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Safari Review

Safari is Apple's native browser for Mac and iOS. The browser marketplace has become pretty competitive, and there are a host of other browser options you could use instead of Safari. But the question is, should you? Read our Safari review to find out.

Hannah Pisani
By Hannah Pisani (Writer)
— Last Updated: 2022-07-29T13:11:39+00:00 Facts checked by Eugenie Tiu

All Mac and iPhone users will be familiar with Safari — it’s Apple’s native web browser and has been around since 2003. Apple has taken Safari through 15 major updates, but that’s not to say it’s the best browser out there. After all, the browser market is a competitive one. Should Safari be the go-to for Apple users? Well, read our Safari review to decide.

There’s a lot we like about Safari — both on Mac and iPhone. It’s straightforward to use, integrates well with Apple’s applications and looks sleek and crisp. However, Safari is far from perfect, with the lack of browser extensions being a particular weakness. 

Key Takeaways:

  • Safari is the native browser for Mac and iOS devices. It’s got a clean design and is straightforward to use. 
  • Safari ranks pretty high for privacy and security, but it lacks the customizable features and add-ons that you get with other browsers.
  • The big win for Safari is its integration capabilities. It syncs effortlessly across your Apple devices and you can use Apple pay in-browser. 

Ultimately, our take on Safari is that it depends on what you need. If you’re a lover of Apple devices who wants to browse the web for fun and research purposes, then Safari is probably enough. However, if you’re looking for a personalized, customized and enhanced web browsing experience, you may want to consider other providers.

Let’s get into the Safari browser review. One more thing: Safari is only available on the iOS operating system. If you’re a Microsoft Windows or Chromebook user, we advise you stop reading now and check out our list of the best browsers instead. 

  • 03/21/2022 Facts checked

    Cloudwards completed a fresh review of Safari. Since our last review, Safari has updated its design, but its features remain unchanged. 

    Testing: MacBook running OS Monterey and an iPhone running iOS 14.8.1. 

  • Safari feels intuitive to use and covers the basics well. However, it lacks the features and vast extension libraries of its competitors.

  • Safari is pretty secure because it uses Google’s Safe Browsing database to protect you from phishing and malware. It also automatically blocks suspicious websites and pop-ups by default.

  • This depends on your needs. If you’re looking to add a range of extensions to your browsing experience, or are particularly security conscious, you’ll be better off with Google Chrome. However, if you are an avid Apple fan and want a fast, seamless user experience across all your Apple devices, Safari won’t disappoint.

  • Safari isn’t outdated in our view. It offers a range of elements that make it perfect for day-to-day browsing needs.

Safari Review: Alternatives

Safari Review: Strengths & Weaknesses

Pros:

  • Usually pretty fast 
  • Intuitive user interface 
  • Default for Mac & iOS

Cons:

  • Limited extensions library 
  • Only available on Apple 
  • Customization not obvious 

Features

65 % – Decent

Safari encourages continuity. One of its standout features is the fact that, if you’re an iPhone, iPad and Mac user, you can work seamlessly across your Apple devices. This is because Safari takes advantage of iCloud syncing features. Essentially, rather than storing data locally on your device, Safari stores your data in the cloud. 

If you’re signed in with your Apple ID across your Apple devices, you can switch from device to device without your browser session being interrupted (to an extent). For example, you can favorite a web recipe on your phone and then access it on your Mac. 

We also like that you can sync passwords across your devices — although, this isn’t actually down to Safari, but Apple’s iCloud Keychain software. 

While this interoperability is a definite benefit, it has its limitations. Sure, favorite websites and bookmarks transfer, but you can’t sync your settings or open tabs across devices. 

Features on Mac

Safari covers the essentials well for Mac devices. It has a sleek, minimalist design and is intuitive to use on a desktop. While there are customization features, they’re kind of muted and hard to find.

In the right-hand corner of the browser start page, you’ll find a settings icon that enables you to lightly edit the appearance of your start page — whether you view your favorites, privacy report and so on. You can also upload your own background image from the start page. 

These few features are pretty basic — and so is the functionality of the desktop browser. While it’s good for basic browsing, if you want to harness the power of a library of extensions, Safari falls short. 

That’s not to say that Apple doesn’t offer extensions for Safari. It does, but the library certainly isn’t as vast as open-source competitors like Firefox (read our full review of Firefox here). 

There are big names in the Apple extension store that are perfect for consumer browsing — we were able to install well-known favorites like Honey, 1Password and Grammarly. However, a lot of Safari’s extensions are, well, built for Safari. Apple’s app store has a bias to it, whereby a lot of the extensions are available only for Safari. 

If you’re an Apple devotee, there’s nothing to worry about — especially if you’re a family of Apple users. We like that the company has robust parental control settings that are easy to customize.

Parents can easily configure a secure browsing experience for their children without having to download any extensions. We have a comprehensive guide on how you can set parental controls on iPhones and iPads.

On Mac, for example, you can do this by clicking “system preferences” and then the screen time icon. Once on this page, you can select controls relating to app restrictions, content restrictions and downtime. 

Privacy restrictions
Apple has taken a family-friendly approach to Safari, with the addition of parental control settings that are easy to access and customize. 

Features on iOS

Safari is also solid on iOS, although it lacks the wow factor of competitor home screens like Google Chrome. While the Chrome mobile app, for example, automatically shows you the latest trending news on the home screen, Safari opens up as a gray, static canvas of your favorite websites and frequently visited pages. 

iOS Safari start
Safari iOS is straightforward to navigate.

We don’t want to imply that this is a bad thing, though. It all depends on what you’re after from your mobile browsing experience. Moreover, iOS shines in its syncing and communication capabilities. If you see a website or article you like, you can easily share it with your phone contacts in just a couple of clicks across applications like WhatsApp, Instagram and Facebook.

You can also easily bookmark iCloud tabs, add them to favorites and save them to your home screen with a single tap for later use. 

Ease of Use

60 % – Fair

Safari’s interface is a bit like Marmite — you either love it or you hate it. Mac devotees will likely find Safari intuitive to use, but that’s partially due to previous experience with Safari. Because it comes preloaded on Apple products, there’s no learning curve.

For Chrome users, the Safari start page could be a little jarring. Gone are the bells and whistles of a center-space search bar and the latest news stories. Instead, you’re greeted with a minimalist gray interface featuring your reading list, favorite pages and a block of your most visited sites. 

Ease of Use on Mac

Safari’s user interface is pretty easy to get your head around. The address bar is at the top of the screen, and your tabs appear underneath it in chronological order. Above the address bar, you can find all the usual suspects that you’d expect from a browser, like your history, bookmarks and edit options. 

One nice feature is the “tab overview” function in the top right-hand corner, which zooms you out of your tabs so you can see all your sites at a high level. If you’re someone who uses lots of research tabs for school or work, this is really handy. 

Another slightly hidden feature of Safari for Mac is the tab group feature. In the top left-hand corner of the Safari screen, you’ll see a page icon. Click this and a panel will appear on the left-hand side of your page. From this panel, you can create tab groups, where you can save a group of web pages to be opened at a later date. 

Safari start page new
As browsers go, Safari covers the basics pretty well.

Ease of Use on iOS 

It’s a similar story on iOS. The layout of Safari for mobile devices is intuitive and simple, with a search engine function embedded at the top of the homepage. The one downside of Safari on iOS is that tab management is a little clunky. 

Every time you open a new tab, it gets added to a card deck tab list, which can easily become overwhelmingly long if you’re not careful about closing tabs that you no longer use. 

While apps like Chrome will let you know how many tabs you have open, it’s a bit of a guessing game with Safari and it’s easy to lose track if you click links with websites that open new tabs. 

Safari offers a private browsing option that’s super easy to find — we would say easier to find than in its mobile app competitors. By tapping the “open new tab” option, you’ll automatically see a “private” browsing option in the bottom left-hand corner of your mobile screen. 

Safari iOS tabs
Safari’s tabs on iPhone appear in a card-like deck. 

Safari’s Integration With Apple Devices

So far, Safari seems to be doing OK in the browser game, but Apple really makes up for things when it comes to its native browser’s integration capabilities. Apple Pay, for example, is one of the best features of using Apple. With macOS expMonterey on a relatively new MacBook Pro, we can use Safari to pay for transactions with a quick and effortless touch ID feature. 

It’s a similar picture on iPhone, where Safari and face ID combine for an effortless checkout experience. Of course, this functionality depends on the e-commerce website you visit. Not all merchants offer Apple Pay, but it is a nice touch when they do. 

Saying this, we’re also aware that most browsers give you the option to save your credit card details, but there is something glitzy about the touch ID and face ID capabilities of Safari and Apple Pay that appeals — even if it is slightly gimmicky. 

We also like that Safari enables you to effortlessly email or call a website you’ve visited by clicking these details. On iOS, you’ll be able to immediately call the number; on Mac, the email address will open up in Apple Mail. 

Apple pay 1003
Safari has Apple Pay integration, which allows you to pay for transactions in Safari using face ID, touch ID or your password.

Performance

90 % – Excellent

Safari’s performance is, for the most part, superb on both Mac and iOS. We tested Safari’s speed, compared to Chrome on Mac, to see how it performed. 

We used BrowserBench’s trio of tests — Speedometer 2.0, JetStream 2 and MotionMark — each of which analyzes a different aspect of the browser. Read our review of the fastest browsers here. 

We performed the tests on a MacBook Pro with 16GB of RAM and an Intel Core i5 CPU running at  2 GHz. It’s worth noting that the strength of your internet connection can impact the browser speed, so keep that in mind when reviewing the results, which were as follows.

Benchmark Test Results

Benchmark Test:Speedometer
BrowsersRuns per Minute
Chrome122.05
Safari113.8
Benchmark Test:Jetstream
BrowserScore
Safari125.705
Chrome118.675
Benchmark Test:Motion Mark
BrowserScore
Chrome403.6
Safari365.31

With Speedometer, Chrome came up tops. Its reading was 122.05, compared to Safari’s 113.8. This means Chrome is the faster option, but Safari is still pretty speedy. The difference is negligible and we haven’t noticed it with either browser. 

On JetStream, Chrome came in at 118.675, with Safari taking a slight lead with a reading of 125.705. This indicates that Safari is solid for handling more complex JavaScript workloads.

However, with MotionMark, which tests the graphics capabilities of the browser, Safari’s result was 356.31, while Chrome’s was 403.6. MotionMark is all about testing the user experience — how a browser responds and performs in terms of graphics and responsiveness. 

Safari’s Improved Performance on Apple Devices

While Chrome takes the lead here, we have to say that we haven’t noticed a clear difference in the user experience while using Chrome compared to Safari. Although, if you’re into gaming on your browser, you may find Chrome preferable. 

So, while Chrome may be faster, Safari’s performance is still excellent. From an efficiency perspective, Safari is also better than other browsers that are based on Chromium (take a look at our Chromium review). This is because of Safari’s lightweight design, which means it needs less RAM than other providers. 

This difference is exemplified the most by tab usage. If you’re familiar with the MacBook Pro “fan whir,” then be wary of opening too many Chrome tabs at once. 

While we can open an unlimited number of Safari tabs without experiencing the whir, if we open too many Chrome tabs, it will trigger the Mac’s fan. If you want more on the battle of Chrome vs Safari, read our full review

Security

65 % – Decent

Safari isn’t bad in terms of security, but it’s not amazing either. While the browser uses Google’s Safe Browsing database to prevent phishing and malware, its pop-up ad blocker seems to fall short. 

We’ve visited many news websites and found that ads have interrupted our browsing experience. We’d recommend downloading an additional pop-up ad blocker extension to impede this. 

Another thing to bear in mind is that Safari’s updates are few and far between. While competitor search engines like Google Chrome mandate security updates roughly every two to three weeks, Safari security updates are less frequent at anywhere between four and six weeks. 

These security updates tend to contain critical patches that correct vulnerabilities in the browsing software. Left too long without a patch, cybercriminals could take advantage of these security weaknesses, which is why we recommend using the best VPN for Safari.  

Finally, as noted earlier, Safari’s integration with Apple devices makes password management super simple. You don’t need to install an extra password manager; Safari automatically stores your passwords in the iCloud Keychain. 

As an added bonus, Safari also features dark web monitoring. This alerts you if your password or email address has appeared in a data breach, and asks you to change the password. 

Security
Safari has some built-in security protections, so your browsing experience should be relatively safe.

Privacy

70 % – Decent

Hidden in Safari’s “preferences” section are a range of basic privacy features that are automatically enabled, such as tick-box options to prevent cross-site tracking, hide your IP address and block all cookies. 

Safari doesn’t boast these features. You have to look to find them. but it’s encouraging to know that they are enabled by default, as opposed to users having to opt in for better privacy. 

On your start page, you’ll even see a feature called “privacy report,” which highlights how Apple’s Intelligent Tracking Prevention functionality has identified and blocked website trackers from tracking you. 

Privacy 2
Safari has many privacy features to help prevent cross-site tracking, keep your IP address private and block website cookies.

Safari Browser Review: The Verdict

Ultimately, Safari is a robust browser choice for both iOS and Mac users. If you’re a big Apple fan, then using Safari makes sense for basic browsing — especially given its seamless integration with other Apple functions like iCloud and Apple Pay. 

However, if you’re looking for high degrees of customization and personalization, then Safari’s minimalist interface and handful of extensions will feel limiting. 

We’d love to know what you think of Safari. How do you think it compares to other browsers? Is Safari your go-to browser, and if so why? Let us know in the comments! Thank you for reading.

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14 thoughts on “Safari”

  1. I myself like Safari a lot, the fact its integrated with Mac OS and IOS is actually a big plus for me. Ads have never really bothered me, and Apple does include cross site blocking now in Safari 13. In Mac OS Safari hands down beats any other browser in conserving battery life.

    Reply
  2. Safari is a blazing fast and system efficient browser.
    But a major downside with it is Bookmarks bar. I for one hope that it one day support favicons only on the bar. On Chrome i can only have icons and no text. Safari does not allow this which is tragic.

    Reply
  3. Safari has got to be the absolute worst browser in the world! Constantly shutting off say a problem occurred. I would not give a plug nickel for the entire mess

    Reply
  4. I find this review very wrong. For starters, maybe use the actual 2020 Safari (included on iOS 14 and Big Sur beta) when you say it’s updated to 2020 when it only gets a major update every year. Security is actually pretty good and privacy is the best. You get tracker blocking, 3rd party cookies blocking and apple had the best privacy practices. If a security threat comes out, they’ll update the browser faster, OBVIOUSLY. This is the easiest browser to use, and I find it weird you consider TOR to be easier. iCloud Keychain is 100% integrated with the browser and has great features like notifying you when there’s a data breach. You can now add a wallpaper to the start page, and add or remove categories from it. There are great ad blockers for Safari, just because there are few doesn’t mean they aren’t good. You mention here that tabs aren’t synced, well they are, it’s called iCloud tabs and you can access it through the tabs menu. Everyone uses google anyways but you can change writhing those 4. If you want more, you can type that websites name then what you want to say. For example, “Twitter The daily show and an option will show up saying “search Twitter for daily show”. You can also make it so the start page is a specific website. Safari performed very well indeed, but the best is its smoothness. I can clearly see you used this for 10 minutes and called it a day. This article is very biased

    Reply
    1. Thank you. You are spot on. I tried all these browsers but they don’t come close to safari in all aspects.

      Reply
  5. As a developer, Safari is absolutely garbage-tier. It’s almost impossible to test properly without an actual Apple device. The ios version still doesn’t support many css grid features properly, and it handles videos like trash. It is a poorly optimized, obsolete browser that often feels like Internet Explorer. Stay away.

    Reply
    1. Safari only works with Apple devices so why would you want to test it on non-apple devices?

      Reply
  6. I WANT to love Safari as I want to love all Apple. Itunes/Imusic have DEFINITELY lost me and now Safari is headed down the same road. The fact that I cannot turn off Google Ads, drives me nuts. There are things I love about Safari, but I’m absolutely tired of browsers shoving ads at me. ENOUGH. Safari will let you shut off popups (with Adblock and some other extensions), but it still shows me a big Google ad across the top of top news sites. Done. Same with Chrome- less private than Safari, at least Chrome lets me shut off ads, but I don’t want to be tracked so I can be marketed to on other sites. I’m done with that. AND Safari on my iphone (granted, it’s an old one) constantly reloads the site so I can’t read a darned article. It’s maddening. I’ve switched to Brave and it’s actually the best browser experience I’ve had. Apple- REMOVE the google ads and I’ll come back, but not until.

    Reply
  7. I WANT to love Safari as I want to love all Apple. Itunes/Imusic have DEFINITELY lost me and now Safari is headed down the same road. The fact that I cannot turn off Google Ads, drives me nuts. There are things I love about Safari, but I’m absolutely tired of browsers shoving ads at me. ENOUGH. Safari will let you shut off popups (with Adblock and some other extensions), but it still shows me a big Google ad across the top of top news sites. Done. Same with Chrome- less private than Safari, at least Chrome lets me shut off ads, but I don’t want to be tracked so I can be marketed to on other sites. I’m done with that. AND Safari on my iphone (granted, it’s an old one) constantly reloads the site so I can’t read a darned article and it’s due to ad software. It’s maddening. I’ve switched to Brave and it’s actually the best browser experience I’ve had. Apple- REMOVE the google ads and I’ll come back to Safari, but not until.

    Reply
  8. Awful experience since 6 months ago or so. It is so slow to open new tabs I had to switch on google Chrome. Adds up to bad opinion on so dirt prone new Macbook materials and bad updates experience. Seems to me Apple is not what it used to be and more and more just hype.

    Reply
  9. Doesn’t work for most biometric or other authentication on iOS. Seems like safari is ages behind chrome and other browsers. Apple needs to get it together and support standard web features like camera access and dragging and dropping within html5 tables instead of expecting every website to bend over backwards for their browser.

    Reply
  10. Well, your sort of stuck with Safari on IOS or should I say all browsers are stuck using Safari’s WebKit engine. Sort of Apple’s way of leveling the field or Safari. Unfortunately Safari is limited to Apple OS so the ideal of a cross platform browser is critical for many who use different devices and want a browser that works on all of them. I also find Safari has far more compatibility issues at times then a Chromium based browser. I think WebKit faces the same challenges as Trident Engine that Microsoft used, and Gecko that Mozilla uses for Firefox. Web developers mainly focus on Chromium and ignore the other more obscure engines. Obviously, Microsoft figured his out adopting Chromium for its Edge browser. Apple may need to rethink Safari and how its relationship is to the web?

    Reply
  11. I love Safari! However,I have a problem going into Safari when I updated something on my iPhone

    Reply
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