6 Oct, 2010
Mozilla is hard at work with the delivery of a new version of its mobile browser developed for operating systems like Android and Maemo, namely Firefox Mobile, also known as Fennec. The application is heading fast towards the availability of the first beta release, which should bring forth a nice range of enhancements.
Firefox for Android was made available for download a few weeks ago in an alpha flavor, but the new pre-beta nightly builds of the browser are reportedly faster and more stable than before.
For the time being, the solution is still in a pre-release state, and it requires a range of optimizations and stabilizations.
According to Matt Brubeck, Firefox for Android comes with features that other browsers for the OS do not include:
- Syncs bookmarks, tabs, history, passwords, and form data to and from your phone. Firefox Sync and the Firefox Awesomebar help you enter URLs and passwords with less typing, and move seamlessly between your desktop and your mobile phone.
- Allows extensions to customize every part of the user interface. Adblock Plus and NoScript are two mobile Firefox add-ons that take advantage of this deep extensibility. (Note: both are compatible with the last stable release of Firefox for Nokia Maemo; they’ll need to be updated to support the pre-release Android versions.)
- Supports web technologies like SVG, ECMAScript 5, WebM, and HTTP Strict Transport Security. Firefox for Android currently scores 217 points plus 9 bonus points on html5test.com. (Warning: Those tests can be deceptive; use them as a starting point for comparison only.)
The other Android browsers are built on the WebKit rendering engine, except for Opera Mini, while Firefox is meant to offer an alternative to that, as the solution was built on the same Gecko engine as Firefox 4 for desktop.
However, the operating system itself comes with a series of limitations, as it was not created to support a large application as Firefox can be.
And Firefox for Android is indeed a large application, currently requiring 30 to 40 MB of storage on handsets, though this is mainly due to the Android OS and not Mozilla’s fault.
“To solve this problem, Mozilla’s Michael Wu is writing a custom dynamic linker, so Firefox can load libraries directly from the APK without installing them to a folder. This cuts the installed size in half, but increases the startup time slightly,” Matt Brubeck continues.
On handsets that pack more than 1GB of storage, Firefox might prove to be faster, though it would require more space to run. However, handsets with less storage would have a slower Firefox loaded on them.
The first beta flavor of the application should arrive with enhancements on speed and stability, while the next version would bring even more: “beta 2 will include even more exciting changes like the new Android skin, reduced installation size, and OpenGL-accelerated compositing,” Matt also states.