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What is secret mode on iPhone?

Secret mode, also known as private browsing, is a feature on iPhones that allows users to browse the web without saving their browsing history. When secret mode is enabled, the websites visited, searches made, cookies, and other data related to that browsing session are not saved by the browser. This can be useful for times when you want to browse the web privately without leaving a trail of your activity.

How to enable secret mode on iPhone

Enabling secret mode on an iPhone is simple and can be done in a few steps:

  1. Open the Safari app on your iPhone.
  2. Tap on the two overlapping squares icon at the bottom right of the screen. This will open up a menu.
  3. Tap on the “Private” option to enable secret mode.

You can also follow these steps to enable secret mode in other browsers like Chrome or Firefox if you have them installed on your iPhone.

When secret mode is enabled, you’ll see “Private” appear next to the URL bar at the top indicating that you are now browsing privately. Your browsing activity during this time will not be saved by the browser.

What gets cleared when using secret mode?

When browsing in secret mode on Safari, the following information is not saved or cleared once you exit the mode:

  • Browsing history – Websites visited will not show up in your history.
  • Cookies and data – Cookies, cache, and other site data are temporarily cleared while in secret mode.
  • AutoFill – Your name, address, phone number, email, and other saved AutoFill information will not auto populate on sites.
  • Search history – Searches made will not be saved to your history.
  • Downloads – Your downloads will be saved, but their origin is not.
  • Frequently visited sites – Sites visited will not affect your frequently visited sites list.
  • Tab history – Tab history is cleared when you close all tabs in secret mode.

So in summary, your personal identity and activity during that secret mode session are essentially not permanently saved on your device. It’s like starting with a blank slate each time you enable secret mode.

Things that are NOT cleared with secret mode

There are a few things that secret mode does not clear or obscure:

  • Bookmarks – Any bookmarks you add or save will remain after exiting secret mode.
  • iCloud – Your iCloud tabs and history might still be saved if you have iCloud sync enabled.
  • Downloaded files – Downloads are kept locally on your device storage.
  • Logins – You stay logged into any sites you sign into during the session.
  • Network activity – Your network provider can still see and record your browsing activity.
  • Search providers – Your search terms could be logged by the search engine provider.

So in essence, secret mode protects your privacy from other users of your device being able to see your history and activity, but not from your network provider or sites you interact with online.

Key benefits of using secret mode

Here are some of the key benefits of using secret mode on your iPhone:

  • Privacy – Your browsing history and activity are not saved locally on your device, keeping that information private from anyone else who uses your phone.
  • Security – Secret mode makes it harder for websites to track you using cookies, protecting you from targeted ads and phishing attempts.
  • Confidential browsing – You can feel comfortable browsing anything privately without it being saved to your phone’s history.
  • Shared devices – Enables private browsing when using a shared or family computer or phone.
  • Temporary activities – Useful for activities like planning a surprise party or gift shopping when you don’t want to leave a trail.
  • Peace of mind – Knowing your browsing data isn’t being collected can give you peace of mind.

When should you use secret mode?

Here are some common examples of when you may want to enable secret mode for browsing on your iPhone:

  • When using a public or shared device
  • Researching sensitive health topics
  • Shopping for surprise gifts
  • Browsing financial or legal information
  • Searching embarrassing topics
  • Viewing adult content
  • If you don’t want browsing history saved from a session
  • To protect browsing data from shoulder surfers
  • To keep your main history clutter free
  • Anytime you want to browse the web more privately

Essentially, any time you don’t want your browsing activity and history saved, secret mode is the way to go.

Limitations of secret mode

While secret mode provides more private browsing, it does have some limitations users should be aware of:

  • Not 100% private – Your network provider can still see your activity.
  • iCloud sync may save info – If you have iCloud tab syncing on, some data could sync.
  • GPS can still track location – Location services provide data to sites.
  • Cookies last until all tabs closed – Cookies remain until fully exited.
  • Secrets stored elsewhere – AutoFill and bookmarks info remains saved.
  • No protection from spyware – Secret mode won’t stop spyware tracking you.
  • Device storage retains files – Downloaded files remain on your device.
  • You remain logged into sites – Doesn’t log you out of sites you visit.

For full protection, additional tools like VPNs or Tor browser may be needed depending on your threat model.

Best practices when using secret mode

To get the most privacy and security from using secret mode, here are some best practices to follow:

  • Don’t sign into accounts – Avoid signing into services so credentials aren’t stored.
  • Disable location services – Turn off location access for more privacy.
  • Beware of downloaded files – Manually delete files after the session.
  • Use a VPN – Using a VPN adds an extra layer of privacy.
  • Don’t sync browsing data – Disable iCloud tabs to prevent syncing.
  • Delete cookies and data – Manually clear cookies and site data for better privacy.
  • Avoid entering personal info – Don’t input any sensitive or identifiable information.
  • Close all tabs when done – Be sure to close all secret mode tabs when finished.

Following these tips will help maximize your privacy while browsing in secret mode. Keep its limitations in mind as well.

Other private browsing options

In addition to Safari’s secret mode, there are a few other private browsing options on iPhone:

Private browsing in other browsers

If you use Chrome, Firefox, Microsoft Edge, or other third-party browsers on iPhone, most also have a private browsing mode with similar functionality.

Incognito tabs

Chrome and Microsoft Edge allow you to just open a tab in incognito mode while keeping others normal.

Onion Browser

Onion Browser provides access to the Tor network for anonymous web browsing using encrypted traffic routing.

VPN apps

VPN apps like NordVPN, ExpressVPN, and others route and encrypt all your device’s traffic for private browsing on the normal web.


The DuckDuckGo privacy-focused search engine prevents search term tracking and profiling.


Secret mode provides a quick and convenient way to browse the web more privately on your iPhone. While not completely anonymous, it does prevent your browsing history and activity from being locally saved on your device. Secret mode is useful any time you want to obscure your web activity from other users of your phone. But keep its limitations in mind, and use additional privacy tools as needed for your personal threat model.

To enable secret mode: Open Safari, tap the tab grid icon, and choose the “Private” option. Your browsing will now happen with increased privacy until you disable the mode again. With responsible usage, secret mode gives you greater control over your web browsing history and data on your iPhone.