Firefox mobile - stop tabs auto-reloading
May 5, 2015 6:57 PM   Subscribe

If I'm reading a webpage in Firefox on my phone, and then go to another tab or another app, when I return to the original tab, the page automatically reloads. How can I prevent this from happening? I would prefer to control when pages reload, as on a regular PC.

Some websites (for example) recommend going into about:config and changing accessibility.blockautorefresh to 'true' - but I don't have that option in my about:config menu. Other websites (for example) recommend monkeying with browser.cache.check_doc_frequency, but I've had no success with that.

Phone details, in case it matters:
  • brand: Samsung
  • model: GT-I9300
  • Android: version 4.3
posted by paleyellowwithorange to Computers & Internet (10 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
You can use the big + button at the top of thr about:config page to add a "missing" preference. I can't say for certain that the preference will in fact solve your problem, but that would be my first try if I were in your shoes.

Just type accessibility.blockautorefresh (or whatever other preference you'd like to add) into name field of the the dialog that pops up, make sure the type dropdown is set to boolean and then set your value as desired.
posted by wierdo at 7:40 PM on May 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks, I didn't know that. I added in the extra line, and set it to true; after testing for about ten minutes, this does seem to have resolved the problem.

Before I mark the question as resolved, I'm interested to hear if anyone knows of any other workarounds for resolving the same problem.
posted by paleyellowwithorange at 8:17 PM on May 5, 2015

Response by poster: Ah crap, no. It was fine as long as I was tabbing back and forth within Firefox. But when I went out to other apps, and then returned to Firefox, each tab reloaded as I accessed it.
posted by paleyellowwithorange at 8:20 PM on May 5, 2015

I have the same issue using Chrome on my phone. My non-technical understanding is that it's a phone thing, not a browser thing, more or less the built-in process manager is forcing your phone to drop any tabs you're not immediately using in order to cut down memory usage. It's just not doing it very well. This seems to be some people bitching about the same issue, going back six years and still not really resolved. Sorry this is so vague, I don't have the time to look into more in depth but maybe this will help you redirect your googling.
posted by yeahlikethat at 8:50 PM on May 5, 2015 [3 favorites]

Hi, I'm a Mozilla employee and former mobile Firefox developer. The explanation by yeahlikethat is correct: When it's in the background, Firefox gets killed by your phone's operating system so it can use the memory for other applications. When you return to Firefox, the page is no longer loaded, so Firefox has to load it again.

Your phone has 1 gigabyte of RAM, and a lot of that is used by the system (and is not available to apps). Many newer phones have 2 GB or more, which reduces this problem a lot (since they can keep more tabs and apps in memory at once, without needing to kill things in the background). So if you do a lot of browsing, you might want to make sure your next phone has a lot of RAM.
posted by mbrubeck at 9:56 PM on May 5, 2015 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: So if you do a lot of browsing, you might want to make sure your next phone has a lot of RAM.

I do do a lot of browsing, but a new phone is not on the cards in the near future. Is there a solution to this problem:

When it's in the background, Firefox gets killed by your phone's operating system so it can use the memory for other applications.

Is there a way to stop this from happening? A setting I can change to give priority to Firefox? Because my phone is basically a Firefox browser with a few other minor useful apps.
posted by paleyellowwithorange at 10:21 PM on May 5, 2015

You can use the apps option in settings to see what is using memory and uninstall stuff that runs memory hogging services in the background. Unfortunately, I suspect that you'll find much (or all if you have very few apps installed) is actually Samsung crap you can't get rid of without rooting your phone.

If you are willing to root, you can use Titanium Backup to freeze the Samsung and carrier crapware that is taking up your memory. Or install a custom ROM that doesn't run so much stuff and uses a lightweight launcher like Nova. Otherwise you're pretty much SOL without a new phone.

FWIW, Chrome handles this a little better in that when possible it caches the version of the page you're viewing and loads that when you come back to the tab rather than loading it fresh from the network. You still have the annoying render delay, but you see the original content. Except that you don't get any AJAX content that was loaded later. So if you're viewing a MeFi thread, for example, you get the comments as they were when you originally loaded the page, but not anything you got later by clicking the new comments link.

I'm not really sure that's better, but it may be closer to what you want...
posted by wierdo at 12:22 AM on May 6, 2015 [1 favorite]

If the app being sent to the "background" is what is forcing the page reloading upon switching back to the app, perhaps you could look into forcing the background app to "stay alive", so to speak. A quick search seems to suggest that the app ES Task Manager has an app "white list" function that would allow that to happen. I know task managers are more or less deprecated in recent versions of android, but if you used only this functionality in the app then perhaps that would work?
posted by kev23f at 12:36 AM on May 6, 2015

or, if you're rooted then this app would be even better - App Settings.
posted by kev23f at 12:45 AM on May 6, 2015

So it's been a while, but I thought I would mention, I just cleared off about a gig and a half of photos from my phone, which was previously full to the point where I couldn't update apps anymore =/ and it has gotten noticeably better at hanging on to more tabs for longer. It seems that just having that extra unused space allows Chrome or whatever process to expand the cache, so if your phone is bursting to the seams, this might make things a little more tolerable for you too.
posted by yeahlikethat at 5:40 PM on August 19, 2015

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