Firefox for Android just got a new upgrade. This new mobile version of the popular Firefox browser aims to take mobile browsing to the next level and introduces feature users should be delighted to have, namely higher performance, hardware acceleration, multi-core friendlyness and all kinds of good things. This Firefox version has been in beta for a while, but as of now, the “beta” status is off, and every Android user can go try it with confidence. We’ve taken a closer look of this final build, and here are our first impressions.
With a Samsung Galaxy S3 (AT&T), we tried measuring the performance of Firefox for Android with independant benchmarks like AsteroidBench which shows a difference in performance of about 22%. Other performance improvements like Website panning are much harder to measure and the perceived performance relative to the stock Android 4.x will not be obvious for most people.
In terms of page loads, things were also perceptibly comparable to the stock Android browser. Ultimately, web browsing will be limited by network performance, so despite looking great on paper, I wouldn’t quite recommend Firefox for Android based on sheer performance.
This brings us to more uniques features, like Add-Ons. Add-ons are small browser applications built by Mozilla or third-party developers to add functionalities to Firefox. These Add-Ons are truly what made Firefox so successful (that and the fact that IE was hated by just about everyone).
Functionalities can range from being able to switch from mobile to desktop views at anytime to being able to view popular files not always supported by the device (Powerpoint, Word, Excel, etc…). From what I can tell, there are not so many Add-Ons, so check the Mozilla site to see which ones are available at the moment. Note that the Android 4.x browsers also have Add-Ons (or Plug-Ins), so it comes down to which ones you want.
Desktop Sync with Firefox Sync
This is actually not a new feature, but still an interesting one: with Firefox Sync, users can synchronize a desktop computer (Win or Mac) and a smart device. By doing so, users can synchronize bookmarks, passwords and more importantly tabs to your mobile device. That means that if you walk away from your desktop computer, you can continue to read the last page(s) open there. This is pretty cool and most useful to current Firefox users.
Firefox for Android has tons of features, and we’re not going to describe all of them, but just to give you a few highlights, here are a few: Save to PDF, social network sharing, private browsing (do not track), master password, Web APIs to access mobile device hardware, HTML5 and CSS3 support.
We’ve tested Firefox for Android on the the Samsung Galaxy S3, which is a high-end smartphone. As such, it has everything to enable a good user experience: multi-core chip, plenty of memory and a fast graphics processor. Depending on what hardware your phone runs, your experience may be different.
As it stands, Firefox for Android is most useful for users who are using Firefox on PC or Mac and want to synchronize their content across platforms. Also, you may greatly benefit from particular capabilities from a specific plug-in or from a feature unique to Firefox.
On tablets, it may be a very interesting option to the Chrome browser, which has had its share of crashes in the past. Thing got better recently, but that’s where Firefox may prove to add more value. Are you a Firefox user? Is this what you were waiting for?