Firefox on Android: masquerade as Chrome for a better experience

Martin Brinkmann
Sep 5, 2017

If you use a browser that is not Google Chrome, you may get a different experience when you are using Google services.

This ranges from being served an older or alter version of a product to being shut out entirely from using a product. The latter happened recently again when Google launched the new Google Earth as a Chrome exclusive offering.

Sometimes it is technical reasons why something is reserved to Chrome, for instance when support for specific technology is not yet available in other browsers, or if Google did not have the time to verify if that is the case.

At other times though, there is seemingly no reason not to provide users who don't use Chrome with the same experience. It is often the case that changing the user agent of the browser to Chrome will enable the Chrome-reserved experience. The user agent is publicly accessible by sites; it includes information on the browser that is being used, and some sites detect it to determine which content to serve to the browser.

Note: changing the user agent is no 100% surefire way of getting access to content that is restricted by sniffing user agents. If the browser you are using does not support a required technology, it won't be able to display the site at all or fully if you switch the user agent.

Masquerade as Chrome for a better experience

firefox user agent chrome google

Firefox users have a couple of options when it comes to masquerading as Chrome. The easiest option is to install a browser add-on in Firefox for Android that adds the functionality.

The following list looks at some of these add-ons. The focus is on add-ons that are compatible with Firefox 57 and newer versions of the browser (as well as current versions). Most Firefox add-ons don't seem to work on Firefox for Android even though they are listed as compatible. While you can install them, you cannot bring up the menu that they ship with to change the user agent.

The add-ons that don't work currently may not work properly because of the state of WebExtensions support in Firefox for Android.

  • AgentX -- Does not work currently. A highly configurable user agent switcher as you may set user agents for specific sites using it.
  • Chrome UA on Google for Firefox Android -- This add-on changes the Firefox user agent string on Android to Google Chrome when you are using Google Search. It won't change it on other Google properties.
  • User Agent Switcher -- Does not work currently. This add-on offers better control over the switching. It lists user agents that you may switch to so that you can use it on any kind of site.

You may change the user agent in Firefox's configuration as well. Note that this is not as flexible as using an add-on, as Firefox will use that user agent from that moment on for all sites.

  1. Load about:config in the Firefox address bar.
  2. Click on the plus icon when the page loads, and add the following values to the fields:
    1. Name: general.useragent.override.
    2. Boolean: change to String.
    3. String: enter the desired user agent (see this Google Chrome help page on how that looks like)
  3. Click on create to save the information.

If you have troubles finding the right user agent, download Google Chrome Stable for Android, and visit this web page to reveal the user agent. You can then copy the string, and copy it in the value field in Firefox.

Note that you can delete the new preference at any time with a tap on reset.

Firefox on Android: masquerade as Chrome for a better experience
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Firefox on Android: masquerade as Chrome for a better experience
If you masquerade the Firefox web browser as Google Chrome on Android, you may get a better experience when you are using Google services.
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  1. TarekJor said on January 22, 2018 at 12:56 pm

    Thanks for this articles Martin, it is very appreciated.

    As WebExtensions support on Android is a “WIP” the best method for me is change via about:config, but maybe some problems in some sites.

    I don’t like how Google mistreat Firefox or other browser users, the old layout is to force common users and noobs to install Chrome (it is not fair), and I don’t like unfair, BTW, is not new, that is the reason I want alternatives to Android by Google and the unfair monopoly.

    The general.userAgent.override working here good, on both Firefox 57+ and WaterFox 55 (some steps back).

  2. DaveyK said on September 6, 2017 at 3:21 pm

    It’s a particular problem with smaller browsers such as Pale Moon, and isn’t limited to Google’s services. I’ve had some pages flat out refuse to display – telling me to use a supported browser, yet funnily enough once you spoof the Firefox or Chrome User Agent, the page pops up fine.

    Honestly, there are plenty of ways of determining what features browsers support, rather than universally sniffing their UA and delivering a crippled site if the UA doesn’t match your filtered list.

  3. Vítor I said on September 5, 2017 at 11:51 pm

    Somehow related, a Jon von Tetzchner’s post in Vivaldi blog:
    “My friends at Google: it is time to return to not being evil”

  4. KNTRO said on September 5, 2017 at 6:20 pm

    But, by doing this, you’re actually telling websites you’re using Chrome, so webmasters will not care at all about other people using non Chrome based web browsers, despite if those browsers are technically compatible.

    So, by doing this you’re not helping a thing to change the trend.

    1. Hafk said on September 10, 2017 at 7:15 am

      The old problem back in the days of Presto Opera. Where websites would simply refuse to work and Opera ended up having to bake User Agent switching into the browser because low and behold so many websites “wouldn’t work” on Presto.

      Doesn’t matter how capable your browser is if web developers are just going to lock you out of their websites until you switch.

    2. John said on September 6, 2017 at 12:49 am

      If you use “Chrome UA on Google for Firefox Android”, your user agent is changed only for Google Search.

  5. Julian Alarcon said on September 5, 2017 at 5:21 pm

    In Android “Phony” works with Firefox v56 or less. And “User Agent Switcher” works with Firefox 56+. I’m using them in my Nightly (57) and Firefox (55) apps.

    1. Ray said on September 5, 2017 at 9:20 pm

      As Julian mentioned, use Firefox Nightly on Android.

      Firefox Android Stable is at least two to three months away from seeing full WebExtensions support.

  6. Karol said on September 5, 2017 at 4:09 pm

    ok so all that article and haven’t found out which addon actually works… great

  7. Foogle of skies said on September 5, 2017 at 3:53 pm

    That’s exactly what I needed! Thanks a lot for showing us this add-on! :)

  8. TelV said on September 5, 2017 at 3:42 pm

    Google up to its old tricks again in spite of being fined €2.4 billion recently for manipulating shopping results in favour of its own services:

  9. Sist3r Rob0t said on September 5, 2017 at 3:16 pm

    That is straight up bullshit. Google is pulling the same tactics as MS back in ’90s. What happened to Antitrust laws? *checks the time* Oh right, 2017. Pro consumer agencies are too busy giving the rich elites hand jobs.

  10. KERR said on September 5, 2017 at 2:39 pm

    Thanks for the info about the addon!

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