The built-in Safari web browser of your iPad (and iPhone and iPod Touch) is pretty nice but it still lacks a few essentials features that are now part of every modern browser.
What’s Missing in Safari Mobile Browser
iPad’s Safari browser doesn’t support tabs so it takes more time to switch between open web pages. There’s no private browsing mode so if there’s anything in your iPad’s web history that you don’t want other family members to see, you’ll have to clear the entire browser history.
You cannot disable images from downloading, a feature that otherwise come very handy when you are on metered Wi-Fi connection where you have to pay per byte. Safari ships pre-configured with Google, Yahoo and Bing but you just can’t add Wikipedia or any of the search engines to that list.
Alternative Web Browsers for your iPad
Opera Mini, which is now among the most popular alternative mobile browser for iPhone and iPod Touch, is not iPad-friendly yet but there are some other good browser apps that not only bring the much needed features to your iPad but they are completely free as well.
One of my favourite web browser on the iPad is LastPass which offers tabbed browsing just like any other desktop browser. You are also not limited to opening nine tabs at once as in the case of Safari.
With LastPass, you can easily switch the default user-agent of the mobile browser to Firefox, Chrome or IE – this should be useful when you want to see the desktop version of a site on your iPad. The LastPass browser also offers an option to block images which can speed up page loading times when you are on a slow connection.
Next in the list of Safari alternatives is Snowbunny – it’s a no-frills browser with some nice features and one of them is private browsing. When you exit the browser, it will automatically erase all the web pages that you may have visited, the cookies as well as the entire search history.
The address bar in Snowbunny, unlike Safari, is not fixed and it moves off the screen as you scroll down a web page. It’s like a virtual full-screen mode.
Another browser that may be worth adding on to your iPad is TwinWeb – it’s a split browser that lets you view two web pages side by side both in portrait and landscape modes. This should be useful when you are comparing two pages – like search results on Google and Bing or two of your own documents on Google Docs.
Finally, an app that you should definitely have on your iPad is Google Mobile – it has an integrated web browser that lets you search the various Google properties as well as Wikipedia using your own voice. Once the search results load inside the Google Mobile app, you can either open the target pages in the app itself or send them to Safari.