How to Block Ads in Safari on the iPhone

iOS users can take advantage of content blocking apps

Safari ad blocking
The same website with ads (left) and with ads blocked (right).

 Sam Costello

If you're annoyed by excessive ads in Safari, blocking them is easy. When you block ads with a content blocker, Safari doesn't have to download them, which usually translates into not only better readability for you but generally faster pages loads, longer-lasting battery, and less data usage.

However, before you block ads in Safari, consider whether that's the best idea. Not only are ads the main source of income for most websites, but some sites won't even load properly unless you let them serve you ads.

How Safari Content Blockers Work

Content blockers are apps you install on your iPhone that add new features to Safari that the default web browser doesn't have. They're kind of like third-party keyboards — separate apps that work inside other apps that support them. That means that in order to block ads you have to have at least one of these apps installed. 

Most iPhone content blockers work much the same way. When you go to a website, the app checks a list of ad services and servers. If it finds them on the site you're visiting, the app blocks the website from loading those ads on the page. Some of the apps take a more comprehensive approach and will block not only the ads but also tracking cookies used by advertisers based on their URL.

How to Install Content Blocking Apps

You can block ads with Safari content blocker apps by installing the app and then enabling it from the iPhone Settings app.

You have to be running iOS 9 or higher to use content blockers. If you have a modern iPhone then you probably already are, but if not, update your iPhone.

  1. Install the content blocking app.

    See the list below these instructions for some suggestions.

  2. Open the ad blocker and enable it.

    All apps are different, but there will be instructions for you to follow to turn on the ad blocking abilities.

  3. Tap Settings from the home screen to open the Settings app on your iPhone

  4. Tap Safari

  5. Tap Content Blockers.

    This option will not be available unless you've enabled a content blocker app (see Step 1 and 2).

  6. Tap the button next to the ad blocker app you installed.

Below are some examples of ad-blocking apps for iPhone. This isn't an exhaustive list but there are some great apps here to try out.

  • 1Blocker: Free, with in-app purchase. In addition to 50,000+ built-in blocker rules, this app allows you to create your own rules to block sites and cookies and to hide other elements.
  • Crystal: At $0.99, the developer claims that this ad blocker loads pages four times faster and uses 50 percent less data. This app also lets you view ads on some sites to support them.
  • Norton Ad Blocker: This free ad-blocking app from the company behind the popular and long-running antivirus software, also lets you add exceptions.
  • Purify: Grab this content blocker for $1.99 to block ads and tracking software. It includes a whitelist to let you see ads on some sites if you want. According to the developer, after blocking Safari ads with this app, you can expect a fourfold increase in page load speeds and for your web browsing data usage to be cut in half.

How to Block Pop-Ups on the iPhone

Ad-blocking apps can block all kinds of ads and trackers used by advertisers, but if you just want to block intrusive pop-ups, you don't need to download an app because pop-up blocking is a feature built-in to Safari.

  1. Tap Settings.

  2. Tap Safari.

  3. Tap the button next to Block Pop-ups.

  4. When the button is to the right and is green, pop-up blocking is enabled.

You can enable the Safari pop-up blocker on your computer, too.

Why You Should Block Ads

The main benefit of blocking ads is obvious: you don't see advertising. However, there are a few other key benefits to using these sorts of anti-advertisement apps.

  • Websites load faster: Ads are extra elements on the page that have to load, and often stream video or play an animation. This takes up time for the page to fully download and often causes other things like non-ad images and videos to take longer to display. Removing ads takes away that burden.
  • You use less data: If you're no longer seeing ads, you won't have to use any of your monthly data allowances to load them. Some ad blockers claim to save you lots of data, and while their numbers might be inflated, you'll definitely reduce your data usage to some degree because ad images and videos don't have to download to your phone.
  • Longer-lasting battery: Downloading ads, just like downloading anything in Safari, takes power. So, one way to have a longer-lasting battery is to stop downloading so much data, which is what happens when you use an ad blocker.

Why You Shouldn't Block Ads

One downside you might encounter when you block ads on your iPhone is that some websites won't load properly. Some sites can detect whether their ads are loading, and if they aren't, they'll stop you from using the site until you unblock their ads.

Beyond that, blocking ads can definitely serve you well, but it's important to keep in mind what's happening on the other end.

Almost every site on the internet makes the vast majority of its money by showing advertising to its readers. If the ads are blocked, the site doesn't get paid. The money made from advertising pays writers and editors, funds server and bandwidth costs, buys equipment, pays for photography and travel, and more. Without that income, it's possible that a site you visit every day could go out of business.

Many people are willing to take that risk: online advertising has become so intrusive, and such a data hog, that we'll try anything to make our phones work better. We're not saying that ad blocking is necessarily right or wrong, but make sure you fully understand the implications of the technology before using it.