Mozilla recently released a major update for its open source web browser for Android devices, Firefox for Android. Other than being faster than its predecessors, it also features a ground-up redesign that uses native Android user interface widgets and controls. In addition, the new mobile web browser looks different than its desktop kin.
As Scott Gilbertson posted on Webmonkey:
Not only was Firefox 14 faster than previous releases, it was faster than most of the rest of the browsers installed on our Galaxy Nexus running on Android 4 Ice Cream Sandwich.
However, Gilbertson also noted that the new Firefox for Android will run on pre-ICS phone. That’s because its previous versions are running on XUL-based interface, which makes the software lag at basic tasks such as scrolling, zooming and panning. Because of this, Mozilla decided to ditch it and switch to the native Android UI.
Fast and Robust Mobile Web Browser
Mozilla also stepped up its efforts to optimize performance, which has also been their focus for some time for the Firefox desktop version. And their work has paid off; as the web browser starts up almost instantly and stays snappy even a lot of tabs are open. It also features smooth scrolling when swiping down very long pages.
In addition, there also desktop features that are available on the latest Firefox for Android. However, there are some slight differences. The desktop’s Awesome Bar for instance has become the Awesome Screen on mobile devices. Firefox Sync is still part of the new mobile web browser, which automatically brings the entire browsing history, bookmarks, passwords and form data from desktop to Android phones. It also supports Adobe Flash plugin.
The available add-ons are another difference that Firefox for Android has. Since Mozilla already ditched the XUL UI, it means that any desktop add-ons are not available for the mobile browser. But since it is no longer in beta, users can expect that more developers will be creating add-ons for the new platform.
Firefox for Android vs. Chrome for Android
Because of the new Firefox for Android, one question suddenly surfaced: Will it trump Google Chrome for Android? Gilbertson answered that it depends.
Both are fast—pretty close to identical in my testing—and both have excellent support for the latest web standards. In the end, sync becomes the killer feature. If you use Chrome for desktop, stick with Chrome for Android. If you use Firefox on the desktop, the good news is that Firefox for Android will no longer leave you wanting.
For those who want to give the latest Firefox for Android, it is now available on Google Play marketplace for download.