Microsoft Edge for iOS

Soft­ware reviews (espe­cial­ly of mobile browsers,) may seem a bit tedious, but tech pub­li­ca­tions are frus­trat­ing­ly hes­i­tant to express any sub­stan­tial favor, these days. Mobile browsers have been our pri­ma­ry vehi­cle to The Web for years now, which means we should expect the best expe­ri­ence pos­si­ble, so I com­mit­ted to spend­ing one week with Microsoft Edge in my iPhone 8’s #1 brows­er seat to see how it com­pares with the lot of cur­rent­ly avail­able web browsers on iOS: Safari, Fire­fox, Chrome, Brave, and Opera Mini.

After using Safari since the last time it was the best choice (which was uh… quite a while ago,) the speed of my ini­tial surf­ing on Edge was very impres­sive and imme­di­ate­ly evi­dent along with the for­eign con­trast of its stub­born­ly on-brand UI design which is matched impres­sive­ly well with its Win­dows 10 kin. It feels just a bit more open and less intru­sive than Safari or Chrome, and its cus­tom but­tons and menus are a refresh­ing change if you’ve grown tired of iOS’ look, though they’re still pret­ty ugly. Scrolling through web­pages feels quick­er, but it’s not quite as smooth as Safari, and nei­ther espe­cial­ly are its respons­es to swip­ing ges­tures.

Microsoft empha­sized bring­ing “famil­iar” fea­tures “like your Favorites, Read­ing List, New Tab Page and Read­ing View” on the go, and while these are indeed famil­iar, they are not par­tic­u­lar­ly wel­come. Edge was a good idea and unde­ni­ably the best brows­er with which to use a touch­screen on Win­dows 10, but it now feels unstur­dy and bro­ken com­pared with updat­ed desk­top alter­na­tives, so there’s very lit­tle incen­tive right now to use Edge for iOS for its #1 fea­ture, alone, but I did try it out for the sake of thor­ough­ness. While sign­ing in to my Microsoft account from with­in the app’s main ellipses menu was quick­er than you’d expect, there cur­rent­ly doesn’t appear to be a way to stay signed in because the app’s been kick­ing me off at seem­ing­ly ran­dom inter­vals of time with no notice or indi­ca­tion that it’s done so.

In terms of speed, I decid­ed to take advan­tage of the fastest inter­net con­nec­tion I’ve ever test­ed to screen cap­ture two brows­er com­par­i­son videos. In the first, I sim­ply nav­i­gat­ed to and ful­ly ren­dered the same sin­gle, fair­ly com­plex sam­ple web­page in each of the six avail­able browsers on iOS suc­ces­sive­ly. (I hope you enjoy the YouTube rights-free sound­track I added.) In the sec­ond, I nav­i­gat­ed to a more com­plex web­page and briefly scrolled through its ani­ma­tion with each before nav­i­gat­ing to the same front-page sto­ry on The New York Times. If any­thing, these cap­tures prove that mod­ern web browsers are sim­ply too fast for load­ing time to be a mean­ing­ful bench­mark any­more, but I should note that Edge seemed notice­ably more effi­cient than the oth­ers when I was read­ing news on a poor 3G con­nec­tion.

The ulti­mate issue with using Microsoft Edge is the same with using any brows­er aside from Safari on iOS: there’s no way to change sys­tem-wide which one click­ing a link will open. Some old Twit­ter clients will still let you spec­i­fy, but one or two sources may as well be none. If you open links from email newslet­ters as I do dozens of times a day, there’s no intu­itive way to main­tain use of any oth­er brows­er. That said, Edge’s cross-plat­form pref­er­ence sync­ing and ele­gant­ly sim­pli­fied inter­face may make it a good choice for more senior users, and its one-touch “Close All Tabs” but­ton!!! is a sim­ple delight which should be stan­dard every­where.

As it stands — unless you’re using too old of an iPhone for this com­par­i­son to be rel­e­vant any­way — you could sim­ply do what I did for this review and sim­ply keep every one of these six apps in a fold­er should any one take your par­tic­u­lar web surf­ing fan­cy. I, myself, have already returned Safari back to its old spot in the inter­est of sim­plic­i­ty.