iOS 9 Content Blockers Mini-Reviews

Discussion in 'iOS 9' started by BasicGreatGuy, Sep 19, 2015.

  1. BasicGreatGuy, Sep 19, 2015
    Last edited: Oct 25, 2015

    BasicGreatGuy Contributor

    BasicGreatGuy

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    #1
    In this thread, mini-reviews will be posted about several different paid and free iOS 9 content blockers. The purpose of the review is to give the reader a general overall view of the app in regards to features, (or the lack thereof) performance, price, and developer support.

    Please keep in mind, that the mini-reviews are not written from the one size fits all perspective. A small group of websites were used for general testing purposes. That list will increase as more new and subsequent follow up reviews are made. Your experience with an app may differ from mine due to different sites frequented, internet speed and other variables.

    All apps mentioned by me in this thread were purchased by me or were acquired via TestFlight. I am not affiliated with any app tested. I am just a regular forum member who would like to help others, in whatever way I can. If you would like me to test certain websites or have other general questions with one of the apps reviewed, please ask. I will do what I can to help you make a better informed decision and purchase.

    For those who have asked what may be the best out of the box app at this moment in time, I have to be honest and say Purify wins the contest. It has been able to block sponsored ads on iPhone, (doesn't block them on iPad) as well as handle script and media assignment, without ruining the essence of the webpage or failing to block that which should have been blocked to begin with. I have tested several sites including Macworld, The Verge, CNN, The New York Times, Ebaums World, Kat.cr, The Pirate..., Yahoo, Courier.co.uk, iMore, and several others. The only site thus far that Purify did not have a handle on was the The Pirate... Load times were fast. I did not get the stopwatch out and count and compare to other related apps. I have not noticed any empty white placement boxes. YouTube ads were blocked albeit there was a slight delay with the start of the video because of filtering out ad(s).

    If you are looking for an app (at this moment) that you don't have to tweak, is easy to maneuver, are ok with having to hunt down the developer to provide feedback, don't mind paying $3.99, and does a good job of filtering out sponsored ads and the like while offering a few user toggles including Whitelisting, Purify (at this moment) is one that you should look into.

    Grade A

    Edited to add: Since the review, it has come to my attention via Twitter, that in app feedback (amongst other tweaks and bug fixes) will be included in the next Purify update.

    In second place is Crystal. I find the app well designed and easy to maneuver. I also like the ease of the in app feedback ability for reporting sites and offering opinion. I have made a few reports in the last two days and am looking forward to seeing the block list fine tuned. For those who want the Whitelisting feature, Crystal does not currently have the feature, nor does it have user toggle options to fine tune script, media and social content. At the moment, it cannot block sponsored ads nor does it handle media scripting as well as Purify. I ran Crystal through the same website list as Purify and it did not do as good a job in script blocking and media as Purify. At the same time, you may not traverse the same sites as I do. As such, you may not have any problems with Crystal, if you are looking for a load it and forget about it kind of app, and you are willing to be patient as Crystal matures, this may be the app for you. In my opinion, Dean's attitude and work ethic says a lot about him and it shows in his app, in my opinion. While Crystal may not be as strong out of the box (at this moment) as Purify, I see Crystal headed in the same direction. It is just a matter of time. I also think Crystal's pricing is much better than Purify's.

    Dean has stated on Twitter, that the Whitelisting option is coming to Crystal, albeit he did not place a concrete timeline on that feature.

    Grade B

    Since people have been asking about these two apps, I wanted to provide a very brief review of each one, so that some of you could make a better informed decision. Keep in mind, that things could, and probably will change, in regards to the strengths and weaknesses of each app.

    I will be commenting on other apps as we go along.

    Edited to add: Amended Purify review to denote that sponsored ads are currently blocked on the iPhone but, for some reason, don't get blocked on the iPad.

    Links to other content blocker reviews found in this thread are posted below.

    Blockr review link
    Vivio review link
    Freedom review link
    Ad-Blocker for Safari review link
    Adamant review link
    Admop review link
    BlockBear review link
    Adblock - Multi review link
    1Blocker review link
    Refine review link
    Adblocker review link
    Silentium review link
    Blacklist review link
    Adblock (by Betafish) review link
    Adblock Fast review link
    Just Content review link
    Clear Ad Blocker review link
    Ad Blocker review link
    Blkr review link
    Adblock Plus review link
    Purify ver. 1.1 follow-up review link
    AdblockX review link
    Lionz review link
    Speedafari review link
    Wipr review link
     
  2. BasicGreatGuy, Sep 19, 2015
    Last edited: Oct 4, 2015

    BasicGreatGuy thread starter Contributor

    BasicGreatGuy

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    #2
    Priced at $0.99 (introductory pricing), Blockr is another content blocker geared towards those who want to have a little more control over what is blocked (or not) than Purify and Crystal. It comes with toggled settings for Ad Blocker, Media Blocker, Privacy Blocker and Cookie Warning Blocker. Each one of these toggles is available for Whitelisting. Like Crystal, Blockr has in app feedback ability. It also has a separate option for sending feedback, tutorial and rating.

    At the moment, Blockr is not able to block sponsored ads like Purify. I put Blockr through the same kind of testing as with the previous reviews. With all three toggles enabled, websites are overly stripped and (as a whole) do not load as they should. With the Media toggle turned off, a lot of websites do not load as they should. For those who care about speed, website loading is slightly slower than with Crystal and Purify respectively. There doesn’t appear to be much middle of the road with content blocking with Blockr. It tends to overly sanitize the internet with toggles enabled. It is possible, that by testing toggle combinations, one might find a setting that works for most website browsing. Developer response is good.

    In my opinion, this content blocker is geared towards those who want more of a sanitized internet, and aren’t as concerned about the looks of every website loaded. If you don’t fit this profile, this app might be used in conjunction with one of the weaker content blockers. Although Blockr boasts several strong user controlled features and has potential to be much stronger, it ends up being weaker out of the box, compared to Crystal and Purify.

    This review was made using the latest Blockr beta.

    As noted in the other reviews, your usage and experience may differ than mine, depending on websites visited, internet speed, and other variables. My reviews should not be interpreted as one size fits all.

    Grade C
     
  3. BasicGreatGuy, Sep 19, 2015
    Last edited: Sep 19, 2015

    BasicGreatGuy thread starter Contributor

    BasicGreatGuy

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    #3
    Vivio is another free content blocker (with free in app purchase for a limited time). The app is easy to maneuver with user toggles limited to General ad blocking “(which the app notes blocks the most commonly used ad systems (like Google Adsense) and additional ads on many popular websites.” There are also toggles for Privacy protection - “Blocks tracking scripts to protect your privacy” as well as a Social filters toggle which “blocks tracking scripts from social networks and social features like the Facebook like button.” In addition to the aforementioned toggles, the app also provides Czech, Slovak, German, Dutch, Italian, Russian, Polish and Greek filters.

    Every time you open the app, Vivio looks to update the blocking filter. At the time of the view, there were just over 14,000 different filters in the app.

    Vivio does not provide in app feedback, or some of the other features found in Purify, Crystal, Blockr or 1Blocker.

    Vivio was put through the same website test as blockers in previous reviews. It does not block sponsored ads like Purify. Unlike Crystal, it was able to properly render Yahoo’s new photo carousel properly. In regards to Macrumors, iMore, The Verge, and most other sites, Vivio did not block ads. Load times for Vivio were much slower than the previous blockers reviewed, due to the fact that it failed to block ads etc.

    Members who seek to make use of the foreign filter(s) may yield better result than the default filter used.

    In my opinion, Vivio failed the test. Even though it is free with temporarily free upgrade to in app purchase, I don’t recommend this content blocker to U.S. citizens at this point in time.

    Grade F
     
  4. BasicGreatGuy, Sep 19, 2015
    Last edited: Sep 19, 2015

    BasicGreatGuy thread starter Contributor

    BasicGreatGuy

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    #4
    If you are looking for a free content blocker, Freedom (by Zachapps) is one to check out. Like Crystal, it is a set it and forget it app. It does not have in app feedback, rating, or contact the developer. There are no user toggle selections for trying to fine tune any page loading, nor is there Whitelisting ability.

    Like Crystal, Freedom has already pushed out an update since iOS 9 went live, and the developer does keep an active presence on Twitter as well as Reddit, where the app was first launched in beta.

    As to website display, Freedom does a much better job with website rendering on Yahoo with the news photo carousel, versus Crystal. It does not block sponsored ads. With the other sites tested, I did not experience any noticeable missing content boxes as with Blockr. It was able to handle ThePirate…without redirects or popups, as well as kat.cr (two well known ad laced sites)

    In regards to speed, some site usage was commiserate with Crystal while other pages were on par with the slightly lower and slower Blockr rendering.

    In regards to hidden trackers and script prevention, I was not readily able to test such with Freedom, given its usage limitations.

    Freedom’s business model is about freedom with emphasis on free. You won’t have to worry about it turning pay down the road.

    At this point in time, the direction of Freedom, in regards to upcoming features, (if any) is unknown.

    For those looking for a free app due to budget, or want to stick with a free app until the content blocker apps dust settles, Freedom appears to be able to run not too far behind the leaders of the pack (at this point in time).

    Grade B

    *Review was done using the latest beta of Freedom.
     
  5. BasicGreatGuy, Sep 19, 2015
    Last edited: Sep 20, 2015

    BasicGreatGuy thread starter Contributor

    BasicGreatGuy

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    #5
    Ad-Blocker for Safari is another content blocker recently released. It offers in app purchases for Clickbait Blocker, ($0.99) Tracking Script Blocker, ($0.99) as well as upgrading to Ad-Blocker Pro ($1.99). The developer's website is rather rudimentary and does not really explain the in app purchase features. The developer claims that his app has the "biggest list of ad distributors on the web."

    According to the app, "you can add custom filters (listed under My Filters) to block files from specific source, cookies at sites and even specific HTML elements. You can only add 3 filters add a time without Ad-Blocker Pro." (the add typo in the quote actually appears in the app)

    Domain Whitelisting is available.

    Ad-Blocker cannot block sponsored ads nor does it have in app feedback ability.

    In regards to default ad-blocking, it was able to render Yahoo, The Verge, Mac World, Macrumors, CNN, Fox News, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, ( a small amount of white boxing was noted on the front page) The Courier.co.uk, Ebaums World, YouTube, Time Magazine correctly. Huffington Post showed empty advertisement boxes, as well as adsense ads. It did not completely block ads on The Pirate..., Kat.cr and a few other sites.

    In regards to webpage loading, I found the speed to be erratic, whereas Purify, Crystal and Freedom were not.

    Out of the box, the performance of the app did not endear me to want to make the in app upgrade purchases. In my opinion, one can do much better using Freedom.

    Grade C
     
  6. BasicGreatGuy, Sep 19, 2015
    Last edited: Sep 19, 2015

    BasicGreatGuy thread starter Contributor

    BasicGreatGuy

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    #6
    Another newcomer to the app store is Adamant. It is a free download with an in app purchase of $1.99. According to the app, if you upgrade, you can "get regular updates to the block list, priority troubleshooting, and blocker customization. Plus, we're always adding new features only available to full users."

    There are no user toggle options with free download. It is another install it and forget it app.

    From the developer website:

    [​IMG]
    Screenshots

    • Browse. Faster. Waiting on webpages to load is not fun, and pages full of ads not only make this wait longer, but also utilize more of your valuable data plan, which costs you money on your monthly cell plan.
    • Better Battery. Fast load times mean better battery life for your mobile devices. Preserve your battery life by blocking JavaScript ad and tracker code execution that distracts and undermines your privacy.
    • OTA Updating. Don’t wait for Adamant app updates to get the latest blocking definitions. We’ll let you automatically update the app over the air to ensure it’s blocking definitions are always keeping protected while browsing online (requires one-time in app purchase).
    • Block Trackers. Don't like being followed around the web? We don't either. That's why we made sure Adamant will let you do this as well.
    • Report Issues. Adamant lets you easily report issues that you might experience with the content blocker enabled. Simply fill out the form in the app, and we'll fix the issue!


    In testing the out of the box stock app, sponsored ads were not blocked. Page rendering and speed on sites like National Geographic and Time Magazine took close to 5 seconds to load, (Purify was about 1.5 seconds) whereas sites like CNN, Fox News, Macrumors, Mac World, and the The Verge etc. were quicker. Huffington Post displays the empty Adchoice boxes like Ad-Blocker for Safari does. Kat.cr displayed properly with no noted redirects. The Pirate... had some ads although I wasn't hit with redirects as one normally would be without any blocking. MLB.com loaded fast but ads did appear on the main page.

    Social buttons are not blocked with the stock app.

    There is no mention of in app feedback ability for the stock app, although the developer does provide that ability from his website. I also see no mention of Whitelisting ability which, for many people, is important.

    In my opinion, it would be better for the developer to show what is behind the hidden door to the update, than expecting people to exercise blind faith in regards to features that one hopes will be there. As such, I am not inclined to take a leap of faith and pay the admission fee.

    The free stock app may be suitable for someone who is looking to compliment another free content blocker that may have some weak ad blocking spots. As a stand alone, I would not feel comfortable using it long term, as it is too locked down, will not be updated to the latest list or provide tracking defense.

    At least with Freedom, you get a little bit more out of the box.

    Grade C
     
  7. BasicGreatGuy thread starter Contributor

    BasicGreatGuy

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    #7
    Admop is another set it and forget it free content blocker. Like the Freedom app, there are no user toggle options. There is no Whitelisting although the app does offer one the ability to suggest a website to block.

    Unlike some of the other content blockers, Admop allows the user to see the ad block, tracking, social, and foreign (German, Chinese, and Arabic) blocker rule list, albeit there is no ability to edit any of the rules seen within the app.

    The following is from the developer found on Reddit...

    "At the moment all content blockers offer the same degree of functionality. Admop has a main ads blocker and then a few extra ones which we imported from the easylist (language specific, social media and tracking)

    https://easylist.adblockplus.org/en/

    We are also able to update the rules. There is no need to update the app to get the new ones.

    However we cannot just use all the Easy List rules. Safari would run out of memory... That is the reason that have a main ads list which we are enhancing manually.

    One good thing about admop is that we are working very hard in improving the rules. We are trying to give a good support to our users, and we are adding rules as a result. It is actually good for us. The more requests for support we get, the better our block list will get.

    So if you have some suggestions for ads we could block better or you want some functionality, just let us know. We are happy to help."

    As to website rendering and speed, I found Admop to be slightly faster than Freedom, in regards to the websites tested. Like several of the other content blockers, it cannot remove sponsored ads nor did it properly handle the removal placement of Adchoice ads on Huffington Post. When testing The Pirate..., I got hit with several redirects. Testing the ad block strength of several of these apps is like having a constant case of deja vu which, I suppose is not that surprising, seeing how many are using the same lists with minor tweaks here and there. The lone exception continues to be Purify.

    While Admop doesn't come with power windows, leather seats or a Bose sound system, it will get you from point A to point B in solid fashion.

    For those seeking a free content blocker without all the bells and whistles, and don't care about having the fastest blocker so long as the ads get blocked, I recommend Admop. In my opinion, it is just above Freedom.

    Grade B+

    *Note A little bit more leeway is shown with free content blockers versus paid ones. In my opinion, those who purchase apps should expect a higher standard (in many areas).


     
  8. wchigo macrumors 6502

    wchigo

    Joined:
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    #8
    Great thread, thanks! This is very helpful as someone who is looking into ad blocking but is slightly overwhelmed by the number of options out there.

    I've been using Crystal so far and it's been fairly solid, but I noticed that it received a 'B' grade just like Freedom, while Admop received a 'B+' and got the nod over Freedom in your mini-review. Therefore, should that be interpreted as, at least for the time being, giving the nod to Admop over Crystal?
     
  9. olzak macrumors newbie

    Joined:
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    #9
    Purify blocks whole pages, e.g. time.com, hs.fi. Crystal is better with that kind on pages.
    I use iPad Air and iPhone 6.
     
  10. miknos Suspended

    miknos

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    #10
    We should expect a race to the bottom (price). Soon a great and 100% free ad blocker will appear. One I'm willing to try is Adblock Plus. I checked their forum comments and there's one already waiting for Apple to review it.

    Source:
    https://adblockplus.org/forum/viewtopic.php?f=26&t=40511

    ABP QA Manager
     
  11. scjr macrumors 68000

    scjr

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    #11
    I reported this to the Purify developer.
     
  12. BasicGreatGuy, Sep 20, 2015
    Last edited: Sep 20, 2015

    BasicGreatGuy thread starter Contributor

    BasicGreatGuy

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    #12
    Time.com and hs.fl were not used in the review for Purify. Even with Purify missing those two sites, I believe it still comes out on top.

    As with any content blocker, one is bound to find some sites that don't load properly. I don't believe there is any way for an app to get it right 100% of the time.
     
  13. BasicGreatGuy thread starter Contributor

    BasicGreatGuy

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  14. BasicGreatGuy thread starter Contributor

    BasicGreatGuy

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    #14
    As noted in my last mini-review, free content blockers are shown a little bit more leeway than paid apps.

    As to Freedom and Admop, it was very close. The reason Admop received the B+ is because it was able to load pages slightly faster than Freedom, along with providing in app website blocking report.
     
  15. Abazigal macrumors G3

    Abazigal

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    #15
    I would personally be leery of any ad-blocker that is free. Either the developer has too much free time on his hands, or expects to monetise the app via other routes (perhaps accepting kickbacks to whitelist certain ad trackers?).
     
  16. BasicGreatGuy thread starter Contributor

    BasicGreatGuy

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    #16
    I think one needs to be careful of attaching nefarious deeds to those who truly believe such apps should be free. If your scenario were to occur, I believe that that would represent a very, very small percentage of the whole. And there are plenty of apps (even at this point) to afford one the ability to look elsewhere, should an app stop performing as previously noted or increases in price etc.
     
  17. mattdocs12345 macrumors member

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    #17
    While I found Purify to be marginally faster, it consistently fails for me to open time.com. Other blockers seem to have similar issues to various degree. I found Blockr to be breaking the web the least and it also handles spaces where ads used to be much better.
    The best way to test these content blockers would be to pick up sample of top 100 most popular websites and measure load time of each website, whether the website is loaded properly and how the blank ad spaces are habdled.
     
  18. BasicGreatGuy thread starter Contributor

    BasicGreatGuy

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    #18
    I appreciate the suggestion with the reviews. However, I am not getting paid or otherwise renumerated in any way for providing mini-reviews. I also don't have the time or unlimited bandwidth to test 100 websites per content blocker test.
     
  19. scjr macrumors 68000

    scjr

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    #19
    Nice follow up. I reported it to the dev. I can't wait until his next version has a reporting function.
     
  20. scjr macrumors 68000

    scjr

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    #20
    I appreciate any input you give. Your posts are invaluable.

    Thank you so much for taking the time!
     
  21. BasicGreatGuy thread starter Contributor

    BasicGreatGuy

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    #21
    I agree. I think adding the in app reporting ability is a must, especially when its a paid app.

    I will post a follow up Purify mini-review, once the update is released.
     
  22. BasicGreatGuy thread starter Contributor

    BasicGreatGuy

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    #22
    If you would like to see a mini-review of an 'out of the box' content blocker, please post the name and link, and I will get to it as promply as I can.
     
  23. tosbsas macrumors 6502a

    tosbsas

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    #23
    You are doing an awsome job - I check all blockers with your reviews
     
  24. miknos Suspended

    miknos

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    #24
    Another came out by Tunnel Bear devs.

    Ad blockers came to stay. Like browser plugins, you'll see them in top ranks for downloaded.
     
  25. bandofbrothers, Sep 20, 2015
    Last edited: Sep 20, 2015

    bandofbrothers macrumors 601

    bandofbrothers

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