Firefox For Android Review, Third Party Browsers Beware!
If you are an android user chances are you are using the hugely popular Dolphin Browser HD. Dolphin is to Android what Safari mobile is to iOS and for good reason. Mozilla is a major player in the desktop browser market with their Mozilla Firefox browser, easily one of the best desktop browsers out there. But now that they’ve stepped into the mobile browsing industry, is Firefox mobile going to be as successful on Android as its desktop counterpart?
I loaded up Firefox mobile on my Desire to see if its any good. And thankfully at first, the browser seems much better than other mobile browsers such as Opera for example. The interface is clean with 90% of the space devoted to the webpage itself with only an address bar on the top which Mozilla refers to as the “Awesome Bar” on its website. This is because other than using the address bar to open webpages you can search for content on it through popular search engines such as Google, Amazon and Wikipedia. You can add other search engines to the bar aswell from the settings menu. Even at the start, you can tell Mozilla has paid attention to this browser to make It something unique, the all in one awesome bar is awesome indeed.
A browser can be as feature packed as possible, but its not fast nobody Is going to use it. Speed is ofcourse the sole reason Google’s lightweight Chrome browser is so popular. Dolphin HD on Android is perfect in the speed department aswell. Firefox mobile isn’t. The browser isn’t slow by any standards, it is just as fast as Dolphin HD most of the times but occasionally when you load something or hit the menu key to open the settings menu it slows down. The lag probably won’t be very noticeable to most people but you can still tell it is minutely slower than Dolphin HD. Still overall Mozilla has done a good job in the speed department but they can definitely improve it later on.
Another great feature I encountered with Firefox is that its Firefox Sync compatible. Once you hit the settings menu and set up sync, you can open your recent tabs on your laptop or PC on the browser aswell. Syncing will also transfer all of your desktop bookmarks, search history etc to the mobile version of Firefox. It a great feature to have for desktop users of Firefox, you can seamlessly switch from your desktop version of Firefox the mobile version and continue browsing the web without a hitch.
The Awesome bar and Firefox sync are great new additions to the mobile browsing experience and while Mozilla has definitely been innovative with their mobile app, they haven’t forgotten the features we all already have and want in our mobile browsers. Swipe rightwards and a new pane opens from where you can switch tabs or hit the + button to open a bookmark or a page from history. Swipe left and you can open the settings menu or bookmark the current page. Its very similar to the functionality on Dolphin HD. You also have support for add-ons just as on the desktop version with lots of add-ons to choose from such as Adblock Plus that lets you block annoying ads or phony that lets Firefox trick websites into displaying desktop versions of websites (something that is native in many other browsers). You can also add new themes to the browsers but they’ve been termed Personas instead. In my experience the Personas page took about 5 minutes to load up, but once you download and install a theme it looks great, although personally I prefer the stock look instead.
Firefox mobile has some interesting new and old additions, Sync functionality and the enhanced address bar are welcome additions but is missing some features aswell such as gesture support and its not as fast as Dolphin HD. Some people might criticize comparing every aspect of the browser to Dolphin, but considering most users use Dolphin as their stock browser it’s a very relevant comparison. The browser has some good things to offer that will make it worthwhile to switch over to it, but you may loose a tiny bit on the speed front.
You can try out Firefox Mobile for free from the Android market.