Enable Private Browsing on iPad & iPhone with Safari in iOS 6
iOS allows you to enable private browsing in Safari for the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. This feature is sometimes called “Incognito Mode” with other browsers, and essentially this lets you browse the web and visit web sites without saving a record of any browser history, cache, logins, or searches, and it prevents cookies from being stored on the device.
Private Browsing is an excellent way to maintain some secrecy for web activity in iOS, because whatever would normally be visible by whoever comes across the iOS device is no longer stored in any way on the device, and that will stay in effect for all sites as long as Private Browsing is left on.
This article focuses on the feature in prior releases of iOS, if you’re on a newer version you’ll want to learn how to use Private Browsing in iOS 7, iOS 8, iOS 9 here. Otherwise, here is how to use this feature on any iOS device running iOS 6 or earlier:
Use Private Browsing in Safari on iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch with iOS 6 & iOS 5
- Open the “Settings” app and then navigate to and choose “Safari”
- Look under ‘Privacy’ and then slide the switch next to “Private Browsing” so that it displays “ON”
If you have currently active Safari browser windows open, it will ask if you want to keep or discard the existing web sites. We generally recommend choosing “Keep All” so you don’t accidentally close a browser window you wanted to keep open, but because it converts existing browser windows to Private Browsing versions, any saved data or cookies that have existed for that site will be missing after the refresh.
Now go back to Safari and you will discover that the windows are darkened, signifying that private browsing is active. Here is how this looks on an iPhone:
At any point you can disable private browsing and go back to the normal browsing method, simply by revisiting Safari Settings to the same menu and sliding ‘ON’ to “OFF” again.
You can further tweak the Safari privacy by adjusting cookie behavior in the same menu, though if you want to delete specific site cookies you need to do that through the “Advanced” options in Safari.
If you do any online gift shopping, check a unique email account that is otherwise hidden, or a variety of other things on the web that you want kept private and don’t want others to discover, this is a great feature to get used to enabling. Other than losing the convenience of saved logins, some minor site customizations, and cookies, there is no harm with leaving private mode enabled all the time, and some users prefer to do this because of the privacy benefits, or even just because they prefer the darkened appearance of browsing in Private mode.