Apple's Content Blocker feature is probably the most controversial addition to to iOS 9, and it also has the potential to be a great asset for mobile Web browsing if it's used responsibly. What are content blockers, and what's the right way to use them, you ask? Read on to find out.
What are Content Blockers?
Content Blockers filter what comes from online servers into your Web browser. That can include certain types of code, online trackers, Web cookies, images, and even complete sites.
No content blockers (left), and content blockers in action (right)
Most people equate ad blockers with content blockers because they are—for practical purposes—pretty much the same. The code content blockers keep out of your browser is typically what displays ads in pages and as pop-up or pop-under content, but they aren't limited to just advertising-related code.
Why Do People Use Content Blockers?
For some people, it's all about improving page loading performance. Many sites load a lot of content and code that isn't necessary to actually display a site, but instead supports under the hood stuff like tracking how you use a specific site, what you're looking at, the searches you perform, and where you go when you leave for a different site. When that content gets blocked, sites load substantially faster.
A lot of that extra stuff drags down site loading times and hurts overall site performance. It also eats into your data cap if you're surfing the Web from your smartphone.
For some people, it's all about privacy. They don't want advertisers to be privy to their browsing habits or collecting information they feel should be private.
Some people use content blockers because they don't want to see ads on websites. Sometimes it's because those ads are intrusive and other times it's because they feel paying for the content the see isn't their responsibility.
How do Content Blockers work in iOS 9?
Apple added content blocker support for Mobile Safari in iOS 9, but you'll have to download apps that do the actual filtering part. Once installed, go to Settings > Safari > Content Blockers to turn them on. If the installed content blockers include their own settings, you'll have to hop into their accompanying app to change those.
Mobile Safari's content blocker settings
When a content blocker app is enabled, it watches your Internet traffic and automatically blocks anything it deems unacceptable, like trackers and code that isn't needed for site functionality.
Do Content Blockers Work on All iOS 9-Compatible Devices?
In a word, nope. iOS 9's Content Blocker feature requires a 64-bit processor, so that means an iPhone 5s or newer, iPad mini 2 or newer, iPad Air or iPad Air 2, or at least a 5th generation iPod touch. Sorry, iPhone 5c owners, you're out of luck.
Content Blockers will also work on the soon to be released iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus, as well as the iPad Pro.
Next up: Finding content blocker apps, and the ad blocker controversy