The Bottom Line
With the iOS browser space becoming increasingly crowded, browser apps need features that no others have in order to stand out. Switch certainly does: it offers multiple user accounts within the browser, allowing users to have their own bookmark lists and privacy in their browsing histories.
Switch isn't yet ready to challenge Safari as the main browser for your iPad, but with some tweaking and fine-tuning, it could be.
- Intuitive multi-user interface
- Loads pages quickly, even a little faster than Safari
- Support for AirPlay, HTML 5
- Crashes too often
- No importing of bookmarks from other browsers
- No AirPrint or share-by-email support
- Can't open pages in new tab
- Inconsistent logouts from user accounts
- Web browser for iOS that offers multiple, discrete user accounts
- Designed to protect privacy and passwords between user accounts
- Works on iPad, iOS 3.2 or higher
- Price: US$4.99
Guide Review - Switch iPhone Browser App Review
To use Switch, you simply create as many user accounts and passwords as you want. When you launch the app, you're presented with all the existing user accounts, and a guest account. Tap the one you want, log in with the correct password, and you're up and running.
Switch doesn't just distinguish itself from Safari thanks to the multiple user accounts. It's also a bit faster. Despite being built on the same foundation as Safari, Switch loads pages slightly faster than Safari in my testing. Page load-time, in seconds, with Safari listed first:
- ESPN.com: 13 vs. 11
- Apple.com: 5 vs. 4
- CNN.com: 10 vs. 9
- HoopsHype.com: 8 vs. 5
- iPod.About.com: 8 vs. 6
So, while the difference isn't huge, Switch slightly outperforms Safari. On the other hand, Switch seems a bit slower than Safari in resizing and smoothing text when zooming in and out of pages.
Spotty Support For Other Technologies
While Switch is a bit faster than Safari, it doesn't offer Safari's level of support for additional features of the iOS. While Switch supports HTML 5 and AirPlay, it doesn't support AirPrint, can't import bookmarks from other browsers (which is a big omission--imagine recreating a list of hundreds of bookmarks), and doesn't offer the ability to share webpages via email.
A Few Drawbacks
Switch isn't completely ready to take on Safari because of a number small bugs and opportunities for fine-tuning.
Most prominently, Switch crashes too often. When this happens, the entire app doesn't crash, instead it brings you back to the login screen. Not the worst result of a crash, but a crash is still frustrating.
The app also isn't always responsive enough. I encountered trouble moving between tabs--occasionally the app would let me view all open apps, but only close them, not select them. In other instances, tapping in the address bar required multiple tries to get Switch to respond.
Lastly, the app exhibits inconsistent behavior around automatically logging users out. While there's a button in Switch that logs you out of your account and protects your privacy, locking the iPad or switching to another app doesn't always log you out of your Switch account. I haven't been able to find a consistent behavior here--sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn't. That it's not consistent seems like a potential security flaw; you could switch to another app and forget you haven't logged out of your Switch account, leaving it open to the next person to use the iPad.
These sorts of interface difficulties are sporadic, so they don't prevent Switch from being a useful app, but they do keep it from being polished enough to fully replace Safari.
The Bottom Line
Switch is a good browser, with a valuable feature. It's got a number of nagging bugs and flaws right now, but as they're resolved, Switch could become the full-time browser on shared iPads.