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article imageFirefox web browser now available on iOS

By James Walker     Nov 13, 2015 in Technology
Mozilla has publicly released a version of its Firefox web browser for iOS devices including the iPhone and iPad. Long-promised by the company and often-requested by fans, Firefox for iOS includes support for many of the browser's key features.
The app is now available worldwide from the App Store. Mozilla introduced it in a video that also highlights some of its key features and Mozilla's values.
Nick Nguyen, vice president of Firefox products, says in the video that Mozilla "aims to make Firefox available everywhere." Firefox for iOS joins Firefox for Android and the desktop version used by millions of people worldwide and can sync data between all the different versions, letting users pick up on any device exactly where they left on any other.
One Firefox account makes it possible to automatically sync browsing history, favourites, saved passwords and open tabs between desktop PCs and phones. Firefox for iOS also supports Visual Tabs, a feature designed to make it easier to work with lots of different open tabs by displaying them all on the same screen.
Mozilla also included a full Private Browsing mode which doesn't save history files or share cookies with visited websites. When less privacy is required, a "smart and flexible" search system with predictive suggestions for what to type makes it easier for users to find information online.
There are some key differences compared with Firefox on other platforms though. Technical restrictions on the iOS platform mean Mozilla can't use its own Gecko engine to render webpages. Instead, it's forced to display everything via Apple's WebKit engine used in Safari, a limitation also faced by other third-party browsers on iOS.
This means webpages loaded in Firefox for iOS may look different to when loaded in Firefox for Android as the browser will be presenting itself differently. Additionally, developers will only be able to target the features supported by Safari instead of the generally more up-to-date HTML specification support in Firefox.
Regardless, Firefox for iOS is likely to become a popular alternative to Apple's Safari browser that is preinstalled on all iPhones, iPads and iPod touches. Mozilla suggests that Firefox is pinned to the app dock at the bottom of the screen for quick access, a place usually taken by Safari.
The company isn't done with Firefox for iOS yet. More features will be coming in the future in tandem with updates to the Android and desktop versions. Nguyen said in a blog post: "I hope you enjoy the first ever release of Firefox for iOS, and expect to see much more from us soon as we are going full speed ahead on continuously delivering new features. I'm proud of the team for getting us to where we are today and excited about where we'll be in the future."
The app can be downloaded now for free. It works with devices running iOS 8.2 or newer and clocks in at a relatively modest 30MB download. It has already proved popular with users and currently holds a rating of 4.5 stars, based on 550 reviews.
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