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Mobile

Load Web pages in a flash with Speedafari for iOS

By stripping pages of extraneous elements, this app promises to preserve both battery life and data.

When you're browsing the Web on your broadband-connected PC, it's not a big deal if pages are stuffed with ads, photos, tracking scripts and the like. You've got speed and bandwidth to spare.

When you're on your phone or tablet and connected via cell towers, on the other hand, suddenly that stuff totally matters. Even sites optimized for mobile devices can be full of extraneous elements that make pages load slowly, at the same time consuming extra data and even extra battery.

Enter Speedafari ($1.99), an iOS app that leverages iOS 9's new content-blocking capabilities to load Web pages faster.

speedafari.jpg
Screenshot by Rick Broida/CNET

When you first run the app, it will prompt you to add the Speedafari widget to your Today screen, which is where you toggle the utility on and off and set its level of aggressiveness.

Next, you'll need to venture into Settings > Safari > Content Blockers and enable Speedafari. Now you're ready to browse in Safari, same as usual.

However, when you swipe down to invoke the Today screen and tap Speed Up Safari, Speedafari will load pages based on three aggressiveness levels:

  • Low: Blocks ads and tracking scripts.
  • Medium: Blocks all scripts and fonts.
  • High: Blocks everything but the main HTML.

This probably isn't something you'd use all the time, especially if you live and work in Wi-Fi- and 4G-rich areas. But for those times when your connection is slow and pages are taking forever, it might prove very handy to invoke Speedafari.

Indeed, it would be nice if the app could be set to kick in automatically when you're no longer connected to Wi-Fi, but for the moment you have to enable it manually. At least it's only a Today-screen swipe away.

And it works as advertised, though it's hard to gauge how much time, data and battery life it's really saving. Of course, even if you net only a few seconds here and kilobytes there, this stuff adds up.