After getting into a deep dive with Android adblockers I started wondering whether anything changed on iOS (my daily platform of choice) since the last time I researched this topic.
iOS adblockers were first approached by Apple with the release of iOS 9 when they introduced an adblocking API for Mobile Safari. The API was so simple and limiting at the same time that few developers pushed out a couple of adblockers literally within days after the iOS 9 worldwide rollout. And the reason was that anyone could build an adblocker for iOS in a matter of few days - it was (and is) that simple. The differentiating part is just the list of hosts (filters) to block was slightly different between the adblockers but the main idea was the same: the user had to open Settings.app -> Safari -> Content blockers and enable his adblocker of choice, thus allowing the system block the hosts included in that app. So in order to launch an adblocking app you could just scrape few filters, maybe some opensource ones and you're done 🙂
The problem was with the limited amount of filters per one app. Even though 50 000 hosts sounds like a lot, in practice it wasn't enough to block ads efficiently. I started my journey of finding the best iOS adblocker right after the new iOS release with Purify, then with Peace (which was live only for two days), Crystal and ended up using 1Blocker (which is now 'Legacy'). I decided on 1Blocker since it has a Mac app with iCloud sync of your custom filters, whitelists, settings etc.
After a year of using 1Blocker I started noticing more and more ads in Safari. It felt like the developer abandoned the app which later was proven by him releasing 1Blocker X - an updated version of the adblocker the developer supposedly was working on. Not willing to support the developer's new version which might be abandoned someday with his next work, I started searching Reddit in order to find a replacement. Some people suggested using AdGuard, others replied not to trust an adblocker made in Russia with your browsing info which made sense. People were recommending many adblockers I already tried, including 1Blocker, mostly because of its strong word of mouth. Then in the end I saw few comments recommending Wipr and seeing it's 4.8 star rating helped me to decide in its favor.
Wipr goes around the limitation of 50k hosts by setting itself up as three content blockers all of which you should enable in the Settings.app which is quite clever. But the most important thing besides the app's clean simple interface is that it actually does the job - now I'm seeing less ads, pages are loading fast again.
Even though I now had a new working adblocker I was still unsatisfied. I couldn't believe that having only an adblocker only in Safari is the only option in fighting ads and tracking on iOS. But then I recalled that in addition to an adblocker on macOS I'm using custom DNS servers, two of them to be exact.
So if you want basic working adblocking on iOS - you now have few choices. As for additional protection you can read my followup on custom DNS servers on iOS and in general.
And if you're into complete and best possible privacy options, you can read my take on using VPNs on your devices with some specifics about iOS.