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Private browsing: how to use incognito mode on Android

The benefits of private browsing on Android stretch further than just preventing others from seeing what you have been searching for online. Private browsing, incognito mode - call it what you will, but this feature isn’t just for when you want to covertly do some gift shopping, there is far more to it than that. Read on to find out how to browse privately on Android, and why you should.

How to turn on private browsing on Android

Using private browsing, also known as incognito mode, is very easy to do on Android, but it can vary across devices and browsers. Here's how to do it on Chrome:

  • To turn incognito mode on: Open Chrome, tap the three dots icon on the top right for more options, then tap New incognito tab. You can have multiple incognito tabs open at one time, if you like.
  • To turn incognito mode off: Tap the square icon on the top right to open your tabs, then close each incognito tab individually or tap the three dots and select Close incognito tabs to close them all. You'll want to close the incognito windows when you're done to keep people from finding them.
AndroidPIT incognito mode private browsing screenshot
This is what incognito mode looks like on Chrome on the Galaxy S7 Edge. / © AndroidPIT
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The generic default browser that came pre-installed on your phone might have an incognito mode, too. For example, the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge has a Secret mode in its Samsung Internet browser. To use it, tap the Tabs icon, then Turn on Secret, proceed with or without a password and you're good to go. To turn it off, go back to your Tabs and tap Turn off Secret.

Why would you want to do this?

To log into your accounts

Browsers often want to save passwords and log-in details to make logging in easier and quicker on private computers. It makes sense, who wants to have to log into Facebook every time they want to do a bit of digital stalking? But on a smartphone this is different. Phones get shared, swapped and sometimes stolen.

Logging into your various accounts while incognito means the browser won’t be able to save your log-in details or form data. This means that if you happen to log into your own accounts on anybody else's device you should choose a private browsing option there, too!

When you don’t want to be targeted by advertising

Private browsing won’t stop advertisements from appearing, but it does mean that your searches won’t be affected by your previous search habits. Google collects data from all over the place to target advertisements and promotional material specifically at you, and if you wish to avoid this and conduct a “pure” search, private browsing is the way to go.

To use multiple accounts at once

Have two Google accounts? Want to be logged into both at the same time? Open one normal browser tab and one incognito browser tab.

When you want to research something in private

This could be for any number of reasons. Maybe you want to do some gift shopping or research something in secret? Browsing in private means you don't have to worry about anybody else discovering your search habits when they pick up your phone, if you just remember to close your browser window when you are done.

For testing and debugging

If you are worried about the effects of your cache and cookie data when trying to run website tests or debugging software, conducting your session in private mode will have a clean user experience. 

So there you go, the benefits of private browsing. If you want to be even safer and more private, you could try a VPN.

Do you use private browsing mode on Android? Which browser do you prefer? Let us know in the comments below.



Write new comment:

  • am using Firefox Focus

  • I run Chrome for Android with its useful bookmarks from PCs in sync in normal mode, but also keep Ghostery's Android browser for privacy. But the "default browser" is a cute little app "Better Open With" - any URL in email, etc. brings up its choice box that gives some seconds to decide between Ghostery or Chrome. A lot of sites are being made to reject ad and cookie blockers and anti-tracking, and they won't open if privacy tools are activated - Better Open With saves a lot of tapping around to either choose the right browser or change Browser settings.

  • I suggest this is the best app for that incognito browsing as it doesn't keep history or cookies

  • I can't take it off

  • Incognito mode will indeed only keep you private on your own side, NOT on the Web!

  • Even if you do so modern software tracks you on the servers you visit. The only fully incognito tool I have seen is from F-Secure, simply by searching on my own server over the Internet. But the have to be other solutions out there?

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