exactly how much bandwidth you’re saving. Another way it reduces your data use is with smart downloads that start and resume based on Wi-Fi availability.
The compression process doesn’t compromise privacy: Opera doesn’t log any of your personal information while it puts pages through its compressor, nor does it apply this to encrypted pages. On top of that, you get a bunch of other useful features, including a private browsing mode, quick links for adding websites to your phone’s home page, the ability to sync passwords and bookmarks with the desktop version of Opera, and a night mode to take the strain off your eyes in the dark.
The Brave browser emphasizes security and privacy. To start with, it comes with a built-in ad-blocker (just remember to whitelist the sites you want to support) so pop-ups can’t weigh down your browsing and websites can’t track you as well. For even more control, Brave features advanced security settings.
For example, you can prevent all interactive scripts from running on a page. When you’re loading a site, you can tell the browser to only make secure HTTPS connections (where they’re available). Brave also comes with built-in anti-phishing protection to keep you safe from attacks.
Developers built this browser on Chromium, an open-source project that also serves as the basis of Chrome, so you might notice some similarities with the look and feel of that app. In addition to stellar security, it includes all the usual features you would expect from a mobile browser, including incognito browsing, browser bookmarks, and password management.
4. Ecosia Browser
The Ecosia Browser, which also has its foundation in open-source Chromium code, funnels all your web queries through its own search engine, earning money through advertising and referrals on these searches. So why do we like it so much? Because Ecosia sends all of these funds toward green projects—thus far, it has planted more than 37 million trees.
Of course, Ecosia needs more than just a green thumb. It also refuses to save the details of your searches or your personal information. That means, as you browse, your taps are protecting the natural balance of the planet, rather than lining the pockets of major tech corporation.
Apart from its repurposing of search-traffic profits, Ecosia Browser strongly resembles Chrome. It has similar tools for private browsing, ad blocking, password and bookmark management, and its interface bears those familiar tabs. At least, that’s the way it works in Android. Although you can run searches in a version of this app for iOS, when you tap on those results, it will open the actual pages in Safari.
Ecosia Browser: free for Android
5. Kiwi Browser
Kiwi Browser puts the focus on speed, cutting down the app to its essentials so you can focus on zooming around the web rather than sifting through menus and settings.
If there’s one reason to give Kiwi a try, it’s speed—this browser really is fast. It’s also easy to use; you can even move the address bar down to the bottom so you can navigate more easily on bigger screens. However, it has fewer security features than some of the other browsers on this list, and as yet, you can’t download an iOS version of the app.
Like a few Android browsers, it relies on that handy Chromium code, so you get the usual tools for tabs, bookmarks, passwords, and private browsing. But Kiwi adds a few tweaks: You can access features like a night mode to prevent eye strain, an ad blocker that’s enabled by default, support for playing YouTube in the background (so you can keep on listening to music while you browse), and a special scanner that helps you avoid any sites that might hijack your phone to mine cryptocurrencies.
Kiwi Browser: free for Android
6. Tor Browser
The truly paranoid web-searcher needs Tor. Like its desktop version, the Tor Browser for Android doesn’t connect you directly to sites. Instead, it routes you through a series of connected servers, making it much harder for other people—whether that’s your internet provider, marketing companies, government agencies, or identity thieves—to track and identify you.
In that respect, this browser acts a lot like a VPN, only instead of putting your trust in one VPN company and its servers, you’re relying on a decentralized network of nodes run by volunteers who believe in privacy. The good news is, all of this heavy lifting happens behind the scenes, so you can just run your searches and enter URLs as you normally would.
Note that this is an early version of the app, so you may experience some bugs as the developers work toward a full, stable release, which is scheduled for next year. Also, because of Tor’s focus on privacy, you won’t get some of the features you might prefer, such as browsing history or password management. The Tor Browser aims to forget this type of information, not save it. Finally, if you own an iPhone, you’re out of luck—there’s no Tor Browser for iOS yet.
Tor Browser: free for Android
7. Firefox Focus
The second Mozilla browser in our list, Firefox Focus ramps up the ad blocking and tracking protection to offer one of the most secure and private mobile browsing experiences. It started life as an ad-blocker extension for mobile devices, and then Mozilla decided to surround it with a minimal web browser, based on the original Firefox.
So how does this differ from its older sibling? Firefox Focus leaves barely any trace on the web. Think of it like running Firefox in private mode all the time, without storing any browsing history or cookies on your device. It also blocks most trackers and ads by default, and because of that, you might find that pages load faster and the whole internet speeds up.
Of course, because the browser stores nothing between sessions, it won’t let you easily jump back to that website you enjoyed the day before. Every time you visit a log-in site like Twitter or Gmail, you’ll have to enter your credentials once again. If you consider that a worthwhile trade-off for a more private online experience, then give Firefox Focus a try.