Mozilla Updates Firefox for Android App
June 27, 2012

Mozilla Updates Firefox For Android App

Enid Burns for

With the limited real estate on the screen of a cell phone, it's important to make each feature count. Mozilla just released a new version of its Firefox browser specifically for the Android market. The new browser has new tabs, add-ons and sync with a user's desktop and other devices.

The new version of the Firefox for Android has been available for several months in beta, but version 14 was just officially released, and is a stable version of what's been tested in beta up until now.

Early versions of the Firefox browser on Android were just a means to get to a web site. In its new edition, version 14, Firefox is tweaked to provide better performance and responsiveness than before to user queries.

Better performance comes from a full revamp of the Firefox browser for Android. The developers moved away from the XUL framework, which it uses for the web version of the browser. The new browser has faster page loading times, as well as quick panning and zooming around web pages.

A new version of Firefox for Android became necessary when Mozilla realized the previous version wasn't keeping pace with other browsers in the mobile market. CNET reports that the company began a complete revamp of its browser app just six months after the original's major release in March 2011. "In the fall of last year, we realized [the original Firefox for Android] was not good enough, not performing the way we wanted it to," Johnathan Nightingale, Mozilla's director of Firefox engineering, told CNET over the phone. "So we made the call in October to rewrite it."

The rewrite included an entirely new native UI, which starts up instantly. The old app had a lag at start-up, which continued as users called up pages.

Mozilla promises its Firefox for Android is faster than the stock browser that is resident on all Android phones out of the box. The organization measures the Android browser with industry-wide benchmarks such as Sunspider. Mozilla also developed its own benchmark called Eideticker to measure the browser's performance. In a canvas rendering performance test using the company's own Eideticker on a Samsung Galaxy Nexus on Android 4.0.4, the new Firefox for Android rendered 39.3 frames per second, compared to 13.2 FPS for the previous Firefox for Android; 12.6 FPS on the Opera browser; 19.6 FPS for Google Chrome; and 12 FPS on the default Android browser.

In the meantime, while Mozilla was busy building its new version of Firefox for Android, Google upgraded its Android operating system to Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. Flash support is actually different in all the flavors of Android from 2.2 Froyo to 2.3 Gingerbread and Android 2.0, as well as Android 3.0 Honeycomb. The new Firefox for Android works across all Android operating systems, but programming had to address the various versions of Android.

Firefox 14, the new version for Android, includes Flash support, as well as tap-to-play for plug-ins. As with the web version, Mozilla encourages the developer community to build plug-ins and add-ons for its mobile browser so users can customize the experience.

Firefox for Android is available for download on Google Play, as well as from Mozilla directly.