Arc browser comes to the iPhone as a stripped-down, AI-powered search tool

It's a bit too minimalist right now, but more features are coming soon.

Arc, a browser initially built just for the Mac, has been expanding lately. The Browser Company announced a beta of its Windows version last month, and today they're bringing the Arc experience to the iPhone with Arc Search. As the name implies, the new app is focused on searching — when you open the app, you're met with a keyboard and search field, not your usual collection of tabs. And rather than just serving up simple search results from Google or your engine of choice, Arc scans the internet for various sources and creates a "page for me" that pulls together a bunch of info on your desired query.

For example, I just searched for "What happened in the Detroit Lions game?" and was met with details about a controversial two-point conversion that was overturned and how it ultimately affected the game's outcome, which was a three-point Lions loss. It follows with some top search results, team reactions, more details about the referees involved in the confusing call, fan sentiments and more links to dive into.

It's not dissimilar to the sort of summaries you get in Google's generative AI search results, but so far I find results to be very hit or miss. For example, in the above-mentioned Lions query, the actual final score of the game was nowhere on the page that Arc generated. That's pretty basic info that you'd expect to see up top. Other queries I tried brought back a decent overview but not a whole lot of deep detail, and sometimes there weren't other links to click on to continue researching. That felt odd, because the results I received were far from comprehensive.

If you aren't interested in these sorts of summary pages, however, you can still just type in a query and hit the "go" button on the keyboard to search Google; you only get the Arc-created summary pages if you tap the "browse for me" button. You can also just put a URL right into the search field and go straight to a site if you're so inclined. Like the desktop Arc browser, the Arc Search app archives your tabs after 24 hours so you don't rack up a never-ending log of sites you're not going to go back to (you can also choose to have tabs stick around as long as 30 days, if you need more time with what you've pulled up). And there's a nice "reader" mode like you'll find in Safari that strips away the mess found on many modern websites to make it easier to read an article. It also blocks trackers, ads and banners by default, which is pretty handy.

From what I can tell, there's no way to sync Arc Search with the desktop browser — there's no way to see opened tabs from another machine, and I don't even think there's a way to sign into Arc Search with the account you make for your desktop browser. The only thing you can do with your open tabs is star one so it doesn't get closed, but there's otherwise no bookmarking or "read later" features.

As the name suggests, it's a way to search and find info you need on your phone without offering the expected tools you'd get in a full-featured web browser. This makes it a bit of a tough sell to me — I love Arc on my Mac, and this so far feels like a significantly less useful experience than the full version of Arc, not to mention Safari or Chrome on iOS. While there's something to be said for the simplicity, I don't think the AI-generated summaries are worth making this my default mobile web browser.

That said, the Browser Company likes to get things into the wild so its users can test them and prod them and figure out what isn't working, so I'm sure iteration and improvements will come quickly. The company already says its working on sync with desktop, and they also plan to merge the app with features found in the "Arc Mobile Companion" app that launched last spring. That app, which has now been removed from the App Store, only shows you what tabs you have open on other devices and bounces them to Safari (or other apps) for viewing. So it's safe to say that the new Arc app will be more capable soon. And even though it's not something I want to use as my default browser yet, Arc's quirky view on how a browser works is enough for me to keep an eye on it and see how it grows.