Get started with ad-blocking apps on iOS 9

Content blockers, as they're properly called, are all the rage in Apple's latest mobile operating system.

Jason Cipriani
Jason Cipriani
Jason Cipriani Contributing Writer, ZDNet
Jason Cipriani is based out of beautiful Colorado and has been covering mobile technology news and reviewing the latest gadgets for the last six years. His work can also be found on sister site CNET in the How To section, as well as across several more online publications.
Jason Cipriani
2 min read

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Jason Cipriani/CNET

Content blockers are a hot topic. If you're unfamiliar, the crux of it is this: Apple now lets developers create apps that can block ads, amongst other things, in mobile Safari.

Content blockers can also block images, fonts, ad-tracking tools and videos from loading as you browse in Safari. There's already a healthy number of content blocking apps in the App Store, with many more likely to come.

The benefits of content blockers go beyond cleaning up the interface of the websites you visit. When ads and tracking tools are no longer loaded when you visit a site, pages load faster and use less data in the process. It's a win-win for the user (I'll spare you the debate on what blocking ads does to revenue for websites).

First, you'll need to decide on an app. Crystal only blocks ads. It's simple, with no extra frills. Blockr blocks ads and offers the ability to block media (images, videos). Both apps are 99 cents in the US, 79p in the UK and AU$1.29 in Australia.

Beyond the differences in functionality, each app relies on a database of ads servers and sites in order to block content. So while it may seem like all content blocking apps are created equal, that's not truly the case. Find an app that works best for you and the sites you frequent.

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Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/CNET

After downloading a content blocker, you'll need to enable it. Launch the iOS Settings app, tap on Safari, followed by Content Blockers. Slide the switch next to the blocker you want to enable to the On position. Press the home button on your device to go back to your home screen, where then need to find and launch the app you just enabled.

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Left: A website with ads. Right: Same website with a content blocker enabled and ads blocked. Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/CNET

Some apps will have a simple on-off toggle, while others will offer more control (whitelisting select sites in order to allow ads, for example). Adjust the settings based on your personal preference, then close the app and launch Safari.

Ads and any supplemental content the app is capable of blocking should no longer show up as you browse the Web in Safari. With content being blocked, however, there will be times when the feature breaks a website; maybe the page is only partially loaded, or fails to load altogether.

Instead of having to repeat the steps outlined above to disable a content blocker, you can long-press on the refresh icon in the address bar. A prompt will show up, letting you refresh the page with all content blocking apps disabled.