- No user agents by default
- Lacks Flash support
- No full screen mode
A familiar name in the Internet browsing world, the mobile version of Firefox has some interesting features that tie it to its sibling in the desktop world. Sporting a sleek interface and easy to use features, this mobile browser works better than the stock browser, but there are a few puzzling missteps included, as well.
Speed: Firefox advertises speed as one of its benefits, and for mobile content it doesnt disappoint. Firefox brought up the mobile CNN site in less than 6 seconds, keeping up with the other browsers in the roundup. However, in a glaring omission, Firefox does not have the native ability to switch user agents (viewing the mobile or full version of a website) so it was not possible to load the full site without the use of an add-on, which unfortunately was not supported on the Droid 3 by Motorola that we used for testing. Since CNNs mobile site doesnt have a convenient click here to view full site button, so we couldnt test how fast the Firefox browser could load the full site. However, we were able to load the New York Times full site, which took under 20 seconds, which is on par with some of the fastest browsers in this roundup. It rendered content well and scrolling was smooth with just occasional hiccups while zooming-in and -out.
Page Display: Firefox rendered pages well, but we did encounter the dreaded gray checkerboard filler while rapidly scrolling or zooming on pages. That said, it did render content effectively, and viewing the pages was similar to viewing them on a desktop browser. We were disappointed the browser lacks a full screen view. While scrolling from side to side on websites, the sidebars Firefox employs to hide the tabs and add-ons kept appearing showing up when swiping to the left or right, as in Dolphin HD. There is no way to hide the Android status bar like in the other browsers, and while Firefox controls can be stowed to maximize screen space, you cant hide the status bar for those precious extra pixels. Firefox opted to not include Flash support for its mobile browser in favor of HTML5.
Navigation: Firefox hides the navigation buttons in the left sidebar, accessible by swiping the screen all the way to the left. It works as well as any other solution, though more than once we tapped the menu key in search of the navigation controls. Opening multiple tabs is done in the right sidebar. Despite claims of tabbed browsing as a feature, Firefox has no true tabbed browsing at the top of the screen. It hides open windows in the right sidebar similar to the Opera Mobile or the stock browser. Considering the pioneering work Firefox did in tabbed browsing, the omission is frustrating.
Extra Features: Firefox supports add-ons that can fix several of the browser issues previously noted, but Firefox should have these as native features and not require users to search for them. Plus, many add-ons are not compatible with all devices either. That said, Firefox Sync is a great feature for those who use the desktop version of Firefox. It imports the browsing history and bookmarks to the mobile device and syncs mobile usage with the desktop. This is a great feature considering the widespread use of Firefox on desktop systems.
Overall: Firefox is a browser that falls well short of the standard it sets in desktop use. The lack of tabbed browsing, no user agents, annoying navigation features, and some page rendering issues make it a browser that is attractive to those who heavily invested in Firefox on the desktop side. The ability to sync mobile and desktop worlds is a great feature that is one of it's redeeming qualities. Plus, it is a speedy browser for most mobile and full sites.