With the arrival of iOS 15, Safari for iPhone and iPad gained proper extensions. Apple has taken the same curated App Store approach as it did with Safari for Mac, vastly improving Safari’s web browsing capabilities.
Here are some of the highlights, and a brief overview of how extensions work on iOS and iPadOS.
Extensions for the Safari browser on iPhone and iPad are managed using the App Store. You can search for new extensions as you would any other app, and updates are managed by the App Store and can be applied automatically too.
You’ll even find a dedicated Safari Extensions category in the App Store app by tapping the Apps tab then scrolling down to “Top Categories” and tapping See All > Safari Extensions.
When you have enabled one or more extensions you will see a small icon in the address bar that looks like a puzzle piece. Tapping on this will show active extensions and a “Manage Extensions” option where you can enable and disable extensions quickly.
Due to Apple’s careful approach to privacy in iOS, expect to be asked to grant permission to certain websites or services. Some apps require “Access” to every website they are designed to work with, while others may ask to filter your traffic if they are designed to block certain types of content.
You can go to Settings > Safari > Extensions to see a list of currently installed extensions, what each has access to, and any privacy disclosures. You can also give an extension full access to all websites here, which gets rid of the frequent permissions pop-ups.
You should make sure you fully understand the risks of allowing an app developer to access this information. A similar comparison can be made to third party keyboards, which may require “Full Access” and thus be able to store or transmit anything that is typed.
Dark Mode Everywhere: Turn Off the Lights or Nitefall
Many websites now support dark themes either with a toggle or by detecting your device’s current settings. Many still don’t, and that’s a problem when you’re trying to browse at night. Turn Off the Lights is one such free extension that attempts to remedy this.
On Safari, the app works by adding a semi-transparent dark overlay. This has the effect of dimming page content without inverting colors, so things appear much dimmer. The benefit of this approach is that it leaves page styles alone which means you’re less likely to run into problems with page styles or readability.
It’s not foolproof and some websites resist the extension, while the overlay can be a little temperamental at times. It also lacks the customization that you’ll find on the desktop version.
Nitefall is a good alternative if Turn Off the Lights falls short. It’s also free but can only be used on a limited number (25) of websites. It has three dark themes, support for maps, and site-specific settings but if you want to use it on more websites you’ll need to upgrade for a one-off fee of $3.99.
Manage Your Tab Problem: Startpage.ai
Do you have a nasty tab habit? Culling hundreds of tabs using Safari’s tiled view is tedious even on the latest devices. It’s not possible to read the full website name or URL, and many older tab previews will be purged. Startpage.ai makes this process much easier.
Once you’ve set new tabs to open with Startpage.ai you’ll see a neat list of all current tabs, with the most recently used at the top. Each tab title is listed with its URL, and you can even filter tabs using the search bar at the top. You can then close each tab with a tap of the red “Close” button.
There’s even a dark mode toggle at the top of the screen for managing your tab addiction after dark. An essential extension for anyone who never closes tabs, and something Apple should probably copy to make managing tabs in future versions of Safari less of a mess.
Dismiss Cookie Permissions Pop-Ups: Super Agent
Cookie warnings are one of the most annoying things on the modern internet. It’s not necessarily a bad thing that websites now have to ask you before tracking you or gathering information, but cookie warnings introduce additional steps to reading almost any article on the web.
Super Agent is one extension that can help. Install the extension then set your cookie preferences in the app and let Super Agent take care of the rest. The extension will action your preferences on a large number of websites (though not all websites are supported).
Cookies are split into three sections: advertising, functional, and performance. Any that don’t fit these categories are automatically blocked. There’s no subscription, and the accompanying app makes it easy to manage your preferences.
RELATED: What Is a Browser Cookie?
Liberate Your Videos: PiPifier
Previously a plug-in for the desktop version of Safari, PiPifier does one thing and it does it well: restoring picture-in-picture functionality to videos across the web. Apple added this handy feature to Safari in iOS 14, but it hasn’t always worked everywhere. The feature allows you to watch a video in a frame while using other apps, and it has a transformative effect on iPhone and iPad multitasking.
Notably, YouTube blocks picture-in-picture mode on Safari for iPhone and iPad in a bid to get you to use the YouTube app. The YouTube app currently sells this feature back to you as part of a YouTube Red subscription. PiPifier restores picture-in-picture mode to the web version of YouTube, allowing you to use the full functionality of Safari with YouTube once more.
Manage Your Passwords: 1Password
If you use 1Password then the app’s accompanying Safari extension provides a “desktop-class” experience. Of course, the extension isn’t going to be of much use to you if you use another service like LastPass or Apple’s iCloud Keychain (which already integrates nicely with Safari).
You can use the extension to autofill details like passwords, credit card details, two-factor authentication codes, and more. You can also quickly access any favorite credentials or notes, and add new items to your 1Password account.
Disable AMP and Much More: Hyperweb
If you want one extension that includes most of the separate enhancements listed above, Hyperweb is what you’re looking for. It’s the Swiss army knife of mobile Safari extensions, providing features like dark mode (by inverting colors), cookie pop-up management, picture-in-picture plus content blocking, and search engine personalization too.
Hyperweb also allows you to apply custom styles and run custom user scripts from websites like Stylish and Greasy Fork which can change the look and feel of some of your favorite websites. It also blocks Google’s AMP (Accelerated Mobile Project) pages when visiting from a search engine, and it’s currently the only free extension to do so.
If you use third-party apps for services like Twitter, Reddit, or YouTube you can force content to open in apps like Tweetbot, Apollo, or Syndromi. You can also direct Apple Maps to Google Maps, open streams in apps like VLC, or send PDFs to PDF Expert.
Hyperweb’s most powerful feature allows you to create your own rules known as local enhancements. You can set “If” and “Then” parameters that target specific URLs, domains, pages, and search engines that go well beyond the included enhancements. You can only create one of these rules in the free version, or you can pay $2.99/month to unlock the extension’s functionality.
Safari Extensions were added to iOS and iPadOS 15, Apple’s smartphone and tablet operating systems. Check out what else is new in the update, and take full advantage of the great new iOS 15 privacy features.