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Mozilla Fennec for Android pre-alpha released

Mozilla Fennec for Android pre-alpha released

The pre-alpha version of Fennec is a little lumpy but gives a good idea of what the final release will look like.

The Mozilla Foundation has launched the first public preview of Fennec - also known as Firefox Mobile - for Android.

While an early release has been available for the Maemo-based Nokia N900 for a while, this pre-alpha marks the first time users will be able to try out the mobile browser on Google's Android platform.

Mozilla's Vladimir Vukićević explains that the software is in the early stages and can be a trifle buggy, saying that "memory usage of this build isn't great - in many ways it's a debug build, and we haven't done a lot of optimisation yet."

The early state of the Android Fennec build is also reflected in the devices supported, with your handset requiring Android 2.0 or newer and with the team only really having tested it out on the Motorola Droid - known as the Milestone in Europe - and Google's own Nexus One.

If you're willing to risk it - and Vukićević confidently states that this pre-alpha "will likely not eat your phone" - you'll get a sneak preview of what the mobile version of Firefox will be like, complete with the ability to synchronise bookmarks and settings with a desktop Firefox installation via Mozilla Weave.

Sadly, it won't be replacing the in-built Android browser just yet - currently there is no way of using Fennec as the default action when links are opened from other applications, although Vukićević states this is likely to make an appearance in the next build.

For those itching to give it a go - and who have an Android 2.0 or 2.1 handset - the installation APK can be downloaded from here.

Could Mozilla's Fennec be the mobile browser of the future, or is there more to developing for smartphones than just scaling down a desktop browser? Share your thoughts over in the forums.

14 Comments

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eddtox 29th April 2010, 12:48 Quote
Fennec on the N900 has some nice touches, but ultimately, the lack of any decent way to zoom (double tap is patchy and the volume rocker doesn't zoom) coupled with the dismally slow start-up meant that I've stuck with the default microB browser (which is probably the best default browser I've ever seen on a phone).

If the FF team fix those niggles (maybe implement the 'swirl' zoom) I think it has a good chance of making it big in the mobile space. I doubt apple will let them into the iDevices ecosystem, though.
rickysio 29th April 2010, 14:20 Quote
@eddtox

Hint : Use Ctrl + up/down buttons.

I do agree with the other points, though!
DriftCarl 29th April 2010, 15:01 Quote
just installed on my HTC desire and posting this message from it. it seems quite fast and well done for a pre alpha
l3v1ck 29th April 2010, 16:03 Quote
I'll give it a try, if it's stable, I'll use it.
l3v1ck 29th April 2010, 16:34 Quote
I can't get it to work on my HTC Desire at all. All I get is a black screen.:(

Edit

It seemed to crash the phone when turning it off. I had to uninstall it. I'll wait for the beta.
ffjason 29th April 2010, 18:10 Quote
You also need Open GL 2 at the moment so no hero support :( (even on the 2.1 rom's)
VictorianBloke 29th April 2010, 19:27 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by l3v1ck
I can't get it to work on my HTC Desire at all. All I get is a black screen.:(

It takes a while to load the first few times, i thought it'd killed mine at first. Once it's open though it's pretty quick.

I'm impressed with weave, easy to setup and popped up with all the tabs currently open in firefox on my pc.

Main issues so far - I've not worked out how to zoom yet, and the desire keyboard doesn't pop up in landscape, you have to flick back to portait mode to type anything, a promising start though, should keep me amused messing at work tomorrow :)
Zurechial 29th April 2010, 22:27 Quote
Did anyone else read the bit about poor memory usage and snicker, thinking of how it just reflects the desktop version of the browser? :P

I'm running CyanogenMod on my G1 so I doubt it'll work for me yet, but I'm eager to see it finished.
The default browser is quite good but not perfect so more choice will be welcome.
DriftCarl 29th April 2010, 22:50 Quote
i double tap for zoom on my desire, shame there is no multi touch yet but I am sure that will come.
rickysio 30th April 2010, 14:20 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Zurechial
Did anyone else read the bit about poor memory usage and snicker, thinking of how it just reflects the desktop version of the browser? :P

I'm running CyanogenMod on my G1 so I doubt it'll work for me yet, but I'm eager to see it finished.
The default browser is quite good but not perfect so more choice will be welcome.

Poor memory usage? Firefox had been benchmarked and it consumes the LEAST amount of RAM by quite a few sites, no? While admittedly the performance advantage only kicks in with high amounts of tabs, but in a desktop environment I often have more than 10 tabs open at once, so it IS in fact, the least whalish of all browsers I have.
eddtox 30th April 2010, 18:48 Quote
Fennec 1.0.1 just hit maemo5. I got really excited when I saw it in the update manager, but it turns out its just a security update. Still, i spent some time playing about with it and I found it much more sluggish than microb
rickysio 1st May 2010, 04:08 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by eddtox
Fennec 1.0.1 just hit maemo5. I got really excited when I saw it in the update manager, but it turns out its just a security update. Still, i spent some time playing about with it and I found it much more sluggish than microb

Probably because Fennec has lesser people working on it than MicroB. Nokia does after all employ staggering amounts of people, and Mozilla can't afford to reach that scale.
fabler 3rd May 2010, 06:36 Quote
I've already installed it on my N1. The browser seems to be fast. Very clean and a good designed interface. Swipe left for preferences and swipe right for tabs, a nice concept. But the only problem is space. It is 10MB of .apk file and after installation it occupy 30MB of space on device. This is really higher than the other competitors like skyfire.
bionicgeekgrrl 24th May 2010, 19:38 Quote
would try this if my X10 wasn't stuck at 1.6 :/ mozilla FF with weave on a phone would be rather good :)
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