Android tablets, smartphones: Mozilla Firefox's best shot at mobile relevance

Android tablets, smartphones: Mozilla Firefox's best shot at mobile relevance

Summary: Mozilla has released the first Firefox 4 beta for Android, the organization's best shot for mobile relevance. And that relevance could increase as Android tablets hit the market.

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TOPICS: Mobility, Browser
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Mozilla has released the first Firefox 4 beta for Android, the organization's best shot for mobile relevance. And that relevance could increase as Android tablets hit the market.

With the release, Firefox has a shot to be more of a mobile player. Today, Firefox really has little to no presence on the mobile front. Firefox isn't available on Apple's iPhone or Research in Motion's BlackBerry. Android popularity is surging so Firefox could gain traction that way.

Firefox's real chance for mobile stardom will be with the adoption of Android tablets. With tablets you're less forgiving about the browsing experience. As Android tablets hit the market, Firefox could tag as companies like Samsung ramp up the Galaxy Tab.

The good news is that the Firefox 4 beta is "built on the same technology platform as Firefox for the desktop and optimized for browsing on a mobile phone," according to a blog post.

That's also the bad news. In my limited testing on a Motorola Droid X, Firefox 4 beta 1 was solid, but I did suffer more than my share of crashes. Those crashes also occur on the desktop from time to time. CNET News' Stephen Shankland has a thorough review and noted the crash problems on his gripe list.

But Firefox 4 for mobile is a beta so some hassles are to be expected.

Mozilla said:

A major focus of this release is to increase performance and responsiveness. Two of the big architecture changes are Electrolysis and Layers. Our alpha contained Electrolysis which allowed the browser interface to run in a separate process from the one rendering Web content, resulting in a much more responsive browser. This beta brings the Layers pieces which improve overall performance and in graphics areas such as scrolling, zooming and animations.

The performance of Firefox 4 beta 1 was ok, but didn't strike me as a speed demon by any stretch. It's likely that the speed will improve over time with new releases.

Firefox's challenge is to bridge its desktop audience to the mobile front. Firefox users who happen to have an iPhone are likely using Safari. Other smartphone users may be accustomed to Opera. Fortunately for Mozilla, no mobile browser is perfect so it has room to elbow Firefox into the conversation.

Topics: Mobility, Browser

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21 comments
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  • Firefox For iPhone Please....

    You have Safari and iCab...why not Firefox???
    cyberslammer
    • Easy answer to your question

      @cyberslammer <br>Because 100% of the "browsers" on iOS devices are just shells around whatever version of WebKit happens to be on the iOS device at the time. Apple will not allow competing rendering engines. This means Opera Mobile and Firefox will not be allowed on iOS devices unless Apple changes their policy. Until then, all you get are browser shells.

      Edited to replace Chrome with Opera Mobile. Chrome, being a webkit browser, might actually be allowed although even then it would run into difficulty with JavaScript since Apple doesn't allow apps to download and execute code, which is what JavaScript engines do. So it is probably accurate to say that all iOS browsers must not only use the built in webkit, it must also use the built in JavaScript engine.
      NonZealot
      • Except for Opera Mini

        @NonZealot Rendering is via proxy server. That's been the only foot in the door.

        I wonder if Android firefox does flash? ie uses the plugin?
        LarsDennert
    • RE: Android tablets, smartphones: Mozilla Firefox's best shot at mobile relevance

      @cyberslammer

      Ummm, it is for Android, not the iPhone.
      jakenhauser23
      • RE: Android tablets, smartphones: Mozilla Firefox's best shot at mobile relevance

        @jakenhauser23 UMMM...DUH that's why I asked for Firefox for iPhone.

        Fail reading comprehension 101?
        cyberslammer
    • RE: Android tablets, smartphones: Mozilla Firefox's best shot at mobile relevance

      @cyberslammer to your comment below

      No actually I did quite well, I was merely pointing out that this was an Android article and that your post was irrelevant. At least I wasn't being a prick!!
      jakenhauser23
  • RE: Android tablets, smartphones: Mozilla Firefox's best shot at mobile relevance

    Yeah, Firefox is on iPhone. Doesn't work well but it's there
    milesmwa
    • RE: Android tablets, smartphones: Mozilla Firefox's best shot at mobile relevance

      @milesmwa Firefox Home is NOT Firefox... It is not a full mobile browser, instead it allows the iPhone via the app to access Firefox bookmarks and open tabs on a running instance of Firefox on one's PC/Mac but it does not allow one to enter a URL.
      athynz
  • Synchronization Key To Firefox Mobile Success

    Since the days of the first Palm PDA, the best (and sometimes worst) part of owning a smart mobile device, has been the ability to sync content from your PC. With the current generation of iPhone and Android phones, the level of synchronization has expanded to include not only desktop data, but cloud-based data from apps like www.appbrain.com (apps), www.lastpass.com (passwords) and documents of all types using applications like www.evernote.com.

    I believe robust and secure mobile synchronization and collaboration is going to be the single most differentiating feature of current & future mobile platforms and applications. If the folks at Mozilla are smart, they would buy LastPass.com and integrate it directly into the browser, along with a bookmark synchronization feature that supported multiple accounts / identities. Imagine being able to move seamlessly between your desktop and mobile device, with your favorites always at your fingertips.

    Microsoft would do well to pay attention to this as well. Their Windows 7 Mobile platform will likely be an "also-ran" in the market, unless they can make it dramatically compelling. The best way for them to do that is by providing seamless, secure and ultra-reliable content synchronization between Office, Project, SharePoint, OneNote, etc. My personal opinion is they should focus on development tools and synchronization for all their apps and leave Google, Apple, RIM and HP? to fight it out in the mobile OS/device space.
    John Westra
    • RE: Android tablets, smartphones: Mozilla Firefox's best shot at mobile relevance

      @John Westra Intelligent observations
      bruce_neville@...
    • RE: Android tablets, smartphones: Mozilla Firefox's best shot at mobile relevance

      @John Westra

      Uh, why would they buy someone? It syncs bookmarks, favorites and <e>tabs</e> right now.
      tkejlboom
  • RE: Android tablets, smartphones: Mozilla Firefox's best shot at mobile relevance

    I've stopped using the beta because of all the crashes with it. I hope all the bugs are worked out of it soon, because it's a very nice browser.
    ITOdeed
  • Solid, but crashes???

    "In my limited testing on a Motorola Droid X, Firefox 4 beta 1 was solid, but I did suffer more than my share of crashes."

    Huh?
    kidtree
  • RE: Android tablets, smartphones: Mozilla Firefox's best shot at mobile relevance

    The speed of FF 4 beta is absolutely pathetic on my Droid 1. I think Mozilla developers are going for stronger processors and faster hardware that will be in the next generation of phones when this is ready to be released.
    WindowWasher
    • RE: Android tablets, smartphones: Mozilla Firefox's best shot at mobile relevance

      @WindowWasher

      My cousin OC'ed his Droid with Cyanogen and he likes it. It is more resource intensive than most mobile browsers, though. Still, it's a beta.
      tkejlboom
  • Dolphin HD provides features that Firefox will be challenged to match

    For the Android platform, one of the most popular browsers is Dolphin HD.

    It integrates gestures, the ability to switch between identifying itself as a phone or a desktop (many sites don't behave well if they think you're a phone), add-in support (including one for LastPass!), and an interface designed from the start to be small-touchscreen friendly.

    Not saying that Firefox can't compete, but they have a well established competition that they will have to displace.
    sylerner
  • RE: Android tablets, smartphones: Mozilla Firefox's best shot at mobile relevance

    I am not impressed. It doesn't work any different than the installed browser. The included TABS is the same as using the back button. If I am wrong then someone help me. I want browsing similar to desktops so I can view a page without backing up.
    jet1959mo@...
  • RE: Android tablets, smartphones: Mozilla Firefox's best shot at mobile relevance

    Hopefully some real Linux OS's will become more prevelant on mobile phones and put a stop to the Google spyware bandwagon. Since Opera has been allowed on the iPhone for some time, I would not be surprised to see Firefox appear soon.
    jorjitop
  • Opera doesn't quite cut it for Android Tablets

    I have tested the Opera browser on several Android tablets and the problem so far has been that Opera only expands to fill up to about 5" of the screen - so if you have a 10" Android tablet Opera only fills a corner of the screen. Even the default Android browser expands to fill the entire screen of the tablet.
    I might expect Samsung or Dell to resolve these issues with either custom versions of Opera that would expand to fill the entire screen, but for more cost-conscious consumers and for more generic Android tablets, Firefox could position itself as a more user-friendly and ultimately ubiquitous mobile browser.
    AndroidGold.com - Best Android Tablets and Phones
  • tabs

    One of my biggest gripes with my iPhone (4) and iPad is Safari's lack of tabs. Firefox isn't available for iP*'s and there are plenty of other browsers that perform the function but I'd much rather use FF or Safari.
    macewan