While Mobile Safari offers an experience that is sure to satisfy majority of the iOS-using population, it lacks certain features. To fill this gap, there are dozens of third-party browsers available in the App Store. In this post, we’ll be covering the five of the very best Mobile Safari alternatives. Check them out after the jump.

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Chrome (iPhone, iPod touch and iPad, free)

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You knew we were going to list Chrome at the top, right? It shouldn’t be a surprise, really. Chrome has already beaten Firefox on the desktop browser market and it’s chances of becoming a force in the mobile browsing scene are becoming increasingly evident.

Google only needed Chrome for iOS to fulfill two requirements: to look good and have Google Account integration for cloud-based syncing of bookmarks, passwords, recently visited websites; the app excels at both. Chrome features an outstanding user interface that’s intuitive and fast, and its syncs with your Chrome account flawlessly.

I switched to Google Chrome as soon as BrowserChooser was released by the jailbreak community; haven’t looked back ever since.

Opera Mini (iPhone, iPod touch and iPad, free)

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Opera Mini’s release was surrounded by considerable hype a couple of years ago because it was developed by an established browser vendor, and was the first ever web browser on iOS to use a different engine than UIWebView (the rendering engine every iOS browser has to use, no matter what).

Opera Mini today is considerably less popular than it was in the two months or so after release, but it’s still the go to browser for people on slow Internet connections since it uses Opera Turbo technology that compresses web pages before delivering them to you. Opera enthusiasts also use Opera Mini when they can because of its ability to sync browsing data across platforms using Opera Link.

Switch (iPad only, $4.99)

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When you have a big family and only one iPad to share among all members, your personal data gets lost in the mix of photos taken by your little browser, apps downloaded by your mother, and tabs of questionable websites left open by your eldest brother. While we can’t do much about the first two issues, Switch for iPad solves the last issue with the concept of user accounts.

Each user has to login to their own account when launching Switchy, after which their personal bookmarks, history, saved passwords are loaded. There even is the ability to use a Guest account if you don’t want to go through the process of creating a new profile.

Mercury (iPhone, iPod touch and iPad, $0.99)

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Mercury for iOS is a powerhouse of a mobile browser with a very strong list of unique features you won’t find in any other mobile browser, let alone a desktop one. The list of features are so strong and varied that we decided to list them in the form of bullets:

  • Support for Firefox Sync for cloud-based syncing of bookmarks
  • The ability to send your downloaded files straight to Dropbox (I really like this!) or save them so you can transfer them to your desktop computer using iTunes File Sharing
  • Webpage compression options like Opera for quicker surfing
  • User agent switching so you can pretend to the website as if you’re on Firefox, Internet Explorer or Safari
  • Full screen browsing, ad blocking, printing
  • Two and three finger gesture support
  • Built-in file manager for viewing folder
  • Facebook and Twitter integration
  • Private browsing for when you need to browse without leaving tracks for whatever reason

… and a whole lot more for just $0.99. The UI does take a slight hit from juggling all these features, but despite all that, it’s one browser you should definitely check out.

Puffin (iPhone, iPod touch and iPad, $2.99)

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Those of us who’ve been following the whole Apple vs. Adobe news (starting in 2010) on the use of Flash in smartphones will know which side won in the end. Adobe did their best to provide a good Flash experience on Android, but ultimately failed so bad that they pulled support in Android 4.1 Jelly Bean.

Most video websites have an HTML5-based video player available but you will come across Flash-only video on less visited websites. For that purpose, Puffin Web Browser on iOS uses the power of cloud-computing to process Flash content before delivering it to you. It also uses the same technology to boost general web browsing speed.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Skyfire
  • Atomic Web Browser
  • Dolphin Brower

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