How to Use the Firefox Focus Browser for iOS

Privacy-centric Web Browser for iPad, iPhone and iPod touch

firefox focus browser iOS
Scott Orgera

Many of today's web browsers offer optional private browsing modes, configurable settings related to activity tracking as well as the ability to delete your history and other potentially sensitive data at the end of a session. While all of these features were created with user privacy in mind, for the most part manual intervention is required to access or activate them.

The Firefox Focus browser for iOS devices takes care of all of the above by default, deleting logs and other files generated by your browsing session and automatically blocking several types of trackers from monitoring and utilizing your behavior on the web.

Not only does Focus create a more private browsing experience but it also provides a noticeable boost in performance on some websites, a welcome side effect of blocking resource-intensive trackers.

All of the browser's configurable settings are accessible via the gear-shaped icon, located in the upper right-hand corner of its main window. Tap this button to access the Focus Settings interface, featuring the following options.

Search Engine

When you enter a keyword or words into the Focus address/search field, as opposed to typing a URL, they are submitted to the browser's default search engine. The provider that is utilized here is configurable via the Search Engine option, found towards the top of the Settings page.

Select this option to designate the browser's search engine, set to Google by default. The other available choices are Amazon, DuckDuckGo, Twitter, Wikipedia and Yahoo. Simply select one of these alternatives from the list to activate it, tapping the Settings link in the upper left-hand corner to return to the previous screen.

Integration

The Integration section contains one option, accompanied by an on/off button and labeled Safari. Disabled by default, this setting allows you to make use of the app's tracking protection features even when using Apple's Safari browser. In order to activate this integration, you must first enable Firefox Focus in Safari's list of Content Blockers.

To do so, first return your device's Home Screen and select the iOS Settings icon, usually located on the first page of apps. Next, scroll down and choose the Safari option. The settings for the Safari browser should now be displayed. Scroll down again and tap on the Content Blockers menu item. Locate Firefox Focus in the list provided and select its accompanying on/off button so that it turns green. You can now return to the Focus browser's Settings interface and activate Safari integration by tapping its own on/off button once.

Privacy

The settings located in the Privacy section control which of the aforementioned trackers are enabled. They are as follows, each toggled off and on by tapping on its respective button.

  • Block ad trackers: Prevents third-party advertisers from placing a tracking cookie on your device and monitoring your behavior.
  • Block analytics trackers: When active, some web analytics trackers including Google's own service is partially or fully blocked from running in the background.
  • Block social trackers: This setting controls whether or not social media-related trackers can monitor your behavior.
  • Block other content trackers: The only privacy setting not enabled by default, this option encompasses other tracker types not included in the above categories and is accompanied by a warning that it may break the functionality of some web pages and videos.

    Performance

    Many web designers choose to use fonts that are not available by default on most devices, mainly because there is typically not a lot to choose from. Rather than stifle creativity and present a lower-quality visual experience, these digital artists select the option of having you download these web-based fonts in the background while the page is rendering.

    While this may result in a nicer appearance, it can also slow down page load times; especially on networks with limited bandwidth. The one setting available in the Performance section, disabled by default, addresses this limitation by preventing web fonts from loading within your browser.

    To block all fonts that are not locally stored on your device, activate the Block Web fonts setting by tapping on its accompanying button once.

    Mozilla

    The final section found on the Settings page contains one option, labeled Send anonymous usage data. Enabled by default and accompanied by an on/off button, this setting dictates whether or not device-specific data including how the application was downloaded (i.e., from the App Store) and what features are most often used is submitted to Mozilla. To stop sending this usage data, tap the setting's button once so that its color turns from blue to white.