Firefox for Android loses beta tag, speeds up mobile web

After months of testing and refinement, Firefox for Android loses its beta tag on Tuesday, bringing a fast mobile web experience to devices running Android 2.2 or greater. The updated browser touts a full web experience, including support for Adobe Flash (s adbe), a nearly instant startup time, fast page rendering and synchronization with Firefox on the desktop.

I’ve been using the final beta version of Firefox on a Samsung Galaxy S III for the past few days and can vouch for Mozilla’s claims. In both benchmark testing and regular use, Firefox is as fast — and often faster — than both the stock Android(s goog) browser as well as the beta version of Google Chrome, which surprised me.

The speed benefits may be difficult to notice however: In the SunSpider JavaScript test, Firefox proved to be around 10 percent faster than its competitors. Mozilla has created its own test, called Eideticker, which is meant to measure actual end user performance tasks such as panning, zooming and measuring page rendering speeds.

I didn’t use Mozilla’s tests, but I like the approach of focusing on actual performance. Mozilla says it built Firefox for Android to score well in Eideticker, thus “yielding an experience that is two times faster than the stock browser.” I can’t say that my experiences were twice as fast compared to other browsers — it’s difficult to quantify — but Firefox is surely peppy in nearly every aspect. The initial startup is very fast and provides quick access to your most browsed sites as well as the tabs from your prior browsing session.

Here’s a look at other key features in Firefox, which include: a “do not track” option (off by default); a master password to protect saved web credentials; an add-on library of extensions; Firefox sync with the desktop browser; save pages as PDFs; improved HTML5 support and GPU-accelerated graphics rendering, to name a few.

The free browser is available in the Google Play app market and it’s certainly worth the download; especially if you use Firefox on your laptop or desktop.