Review – Firefox Mobile for N900

Platforms: Maemo (Nokia N900, N810)Price: £freeWhen it comes to desktop browsers, Firefox may not be quite as fast as Google's Chrome, but it's still

Price: £free

When it comes to desktop browsers, Firefox may not be quite as fast as Google's Chrome, but it's still the smart choice for web surfing thanks to its stability and an incredible amount of add-ons. Once you're used to Firefox's fantastic flexibility, other browsers seem positively arthritic by comparison.

Do you need the same level of customisation on your phone? That's the question posed by Mozilla's launch of Firefox Mobile, out now for Nokia's N900 and heading towards Android phones later this year.

First impressions of Firefox Mobile are good. Very good, in fact. A single click installs both the Mozilla repository and the software on the N900, and while page rendering isn't noticeably quicker than the default Maemo browser, it's not slower either.

There are some issues with the zoom, though. Trying to view our own homepage, for example, reveals that the best selling gadget mag in the world is now 'Uff'. Damn imposters.

It does, however, compete comfortably with the most popular mobile browser, Opera Mini, thanks to the addition of tabbed browsing, still unusual on a phone. Just slide your finger to the right and a selection of open windows appears at the left of the screen.

What's more, Firefox Mobile may be based on the same memory-hungry engine as the desktop version, but having five or six tabs open doesn't seem to slow the N900 down.

The killer feature is the support for add-ons. There aren't, however, many available. According to Mozilla's stats, there are several hundred million desktop add-ons to choose from. For the mobile browser, there are just five.

One of those is Mozilla's own Weave Browser Synch. This keeps bookmarks and passwords up to date on both desktop and mobile versions of Firefox, and will even tell you what tabs were open in your last desktop session, so you can pick up browsing where you left off.

Weave is a powerful tool, but it ran into problems sorting out bookmark folders onto the N900, dumping all our carefully catalogued links into one generic list. By default it doesn't stop anyone who picks up your phone from logging into secure sites either.

That will no doubt be improved, but for the time being we'll be hoping for mobile versions of the slicker Xmarks for link synching and Lastpass for secure info.

And that's the point. The N900 launch is just a dry run: even if just a few of the more popular desktop add-ons are ported over by the time it gets to Android, Firefox Mobile will be essential.

Stuff says

Right now Firefox Mobile is good enough – with more add-ons it'll be essential