MKB Reviews: Firefox 4.0 for Android

The BETA label has been recently removed from the mobile version of one of the most popular web browsers around. Mozilla’s Firefox 4 web client for Android takes customization, sync and functionality to a whole new level with this particular application, but this isn’t without its downfalls. What’s so great about this web browser? Let’s find out!

To put it in very basic terms: Firefox 4 for Android is really made for those of you using the Firefox 4 browser on your desktop or laptop when you’re not on your mobile device. This is because of the ability to sync your bookmarks, history, passwords and extensions with the Firefox you’re already using. These features are undoubtedly very helpful in a lot of situations – We all like sync, right?

When you first open Firefox you have the option to open tabs from your other computers. This means if you were reading an article on your desktop and wanted to continue reading on your phone or tablet as you hop on the train to go to work – you can do so with a single button press. All the same ad-blocker and look-changing addons you have installed will be present on the mobile version. They might not all work, but you’ll at least be able to see them on the list.

The top bar in Firefox also acts as an ominbar like in Chrome or in the stock Android browser. You can put in a URL and navigate directly to a page as usual. Alternatively you can begin typing a serch term and Firefox’s ‘Awesome page’ will give you a list of links to search the term in various search engines like Google, Yahoo, etc. You can choose which search engines appear [in case you don’t ever actually use Yahoo].

Unfortunately these extra features come with quite a significant downfall; Firefox 4 for Android is slow. Sometimes ridiculously slow. It’s sometimes unbearable. Firefox is so slow, in fact, that it is unsupported by certain lower end phones, including my Original Motorola DROID [Although you can still run the app, don’t expect it to run smoothly]. Part of the reason for this performance issue is that Firefox is build on top of the same platform that the desktop version is built upon [according to the description in the Android market].

Firefox is also a massive application. It took up a somewhat gratuitous 18.07 MB upon fresh install and was damn near 20 MB with my bookmarks and addons imported. This probably won’t be an issue if you’re running one of the latest devices with a lot of internal storage or if you’re comfortable moving it to your MicroSD card where access times will be even slower, but space won’t be much of an issue.

There you have it – you’ve seen the ups and downs. I can’t recommend Firefox 4 right now over the stock Android web browser, though there may be a number of other 3rd party browsers that may interest you after reading this.

So who is it for? Firefox for Android is for the die-hard Firefox user that heavily relies on one or more addons that they use with their desktop browser on a daily basis. It’s for those who want to pick up browsing on the go from where they left off on another Firefox-running machine or tablet. It’s for those of you with massive dual-core processing power and a lot of storage to spare and don’t mind a bit of a performance decrease in exchange for a handful of very useful features.

If you’re like me and use Chrome on the desktop and don’t see yourself utilizing some of these features a lot I’d say stick with your current browser of choice. Further iterations of Firefox will likely solve a lot of the performance issues with lower end devices, but until then the tradeoff isn’t worth it. We’ll keep you updated on further development!

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