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Introducing Firefox 4 for Android and Maemo

With the arrival of the fourth major installment of Mozilla’s industry-leading web browser, it comes as no surprise that Firefox is finally going to be available on smartphones around the world. Launching on Google’s Android platform alongside Nokia’s proprietary offering, Maemo, Firefox 4 takes the power and customizable aspects of its desktop sibling and brings it to an intuitive mobile platform. Will it be able to compete with Google’s default browsing experience?

One of the main aspects of browsing the Internet that the vast majority of mobile browsers lack is easy personalization. Though many do have features such as bookmarks and tabbed browsing, Mozilla’s Firefox 4 seamlessly connects the desktop and mobile experience through the introduction of Sync, a technology that integrates all of your browsing information and moves it from platform-to-platform. Giving you the ability to access your history, passwords, bookmarks, and open tabs, Sync is the epitome of mobile browser efficiency.

Additionally, an intuitive user interface has been designed, resulting in the Awesome Screen. With the assumption that typing on mobile devices is difficult enough, Mozilla implemented an integrated search and URL bar that offers a smart list of shortcuts to your favorite sites and bookmarked pages. Multiple search engines appear when you start typing in the Awesome Bar that can be individually customized to your liking in the Add-ons Manager. For all of you who enjoy making cosmetic changes to your browsing experience, there are thousands of easy-to-install themes called Personas that can be added with a simple tap.

The mobile application also makes use of all of the functional necessities that we are accustomed to from other browsing experiences. Tiny content can be read with simple gestures such as pinch-to-zoom and double-tap. The mobile iteration of Firefox has tabbed browsing. You can  switch tabs by simply swiping to the right and managing your open pages. There is one touch bookmarking that adds productivity and a full-screen view that utilizes the screen real estate of your device.

An interesting gesture that has been enabled on the mobile version of Firefox is the long tap, which pulls up your social networks for easy sharing of various web elements, namely links and videos.

Boasting performance that is reportedly three times as fast as Google’s default Android browser, the mobile iteration of Firefox is built on the same browser engine as the desktop version. If your device-of-choice has a multiple-core processor, the browser utilizes hardware acceleration, where the graphical elements of JavaScript webpages can be rendered on a separate core for maximum efficiency.

Considering the fact that Mozilla has received significant developer support throughout the years, the non-profit organization is finally able to bring forth a similar mobile add-on catalog. Developers can now easily optimize applications for mobile use because the browser runs on open standards like HTML5, CSS, and JavaScript. There are also additional technologies, such as camera use, geolocation, and device orientation that can each contribute to successful web applications.

The application is also available for Maemo, the lesser-known open-source operating system developed by Nokia. The mobile software runs on a monolithic Linux kernel similar to that of Android, and thus is an easy port. However, with Nokia’s announcement of a mobile handset partnership with Microsoft, the operating system’s future is relatively uncertain.

What do you, Android users and iOS hopefuls alike, believe? Are you willing to switch from your system’s default offering to use Firefox? Sound off in the comments below.


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Jack McGrath

Rooted in his childhood obsession with dismantling and reassembling gizmos and gadgets around the house, Jack McGrath's knowledge of programming,...Rooted in his childhood obsession with dismantling and reassembling gizmos and gadgets around the house, Jack McGrath's knowledge of programming,...


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