Safari comes pre-installed on your Mac and can be all you need from a web browser. It also has some features that make it a more attractive and convenient choice for Apple hardware owners in general.
Safari is highly optimized for macOS
Safari is a highly optimized browser that Apple develops together with macOS and the hardware it runs on. This makes it use less power than competing browsers, which is especially important if you own a MacBook. Using Safari should mean you get more battery life on your MacBook compared to Chrome or Firefox.
Much more obvious are the performance gains you can see and feel. Web pages are more responsive in Safari on the same MacBook than in Firefox. This affects everything from the rendering speed of the site to the feel of web applications such as WordPress and Gmail.
Since Safari is part of macOS, updates are processed along with standard operating system updates. You get major new releases every year when macOS is upgraded in the fall, often bringing new features and better integration into Apple’s ecosystem.
Works great with iPhone and iPad
If you own an iPhone or iPad, Safari works well on all three platforms and lets you access your tabs and shared favorites thanks to iCloud sync. Open a new tab on your Mac or mobile device, then scroll down to the bottom of the page to see the remaining 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 webpage from iOS apps like Twitter or Reddit to your reading list, then retrieve it later in the Safari for Mac sidebar.
These integrations are set to be even better in macOS 13 and iOS 16, with Safari extensions syncing between devices where compatible counterparts exist.
Good privacy protection
Safari ticks the basic boxes when it comes to 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 encoding, and the feature raised a stink among advertisers when it first appeared in 2017.
You can also access a feature called Privacy Report by clicking on the three-dot “…” button in the address bar, which will tell you how many trackers are trying to track you. Click the “i” button to see the bigger picture of your online privacy, including the percentage of websites you visit that have tried to track you.
You also get decent pop-up blocking, the option to default to DuckDuckGo instead of Google, 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 note that Apple users won’t lose out on the basics if they stick with Apple’s native browser.
Access passwords with iCloud Keychain
iCloud Keychain allows you to store your credentials in the cloud so you can access them on any device. This works with Safari across devices and allows you to recall credentials, use two-factor authentication, and create strong, unique passwords for all your accounts.
This feature will even search your existing password database and alert you if any passwords have appeared in known data breaches. The only downside is that you need use Safari to get the best out of this feature. On an iPhone or iPad, you can find your login information under Settings > Passwords, and most apps now integrate well with Apple’s solution.
On a Mac, you may want to create a shortcut that you can quickly launch from the menu bar. This will give you access to your authentication credentials for third-party apps and any other browsers you may need to use.
While iCloud Keychain was rough and hard to recommend at first, Apple’s work to turn it into a true password manager alternative has paid off. It’s probably reason enough 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 more privacy when browsing the web using Apple’s browser. This feature is available to all iCloud+ users who pay for additional iCloud storage (even at the 50GB level).
Once you enable iCloud+ Private Relay, this feature encrypts the data leaving your device, including the website you’re trying to visit. You are then assigned a random IP address on one server while another server decrypts the web request. Apple claims that “no single entity can identify who a user is and which pages they visit.”
Private Relay is not a VPN, and if you’re already using a VPN, you won’t need iCloud Private Relay (macOS will tell you they’re incompatible). But if you’re not already paying for a VPN, iCloud Private Relay provides another one for minimal browsing speed cost.
If you’re already paying for iCloud space, it’s basically a free bolt-on. It can cause a slight delay between sending your request to the website and accessing the website, which is comparable to the performance penalty of using a VPN.
Safari also works with Hide My Email
Like Private Relay, iCloud+ users also have access to Hide My Email. As the name suggests, 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 to do this, you can choose to forward to Gmail, Outlook or any account you choose.
This feature integrates well with Safari in that you can choose to create and save a new Hide My Email alias directly from the “email” field on the signup page. You can always use iCloud settings to create your own Hide My Email addresses for use in other browsers and apps, but Safari makes the process completely painless.
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 needed and delete them when you’re done.
Apple Pay provides a quick way to shop
Apple Pay is Apple’s payment processor. You can set up Apple Pay in Safari preferences with a compatible debit or credit card. Most major and many smaller financial institutions now support Apple Pay, making it easier than ever to pay in Safari.
Once set up, click the Apple Pay button on the website to complete the transaction. You can often skip the sign-up process and check out in record time, and Apple Pay even lets you enter a shipping address and delivery option. The ability to quickly calculate shipping costs without going through a lengthy sign-up process is one of Apple Pay’s biggest advantages, even if you end up paying with more conventional methods.
When you’re ready to pay, you can verify your purchase with Touch ID or by verifying on your iPhone.
Use a 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 Safari > Preferences > Tab by selecting “Compact” instead of “General” at the top of the window.
When enabled, this allows Safari to use the webpage’s header color to theme each window and shrinks the UI area at the top of the window to one line. It can be a little cramped if you want to let the tab descriptions and URL bar breathe, but if you want to focus fully on the content of the web page, it can’t be beat.
Having a second (or third) browser installed is handy
Sometimes websites require a specific browser, especially Chrome. In such cases, it is useful to have a second or third browser installed. Some web apps work better in Chrome, especially those designed with the Google platform in mind.
Safari isn’t the most customizable browser, but that shouldn’t deter most users. Extensions are managed through the Mac App Store, which can be 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 chance before writing it off completely.
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.