Apple has totally revamped its Safari browser for the upcoming iOS 15, which is now in public beta and due for general release this fall. One of the most compelling (or infamous, to some) features of the new mobile browser version is a tab bar, now located at the bottom of the screen, which appears when you browse web pages.
Mobile Safari has adapted the style of the Safari Start Page derived from the current MacOS 11 (Big Sur), letting you create tab groups that are accessible across all your Apple devices, making browsing a more seamless and unified experience. The new Safari interface in iOS 15 beta has a lot more functionality than the current version, is more connected across devices, offers more screen space dedicated to browsing, and supports browser extensions. It also relies on a series of nested menus and will take some getting used to. Here’s what it looks like right now.
Mobile Safari’s redesigned Start Page can display your Bookmarks, Favorites, Frequently Visited sites, Siri Suggestions, iCloud Tabs, Reading List, and Privacy Report. The Edit button lets you customize which items appear on your Start Page and also lets you add custom wallpaper or use another background from your Photos. If you sync the Start Page in iCloud, it will appear with the same content on all your devices. To get complete cross-device functionality, you must also have MacOS 12 (Monterey) — also in beta — installed on your computer.
A new tab bar sits at the bottom of the Start Page where Apple has consolidated multiple controls designed to be expedited by a long press or an icon tap. Tapping the tab bar URL moves it toward the middle of the screen, letting you search for a site or enter a web address. When you hit Enter, the page loads and the tab bar sits back down at the bottom of the screen, providing an unobstructed view of the page. If the presence of the tab bar is too distracting on your small screen, you can swipe down to minimize it, but it automatically minimizes anyway as you scroll down a page, and all you have to do to reveal it again is tap.
Once you get the hang of the tab bar, there’s plenty more you can do with it. First, you can use the tabs icon at the far right to access a tab switcher interface. From there, swiping across the bar between open tabs either to the left or right cycles through your open tabs. A long press on the tab bar brings up an action menu with options like Copy, Add to Reading List, Add Bookmark, Add Bookmarks for X Tabs, Reload, Share, and more. The Edit Actions command at the bottom of the menu lets you rearrange which controls you want to see at the top of the screen for ease of use. Tapping the ellipse icon gives you some of the same commands and adds a roster of functions, from changing text size to adding favorites, translating, adding a URL directly to your home screen, markup, printing, and more. You can also long-press the ellipsis icon to reveal Reader View for the current page, if it has one.
In iOS 15, tabs are easy to find because they appear as vertically scrolling thumbnail previews. Tab groups let you save tabs and organize them according to classifications, topics, and categories to save you the trouble of swiping through many tabs to find a specific site.
After launching mobile Safari, just tap on the Tabs icon. Then, tap the tabs arrow in the tab bar to access the menu to creates a new empty tab group, a new group with the tabs you currently have open, or a private tab group. If all your open tabs already are in one category, you can also choose New Tab Group from X Tabs, name the tab group, and click OK. Interestingly, the tab group offers naming suggestions that are fairly sophisticated conceptual interpretations of the tabbed site content. If you have already named a tab group, you will see it listed in this menu and you can tap to switch between it and any other existing tabs. Independent open tabs are listed according to their number. The plus (+) icon in the Tab Switcher Bar opens a new tab. A tap and hold brings up your recently closed tabs.
A long press on a tab in the Tab Switcher offers additional commands like Close Other Tabs, Move to Tab Group, Arrange Tabs by Title, and Arrange Tabs by Website. A tab bar at the bottom of the screen lets you access tabs with your thumb. Users can also swipe between tabs, or swipe up for the grid view. Once you see all of your open tabs, choose which one you want to move to another group and long-press until you see a menu appear. On the menu, select Move to Tab Group and tap the group you created.
The new tab interface in Safari for iOS 15 has a slew of options to help you visually connect with websites for work and entertainment. It can get kind of dense, but be aware that this current interface is not set in stone, and that the final version of iOS 15 may look quite different.