Ad Blocking in iOS 9

In iOS 9 Apple have made it possible for developers to create content blockers for Safari, which means we can finally create ad blockers for our iPhones and iPads. In my spare time I’ve been experimenting with this and created a simple ad and tracker blocker.

Now that it’s pretty much complete I’ve been running it on my own devices, and by using the web inspector I can get detailed page load times when browsing. I expected an improvement, but I’ve got to say that I am blown away by the difference this ad blocker makes to load times. With the blocker enabled I’m getting about 3 to 4 times faster loading than without. In some cases I’m getting almost 9 times faster loading! I can’t believe that for years we could all have been getting these speeds on our mobiles if sites just hadn’t put so many adverts and trackers into their pages.

Here’s a comparison of some of the load times I see on Safari in iOS 9 with and without the content blocker enabled. In all cases, the lower number is with the blocker enabled 🙂

macrumors.com = 1.26s, 5.4s
arstechnica.co.uk = 1.66s, 2.69s
mobile.nytimes.com = 2.38s, 3.63s
reddit.com = 839ms, 1.06s
uk.ign.com = 974ms, 3.04s
engadget.com = 2.88s, 6.63s
iphone.appleinsider.com = 1.21s, 3.6s
dailymail.com = 1.02s, 9.64s

Amazing right? The difference this makes is far, far more than any year-on-year hardware upgrade we could have got. This is better than going from say 3G to LTE/4G. Browsing feels soooooo much better and more responsive. I’m retrospectively angry now that I know sites have been so much slower than they could have been, but I am really happy we now have a way to fix this.

I’m going to release this content blocker and I hope people like it, but regardless of whether you use mine or another one, I can not recommend enough that everyone who uses iOS gets and installs some ad blocker once iOS 9 is publicly released. Believe me, your browsing experience will be a whole level better once you do.

  • ZincKidd

    Where’ve you been? I’ve been using the app “WeBlock” to block Safari ads since iOS 5.

    • Yeah, I’ve been using GlimmerBlocker at home for years but it’s nice to have a fully on-device and mobile blocker. Means I can be ad-free no matter where I am without having to VPN… and it’s faster too.

      • ZincKidd

        Except Weblock doesn’t work via a VPN, it works as a local proxy– running on the device.

        • Ah, very interesting app. It redirects ad requests based on its filter list to Google’s DNS servers, which as they aren’t HTTP proxies just ignore the requests. It’s a novel idea. Think it only works for Wi-Fi though since you can’t set a proxy for 3G/LTE, and personally I wouldn’t be too happy with redirecting my ad requests to a Google server even if it is currently ignoring them.

    • WeBlock doesn’t do anything unless you’re on Wi-Fi.