March 24, 2011, 9:52 PM — Apps are all about choice. And nowhere is choice more appealing than in the world of Web browsing. In the early days of smartphones, users had no choice but to use the browser that came installed with the operating system, but now we have multiple choices: This week saw the release of Mozilla's Firefox 4 for Mobile, and Opera's Mini 6 and Mobile 11. Both browsers look to expand on the bundled mobile browsers' functionality by adding easy-to-use features and social network sharing.
Hands-On With Firefox 4 for Mobile
Firefox 4 just launched on the desktop, so it makes sense that its mobile counterpart should appear in the Android Market, even if it's still a release candidate (Mozilla says the version will be updated to the final variant in the next few weeks). Not surprisingly, Firefox 4 brings many of the cool features of the desktop version downstream, including bookmark and history syncing amongst devices, a variation on tabbed browsing, and the Awesome Bar.
In use, the Firefox 4 for Mobile browser marks a huge usability improvement over the stock Android 2.x browser. The start page is customizable, and shows tabs of pages from a previous session. The Mobile browser also has the Awesome Bar, which you access once you tap the URL bar. The Awesome Bar learns as you browse, and will display your favorite pages based on the frequency you go to those pages, and how recently you've visited.
The Awesome Bar also has some nifty built-in features and support for plug-ins. The huge bonus that I've waited a while to see on a mobile browser: The ability to save a Web page as a PDF, directly from the browser. That's a terrific boon for mobile travelers who might want to access content offline, when they have no Internet connection. You can also efficiently search within a page, add a search engine, and share a page via your social networks (Facebook, Twitter), as well as Gmail, text, and via Bluetooth. Through add-ons, you can save a page's HTML to a reading list, or use the Awesome Bar to send out your tweets.