How-To: Use Firefox Home for the iPhone

Last week saw the arrival of Firefox on the iPhone, but not as we know it. Mozilla’s new app, known as Firefox Home, is not strictly a browser — instead it brings your desktop browsing session direct to your iPhone.

The free app from Firefox, which now joins Opera as a browser company with a presence in the App Store, brings a user’s search history, saved passwords, bookmarks and open tabs to an iPhone or iPod touch. This harmony between multiple devices is made possible due to a Firefox desktop add-on from Mozilla dubbed Firefox Sync. As the name suggests, the free-to-use Firefox Sync add-on synchronizes all of a users browsing data, from multiple devices — making it readily available in the cloud, wherever a Firefox browser is installed.

But how can you get your Firefox browsing data, be it from a PC or Mac, on your iPhone? Our guide shows you how.

Getting Started

The first thing you are going to need to do is download the application from the App Store.

Install The Add-On

When you open up the companion application the first thing you will be asked is whether you have a Firefox Sync account. If you do, then you can go ahead and select the appropriate option to proceed. But for those who don’t have an account you will need to head to a computer to get going.

When at your computer (in my case a PC, as I tend not to use Firefox on my Mac) open up Firefox and navigate to Mozilla’s sync add-on page. Follow the on-screen prompts to get the add-on installed and restart the browser.

Set-Up Sync

When the browser restarts a pop-up will prompt you to begin the setup process for the now installed extension. As you are new to Firefox Sync you will need to select ‘I’ve never used Sync before’. Selecting this will begin the sign-up process. The sign-up process is a typical one made up of a few simple steps. You will need to provide a username, password, email and a 12-character secret phrase.

With all your sign-in credentials in order you will then need to name your device, for example ‘My Windows 7 PC’ or ‘My Mac Mini’. Taking a few seconds to name your device correctly is an important step for later use, as when you have multiple sync’s in place it’s an easy way to see what data is from what device.

Once all the data has been added, the sign-up process will be completed. You will now find a new ‘Sync’ option in your browser under the Tools menu. A sync of your data is automatically made once a day, however this new menu will show you specifically when a last sync was made, in addition to allowing you to make a sync take place manually.

Back to the App

Now all the settings are in place, it’s time to try the application. Select ‘I Have A Sync Account’ and enter the same login information, including your secret phrase, that you just entered on your computer.

When logged in you will see four options: Search, Tabs, Bookmarks and Settings. The Settings page will let you sign-out, refresh your synced data and see what data is being sync in the cloud. As expected, the Bookmarks, Search and Tabs pages show a listing of any bookmarks, history or open tabs you have from your last sync. Sadly Firefox’s application is lacking in one browsing essential — an address bar. You can’t manually input a URL, therefore using the search tool seems to be the most effective way to navigate around, allowing access to any pages in your history.

And that’s how you use Firefox Home on your iPhone.

Thoughts On Firefox Home

Why Mozilla decided to take this route for its mobile application is unknown, especially considering Opera’s success in getting Opera Mini approved and on the App Store, address bar included. However, despite its flaws, the app does have some value. Take this example — you’re about to head out but want to continue working on a few things while on the move. Mozilla’s app makes this a fairly easy and instant reality, allowing you to pick up where you left off, tabs intact. How often this scenario would arise to be of great benefit to someone is unknown, but the option sure is nice.

While using the app a few things were noticed; the pinch to zoom, like Opera Mini, isn’t quite right. If you have a lot of data to sync, it can take a little while. Finally, unlike the full desktop sync service, the mobile version is not compatible with private servers.

Firefox Home is available to download for free from Apple’s App Store now. Have you tried it, and if so, what are your thoughts on this ‘browser companion’?