Comparing the Maemo browser and Firefox 1.1 on the N900

Posted: May 10, 2010 in Applications
Tags: , , , ,

As we all know Symbian based phones have a few browser choices, with the native Nokia version not seen as desirable as some of the others. Unlike the Symbian phones the N900 has only a couple of choices for browsers, though Opera Mini entered the fold as I was writing this article (see update at the end of this article). For now the only true choices are the default Maemo browser and Firefox. In this article I have reviewed the Maemo browser and Firefox 1.1 side-by-side to see if one is better than the other. Now on a PC I’ll use nothing other than Firefox instead of Microsoft’s Internet Explorer. There are too many security risks with IE and the ability to customize Firefox on the PC makes it unmatched in my opinion. But does that strength carry forth to the N900? Below are the results of my comparison and I think the answer is obvious, at least to me.

Select the feature to view screen shots





Fast open



Maemo browser opens almost instantly & the Firefox speed is up to 5 seconds with a blank page & longer depending upon home page
Supports Flash



Maemo Maemo is Flash ready and with Firefox you need to go to the Adobe site to install
Access/hide tool/menu bar



Maemo Both do this but Maemo’s is far superior. Hide the bars using the open/hide button or the bars auto-hide after a few seconds. Moving left or right is clunky in Firefox and the page won’t automatically hide the bars
Access to URL entry



Maemo Again both allow this but with Maemo the tool bar is always present unless you have hidden it. Firefox does not remain at the top and you must go back to the top  to enter a url
Bookmark addition and management




Maemo’s bookmark tool is much easier to get to as the tool bar is easy to access.  With Firefox you need to swipe the screen to the left to add a bookmark. Maemo also wins as it stores thumbnail images of your bookmarked pages.
Import book marks X X Firefox Weave will sync bookmarks and tabs between the device and your PC. The N900 browser will only import bookmarks from a folder on the internal or external memory
Save pages to desktop X X Maemo When saving a bookmark in Maemo you are given the choice to save as a bookmark or a desktop short cut. Firefox saves bookmarks and has a desktop bookmarks section but I could find not find a way to add bookmarks to the desktop
Open multiple Windows X X Tie
Move back and forth between pages X X Firefox Maemo PR 1.2 is supposed to fix this but we all know the frustration with the current back feature
Add-ons available X X Firefox While both devices have the ability to load add-ons Firefox has more available
Settings/Customize X X Maemo Maemo has many more settings available with the most noticeable difference being that cache size can be changed
Save Usernames & Passwords X X Tie
Ability to zoom X X Maemo Without question Maemo wins as there are 3 ways to zoom in or out by swiping circles on the screen, double tapping portions of the page or using the volume key. With Firefox your choices are the double tap or the volume keys.
Ability to highlight text X Maemo Using Maemo Gestures like Manipulation or Hover you can use a cursor to highlight text or view drop down lists in pages without selecting the list
Ability to copy text X Maemo If Firefox can do this please let me know how as I could not get it to highlight text or see an option to copy
View drop down boxes in pages X X Tie
Shortcuts menu in pages X X Maemo Both allow you to press on the screen to access shortcuts but Firefox offers only opening links in new windows or saving images. If you press in an area with unlinked text or no images then nothing happens
Save images X X Tie
Copy link addresses X Maemo Holding down on a  link or image gives you a choice in both Firefox & Maemo to open a new window but Maemo also allows you to copy the link address to the clipboard
View page details X Maemo If Firefox has this I couldn’t find it
Find text in pages X Maemo If Firefox has this I couldn’t find it
View downloads X X Tie

Yes there is quite a bit to consider. Yet of the 22 features I compared Maemo was the winner in 14 of them and Firefox had the advantage in only 3. As the browser provided with Symbian phones leaves a lot to be desired Firefox may make more of an impact by building a browser for Symbian devices. Since they’re not browsers like Opera Mini and Skyfire are creating tools that by name alone Firefox could dominate.

Maemo is hands down the winner of this comparison. Is it perfect? Almost. Fix that feature going going back and forward between pages and I see no reason to use any other browser with the N900. You can learn more about Maemo and Maemo’s Gestures here. Please go Mozilla’s website to learn  more about Firefox 1.1 for the N900.

UPDATE added May 11, 2010 – As stated in the beginning of this article Opera Mini was made available for the N900 just as I was publishing this article. After reading about it at the Nokia N900 Applications site I believe it would have done no better than Firefox had I included it in this review. In fact it may have done worse as it is not yet compatible with Adobe Flash at all. You can read more at Nokia N900 Applications.

  1. […] More here: Comparing the Maemo browser and Firefox 1.1 on the N900 « Lloyd's Blog […]

  2. poka64 says:

    “…with Firefox you need to go to the Adobe site to install”

    This is not the case, you can only enable flash on youtube with a extension that you find in the settings on the firefox browser.

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