Mozilla software is always released iteratively using test phases, so it’s no surprise that the availability of the company’s inaugural iOS browser has slowly been enlarged over a long period with emphasis placed on getting user feedback and making changes.
Last December, we reported that the nonprofit browser maker, which is focused on keeping the Internet open, would reverse its long-held stance against developing software for the App Store. Not long after, an early version of Firefox for iOS rolled out to a limited number of testers in May. A first public beta then landed in September and, fast forward to today, the final version is live.
There’s plenty of competition in this space already. Apple’s own Safari comes pre-installed on iOS devices — and is the default for most apps — while Google Chrome, the web’s most popular browser, is a top choice. Then there are other strong contenders like Opera — popular in emerging markets for its data compression technology — and a range of ad-block specialists, like Adblock Plus, that burst on the scene when iOS 9 launched with an ad-block feature.
So what does Mozilla have to shout about with its app?
Well, it is primarily aimed at Mozilla users with support for Firefox accounts, which enables existing Mozilla loyalists to bring their saved bookmarks, browsing history, tabs and passwords to mobile. However, Mozilla is hoping that features like search prediction, its ‘visual’ tab management system, and incognito browsing will lure others, too.
I played around with Firefox for iOS and found it to be pretty speed and nifty, but ultimately there’s very little difference in terms of features across most browsers. The choice often comes down to design, small tweaks or convenience.
On that note, as someone who is already heavily invested in Chrome, with personalized bookmarks, extensions and more, it would be tough for me to switch over to Firefox when there’s little difference in terms of performance.
Making the app a success is certainly a tall order, especially since it is entering the App Store at such a late time, but Mozilla has at least finally filled a gaping void on mobile with this release.
If your Apple device is running iOS 8.2 or newer, you can download Firefox for iOS here.