How to Block Ads in Safari on the iPhone

iOS users can take advantage of content blocking apps

If you're annoyed by excessive ads on the internet, blocking them is easy if you use Apple's Safari browser on the iPhone. When you block ads with a content blocker, Safari doesn't have to download them, which usually translates into not only better usability of websites for you but also generally faster pages loads, a longer-lasting battery, and less wireless data usage.

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 like third-party keyboards — separate apps that work inside other apps that support them. That means that to block ads, you need to have at least one of these apps installed. 

cartoon police officer blocking ads
Alashi / DigitalVision Vectors / Getty Images

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 block not only the ads but also tracking cookies used by advertisers based on those cookies' URLs.

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. Update your iPhone's OS to ensure you're running the most up-to-date version with current security patches.

  1. Download a content-blocking app from the App Store on your iPhone. The example here is Norton Ad Blocker, but all ad-blocking apps work similarly. See the list for other suggested apps.

  2. Open the ad blocker app and follow any instructions to set it up. Every app is different, but each offers instructions for you to follow to turn on the ad-blocking abilities.

    Download screen for Norton Ad Blocker
  3. Tap Settings on the iPhone home screen to open the Settings app.

  4. Tap Safari.

  5. Tap Content Blockers.

  6. Move the slider next to the ad-blocker app you installed to On/green.

    Activating ad blocker app in Safari

The marketplace for ad-blocking Safari plug-ins is robust and growing. The following options can get you started:

  • 1Blocker: Free, with in-app purchases. In addition to more than 50,000 built-in blocker rules, this app supports custom rules to block sites and cookies and to hide other elements.
  • Crystal Adblock: At $0.99, the developer claims that this ad blocker loads pages four times faster and uses 50% less data. This app also lets you opt to 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 Natively

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

  1. Tap Settings on the iPhone Home screen.

  2. Tap Safari.

  3. Move the Block Pop-ups slider to On/green.

    Path to Safari preferences on the iPhone

When the slider 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 they often stream video or play an animation. It takes 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'll be more secure: Many ads are vectors of malware; infected ads hit a network, even a legitimate one, to disrupt your device.
  • You use less data: When you no longer see ads, you don't use any of your monthly data allowances to load them. Some ad-blocking apps claim to save you lots of data, and while their numbers might be inflated, you'll 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.

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. Consider supporting your favorite sites by whitelisting them, so ads on those sites still display.