Today, Feb. 18, Mozilla released an updated iOS version of its popular browser. That immediately caught my interest because I use Firefox on my MacBook Pro and Windows PC every day. So I downloaded the new browser onto my iPad Air, running iOS 9.2.1. (I couldn’t download it to my iPhone 4 because Firefox 2.0 requires iOS 8.2 or higher.)
After using Firefox 2.0 (site) for just a few minutes, it became clear that this mobile version doesn’t come close to the desktop edition. For example, on my iPad, it displayed only one tab at a time in the tabs bar. To see other tabs, you press a tiny tab on the right end of the bar; that pops up thumbnails of other open tabs. It’s also where you’ll find the gear icon for the relatively limited number of browser settings. According to the help text, Firefox lets you switch to larger tabs in the tabs list, but only on iPhones and iPod touches. There’s also preview support for Peek and Pop, but only on devices that support those features (which my iPad Air doesn’t).
One of the reasons I use Firefox is for synching settings, add-ons, bookmarks, and stored passwords among my various computers. When I signed in to my Firefox account in the new browser, it initially warned me that there were no other devices to sync with — it then went on to sync my information.
Saving passwords in a browser is controversial. There’s ample evidence that browser password vault are relatively easy to crack. But the Firefox vault is reportedly comparatively strong, so I use it. On the new browser, my list of site usernames and passwords soon showed up — literally. It was far too easy to open the credentials manager and view all stored passwords. Safari, at least, required that I re-enter my passcode before it would show passwords.
Another feature I rely on heavily with the desktop version of Firefox is the favorites bar, which I have organized into multiple folders. It gives me quick access to sites I access frequently. Unfortunately, there appears to be no favorites bar on the iOS version. Safari has one; in fact it has somehow automatically added my stored favorites I’d set up in Firefox for OS X.
Firefox on the desktop is a robust browser; it’s essentially an operating system of its own — so much so that it crashes not infrequently on my Windows systems and seems to take an inordinate amount of memory on my MacBook Pro. So I should not have been surprised that it locked up on my iPad. The only way I found to take back control was to do a complete restart of the iPad.
Bottom line: At least on iOS devices, Safari is still a much more capable browser. I’ll play with Firefox 2.0 a bit more, but I’ve yet to find a good reason to keep it on my iPad.