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3 iPad Alternative Browsers to Safari for a Richer Internet Experience

The iPad is a great mobile internet browsing device. Its design, shape, and ease of use make surfing the web less awkward than the laptop.  However, the default Safari browser may still be lacking in certain features that an average iPad user would like to see.

Full Screen

For a laptop, the full screen feature may not be an important feature to have.  But with the iPad, when users are holding the screen up close and rotating it around, a full screen browser becomes essential for a satisfying web browsing experience.  The iPad is designed to be a media device comparable to a media rich book or magazine.  Imagine always having that annoying address bar around when you are trying to read a magazine.  That doesn’t feel too good.


The same is true for reading online comics or manga on the iPad. The iPad is a perfect device to read online comics and manga.  This mobile internet device is shaped like a comic book, and with double tap of the screen, the image gets positioned to utilize the maximum available screen space. Because online mangas are rendered in an image format, it gives the best viewing experience if readers can read them utilizing the full screen space of the iPad.  It makes reading those tiny words a little easier and the drawings a little more life-sized if given the screen space taken up by the address bar.

Duo Page Browsing

The iPad has enough screen real-estate to browse two different sites at the same time.  For example if you want to compare the specifications of 2 products on two different web pages, this feature would come in handy.  You can also watch youtube videos or sign on to Meebo, the instant message aggregator site, and surf the web at the same time.  This feature is a must for those iPad owners who like to multitask.

One-touch Tab Buttons

Current desktop and laptop browsers feature 1-click tabs to allow for easier and faster web browsing.  Unfortunately, in Safari, to switch between web pages, users need to tap a separate tab button and then tap again to select a page to be loaded.  This extra work that it takes to switch between pages can get really annoying.  A desktop styled tabbed browser will greatly increase iPad user’s efficiency in navigating through the sea of web pages on the net.

Private Surfing

Since your iPad may be just lying around the house for everyone to use, may be it is not such a good idea to leave a trail of your browsing records.  Alternative iPad browsers that can enable private web browsing will save you the troubles of clearing your browsing history every time you finished your web session.

iPad Browser Apps

The following are current iPad browser apps in the App Store that feature one or more functions listed above. These apps, especially Atomic Browser and iCab Mobile, are probably one of the best iPad browsers in the App Store. These two browsers are also universal apps, and that means they work on your iPhone or iPod Touch too!

SkyFire Web Browser for iPad

Updated on 12/23/10:

SkyFire Web Browser for iPad has just been released in the App Store just in time for the holidays. As many of you may already know, Apple does not allow Adobe Flash application on the iPad. But SkyFire Browser for iPad is the exception. SkyFire is a unique browser that lets users view Flash videos. You cannot do that with any other browser out there because Apple does not allow Flash to be installed and running on the iOS. SkyFire go around this restriction by processing Flash content on their own servers, and then stream Flash video data back to your iPad. If you watch a lot of Flash based videos, this is a must-have app.

SkyFire also have other features, including Full Screen browsing and private surfing. It also features Facebook and Google Reader integration. That means users can “like” any web page even without a like button on the site. Users can also browse popular pages on a site based on the number of “likes” for a webpage on that site. There’s also Google Reader integration so you can always check your newest feeds at a tap of the screen.

However, Skyfire is missing desktop style tabs. You will still have to tap a button, go into another page to change to a separate web page. Not very convenient. But if you are eager to watch Flash videos on your iPad, this is the app you need to get.  For more information on SkyFire Web Browser for iPad, check out our in depth review.

App Name: SkyFire Web Browser for iPad

Price: $4.99 (No longer Available on the App Store)

Atomic Browser

Atomic Browser (App Store Link) has a boatload of features not found in Safari.  It is the browser that has almost all of features discussed above, including full screen browsing, 1-touch tab buttons, and private surfing.

Its full screen mode is great, giving users access to all of iPad’s available screen space.  It even allows users to adjust the opacity of the full screen menu buttons so they can browse the web at full screen while easily move between web pages at the same time. If you are only looking for an inexpensive full screen browser for your iPad, this app is definitely fits your need.

Atomic Browser’s 1-touch tab feature is the best among similar iPad browser apps in the App Store.  Its tabbed browser closely mimics the experience found in Firefox and Chrome browsers.  The browser will automatically open a new tab when a link that belongs to a different domain is selected.  The tabs appear just below the address bar.  By just tapping the tab 1 time, users can read the contents to the other web page.  User can select to open new pages in the background by holding the link until the choices appear.  It would be nice if users have the choice of opening new pages in the background with just 1 tap.   Such an option would be a welcoming addition to future updates.

Private surfing is also included.  Just open the settings page to set up private surfing so no one will know where on the web you have been hanging out.

These are just a few of the features users will find in this browser app.   Other great features include ad blocking, multi touch gesture support, in-page search, font adjustment, and viewing the source code or the web page.

Multi-Touch gesture support makes Atomic very unique and convenient. While in full screen mode, users can easily move to the next tab by using 2-finger swipes. 3-finger swipes by default will allow users to close the page. Multi Touch gesture support also allows users to go back and forward, making web browsing in full screen mode seamless and smooth.

Atomic Browser is probably the best iPad browser app in the App Store.  It even works on the iPhone as a universal app.  With all of those features, it should do more than to satisfy iPad owners who just want a browser as good as their desktop computer.   At only $0.99 at the time of this writing, it is a no-brainer.

App Name: Atomic Browser

Price: $0.99 Atomic

Bottom Line: Best Value with Loads of Features


iCabMobile (App Store Link) is another excellent alternative browser.  Like Atomic Browser, its full screen mode allows users to utilize all of the iPad’s available screen space.  It also has tabs like those on the desktop.  iCabMobile does have the option to open links in the background with just a quick tap.  That is a plus for those who likes to open multiple links for later viewing.  Also, like the Atomic Browser, private surfing is a function that can be enabled in iCabMobile.

iCabMobile has other unique functions.  iCab Mobile enables downloads.  You can download items from the internet and then export them to your desktop or laptop computer for later use.

Other iCabMobile features include easy Google language translation and ad blocking.  iCab Mobile is also a universal app and can be downloaded to the iPhone or iPod Touch.

iCabMobile is currently available for $1.99 in the App Store.  When comparing to Atomic Browser, it is a little bit more expensive.  It also doesn’t feature that multi-touch gesture control.  But with its ability to download files and quickly opening tabs in the background, users may want to make their selections carefully depending on their unique web browsing habits.

Update: iCabMobile has since been updated to 1-touch tabs similar to Atomic Browser.  But it’s ability to designate newly opened tabs directly to the background with a quick tap makes it a superior tabbed browser than Atomic Browser.

iCab Mobile has also added Dropbox support. Now, you can download files, images, webpages, and more directly to this great cloud storage system. With cloud computing support now added, you may want to think carefully between choosing iCab Mobile or Atomic Browser… Better yet, get both since they offer unique features you need for a more productive web experience.

App Name: iCab Mobile

Price: $1.99 iCab

Bottom Line: Solid Browser with Cloud Computing and other unique features

Browser Duo

Browser Duo (App Store Link) does one thing well.  That is giving you access to two web pages on 1 screen.  If you find yourself with the need to browse two web pages at the same time.  This is probably the browser app you will need.  It also does private browsing and full screen.  However, the full screen mode is not perfect.  It does not utilize all of the iPad’s screen space like iCabMobile and Atomic Browser.  So if you are looking for an alternative browser just for the full screen mode, this is not your best choice.  But if you are looking for duo page browsing function on your iPad, it may be a good choice.

Browser Feature Comparisons

Atomic Browser iCabMobile Browser Duo
Full Screen Mode Yes Yes Yes, but not too well
1-Touch Tabs Yes Yes No
Open Tabs in Background Yes, but needs to hold link and wait for selection. Yes No
Private Surfing Yes Yes Yes
Ad Blocking Yes Yes No
Duo Page Browsing No No Yes
MultiTouch Gestures Yes Not really No
In Page Search Yes Yes No
View Source Code Yes No No
Download Files No Yes No
Easy Translation No Yes No

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