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Microsoft Edge for the iPhone was an unexpected app when it was announced. Pundits and tech watchers didn’t expect that Microsoft would bring Edge to the Apple App Store without at least porting the Edge engine over. As iOS didn’t allow alternative browser engines (much like the Microsoft Store), it was assumed that Microsoft wouldn’t ever make an Edge mobile app.
Two months ago, Microsoft overturned that misconception — announcing Edge for iPhone and Android, and releasing it to general users after a period of testing.
I’ve been using Edge for the iPhone for just over a month now, here are my thoughts. (Note: Edge for iOS and Android currently are the same, so anything said about one can be assumed for both).
Microsoft Edge is a well-designed app. It draws upon Windows 10 and Fluent design, with blur tastefully applied.
It has a light theme by default, and a dark theme, just like the Windows app does. Logging into the Microsoft app syncs your passwords, reading list and favourites, so you can quickly get started. It comes with Edge’s newsfeed (once more, right from the desktop), and you can catch up with the local news or weather before launching off into Google or Bing. Overall, it bears resemblance to the Windows 10 PC app, more so than the Microsoft Edge app for Window 10 Mobile
On the iPhone, Microsoft is using Apple’s own browser WebKit engine to power their browser, on Android, it uses the Blink engine. It isn’t exactly the EdgeHTML engine being used, but that isn’t that important for the average user. All you need to know is that it is Edge, and it works with your PC.
That is in fact, the main selling point for Microsoft Edge — its PC integration. It’s easy to see why you, and more importantly, Microsoft, would want this. If you’re an Edge user on Windows 10, having the ability to sync your browser between your PC and a phone you actually use is going to keep you from going off to Chrome or Firefox. You’ll also be more likely to keep using Edge — since you already use it on your phone. In 2016, StatCounter observed that mobile web use had begun to overtake desktop use, and Microsoft is no doubt keeping an eye on those stats. Edge hasn’t taken the world by storm, and Redmond is hoping to capitalise on a boost from mobile users.
However, Edge for iOS doesn’t quite have all the features you’ll expect from Edge. With regards to reading, there is no reading mode — at all for iPhone users. Microsoft’s Windows Phone offered a reading mode for years, Safari on the iPhone does too. As Microsoft often touts Edge’s reading mode, you’d think its something they’d put in the initial release. The Android version does have it oddly enough, so its curious that Microsoft doesn’t do so on the iPhone.
While there is some (basic) PDF support, it’s not as robust as that offered by Windows 10 Mobile, and when it comes to newer features Microsoft also doesn’t let you read e-books on it either. While this looks like a silly complaint (especially for a browser app), there is some logic to it. Microsoft sells e-Books on their Windows Store for consumption on Edge, it would make sense that users also be able to carry these books around with them on their mobile phones. [Editors note: E-Book store support is coming soon for US users, but there is no word on general e-pub support]
Ultimately, those features are partly why I can’t recommend Edge just yet, the other is one of ubiquity. Users of iOS and Android already have their own browsers at this stage, in this regards, Microsoft Edge is the plucky upstart. It should do something better than the others, and yet — even compared to itself on other platforms — it doesn’t.
On the other hand, there’s also the benefit of the incumbent. While Apple’s vice-like grip on the iPhone;s software makes it extremely easy for users to stick to Safari, especially with its system-wide integration. Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox, despite lacking integration, wield considerable brand cachet and already do the work Edge does on other platforms.
Would I recommend Edge unilaterally? No, I don’t think I can. Microsoft left a few too many of Edge’s unique features out, and the Edge features it does have are duplicated to some extent by Chrome and Firefox. If you’re on Android, the latter even provides some form of extension support. If you use Edge on your PC, by all means, go ahead. It isn’t a one to one experience, but nobody expects that.
As Microsoft builds out Edge for iOS and Android in the coming months, it’ll become easier to recommend and use. For now, it remains a good start, and just that.
- Microsoft Edge has a good, well laid out design
- Continue on PC support provides some well-needed PC integration between PCs and the phones we use every day.
- Passwords are synced between PCs and phones.
- Microsoft’s reading mode and much-touted e-book support are absent.
- Microsoft Edge does not do yet do enough to justify picking it over the incumbent Safari, Chrome or Firefox.