Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS devices all have preinstalled Web browsers -- Edge for Windows 10, Chrome for Android, and Safari for Mac and iOS. But you can download a different browser for any of those platforms and change your default browser.
Some browsers are better than others at things like extension support, data savings (important for capped mobile data plans or slow connections), interface navigation, and the security of personal info. In some cases, you may have to trade one feature for another. No browser will be the best choice in all situations. But since browsers are usually free, you can have more than one installed and use specific ones for specific tasks.
Here are the key criteria to consider and the browser that's best for each feature.
- Extension support: Mozilla FirefoxWhile Google Chrome is by far the more popular browser, the mobile version currently does not support extensions. That means no ad blocker, Flash video downloader, or other third-party tools. Such add-ons have an impact on performance and battery life, but we'd prefer to have the option. Mobile Firefox ( Android, iOS) isn't compatible with all desktop Firefox (Windows, Mac) add-ons, but it checks the most important boxes.
- Mobile data savings: Mozilla FirefoxOn mobile, limited data plans or slow connections can create a frustrating user experience. You can tell the mobile version of Firefox to not load images, or limit image loading to Wi-Fi connections. You can also tell it not to autoplay videos or download fonts. Chrome can be told to compress images, but this requires sending your browser activities through Google servers, which you may not want to do.
- Smooth navigation: Google ChromeWhen you're typing an Internet address or search query into the address bar, Chrome ( Windows, Mac, Android, iOS) has optional tools that can automatically kick in to help you reach your destination more quickly. It can redirect you when you mistype a URL, suggest websites or searches as you type, and partially preload websites in the background with a prediction service. There's also Touch to Search, where mobile users can tap on a word on a webpage to search Google for that term.
- Privacy and security: Orfox/The Tor Browser
A snoop-free browsing experience can be difficult to achieve, but apps like the Tor Browser ( Windows, Mac) make it possible. The browser is a modified form of Firefox with built-in support for the Tor network. This is a network of encrypting relays between you and the Internet that makes it difficult for nosy people to intercept your private online communications or record your whereabouts. The Tor Browser works similarly to a VPN, but it's more decentralized, and it's free.
The Android version is called Orfox and is used in combination with the Orbot app to connect to the Tor network. iOS doesn't have an official Tor option, but there are third-party Tor-aware browsers such as Art Fusion's VPN Browser.