Firefox Mobile Map Experience

A Firefox Mobile video I saw a little while back has someone taking a trip in San Francisco, at one point passing a brightly-coloured wall of graffiti, and using Firefox Mobile for various things. Anyone know the one I mean and have a link? Anyway, that video gives a use-case for Firefox Mobile and Sync – if you’ve opened a Google map on your desktop, you can see a copy on the road. I was recently in that exact situation, and want to relate what the experience is like in practice. I’m not doing this to bash anyone, but to highlight a few places where perhaps we (or others!) need to improve before reality will be like the video. This is how it went in the video:

  • Start Firefox
  • Tap “Tabs from your other computers”
  • Find the tab’s entry and tap it
  • Instantly view map

This is how it went for me:

  • Start Firefox (on my Nexus One)
  • Wait 10 seconds for Firefox to load
  • Tap “Tabs from your other computers”
  • See nothing
  • Go to the preferences
  • Find that Sync is still connecting
  • Wait 30 seconds for Sync to connect and load the list
  • Find the tab’s entry and tap it
  • Wait for the page to load over slow 1.5G network which the phone has unaccountably decided to use instead of 3G
  • Find that it’s loaded Google Map’s mobile interface, not the desktop one, and that it has UI issues (perhaps it expects WebKit?)
  • Find that the location is wrong because the map I want was the second search I did on Google Maps, and when you do a new search from the in-page box Google Maps doesn’t update the URL, and Sync syncs URLs, not entire page state
  • Battle with UX problems to do a new search for the postcode I actually wanted (fortunately preserved in the page title, which Google Maps does update and which Sync does sync)
  • Wait for the map to load again
  • View map

In all, the process took about 3 minutes, by which time my wife was telling me to “put away the gadget and enjoy the sunshine”!

I’m not sure of the best way of solving some of these. Obviously, people are working on startup time, particularly with the new Java UI. Can we make Sync a background service on Android? Could we even preload tabs which were in the foreground on the desktop? Some of the other problems are down to Google Maps. I personally prefer OpenStreetMap but, despite UK postcode data being released quite a long time ago, its postcode search is still terribly imprecise. Still, hopefully this account will inspire someone :-)

5 thoughts on “Firefox Mobile Map Experience

  1. Sometimes, sync looks like this for me:
    – Tap “Tabs from your other computers”
    – See nothing
    – Go to the preferences
    – Find that Sync is still connecting
    – Wait 5 minutes for Sync to connect
    – Get back to “tabs from your other computers”
    – Don’t find recent tabs
    – Go to the preferences
    – Sync Now
    – Wait 2 minutes for Sync to happen
    – Get back to “tabs from your other computers”
    – Don’t find recent tabs
    – repeat, rinse, until it ends up working.

    It looks like my extreme tab browsing puts sync to its knees.

  2. I have been ticked off multiple times by Google updating the URL (*at all*) according to the current search state/criteria.

  3. I filed a bug about moving the sync credentials to the Android Account Manager and the idea to create a background service fits perfectly with that. If you file a bug please make it depend on Bug 657744.

    There are undoubtedly problems with both mobile as a browser and sync, but as you mention yourself, efforts are being directed towards fixing both issues. That said, man power is finite with Mozilla, especially with Mobile Firefox, however if we have enough eyes on Firefox and filing bugs to improve it, it will get better.

  4. > by which time my wife was telling me to “put away the gadget

    That might have been pretty good advice, right there. Exactly how badly did you need to see a map just then?