The pre-installed web browser on Android phones is okay. We wouldn't care to be any more enthusiastic about it than that. It's a bit limited, can be slow and isn't inspiring from a user interface perspective. The good news is that it's been given its marching orders, and will eventuially be replaced with Google Chrome.
But there's a problem. Chrome only works on Ice Cream Sandwich phones, so if you don't have one, you have no option. Well, at least you didn't, until now. But Firefox Beta has recently arrived in the Play store, and it brings new and exciting features that no other browser - even the original Firefox for Android - could manage.
Firefox for Android beta
- Google Play
For us, Firefox is the first non-Google browser that really appeals on Android. We've tried everything, from Opera to Dolphin HD, and none of them has ever had the features and performance to attract us - and some are outright bad and ugly.
The Firefox Beta, on the other hand, is one of the most stylish browsers we've seen. There's a simple URL bar at the top and a button to add more tabs, or to see those you already have open and running. It's clean and simple, something you very much need on a small device like this.
There are also add-ons. This is a boon, because it means that if there's a feature you don't have in the default browser, you can just download an add-on to improve functionality. We noticed that there was no option to "spoof" your user agent - handy for sites that palm you off with a rubbish mobile site. So we downloaded a plug-in called Phoney, that did it for us. Brilliant.
Speed seems good, perhaps not as lightning quick as Google Chrome - but then we tested Firefox on a slower handset, and can't do a side-by-side comparison because we're not yet on Ice Cream Sandwich. Even so, we think it's better than the stock browser.
The browser also allows you to turn any webpage into a PDF document. Which could be very handy for saving things for later, or sending information to friends via email, without all that messy copy and paste mumbo jumbo.
Overall, we like Firefox. We think it could be a little quicker, but as an alternative to the pre-Ice Cream Sandwich browser selection, it's a winner.