After this year's WWDC, I was actually fairly excited about the changes coming to Safari now that it would finally support theming.
Tabs in the desktop version of Safari
Let's begin on the desktop. Turns out some of these decisions were a little questionable. I've seen many posts about how bad it all is, particularly from John Gruber and Nick Heer.
I was less interested in the tab design but turns out it's actually a major cause of confusion in the new design language they're trying to roll out. For some colours, the line between active and inactive tabs is near impossible to distinguish. Genuinely, the only way to reliably tell if a tab is active is to see if the favicon area has been replaced with a box with a × symbol.
This symbol is probably half the height of the favicons on other tabs but it's styled to blend into Safari's chrome and it takes some genuine effort to find it.
Ultimately, I actually don't care about themes. They're cool and I've implemented them but if they were gone tomorrow I wouldn't miss them.
Safari for iOS 15
The desktop changes are frustrating, but the iOS version of Safari is almost unusable in some ways. Maybe it's the 12 or more years of muscle memory, but moving the address bar to the bottom of the screen was a bad choice. I tried. I really tried to work with it but I always reached the for the top.
One of the main reasons this happens is because when an app utilises the SFSafariViewController functionality to open a web view within an app, the browser chrome is at the top of the screen. So half the time, I'm reaching for the top and the other half I'm reaching for the top only to realise I shouldn't have bothered.
The ability to swipe between tabs is nice, but you loose the ability to do so if you choose to keep the address bar at the top. There are a ton of options under what used to be the 'AA' menu. Even this tapable item confuses me sometimes. The puzzle piece icon next to it looks like a separate action but they're one single button.
Want to make use of pull-to-refresh but you've scrolled more than a few flicks down the page? Guess what, you'll have to either scroll back up or reach to tap the very top of the screen (click on the time for example) to get the browser to jump back... just so you can pull to refresh. If my thumb is up there, then I may as well tap the refresh button! Admittedly, the refresh button is there for the bottom placement too, but I'm sure this wasn't the case when iOS 15 shipped and it was a circle with three dots hiding many other actions.
Given Safari will populate the address bar with your search term, I'd never really thought about how repetitive a Google SERP looks when you have the address bar with the search term followed by a field on Google's page with the search term too. This doesn't feel any weirder, but it's more noticeable that this is the case with the address bar at the bottom.
You end up overthinking how to interact with the page, do you reach for the input field or do you use the omnibar?
No browser should make you think this much!
If you hadn't guessed already, I gave up with Safari's new conventions in iOS 15 about 5 days ago. The address bar is back to the top of the screen for me and I'm unreasonably happy about it.
The things I do like about Safari in iOS 15
There is one thing I like about the new Safari and it's the new Start Page when you start a new tab or go to use the address bar. As well as being able to now choose a background, you still get your favourites but you now get the option to choose what you want on this page and reorder them into a way that works for you. The 'From...' option's title is a menu and it took me way too long to figure that out. I thought it was broken and only one device was syncing across iCloud but tap it and you can choose from the full list. I may not have discovered quite a few of these options had I not read more about iOS 15 over on MacRumors.
You should give the new address bar placement a go, maybe it works for you.
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