As much as I love Mozilla and Firefox, I will make no excuses for the abysmal Android browser. I've been messing around with the beta Firefox Android browser for a while now since it provided some relief from the clunky and slow release version. Thankfully, the beta has finally ended and Mozilla has launched the new Firefox for Android.
If you've been using the beta for a while, the new Firefox for Android will be instantly familiar. The new design is intuitive and easy to navigate. The newly designed tabs makes browsing much easier than was previously possible on the prior stable release. It also features small design flourishes that finally makes Firefox look pretty again.
The new browser is also reportedly faster. I played around with it for a bit and I did notice a significant boost in loading images, but page loading was still around the same as before. That could be the fault of the spotty 3G connection I'm on so I'll reserve judgment until I can get in distance of some Wi-Fi.
For what it's worth, Mozilla has run their own tests on the new Firefox to test its speed. They used a new benchmark tool they developed called Eideticker that measures canvas rendering performance. In a test on a Samsung Galaxy Nexus running ICS, they found that Firefox rendered at 39.3 FPS compared to Opera's 21.6 FPS and Chromes 19.6 FPS.
I've already talked about how much I love the design, but it's quite functional as well. The homescreen on Firefox for Android has been changed to feature a top sites page for easy access to your favorite sites. I was concerned that it would categorize separate Web pages from the same source since I do a lot of mobile browsing on imgur, but the new Firefox only lists imgur once at the top.
As far as privacy goes, the new Firefox for Android borrows from its big brother to include features like Do Not Track, Master Password, HTTP Strict Transport Security and all the other pro-privacy features that should be standard across all Web browsers by now.
One of the major problems that Firefox for Android had in the past was that it lacked any kind of Flash support. The new Firefox features not only Flash, but a wealth of HTML5 options so that it can play any kind of content on the Web. I messed around with a few videos and Mozilla's own BrowserQuest to test out its media capabilities. It's a little slow, which might once again be the fault of the 3G and my old HTC Inspire, but it at least works.
As of now, the new Firefox for Android is a pretty big improvement. It's obvious that the new browser has been optimized for ICS and more powerful Android devices, but it seems to work well enough on older devices running Gingerbread. It also has plenty of options to keep you safe while browsing over a mobile connection. While everybody has their own personal browser of choice, I would recommend at least trying to the new Firefox before writing it off.
It's available now on the Google Play store. It's compatible with Android versions 2.2 and higher, but you're gonna want 4.0 for this one. If you're like me and still using 2.3, I don't know if you're going to have the best of time with it.