With all the excitement over iCloud and the Notification Center, it’s easy to forget about some of the other improvements to iOS 5. One of those is the improved usability and performance of Safari. Included now are some of the functions that made third party browsers so desirable, lessening the need for those.
The biggest change to the Safari app is tabbed browsing, but it’s only available on the iPad where it has the landscape to pull lit off. This very much emulates the same tabbed browsing that you’ll find in the Mac version of Safari. Instead of having to flip back and forth through websites that you currently have open, they can now be left open in tabs. New tabs can be initiated by touching the plus sign next to the current tab. For anyone that does a lot of browsing, it’s a a definite advantage. With the iPhone version, however, you still need to flip back and forth between open sites.
Another big change to Safari under iOS 5 is the Reader. Reading articles can now be much cleaner and simpler. If it’s bothersome and too much of a distraction to have sidebars and ads surrounding and interrupting the article you’re reading, you can now eliminate them temporarily. Tapping the word “Reader” in the address bar brings up a clean version of the article with just the necessary text and pictures. All other ads, links, etc. are removed. Tapping the word “Reader” again takes you back to the regular web page. This option is available on the iPhone as well as the iPad, but it doesn’t show up with every page on the iPhone, unlike the iPad.
Similarly named, Reading List is actually quite different than Reader. Reading List allows you to save articles to read later when you have more time. Instead of having to bookmark everything you want to read, then either deal with numerous bookmarks or end up deleting them after you read them, you can simply mark it to be read later on this list. It can be accessed through the Sharing option to the left of the address bar on iPad and on the bottom of the screen of the iPhone by tapping “Add to Reading List.”
Items that have been added to the reading list, as well as bookmarks and history, can be accessed in the Bookmarks option that is on the bottom of the screen on the iPhone and to the left of the Sharing button on the iPad. Additionally, Safari will keep updated between devices. Items added to the Reading List, Bookmarks, and History will read the same on all devices. This is helpful if you leave off reading an article while on your iPad, then are out and about with your iPhone and want to finish reading the article.
Additionally, clicking on links now gives you an option of either adding the page to your Reading List or simply opening the page. This is also now an option in the Settings. You can choose whether to always open tabs in the background, or whether they should be opened up in a new page.
These changes should make it easier to bounce back and forth not only between devices, but also between mobile devices and the Mac. However, Safari on the Mac still has issues with certain web page elements, making it very accessible, but not always practical to use. If Apple were able to fix part of the Safari environment, and combine it with the practical uses of the mobile Safari, they could end up with a lion’s share of the browsing world.