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