If you use Android, it can be tempting to stick with the Chrome browser since you’re using your Google account to log in to your phone anyways. However, in this Chrome versus Firefox comparison, we’re going to look at whether that preference for Chrome is really justified.
Is it possible that you could have a better mobile internet experience if you start using the mobile Firefox browser instead?
We’re going to explore all aspects of both browsers in this article — including everything from tab handling, privacy, performance and more. By the end of this article you should be able to make a well informed decision about which browser is best for your mobile browsing.
The Chrome Mobile Browser
I’ve been using the Chrome mobile browser ever since I’ve been using Android smartphones. It’s usually pre-installed, it’s fast enough for all of my needs, and fully integrated with everything on the device.
The Chrome mobile browser hasn’t changed a whole lot over the years. You can certainly see how integrated it is with all of the Google services and apps you use (both on and off the phone itself), just by clicking the apps icon in the upper right of the browser window.
Switching between your Google profiles is as simple as tapping the profile picture in the upper right.
If you’ve set up the profiles in your Google account (in Chrome on any other device), you’ll see all of those profiles show up here. See what I mean by how well integrated Google Chrome is?
As you can see by the picture on the right, above, switching between open browser sessions involves flicking your finger up or down to scroll through all of them.
This approach tends to take up more space than the Firefox approach, which you’ll see below. It’s also harder to locate the browser window you want if you have a lot of tabs open. When you scroll quickly, it’s easy for your eye to pass right over the tab you’re looking for. This is definitely one area where the Chrome browser falls short.
Sharing, History, and Privacy
At the same time, if you do leave tracking enabled, just clicking on the three-dot icon at the upper right gives you the menu where you can select to view your history, saved bookmarks, and more. It really depends on your own personal privacy values, versus the convenience of having your entire search and browser history right at your fingertips.
Of course you can balance that out by clicking on “Clear Browsing Data” at the end of every day, if you want.
Under the preferences (three dot icon) menu, there’s also a share feature (above right), where you can quickly share the URL you’re viewing to just about any social or email app on your phone, many Google apps (like Drive), or To-Do apps you have installed.
Again, this is a perfect example of just how integrated Chrome is with everything you have installed on your Android device.
The Data Saver feature in Chrome is pretty cool (below left). This lets Google compress pages before sending them to you, which can greatly reduce the bandwidth you’re using up. This is very useful if you’re on a limited data plan.
The privacy features of Chrome are very customizable. For example, you can turn off “Do Not Track” to let sites know you don’t want them tracking your browsing data, but you can turn on “Safe Browsing” where Google will prevent you from inadvertently visiting known dangerous sites.
Things also look better on Chrome.
Integration With Services and Apps
Let me show you what I mean. When you search for local weather, Chrome will produce a nice, large widget showing the current temperature in your town, plus a quick overview of the forecast over the upcoming week. Firefox just doesn’t look this nice, as you’ll see below.
Yet another nod to the integration of Chrome with the rest of your services: you can use very specific search phrases to trigger interactions with other services. For example typing something like “remind me to nap in 10 minutes” will trigger the browser to show you a widget where you can literally set up a reminder with Google Now. This will actually trigger an alert on your phone if you have that app installed.
The Firefox Mobile Browser
Using the Firefox mobile browser doesn’t mean you’re disconnecting from your Google account. You can log into Google just as easily on your Firefox browser, and it will remember those login details (if you let it).
Let’s take a quick look at the differences when you do those unique “widgetized” searches, like weather. When you use Google to search for local weather in Firefox, as you can see the results don’t look quite as impressive.
It’s still a widget of sorts, but it’s not quite as aesthetically pleasing and it doesn’t offer as much information.
If you type in the “remind me to nap in 10 minutes” search, it doesn’t integrate with Google Now or anything like that. You will just see standard search results for that search phrase.
One area where Firefox excels is in the options available to you for privacy and security. Firefox offers the “Do not track” feature, but under Privacy you’ll also see the option to automatically clear all of your data every time you exit the browser. This is a nice feature if you don’t want to have to worry about forgetting to do this every time.
Accessibility options are also really nice on Firefox. Under that menu you’ll find the ability to:
- Scale up or down the font on all web pages you visit
- Force enable zoom so that you can zoom in or out regardless of what page you’re visiting
- Enable voice input for your URL bar searches
The Firefox mobile browser also has the equivalent of Chrome’s “incognito mode” called “Private Browsing“.
It works exactly the same: preventing pages from tracking your browsing history and disabling browser history tracking.
Testing Overall Performance
As a final step in this head-to-head comparison, it’s important to take a look at browser performance.
When I visited the site using Firefox, the browser established an overall score of 612.83. To put this into context, the average score for most browsers that visit the site is 816.35, with an all-time record score of 1748.3.
This also depends on hardware — mostly processor speed, operating system, etc. However as a comparison between just Firefox and Chrome, it’s a good test.
Running the same test using Chrome, I found the following results.
Surprisingly, the Chrome score was half that of Firefox, even after running it twice. This can’t be explained away with extensions, because my Chrome mobile browser doesn’t have any extensions or add-ins installed.
To ensure a thorough performance comparison, I used a second site called WebKit.org, which provides a benchmarking tool called SunSpider.
The results of this test are shown below. Chrome is on the left and Firefox is on the right.
This test appears far more thorough. Firefox excels in some areas, while Chrome excels in others. Overall these test results seem to show that both browsers are fairly equal when it comes to performance.
The Winner Is…
Taking everything into account, the winner of this Android browser battle isn’t so clear cut.
Chrome seems to outpace Firefox when it comes to the following issues:
- Integration with other services and apps
- A better aesthetic while using Google Search
Firefox seems to do better than Chrome in the following areas:
- A better interface in certain areas like tab-switching
- More customizable privacy and security controls
- Easier integration with multiple search engines
Performance doesn’t appear to be a deciding factor. With all things considered, Chrome is a better option for you if you are deeply embedded into the Google ecosystem. There’s just no trading the convenience that comes with having every Google service you use so deeply integrated with your internet browsing experience.
Firefox is a better option if you tend to use search engines other than Google anyway, or if you’ve never really adopted many Google services. In that case, you can take advantage of the privacy and security features, as well as the more robust interface that Firefox offers.
Which mobile browser do you use and why did you choose it? Share your thoughts on this Android browser showdown in the comments section below!
Image Credit: albund/Depositphotos