iOS 15 will offer a number of changes to the iPhone experience when it’s released later this year. Among the more radical is the redesign of Safari and, in particular, moving the address bar from the top of the page to the bottom. But while that’s the most immediately noticeable change, Safari has had a number of tweaks in iOS 15, and it might take a little bit of getting used to.
So, if you’re running the iOS 15 public beta and want to find out how to get the most out of the redesigned mobile Safari browser, keep on reading. If you want to give iOS a spin in its beta state, take a look at how to get iOS 15 now.
The redesigned navigation bar
Likely the very first change you’ll notice when you open Safari in iOS 15 for the first time, Apple has moved the address bar from the top to the bottom of the screen.
In fact, it’s no longer just the address bar, with the upgraded "tab bar" offering multiple features and functions to speed up the mobile browsing experience.
Floating just above the bottom of the display, the tab bar shows the site (but not the entire URL) alongside a ‘More’ menu and a Tab button – more on the latter a little later.
Tapping on the URL will bring the address bar back to the top of the page, allowing full access to your keyboard to type the URL or search term you’d like to lookup. It’s also where you’ll be able to access your favourites, frequently visited sites and links shared with you in the Messages app.
The latter is a new addition to the Safari experience, saving you the effort of scrolling through long message threads to find a website you were sent a week prior.
The More menu is where you’ll find many of the old features and functions of Safari, including adding a page as a bookmark, saving it to a Read Later list, accessing the Share sheet or requesting the desktop version of the site. As with the Share Sheet, these actions can be edited by scrolling to the bottom of the page and tapping ‘Edit Actions’.
If it’s not the first page you’ve accessed on your Safari tab, you’ll also see a back button appear to the left of the tab bar to go back to a previously visited page. The same action happens when a site opens in a new tab, allowing you to go back to a previous tab with a single tap.
As the page loads and you begin scrolling, the tab bar will slide down to the bottom of the screen for a full-screen browsing experience. You can simply tap it or scroll upwards to make it reappear, and if it becomes annoying, you can disable the function by going to Settings > Safari and toggling ‘Auto-minimise Tab Bar’ off.
You might also notice there’s no longer a reload button on the tab bar – that’s because you can reload simply by scrolling to the top of the page and pulling it down. It’s not a new idea, with the functionality used by plenty of apps including the competing Chrome browser for iOS, but it’s nice to see it finally implemented in Apple’s first-party browser.
You’ve also got a standard Reload button hidden within the More menu if you prefer the old-school method.
New tab functionality
Tabs have also been redesigned in iOS 15, offering a more fluid experience than what has been available on iPhone up until now.
The easiest way to switch between recently opened tabs in iOS 15 is to simply swipe left or right on the Tab bar – it works in a similar way to quickly switching apps by swiping the Home bar, but the close proximity to the Home tab means it can take a little bit of getting used to.
That’s ideal if you’ve got a handful of tabs open, but what if you’re a passionate Safari power user with 25+ tabs open at any one time? That’s where the Tab menu comes into play.
The tab menu, accessible by tapping the Tab button on the tab bar, has a familiar look and layout – albeit much cleaner. You’ve got an overview of each currently open tab, with an X in the top-right allowing you to quickly close any old tabs.
You can press and hold a specific tab to access advanced options like arranging tabs by title or by website, or even closing every other tab aside from the one you’ve selected. You can also scroll to the very top of the page to access the Search function, allowing you to search for a specific site among your open tabs.
But what about private tabs? They’re still around, but you need to access them in a slightly different way. Tap the arrow next to ‘X tabs’ (with X representing the number of tabs you currently have open) on the Tab bar and tap Private.
Your public tabs will disappear, replaced by private browsing tabs that won’t save your browsing history – perfect for searching for surprise birthday gifts and other bits.
While technically a part of the new tab functionality, we think tab groups are important enough to get their own section in our explainer. Why? It could potentially change the Safari experience for power users, but it’s also very easy to miss.
When in the Tab menu, tap the arrow on the Tab bar to access Tab Groups. From here, you have the option of either saving all currently open tabs as a new Tab Group, or you can create a Tab Group from scratch and manually select which open tabs to add.
No matter what you decide, you’ll have to create a name for your Tab Group – choose something that’ll represent your collection, as it’ll make it easier to select from a list of groups later on.
From that point on, you’ll be able to switch between different Tab Groups from the tab menu. To add tabs to a specific group, long-press the tab and tap ‘Move to Tab Group’.
What does this mean? It essentially means that you can set up a tab group for your favourite news sites, another for that woodworking project you’ve been looking into and another with all your favourite online storefronts rather than having a huge sprawling list of unorganised tabs. It could be a real boon for power users.
It’s still in beta
Of course, iOS 15 is still in its public beta stage so it’s possible that Apple might add new features or tweak existing ones before full release later this year. We’ll keep an eye on the default iPhone browser over the coming weeks and we’ll report any other changes or new features right here.