Advertising appears to be a necessary nuisance on the internet. It remains the primary method for paying content creators, allowing sites (such as the one you're reading) to avoid paywalls or subscriptions - but sometimes adverts go too far in terms of distraction and intrusiveness.
When you find the constant barrage of consumerism too much, you'll be pleased to know that it's pleasantly easy to block ads when using Safari on your iPhone or iPad. In this article, we show how.
How do I stop pop-up ads on my iPhone?
iOS has a built-in pop-up-blocker. Open Settings and go to Safari, then tap the toggle next to Block Pop-ups.
This is a good start, but for the full-fat ad-blocking experience we'll need to install a third-party content blocker, which occupies the next step.
How to install an ad blocker on iPhone & iPad
Blocking ads on your iPhone or iPad is a three-step process:
- Install a third-party content blocker app (such as AdGuard).
- In iOS Settings, grant the app permission to block content.
- Fine-tune the app's filters so it blocks adverts in the way you wish.
The way ad blockers work is through Safari extensions. This feature has been around since iOS 9 and isn't solely restricted to removing pesky adverts - in fact, there's a wide variety of useful add-ons.
To set up an ad blocker you'll first need to acquire one from the App Store. You'll find plenty of options, such as AdBlock Plus and AdGuard. For this tutorial we've opted for AdGuard, but the instructions will be virtually identical for any ad blocker.
Install AdGuard and open it. On the main page you'll notice a message in red that states 'Protection is disabled'. This is because it requires permission from iOS to do its thing.
Go back to the home screen and select Settings > Safari, then look in the General section for Content Blockers. (This option appears only when you have a relevant app installed.) Tap it and you'll see a list of any ad blockers you have installed.
AdGuard has multiple toggles for the various kinds of content blocking (six, at time of writing, up from the five when the company made its demo video). Tap those related to the blocking you want AdGuard to do so they turn green; we're going to enable them all.
Open AdGuard once more and the red warning should have been replaced by a placid green message (or an orange one if you've enabled only some of the permissions), meaning you're able to start configuring the app. This isn't as daunting as it sounds, because AdGuard has a set of defaults aimed at ensuring a speedy, ad-free online experience.
You can see what this default contains by tapping the cog icon (Settings) at the top right and then Filters. You can see which filters are enabled by checking for the green toggles next to their names. (Some are disabled on the free version of the app.)
Each blocker will have different methods for setting up filters, so check the help sections to discover the way it's done on that particular app. One of the advantages of AdGuard is that it features a video to take you through the steps: open Settings, then tap About > How to use.
Exempt sites from blocking using whitelists
Consider using the whitelist feature. This instructs the blocker to exempt certain websites, meaning adverts will still appear when you're visiting them. This is a good thing because it allows the sites to receive revenue and continue providing you with the content you enjoy. Use this feature on sites with unobtrusive advertising which you wish to support.
To exempt a website in AdGuard, you'll need to open Safari and navigate to the site in question. When there, tap the share button (the one that looks like a square with an arrow pointing out of the top), scroll down, and tap AdGuard.
At the top of the pop-up menu that appears, you'll get the option to enable or disable AdGuard's blocking on this page. You can also fine-tune your blocking further by selecting an element on the page to block now and in future.
Remember ad blockers only work in Safari, so any articles you click on in Facebook, Twitter or other apps will not have the blocker activated.
An added benefit of a blocker is that you should end up using less data, as adverts are often visual and therefore larger to download than the text on any given web page. You may also see (very slightly) better battery life.
Are ad blockers safe?
For the most part ad blockers are as safe as any other app on the Store. There were some controversial ones a little while back which Apple removed, following reports that they were running man-in-the-middle attacks. But for the most part, they are safe to use.
Content Blockers do, by their nature, monitor your web traffic and interfere with your web browsing, and for this reason you should stick to the major apps, such as the ones mentioned above.
Is using an ad blocker a good thing?
Now, here's the rub.
Everyone likes to enjoy the free content available on the web. Paywalls are generally frowned upon, and not many sites have made them work.
But - and this is important - the only way that sites are able to create such great content and provide it to you at no cost is through advertisers paying them for access to the readership.
It was a similar story when magazines and newspapers ruled the information highway, but back then you couldn't have the publication automatically eviscerate its ads before you enjoyed the articles. Not unless you had a very dutiful butler with a sharp pair of scissors.
Therefore it's important that publishers gain that ad revenue in order to pay their staff, continue to exist, and produce features such as the one you're reading.
Ads can be unpleasant; that's certainly true. So if you find a regular haunt whose content you enjoy, but uses intrusive ads, write to the editor and complain. This can be fed back to the advertisers and hopefully bring about a change on the site that benefits everyone.
If you do use an ad blocker generally, then consider opting for one with a whitelist, and put your favourite sites on that list. The non-intrusive settings available on apps such as Crystal also allow you to contribute to the financial wellbeing of a site by rewarding advertising that respects the reader.
In the end, it's up to your own conscience. You can block all ads, take content, and no one will be knocking on your door with a warrant for your arrest.
Just be prepared to live in a world where the streets are littered with dishevelled ex-journalists, holding out their withered hands to you as they plaintively cry "50p for a how-to tutorial, guv'nor?"
And that's it! We hope this tutorial has been helpful. For more advice on ways to tweak your iPhone experience, take a look at our guide to the Best Safari extensions.