private browsing

“Private browsing” allows you to browse the web leaving no tracks behind. Local browsing data such as your browsing history, cookies, and a record of what you download is deleted when you exit private browsing mode, and this mode also blocks some websites from tracking your search behavior. Most modern browsers offer a private browsing mode – including their mobile versions.

Today we are going to look at some reasons why you would want to use private browsing mode. We will also look at how to browse privately on your Android device, using Google Chrome as an example. Other mobile browsers offer private browsing, but Chrome is naturally the default browser on many Android devices, and so is easy to use.

Why Would You Want to Use Private Browsing Mode?

incognito

Besides preventing local browsing data (history, cookies, etc.) from being saved, there are other reasons to use private browsing mode on your mobile device.

To Log Into Your Private Accounts

When you log into accounts on websites, the browser typically wants to save your passwords and login details to make it easier and quicker to log in next time. However, this is not a good idea on your phone or other mobile device, since it can easily get borrowed or lost.

Logging into your private accounts, while in private browsing mode, means the browser will not save your username, password, or other form data. So if you ever borrow a friend’s phone to log into one of your accounts, remember to use private browsing mode to do so.

To Research Something In Private

Maybe you’re researching a gift for your spouse, or looking up something private you want no one else to know about. If you do your research in private browsing mode, when someone like your spouse or a friend picks up your phone, they cannot find out what you were searching for.

To Log Into Two Google Accounts at Once

Do you have more than one Google account? Many people do. You can use Incognito mode in Chrome to do this. Log into one Google account on a normal tab in Chrome and then open an Incognito tab and log into a different Google account on that tab.

What Private Browsing Does NOT Protect You Against

Private browsing mode prevents the storage of browsing data, such as browsing history and cookies, locally on your computer. It does not prevent other sources, such as your Internet Service Provider, your employer (if you’re browsing on a work computer), law enforcement, or the websites you visit, from seeing what websites you’ve previously visited and other actions taken online.

How To Use Incognito Mode In Chrome On Your Android Phone

To use Chrome’s Incognito mode on your Android phone, open Chrome and then tap the menu button (three vertical dots) in the upper-right corner of the screen.

Tap the menu button in Chrome on an Android phone.

Tap “New incognito tab” on the pop-up menu.

Tap "New incognito tab" on pop-up menu in Chrome on an Android phone.

A new tab opens indicating “you’ve gone incognito”. You’ll therefore see an incognito icon on the left side of the status bar on your phone and the address bar will have turned gray.

Incognito icon on the status bar of an Android phone.

Surf the web as usual in the Incognito tab, entering a website URL in the address bar. You can use as many Incognito tabs as you want. To open a new incognito tab while on one, tap the tabs button, which is a small square with a number in it. The number indicates how may Incognito tabs you currently have open.

Tap tabs button on address bar in Chrome on an Android phone.

Large thumbnails of your Incognito tabs (on the right) and your normal tabs (on the left) are shown. Normal tabs and Incognito tabs are listed separately and you can switch between the two modes.

To add a new Incognito tab, tap the dark gray square with a white plus sign.

Open a new Incognito tab in Chrome on an Android phone.

You can switch back to normal mode by swiping to the right to access the thumbnails for the normal tabs and you can add a new normal tab by tapping the white square with the black plus sign.

Open a new regular tab in Chrome on an Android phone.

When you add a new Incognito tab, it is opened, and you are returned to the normal browsing view. When you want to close one or more Incognito tabs, tap the tab button, as I showed you earlier. All your Incognito tabs are shown as stacked, large thumbnails.

To close a tab, tap the “X” in the upper-right corner of the tab’s thumbnail. If you have a lot of Incognito tabs open and you want to close them all at once, tap the menu button in the upper-right corner of the screen.

Close one or more Incognito tabs in Chrome on an Android phone.

Then, tap “Close incognito tabs” on the pop-up menu.

Tap "Close incognito tabs" on the pop-up menu in Chrome on an Android phone.

Once all your Incognito tabs are closed, you are returned to the thumbnail view of your normal tabs. Tap on a tab to view it in browsing mode.

Incognito tabs closed in Chrome on an Android phone.

How To Use Incognito Mode In Chrome On Your Android Tablet

If you’re using Chrome on an Android tablet, the private browsing experience is similar, but not quite the same as on an Android phone. To use Incognito mode in Chrome on an Android tablet, open Chrome and then tap the menu button (three vertical dots) in the upper-right corner of the screen

Tap the menu button in Chrome on an Android tablet.

Tap “New incognito tab” on the pop-up menu.

Tap "New incognito tab" on pop-up menu in Chrome on an Android tablet.

A new tab opens indicating that you’ve gone incognito. You’ll see an incognito icon on the left side of the status bar on your tablet and the address bar and tab bar both turn gray.

Incognito icon on the status bar of an Android tablet.

This is where the difference lies between using Incognito mode on an Android phone and on an Android tablet. On a tablet, there’s an Incognito icon in the upper-right corner of the screen when you have any Incognito tabs open. You don’t have to open a thumbnail view to switch to an Incognito tab like you do on an Android phone.

When an Incognito tab is active, the icon is white. Tap the icon to switch to the normal tabs.

Tap Incognito icon on the right side of the screen to switch back to normal tabs in Chrome on an Android tablet.

When you switch back to your normal tabs, the Incognito icon in the upper-right corner of the screen turns gray, indicating you are not currently in Incognito mode. So, before you go to a website you want to visit privately, be sure to check this icon to see which mode you’re currently in.

Incognito icon on right turns gray when normal tabs are active in Chrome on an Android tablet.

In Incognito mode in Chrome on a tablet, you can open multiple tabs, just like on an Android phone. To open another Incognito tab, simply tap the small tab icon to the right of the right-most tab on the tab bar.

Open another Incognito tab in Chrome on an Android tablet.

Another Incognito tab opens. Closing an Incognito tab is the same as closing a normal tab. Simply, click the “X” on the tab.

Close one Incognito tab in Chrome on an Android tablet.

To close all Incognito tabs at once, tap and hold on the “X” on any tab until you see a small pop-up menu and then tap “Close incognito tabs”.

Close all open Incognito tabs in Chrome on an Android tablet.

Once you’ve closed all the Incognito tabs, you’re returned to the normal tabs and the Incognito icon on the status bar goes away.

All Incognito tabs closed in Chrome on an Android tablet.

How to Use Private Browsing Default Browsers on Other Types of Android Devices

Other brands of Android devices, such as Samsung, LG, HTC, Sony, and Motorola, may have a different default web browser other than Chrome.

For example, Samsung devices come with their own Samsung Internet browser, which has a “Secret” mode. While in the Internet browser, tap the menu button (three vertical dots) in the upper-right corner of the screen and tap “Turn on Secret mode” on the menu. The option becomes “Turn off Secret mode” when Secret mode is on, allowing you to turn it off and go back to normal browsing.

The first time you turn on Secret mode, you will be asked to assign a password to Secret mode. This is not required, but it’s recommended. From then on, every time you turn on secret mode, you need to enter your password.

Turn on Secret mode in Samsung's Internet browser.

When using Incognito tabs in Chrome on your Android device, don’t forget to close them to erase your browsing data and so anyone who borrows your phone will not have access to your private searches and web browsing.

Conclusion

What other uses do you use Incognito mode for? Is it worth using or does it only give the illusion of privacy? Let us know in the comments below.

SHARE
Lori Kaufman
Freelance technical writer living in the Sacramento, CA area. A gadget and tech geek who loves to write how-to articles about a wide range of topics. Loves watching and reading mysteries, cross stitching, attending musical theatre, and is an avid Doctor Who fan.