Mozilla’s new Firefox Home app for Apple mobiles is now available for download. You can get Firefox Home for the iPhone and iPod Touch in iTunes. It’s a free download.
It securely syncs your bookmarks, browsing history, user preferences and open tabs from the last time you used Firefox, and it brings them down to your iPhone or iPod Touch so you can access that stuff on your mobile. It works in tandem with Firefox Sync, Mozilla’s hosted, cloud-based service that keeps all of your installations of Firefox synced up with one another.
It’s especially welcome now, as most of us use multiple screens every day — one or two computers, and at least one smartphone with a web browser. Firefox Sync tied our work machine and our home machine together by syncing all of our browser data in the cloud, and Firefox Home completes the circuit for iOS users, making all the hard-to-remember stuff — your myriad “starred” favorites and bookmarked URLs — available in your pocket.
Needless to say, this app is only going to be useful to you if you’re a Firefox user with an iPhone or iPod Touch. Android users have had Mozilla’s mobile version of Firefox available on their phones since April.
You also need to have Firefox Sync set up to use it. If you don’t have an account, you can sign up when you install the app on your phone. You will also need the Sync add-on for Firefox (newer versions of Firefox will ship with Sync pre-installed). As Charlie Sorrel notes in his Gadget Lab post, this is a bit more work than syncing your desktop Safari data to your iPhone, which just involves checking a box in iTunes (and you can keep Safari and Firefox in sync — and by extension, the iPhone — using Xmarks, but only on the Mac). Opera’s mobile browsers have easy syncing as well. But unlike those choices, this isn’t a new browser or a half-way-there solution, it’s a direct line to the same browser data that’s on your desktops and laptops.
Once the app is set up, you can search your history, access your Firefox bookmarks and see the tabs you most recently had open when you walked away from your computer. All of this info is accessible from within Firefox Home’s search bar, which is sort of a miniature version of the “Awesome Bar” in Firefox. It will search both page titles and URL strings, and it will auto-suggest results as you type.
Just like using the Awesome Bar in Firefox, everything shows up in a single list as you type, and a little icon shows up next to each item to tell you what sort of result it is — a bookmark, a piece of history, an open tab.
Click on an item and the page opens inside an in-app browser. It’s your standard iOS WebKit browser in a pretty blue wrapper, and it performs about the same as the built-in browser inside other popular apps like Twitter.
So Firefox Home is not Firefox on your iPhone, which is something we’re not ever likely to see. Mozilla’s brass has made it clear that Apple’s app policies are too restrictive for Firefox, and the company doesn’t want to dumb the browser down for the iPhone. For people who use Firefox as their primary browser everywhere else, this app is the next best thing.
You can read Mozilla’s announcement for more links, troubleshooting tips, and feedback channels.