Fair warning, macOS and iOS users, you’re going to be a little mad at Apple for this, but I’ll wait until the end to explain why. Firefox Quantum has been in beta for a few months now, and I finally decided to take it for a spin about a week before release. Currently, I’m putting together a browser comparison, one that will show real world performance, benchmark performance, memory usage, and battery life impact, on both my 2010 MacBook Pro (representing older hardware) and the 2015 MacBook Pro I have from work (new hardware) but that’s going to take some time. Perhaps before you read that, you’ll want to try out Mozilla’s latest and greatest browser for yourself.
Firefox Quantum was designed to be a modern browser, made to meet current expectations of what a browser should be and take us to the future, a complete revamp of Firefox and the web browser itself. After using it for about a week now, I love it, and, as such, I’m once again pissed at Apple.
Firefox Quantum has replaced previous versions of Firefox. The new browser was re-written from the ground up, with nothing left of the old Firefox under the hood. Mozilla wrote it with speed and efficiency in mind. It’s a browser designed for modern hardware, making use of multiple threads and processes, as Chrome has done, but with battery memory and thread management. The end result is a browser that doesn’t get bogged down when you open too many tabs, and one that doesn’t slow down your other apps. Heavy Chrome users know how slow their machines can become when opening “too many” tabs on Chrome (which never seems to be very many), but this isn’t an issue on Firefox. On top of that, Firefox outperforms Chrome in most page loading activities, and is far more responsive.
In my experience with it, I noticed it occasionally felt even snappier than Safari (though I’ve yet to prove that through testing). It’s definitely more efficient than Chrome though, which I stopped using for the same reason many people have: memory bloat. In terms of performance, Firefox now matches or beats Chrome, all while managing to use less memory. It looks and feels like a modern browser too, and, as always, Firefox is still heavily customizable. It now has built-in Pocket, a webpage reader, multiple standard themes, protection against tracking software (which blocks many ads on its own), and you can still install more add-ons and themes. Personally, I installed a full ad blocker (uBlock Origin) and a GitHub add-on that makes doing pull requests much easier (I review a lot of code). Add-ons aren’t just simple customizations, they can really make your life easier. Apple hasn’t embraced then in Safari, and it’s one of Safari’s greatest flaws.
Firefox on iOS also has a “Night Mode” which inverts page colors so you’re presented with dark colors, perfect for keeping your eyes from seeing too much glare. You need to set up a complicated set of accessibility features at the OS level to do this on Safari. It’s great when you don’t want to enable Smart Invert Colors system-wide. But you likely won’t want to use it, because on iOS, you can’t set Firefox to be your default browser. That means if a friend sends you a link in iMessage, it’ll open Safari. You won’t be able to use any of Apple’s built-in apps, and you’ll be stuck with 3rd party apps that specifically allow you to choose what browser to open links in for everything. Since some of the features of iOS rely on the default apps, you may run into problems doing this. Basically put, there’s no way to set a default browser on iOS, and you’ll likely hurt your experience with the operating system elsewhere if you even try. Since you can’t set your default browser on iOS, and cross-device syncing is important for modern browsers, you’ll likely end up using Safari on the Mac instead of Firefox as well. Apple wanted to trap you in their ecosystem, but, by forcing users to use also exclusively use their apps, they might be forcing people out.
Even if you’re trapped in Apple’s browser loop, as I am, you can still use apps like Pocket to help you sync between devices. Mozilla also has iOS plugins that allow you to send links and tabs to Firefox. It’s not perfect, but if the speed, efficiency, and customizability of Firefox has you smitten, you may be willing to put up with Apple’s obstruction. I’ve been using it for a little over a week right now, and I think I’ll keep with it a bit longer. Who knows? Maybe iOS 12 will be the one Apple finally decides to listen to the cries of their users for a little control over their phones. Head over to Mozilla’s website to download their latest and—by far—greatest browser.