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Monday, April 12, 2021

12 Best Browsers for Privacy on Android and iOS (2021)

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Online tracking and surreptitious data collection have always been a massive cause for concern for most privacy-conscious users, and many netizens are now waking up to its dangers. The problem is even more acute on mobile devices as there are far too many sensors sending far too much information to far too many third-party servers. So, we bring you a list of the 12 best browsers to safeguard your privacy on Android and iOS devices.

Best Browsers for Privacy on Smartphones (Android and iOS)

In this article, we list a number of browsers specifically designed to stop online tracking and data harvesting. They are either open source or come from some of the most reputable and trustworthy names in the market. So without further ado, let’s check out the best web browsers for privacy on Android and iOS. Spoiler Alert: There’s no Google Chrome on this list. I wonder why.

1. Firefox Focus: Best Browser for Privacy on Android and iOS

Originally developed as a Safari extension by Mozilla, Firefox Focus has grown into an independent, minimalist, privacy-focused web-browser on Android and iOS. It is a free and open-source browser with a built-in ad-blocker, tracking protection, and content blocking. Firefox Focus is ‘Private by default,’ which means it only functions in private (incognito) mode. It has been the default browser on all my Android devices over the past 3-4 years, and apart from the lack of Dark Mode, there’s not a lot I can complain about it.

Firefox Focus ensures automatic privacy by blocking a wide range of common web trackers by default, without any user intervention. It also erases your browsing history, including logins, passwords, cookies, etc., the moment you exit the browser. By removing trackers and ads, web-pages also consume less data and load faster. It isn’t as feature-rich as the full-fledged Firefox browser, which also supports add-ons. But if uncompromising privacy is what you seek, Firefox Focus is by far one of the best browsers both on Android and iOS.

  • Pros: Open source, Developed by Mozilla, Private by default
  • Cons: Extremely minimalistic, No add-on support, No dark mode
  • Platforms: Android, iOS
  • Download: Android (Free); iOS (Free)

2. Tor Browser: Best Browser to Access Onion Sites on Android

One of the most well-known privacy-focused software among geeks and human-rights activists alike, Tor Browser is developed by Tor Project Inc., a non-profit organization based out of Seattle. Funded by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), the Tor Browser consists of a modified Mozilla Firefox, the TorButton, TorLauncher, the Tor proxy, NoScript, and HTTPS Everywhere. It routes traffic through the Tor network and automatically deletes all session data, such as HTTP cookies and browsing history, at the end of every session.

Tor Browser: Best Privacy Browser to Access Onion Sites on Android

Available on all major desktop platforms, including Windows, Mac, and a vast majority of Linux distros, Tor Browser is also popular among privacy-conscious Android users. However, because the traffic is routed through multiple Tor nodes for security purposes, the browsing experience can be slower than usual. It can be a deal-breaker for first-time users. If, however, you can look past that, the Tor Browser is one of the best browsers for privacy on Android devices. You can learn more about the Tor network and its benefits in our detailed article on the subject.

  • Pros: Open-source, Based on Firefox, Best-in-class privacy, Built-in Tor network
  • Cons: Painfully slow, Not for everyday browsing, Not suitable for novice users
  • Platform: Android
  • Download: (Free)

3. DuckDuckGo Privacy Browser: Integrated DDG Search on Android, iOS

The DuckDuckGo (DDG) browser comes from DuckDuckGo Inc., one of the foremost names in online privacy. It is a full-fledged web browser on Android and iOS, offering all the features you expect in a modern mobile browser, such as tabs, bookmarks, and even a dark mode. Plus, it also comes with a suite of privacy essentials, including one-tap deletion of all web history at once. DuckDuckGo Browser offers a full-fledged mobile browser without any of the privacy compromises of Google Chrome.

DuckDuckGo Privacy Browser

The DuckDuckGo Browser also automatically blocks hidden third-party trackers, thereby stopping those companies from harvesting your data for commercial purposes. As expected, it also comes with the DDG search engine built-in and forces encrypted (HTTPS) connections where available. It also comes with Global Privacy Control (GPC), which means it will tell websites not to collect, sell, or share your data unless permitted to do so.

  • Pros: Automatic HTTPS, One-tap history deletion, Built-in DuckDuckGo search, Dark Mode
  • Cons: Not open-source, Developed by a for-profit company, Gratuitous and nagging reminders about trackers and ads, Childish animations while clearing history, etc.
  • Platforms: Android, iOS
  • Download: Android (Free); iOS (Free)

4. Adblock Browser

The Adblock Browser comes from Wladimir Palant and Eyeo GmbH, developers of the blockbuster Adblock Plus add-on for Firefox and Chrome. Built on the Chromium code-base, it blocks everyday annoyances like pop-ups, video ads, and banner ads on most sites by default. It is a fast, sleek, and secure web browser that blocks annoying and disruptive ads, including pop-ups, video ads, banner ads, and ads disguised as content. It also has a ‘Ghost Mode’ (Incognito/ Private mode) that prevents the device from storing any browsing history, including cookies, temporary files, etc.

Adblock Browser

The browser allows some ads that aren’t disruptive, which is essential for publishers and content creators to raise revenues. You can, however, choose to block these ads by turning off the Acceptable Ads option from the settings. Not only does the Adblock browser remove ads, but it also prevents them from being downloaded to your device in the first place, thereby reducing data consumption and improving battery efficiency. You can also easily configure the browser to stop companies from tracking your online activity.

  • Pros: Chromium-based, Built-in ad-blocking, Familiar UI
  • Cons: Needs to enable full tracking protection, Controversial ‘acceptable ads’ program
  • Platforms: Android, iOS
  • Download: Android (Free); iOS (Free)

5. Chromium: Open-Source Privacy Browser on Android

Chromium is the open-source browser project that underpins the most popular browser in the world, Google Chrome. It also forms the basis for the latest version of Microsoft’s new Edge browser. Chromium comes with many of the features you love on Google Chrome but without automatic updates and built-in DRM components that enable Chrome and Edge to play copyrighted content. It also looks and feels identical to Chrome, which means the transition process from Google’s proprietary browser is painless.

Chromium

Chromium comes with most of the key features of Google Chrome but without persistent tracking and user data collection. However, it will likely be more buggy than even the beta versions of Chrome and Edge. More importantly, Chromium is neither available on Google Play nor F-Droid. The only way you can get an official build is through sideloading. That said, if you’re willing to put up with all that, Chromium is a more private alternative to Google Chrome while looking and working almost exactly alike.

  • Pros: Open source, Zero data harvesting, Looks and feels identical to Chrome
  • Cons: Doesn’t play DRM content by default, More buggy than Chrome, Not available on Google Play or F-Droid (Sideloading only), No direct update mechanism
  • Platform: Android
  • Download: Free

6. Brave Browser

The brainchild of former Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich, Brave Browser is also based on Chromium. It is part of a growing tribe of browsers that promise to block ads and trackers by default. Brave is a free and open-source browser that is built from the ground up with privacy in mind. It blocks trackers, scripts, and ads by default and offers an automatic HTTPS connection and a native password manager. Other notable features include bookmark-syncing, tracking protection, private (incognito) browsing, and more.

Brave Browser

Brave Browser also comes with an integrated cryptocurrency payment platform called BAT (Basic Attention Tokens), and it rewards users with crypto-tokens by allowing privacy-respecting ads. Users can choose to spend BATs to support websites, bloggers, vloggers, and content creators they love, who in turn can convert the BATs into actual currency. The developers claim that the browser also reduces page loading times, improves performance, increases battery efficiency, and reduces data usage.

  • Pros: Open source, Built-in HTTPS Everywhere, Built-in ad-blocker, script blocker
  • Cons: BAT is Brave’s way of upending the existing online advertising model with its own ad platform
  • Platforms: Android, iOS
  • Download: Android (Free); iOS (Free)

7. Onion Browser: Best Browser for Privacy on iOS

Onion Browser is a free and open-source web browser that brings the safety, security, and privacy of the Tor network to iOS. Originally envisaged as a Tor Browser equivalent for iPhones and iPads, the Onion Browser uses Apple’s core web rendering engine (UIWebKit/ WKWebView) instead of Firefox Gecko, unlike Tor Browser on Android. Be that as it may, the Tor Project still officially recommends the Onion Browser for maximum privacy protection on iOS.

Onion Browser best browser for privacy on ios

The Onion Browser encrypts your internet traffic and then bounces it through three different parts of the world to hide your real IP. Because it uses the Tor network, ISPs and Wi-Fi network operators cannot track your browsing activities. The browser also disables third-party cookies and web-trackers to help protect your privacy. All said and done, Onion Browser remains one of the most secure, privacy-oriented browsers on iOS and the best Tor-related offering on the platform.

  • Pros: Open source, Built-in Tor network, Native script blocker, Integrated HTTPS Everywhere
  • Cons: Based on Apple’s UIWebKit/WKWebView instead of Firefox Gecko
  • Platform: iOS
  • Download: (Free)

8. Avast Secure Browser

Avast Secure Browser comes from Avast Software SRO, the Czech cyber-security firm behind the popular Avast Antivirus software. The browser comes with a built-in ad-blocker, which automatically blocks ads and web-trackers. It also incorporates a free VPN that protects your data, especially on public Wi-Fi. Other security and privacy features include full data encryption, private search engines, PIN lock, and more, making it one of the best browsers for privacy on Android and iOS.

Avast Secure Browser

The Avast Browser encrypts all your online data, including IP address, browsing history, bookmarks, DNS queries, and more. Downloaded files are automatically encrypted on-device and accessible through the privacy-focused Media Vault. Other notable features include bookmark-syncing, customizable browsing modes, dark mode, privacy-focused media player and video downloader, etc.

  • Pros: Free built-in VPN, Automatic tracker-blocking, Data encryption
  • Cons: Not open-source, Developed by a for-profit company
  • Platforms: Android, iOS
  • Download: Android (Free); iOS (Free)

9. Kiwi Browser: Best Privacy Browser on Android With Chrome Extensions Support

Kiwi is an open-source Chromium and Webkit-based browser that started life on the XDA Forums in 2018. Developed by XDA Senior Member arnaud42, Kiwi Browser not only comes with statutory ad-blocking and tracking protection but also incorporates cryptojacking protection to block hackers from using your device to mine crypto-currency. As per the developer, it is a first for an Android browser. Kiwi also comes with an optimized rendering engine that displays web pages faster than either Chrome or Chromium.

Kiwi Browser

Another impressive feature of Kiwi Browser is that it supports numerous Chrome extensions that do not rely on x86 binary code. That means not every extension will work, but many of the popular ones do. The browser also comes with a built-in night mode with customizable contrast and grayscale options. It also offers notification blocking, the ability to open extensions in external applications, custom search engine options, experimental Chromium flags, and other advanced features.

  • Pros: Open source, Cryptojacking protection, Native tracker-blocking, Built-in dark mode, Chromium-based, Many compatible Chrome extensions
  • Cons: Little rough around the edges
  • Platforms: Android
  • Download: Free

10. Ghostery Privacy Browser

Based on Firefox for Android, Ghostery Privacy Browser comes from the same developer that offers the eponymous open-source browser extension on the desktop. Like the plugin, the browser is also fully open-source, with the code hosted on GitHub. Ghostery Privacy Browser combines the ad-blocking and tracking-protection features of Ghostery 8 with many features of Firefox Fenix to boost the privacy of its users. It even includes a private browsing option that the developers call Ghost Mode.

Ghostery Browser

Thanks to the Ghostery add-on integration, users can see who is tracking their data on the websites they visit and block or unblock these trackers individually or en masse. Plus, the built-in ad-blocker removes intrusive ads and clutter, resulting in a cleaner and faster browsing experience. Ghostery cuts out much of the additional features of Firefox Fenix for the sake of blazing-fast speed. However, it still retains some of its core functionalities, including bookmarks, tabbed browsing, etc.

  • Pros: Open source, Firefox-based, Integrated Ghostery add-on
  • Cons: Somewhat buggy, Fewer features than Firefox
  • Platforms: Android, iOS
  • Download: Android (Free); iOS (Free)

11. Opera Browser With VPN

Opera has been a popular web-browser on both desktops and mobiles for years, and it now comes with an integrated VPN for enhanced privacy. In keeping with its privacy theme, the browser also comes with a built-in ad-blocker to weed out annoying online advertisements. There’s also a native downloader, a file manager, and a QR code and barcode scanner that’s accessible from the search bar. You can even sync files and data between the desktop and mobile versions of the browser.

Opera Browser with VPN

Opera Browser for Android also comes with integrated infotainment features, including trending videos and breaking news. The service is available in many Indian languages, including Hindi, Tamil, Bangla, Urdu, Marathi, Malayalam, Telugu, and Kannada. Designed for Indian users, the entertainment and sports channels on the Opera newsfeed offer the latest on Bollywood and cricket. The feed is personalized by default, but you can turn off personalization for enhanced privacy. There’s also a dedicated cricket channel with live updates on both regional and global matches.

  • Pros: Integrated free VPN, Built-in ad-blocker, Cross-platform data syncing
  • Cons: Not open source, Personalized newsfeed requires tracking
  • Platforms: Android, iOS
  • Download: Android (Free); iOS (Free)

12. Firefox: Best Full-Featured Browser for Privacy Enthusiasts

We’ve saved the best for last. One of the crown jewels in the FOSS universe, Firefox is the legendary open-source browser from Mozilla. It is one of the best browsers for privacy on any platform, including Android, iOS, Windows, Mac, and Linux. It is, quite simply, the most full-fledged, full-featured, no-compromise privacy browser you can use on desktops and mobiles. With privacy and customization at its core, you can also configure Firefox to start in ‘Private’ mode every time.

Firefox: Best Browsers for Privacy on Android and iOS

Firefox for Android retains much of the goodness of its desktop counterparts, only lacking somewhat in the add-ons department. The browser officially started supporting add-ons on Android last year and is already compatible with a slew of blockbuster extensions, including Dark Reader, Ghostery, NoScript, HTTPS Everywhere, FoxyProxy, and more. As for its privacy chops, Firefox blocks over 2000 trackers out-of-the-box as part of its Enhanced Tracking Protection program. It also offers Quick Share, cross-platform syncing, smart-casting to tablet or TV, and other smart features.

  • Pros: Open source, Built-in tracking protection, Add-ons support, Cross-platform syncing
  • Cons: Relatively heavy
  • Platforms: Android, iOS
  • Download: Android (Free); iOS (Free)

Browse the Web on Your Phone in Complete Privacy

The mobile browsers in the list above should greatly help lessen your online privacy concerns. To further strengthen your privacy, you should switch over to Open DNS on Android, move from WhatsApp to Signal (or Telegram) and remember to steer clear of some of the most dangerous apps.

For your computer, check out out the best Google Chrome alternatives you can use on desktops and laptops. Finally, if you simply cannot do without Google Chrome, check out how you can delete and disable cookies on Chrome for Android,  how to start up desktop Chrome in incognito mode every time, and the best Chrome flags on Android.

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