While Google Chrome is far and away the most popular mobile web browser in the world, it does have some limitations, such as the unavailability of add-ons and the absence of a dark mode. But despite its many competitors that fill these gaps and others, it remains overwhelmingly dominant.
Among its rivals, Mozilla is one of the few major ones that uses its own programming code on mobile devices. The remaining challengers mostly use Chromium, the open-source codebase maintained by Google that it uses to build Chrome (though Apple mandates the use of WebKit on iOS, which is what its Safari browser is based on).
With Microsoft shifting towards Chromium for its Edge browser, Mozilla is increasingly becoming a lone wolf, at least on Android devices. But we think Firefox (download for iOS or Android) is worth checking out, especially in the wake of its "Quantum" overhaul that brought many needed performance and stability improvements.
Let's show you five tips and tricks to get the most out of Firefox.
The Android version of Firefox can use many desktop addons
While Chrome on Android forbids browser extensions, Firefox allows any from the desktop version that are deemed compatible. So while you can't get every Firefox add-on in the Android version, you can get quite a few. Among other things, this gets you access to dark modes, which are otherwise unavailable in the Android versions of Chrome and Firefox.
To browse for add-ons, tap the three-dot menu in the upper right, then Add-ons, then tap "Browse all Firefox Add-ons." This will take you to a catalog owned and operated by Mozilla, and here you can search for the add-ons that you're familiar with from the desktop version, or you can browse different categories.
If you scroll down the page, you'll also see a Featured Extensions section that contains a good cross-section of generally recommended add-ons. Once you've found one that you'd like to try, tap its entry, then tap the blue "Add to Firefox" button and tap Add to confirm. If the page for that add-on doesn't have this button, then it's not compatible with the Android version of the browser.
When you tap Add, some add-ons may take you to a web page that provides an introduction to how the add-on works. If your add-on has settings that the user can adjust, then a shortcut to those settings will be available at the bottom of the three-dot menu. Some add-ons may also add a shortcut button to the right of the address bar.
If you decide that you don't like an add-on, tap the three-dot menu, then Add-ons, then long-press on the add-on in question. A menu will then pop up and give you two options: Disable the add-on, or uninstall it altogether.
The iOS version has a dark mode (for both web pages and the app interface)
While an increasing number of apps are adding a dark mode to reduce eye strain at night, there are still a few prominent ones that don't offer the feature yet. If these apps have a functional mobile site, sometimes using a web browser with a dark mode can be an effective workaround.
The iOS version of Firefox can't use browser extensions, and the visual design generally looks much different than on Android. (In fact, it's arguably more approachable as a mobile interface.) Thankfully, this version has an easily reachable dark mode toggle that affects both the browser interface and the web pages that you're viewing. Just tap on the hamburger menu in the lower right, then tap Enable Night Mode.
This setting will remain in effect until you switch it off again, but you can tweak its behavior. Tap the hamburger menu, then Settings, then Display to see one additional option: If you tap the "Automatically" slider, then Firefox will dynamically adjust between a dark mode and a light mode based on your lighting conditions.
You can sync your browser activity across iOS, MacOS, Windows, Android and Linux
Wherever Firefox can be found, so will you find the Firefox Account, the usage of which will let you sync your bookmarks, browsing history and even open tabs. (You can select exactly what to share on a case-by-case basis, if privacy is a concern).
In the Android version of Firefox, you access the syncing feature by tapping on that three-dot menu again, then Settings, then Sign In. ("Sign In" will change to "Firefox Account" after you've logged into the service). Follow the onscreen instructions to create a Firefox Account. The feature is compatible with both a password manager and app-based two-factor authentication; we recommend using both to protect your privacy.
Once you've logged in, the browser will show you a confirmation message, then you can go on about your business. To customize what you sync, return to the three-dot menu, tap Settings, then tap Firefox Account.
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You can choose pretty much whatever search engine you prefer
On both iOS and Android, Google Chrome limits you to five search engines: Google.com, Yahoo, Bing, Ask.com, and AOL. The privacy-oriented DuckDuckGo is not even an option. However, Firefox lets you use any search engine that's available (and a DuckDuckGo option is built in).
In the Android version of Firefox, you go the website whose search function you want to add, long-tap the search box, and select Add Search Engine. Then choose the label for this entry on your search engine list, and tap OK.
This will not change which search engine you're actively using, though. For that, you need to go back to the app's settings menu, tap Search, tap the search engine you want to use, then tap Set as Default.
For the iOS version of Firefox, tap the hamburger menu, then Settings, then Search, then Add Search Engine. Then add a title for it and the web page address where the search engine lives, (like https://www.google.com, for example).
The iOS version lets you choose between different email apps at any time
While the Android version of Firefox will default to using whatever email service you've set up as your primary provider (usually Gmail), the iOS version lets you choose from a list of compatible email apps at any time. Tap the hamburger menu, then Settings, then Mail App. The slightly bolded entries denote that you have that app installed.
Tap any of those lightly bolded entries to link the two apps together. Now clicking on an email address within Firefox will automatically open your chosen email app. However, be aware that you can't manually add your own app. Like search engines in the mobile version of Chrome, you must choose from a predefined shortlist.
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