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Opera Touch is a solid alternative to Safari on the iPhone (techcrunch.com)
51 points by BeqaP 3 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 83 comments

I feel it's safer these days to assume any digital product that's owned by a Chinese parent company is compromised, than assuming it isn't.

But for many of us, the aspect of having a NSA backdoored US product is probably more scary.

Also true. Not to mention for those of us in other the 5-eyes nations the movements that governments are making towards other invasive policies.


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Why? Please be more substantial, don't just insult.

And I'm not from the US.

The bigger question is if this means it would be harder for the NSA or other American government agencies to get my data?

I assume a Chinese company would laugh at a National Security Letter? Since I'm an American, I don't worry about China having my data.

If China has your data they’re one step closer to having access to taking your money. Are you okay with them taking your money too? What recourse would you have?

It depends on _how_ they took your money, but there are several insurance options available for Identify Theft which includes unauthorized bank withdraws.

Given the browser is produced by Opera Software AS, all data should be held under Norwegian law (which will in the near future include the GDPR), and your recourses are through the Norwegian courts, which makes it a very different situation to something developed directly in China.

I remember reading a comment from a dev working for a mobile app shop which had been bought by a Chinese company: they got instructions to add an analytics binary blob to their app and did it.

That's an anecdote, but the point is that one can't rely on Norwegian courts for enforcing privacy.

Right, you can't stop them from pulling something like that, but you do have recourse through the Norwegian courts (whom are likely to look down on that much more so than any Chinese court!), and when Opera Limited's revenue is predominantly through it's Opera Software AS subsidiary, a large GDPR fine in Norway would be a big deal to the company.

After the recent Chrome debacles, I removed it from my systems (not that I was using it much before). On iOS, my go to browser is Firefox Focus, a single tab browser that you treat as a private tab and erase quickly when you're done. It comes with a built in ad blocker too. Next in line for my use are Brave and Firefox. They're different, have good interfaces, and support multiple tabs. Last on my list is Safari.

The only thing that sucks about browsers on iOS is that extensions are not supported by the platform. I'd love to have Firefox extensions work on it, but that seems as unlikely as having another browser/JS engine on the platform.

On Android, at least, I could install and happily use uBlock Origin on Firefox.

What are your main problems with Safari?

"A problem occurred with this webpage so it was reloaded"

All browsers on iOS must use the same WebKit rendering engine, and the error you quoted is quite rare in practice (I can't even remember the last time I saw it on iOS).

I use safari quite often and do not see this very often

Personal preferences, mainly. I don’t like the fact that I have to go to the Settings app to clear browsing history, for one.

It is unlikely to have another JS engine. But the JS engine is exposed for WKWebViews, where creating a shim layer could work perfectly fine for many extensions.

The issue is not the technical capability. It has been possible to inject javascript into web views in ios since ios 6 (at the least). The problem is that Apple App Store terms state that your app cannot download arbitrary pieces of code from the internet and run it, which is exactly what extensions are. The rule was relaxed recently, to allow for things like teaching programming apps for the iPad pro, but not for browsers.

iOS12 Shortcuts are a limited form of extension, they can parse JS from a web page and cause side effects. E.g.

- extract URL and download youtube video to camera roll

- move a running video out of browser into picture-in-picture mode for multitasking

Content (ad) blocking extensions are supported in Safari.

Shortcuts can "parse JS from a web page"? Can you explain how that's possible? None of the examples you listed seem to involve direct access to page content.

Here's the JS for PiP video, the shortcut command is "Run JS in web page":

  var videos = document.getElementsByTagName("video");
  if (videos) {
    var video = videos[0];
        video.webkitSetPresentationMode(video.webkitPresentationMode === "picture-in-picture" ? "inline" : "picture-in-picture");

  completion({"success": true});

Is Opera Touch also owned by Opera's Chinese parent company? I couldn't see anything mentioned in the few articles I checked.

Yes I would not trust them just as I don't understand how people buy Chinese spy phones

Okay, so there are a lot of accusations of spyware on Chinese phones. Can someone link concrete evidence of this?

I ask this out of genuine curiosity.

They have adware, but spyware is harder to say.

What's the alternative? American spy phones?

I'd be more afraid of the American government than the Chinese one.

Good thing you aren't a uyghur in China, but stay in your bubble.

Exactly. If I were in China I'd not use Chinese Spy phones.... but thanks for the bubbles!

It's cheap, good quality, and I don't live in China.

Everything still Opera branded is owned by Opera Limited (through the subsidiary Opera Software AS), which the Chinese consortium has the controlling stake in. The initial cross-licensing of the trademark ended at the end of last year (hence the renaming of Opera Software ASA to Otello Corporation ASA).

On iOS, there can’t really be an alternative to Safari because there is no way to change the default browser system wide.

No matter how careful you are, eventually some app somewhere will open an URL, causing Safari to open, but now that it’s not your default browser, all your login state, your favorites and, heck, even just the familiar UI will be missing.

No. Until iOS allows setting a default browser, there is no point to accept this kind of friction and at least I myself feel much better off just using Safari and getting a consistent browser experience even if an app opens an URL.

All of my history is in Firefox, so I use Firefox on iOS as well, since it syncs with the desktop. I use Firefox for other reasons too, e.g. I like its UI for being friendly to multiple search engines.

And I use apps that behave well. For example I use an email reader that can open links in Firefox.

That apps open links in Safary is not true. From this point of view the iOS ecosystem is a clusterfuck as most apps, most notably Facebook, Twitter and Gmail, open links in their own shitty webview.

Gmail on iOS is even disingenuous about it. It has a configuration option allowing you to choose Chrome as an alternative (no Firefox of course), but what they call "Safari" is their own webview, not actual Safari and this matters because it doesn't share session data of course.

Also Apple doesn't allow any 3rd party browser engine in the App Store

Apple doesn't allow third party JIT. They allow third party rendering engines. Blink+JSC would be acceptable but I doubt anybody wants to put the work in to make that a reality.

Not even:

"2.5.6 Apps that browse the web must use the appropriate WebKit framework and WebKit Javascript."

( https://developer.apple.com/app-store/review/guidelines/ )

And the javascript engine that they provide is 4x slower than the one in Safari. Due to security I think. Maybe it's not like that anymore....anyone know?

Indeed. UIWebView, the slower version without the JIT javascript engine, has actually been deprecated in iOS 12.

They need an antitrust suit along the lines of the IE one lodged against Microsoft in the 90's

As Apple don’t have a market monopoly, antitrust provisions (similar to what Microsoft was hit with) won’t necessarily apply.

There should be something similar to POSIX for mobile operating systems, basically forcing open systems (if not Open Source), at least for companies that have anything to do with the government.

”something similar to POSIX” wouldn’t work. POSIX systems can have proprietary APIs in addition to POSIX that provide functionality that POSIX doesn’t support/partially supports/supports badly.

I used to use Chrome on iOS but actually switched to Microsoft Edge for my go-to browser. It works perfectly. I rarely click a web link from an outside app so going into Safari on a rare instance isn’t a problem.

My ad blocking app uses a VPN configuration so it works in every single app on my iPhone.

I found it’s actually quite easy to use alternate browsers on iPhone.

> My ad blocking app uses a VPN configuration so it works in every single app on my iPhone.

I would never trust an ad blocking app with all my traffic data and who the hell knows what else besides the VPN configuration it's installing in that profile.

Installing an iOS configuration profile is more or less equivalent to handing out physical unlocked access to whoever made that profile you've just installed.

I'm not saying your VPN-based Ad-Blocker is doing this. I'm saying they could. And just them having that capability is enough for me to never hand them that capability in the first place.

Ad blocking is fine. But not at this price.

Could it be possible to reuse the ad blocker functionality Apple allows on Safari by building an app/extension/however that works to catch all loaded URLs in Safari and replace them with an "Open in #preferred_browser#" link perhaps?

Content blockers can't do that.


I agree it's problematic, but there is one good reason to use alternative browsers on iOS — synchronization. Safari's sync with desktop is not really useful if someone uses Linux on their desktop/laptop.

On top of that, Safari state is shared in a lot of embedded browser windows inside apps, which no other browser can obviously implement

They had to limit this quite a bit because it was abused for tracking.

SFSafariViewController now has its own cookie store too unless you use a specific API for authentication purposes, but that will also open a modal dialog the user has to confirm.

This is why we can't have nice things.

This link is so bare.

Can anyone improve on the horse's mouth: https://www.opera.com/mobile/touch , which also says practically nothing.

Opera seem to be great at adding features, and yet very poor at promoting them.

Anybody else trying Firefox Focus on iPhone? It seems pretty nice but I haven't used it much yet.

Firefox Focus has been my go to browser on iOS since the time it launched. The premise is a single tab, which you use and then erase all data from once you're done. As it says, rinse and repeat! If you want multiple tabs, this is not the browser for you (though Firefox iOS could be).

I use Firefox Focus more than any other app, including for browsing and reading through HN comments. It's got a good ad blocker (though not the fastest [1]), but no options to control ad blocking on a per site basis.

The browser has been improving over time. It also includes an extra layer of passcode/biometric protection that can help prevent others from seeing what you've opened in it. The only issue I've noticed is that it sometimes forgets the page you've loaded after sometime (may be because it doesn't save them to the disk, and when iOS removes it from memory, it starts out again as a blank slate).

[1]: https://brooksreview.net/2018/09/safari-content-blocker-eval...

Once I started using Firefox Focus, I was surprised at how rarely I actually needed to browse the web un-anonymously. I don't need to be logged in to search, use Wikipedia, or read news online.

Focus is perfect for bite-sized browsing. Read and then throw the session away.

Requires iOS 11. I don't want to update my iPhone SE -- it's fine as it is and I don't need it slower; I made that mistake with a previous iPhone.

It’s a bad thing that Apple doesn’t allow older versions to be downloaded. Firefox Focus was there before iOS 11 too, though it’s not as feature rich as the latest one. If you had downloaded it on iOS 10, you could still continue to use it or redownload that version.

I had an SE, 11 didn't slow it down. 12 was made to be faster than 11 even on the oldest supported devices. The SE has the internals of the 6S, only a couple generations behind, so it'll be fine.

iOS 12 is benchmarked to be much faster than 11 in pretty much every case I believe.

I've used it for a couple months now. It's great, and I can't remember any sites that plain didn't work, though some were pretty ugly.

The one thing I miss is tabs, which FFF doesn't seem to have.

I'm glad to hear this. The "about" says it bans loading web fonts- which is good for speed and perhaps privacy but bad for pretty.

It has (global) settings for a few things, and blocking web fonts is one of those settings. So you can turn that off and get web fonts to load. Sites don't have to be ugly if you prefer them otherwise.

Opera is controlled by Qihoo 360, China a notorious rogue company.

I would love to use other browsers on iOS, including Brave, but I can’t.

All the browsers on iOS suffer from one fatal flaw, they crash, often. As I have been told this may have something to do with the OS’s health & safety precautions by killing apps that run away with CPU or RAM use. I don’t know that for certain and I haven’t tried to dig into it further.

Here’s a simple test, find a site that grinds safari to a near standstill, then try that site in Chrome/Edge/Brave on iOS. Chances are it will crash them.

I’d really love to see a healthy ecosystem of browser rendering engines on iOS as well. I understand and have benefited from the walled garden that is iOS but I’d really like Apple to figure this out. Isn’t it ironic how Microsoft got in trouble for anti-competitive practices against Netscape but Apple can block other rendering engines?

Ironic? No, not at all. Why would it?

I know that nobody is asking for alternatives, nor my opinion, but Brave browser is great. Cool project

Another great option is DuckDuckGo's 'Privacy Browser' (for Android AFAIK) that has tracking protection and ad-blocker baked right into browser's architecture. Thing I like about it the most is the minimalistic interface and no BS UX. Highly recommend.

Brave is worse than Firefox in every way. I don't want to use a browser that steals from publishers for the browser maker's benefit. If I'm going to steal from publishers, nobody should benefit.

> but Brave browser is great

For what platforms?

It's a must-have on Android. Makes the web actually usable on shaky mobile data connections.

I tried it on Windows, but I have decent adblockers there, and need JS enabled for too many things to bother fiddling with whitelisting sites.

> It's a must-have on Android.

So, if Brave is free & open-source, is "must-have on Android", why it still not added in F-DRoid repo?

As for me, at this moment FOSS Browser with disabled JavaScript — is better option for Android users.[1]

Fully must-have on Android should be links2[2] throw Termux[3] — this is what I claim right way for get "usable on shaky mobile data connections".

Browsers with enabled JavaScript is much less secure than those without JS enabled.[4]

> "Those browser's vulnerability to those attacks are entirely based on the fact that they execute JavaScript. Thus, if your browser doesn't execute JS, it's immune." © userbinator[5]

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brave_(web_browser)

[1] https://f-droid.org/en/packages/de.baumann.browser

[2] http://links.twibright.com

[3] https://github.com/termux/termux-packages/pull/2317

[4] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=16191843

[5] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=16192006

I use on Android and MacOS

What about the issue that Brave is based on Chromium. And thus any privacy features are nullified because it essentially reports back to Google?

Is there any merrit to this argument?

All the Google reporting is stripped out. The Brave engineering team (I'm on the business team) is very serious about making sure that's all gone. Brave is open source so everyone can check their work.

But can you be sure there is not something hidden?

I love Opera, I've been using it for about a year now. Its leagues ahead in most things, although I've started using edge on android because its significantly faster load times.

They rushed to get it out of beta without making sure that things like sites with self signed certificates are rendered.

Just visit


and see what happens when browsing that site.

Safari iCloud Keychain sync makes the all browsing experience a beast compared to anything else

You can now use other password managers in iOS 12.

The best feature of ios12!

this app does one thing I like—it launches with the keyboard active. at least sometimes. I use Drafts specifically because it has this feature. Firefox Focus does too. I wish the Google app would always launch with the keyboard up.

>and there’s the company’s usual protection from cryptojacking

is this a common problem nowadays?

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