Safari comes pre-installed on your Mac and might be all you need from a web browser. It also has some features that make it a more attractive and convenient option for Apple hardware owners in general.
Safari is highly optimized for macOS
Safari is a highly optimized browser that Apple develops in conjunction with macOS and the hardware it runs on. Thanks to this, it uses less power than competing browsers, which is especially important if you have a MacBook. Using Safari should mean you get more battery life from your MacBook compared to Chrome or Firefox.
Much more apparent are the performance gains you can see and feel. Web pages feel more responsive in Safari on the same MacBook compared to Firefox. This affects everything from the rendering speed of a website to the feel of web applications like WordPress and Gmail.
Since Safari is part of macOS, updates are handled alongside standard operating system updates. You’ll get major new versions every year when macOS updates in the fall, often bringing new features and better integrations into the Apple ecosystem.
It works great with iPhone and iPad.
If you own an iPhone or iPad, Safari works well across all three platforms, allowing you to access your shared tabs and bookmarks thanks to iCloud sync. Open a new tab on a Mac or mobile device, then scroll down to the bottom of the page to see the rest of your tabs. This only works if you use the same Apple ID with your devices.
Reading List, Apple’s “save for later” bookmarking feature also syncs between devices. You can add a web page to Reading List from iOS apps like Twitter or Reddit, and then select them later in the sidebar of Safari for Mac.
These integrations are set to get even better in macOS 13 and iOS 16, with Safari Extensions syncing across devices where compatible counterparts exist.
Good privacy controls
Safari ticks the basic boxes in terms of privacy, including attempts to thwart cross-site tracking cookies. The browser uses what Apple calls “Intelligent Tracking Prevention,” which is a fancy way of saying that Apple hides IP addresses from trackers. There’s more to it than carte blanche IP encryption, and the feature caused an uproar among advertisers when it first arrived in 2017.
You can also access a feature called Privacy Report by clicking the ellipsis “…” button in the URL bar, which tells you how many trackers are trying to track you. Click the “i” button to see a bigger picture of your online privacy, including the percentage of websites you’ve visited that have tried to track you.
You’ll also get a decent pop-up blocker, the ability to use DuckDuckGo instead of Google by default, and granular control over which websites can access your microphone, webcam, location, and send you notifications. Most browsers offer these features, but it’s good to keep in mind that Apple users won’t miss the basics if they stick with Apple’s bundled browser.
Access passwords with iCloud Keychain
iCloud Keychain allows you to store your login credentials in the cloud so you can access them on any device. This works with Safari on all devices and allows you to remember login information, use two-factor authentication, and create strong, unique passwords for all your accounts.
The feature even scans your existing password database and notifies you if any passwords appeared in known data breaches. The only drawback is that you need use Safari to make this feature the best it can be. On an iPhone or iPad, you can find your credentials in Settings > Passwords, and most apps now integrate nicely with Apple’s solution.
On a Mac, you may want to create a shortcut that you can quickly activate from the menu bar. This allows you to access your login information to authenticate third-party apps and any other browsers you need to use.
While iCloud Keychain was clunky and difficult to recommend at first, Apple’s work to make this a real alternative to password manager has paid off. Arguably a good reason to switch to Safari if you’re paying for a third-party solution and want to save some money.
iCloud+ subscribers can use Private Relay
Safari Private Relay provides even greater privacy while browsing the web with Apple’s browser. The feature is available to all iCloud+ users who pay for additional iCloud storage space (even the 50GB tier).
Once you enable iCloud + Private Relay, the feature encrypts data leaving your device, including the website you’re trying to visit. It is then assigned a random IP address on one server, while another server decrypts the web request. Apple states that “no entity can identify who a user is and what sites they visit.”
Private Relay falls short of a VPN, and if you’re already using a VPN, then you won’t need iCloud Private Relay (macOS will tell you that the two are incompatible). But if you’re not already paying for a VPN, iCloud Private Relay provides additional browsing speed at minimal cost.
If you’re already paying for iCloud space, this is basically a free add-on. You can introduce a slight delay between sending your website request and accessing the website, which is comparable to the performance penalty incurred by using a VPN.
Safari also works with Hide My Email
Like Private Relay, iCloud+ users also get access to Hide My Email. As the name implies, this service allows you to create email aliases that forward to an account of your choice. You don’t have to use an Apple iCloud account for this, you can choose to forward to Gmail, Outlook, or any account you choose.
This feature integrates nicely into Safari, as you can choose to create and store a new Hide My Email alias directly from the “email” field on a registration page. You can always create custom Hide My Email addresses for use in other browsers and apps using iCloud settings, but Safari makes the process dead simple.
These aliases are great for stopping spam, signing up for free trials, getting discount codes for online stores, and more. You can turn them on and off as you need them and delete them when you’re done.
Apple Pay provides a fast way to shop
Apple Pay is Apple’s payment processor. You can set up Apple Pay in Safari Preferences with a supported credit or debit card. Most major financial institutions and many smaller ones now support Apple Pay, making it easier than ever to pay with Safari.
Once you’re set up, click the Apple Pay button on a website to complete your transaction. You can often skip the sign-up process and pay in record time, and Apple Pay even lets you specify a delivery address and shipping option. Being able to quickly calculate shipping costs without going through a lengthy sign-up process is one of the biggest benefits of Apple Pay, even if you end up paying using more conventional methods.
When you’re ready to pay, you can verify your purchase using Touch ID or by authenticating on your iPhone.
Use the compact tab layout for a minimal user interface
It’s a minor point, but Safari’s compact tab layout deserves a little mention. You can enable this setting in the Safari > Preferences > Tab by choosing “Compact” instead of “General” at the top of the window.
Once enabled, Safari can use a website’s header color to theme each window and reduces the UI area at the top of the window to a single line. It can be a bit cramped if you want to let the tab descriptions and URL bar breathe, but if you want to fully focus on the content of a web page, then it doesn’t get any better.
Sometimes websites want a specific browser, especially Chrome. In cases like this, having a second or third browser installed is helpful. Some web apps work better in Chrome, particularly those designed with the Google platform in mind.
Safari isn’t the most customizable browser, but that shouldn’t put most users off. Extensions are managed by the Mac App Store, which can seem a bit limiting, and you can only choose from a handful of search engines that Apple has included. With that in mind, you should give Apple’s browser a try before ditching it entirely.
You can always use an app like BrowserFairy to quickly open links in the browser of your choice, but be aware of the increased power consumption when using more than one browser.