As a browser, Firefox needs no introduction. It has gained a loyal following on the desktop, and the mobile version has already amassed millions of downloads on the Android Market. But can Firefox for Android live up to its desktop counterpart? It sure tries, I’ll give it that.
The user interface is cleverly designed so that, to access the toolbar and tabs, you drag a page left or right.
Dragging the page left reveals the right-edge toolbar, with back, forward, and “bookmark” buttons. But when you are viewing a wide page (any page without a dedicated mobile view), it takes multiple swipes to the left to reach the edge, and each swipe comes with an annoying graphical refresh.
Drag the page to the right, and you can see which tabs you have open. Each tab is shown as a tiny screenshot of the site you’re browsing, making them easy to tell apart without needing lengthy text labels.
Firefox for Android prides itself on its synchronization abilities. The browser can sync with your desktop Firefox so that history, bookmarks, passwords, and even open tabs carry over to your portable version. But do you really want your 30-tab desktop browsing session to be synced over to your mobile?
Even without a multitude of tabs open, Firefox still feels sluggish on Android. On my device (a Samsung Vibrant), it shows a splash screen for about three seconds while loading, whereas other browsers just pop open instantly. It is also a very large download, at 14MB versus 2.1MB for Miren and 767KB for Opera Mini. Installed, it takes up 20MB of disk space.
All in all, it doesn’t seem as if Firefox has made the adjustment to mobile very well. Yes, the interface feels optimized for a smaller screen; but the large download and slow loading detract from the overall experience.