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Firefox Arrives On Android 164

Barence writes "Mozilla has launched a 'pre-alpha' version of Firefox for Android smartphones. The mobile version of Firefox, codenamed Fennec, has until now been restricted to Maemo Linux handsets. But following a surge in developer effort, Mozilla has unveiled a build for handsets running Android 2.0 or above. Mozilla is making no guarantees about the browser's stability. 'It will likely not eat your phone, but bugs might cause your phone to stop responding, requiring a reboot,' writes Mozilla developer Vladimir Vukicevic on his blog. 'Memory usage of this build isn't great — in many ways it's a debug build, and we haven't really done a lot of optimization yet. This could cause some problems with large pages, especially on low memory devices like the Droid.'"
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Firefox Arrives On Android

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  • How can you have a pre-alpha release? I've always heard Alpha as a "feature preview", where it's not complete and there may be major bugs. Beta was when it was feature complete, but probably contains major bugs. And then Release candidates are for finding major and minor bugs, but should be production ready if none are found... Unless there's another definition I'm not aware of, how can you have pre-alpha code?
    • by QuantumG ( 50515 ) * <qg@biodome.org> on Wednesday April 28, 2010 @09:00AM (#32013018) Homepage Journal

      If you report bugs on alpha code the developers will thank you. If you report bugs on pre-alpha code, the developers will collectively roll their eyes and suggest that maybe you should wait a month or two before installing another pre-alpha.

      Oh wait, firefox, yeah.. I guess it's always pre-alpha ;)

    • If you have to ask, it's not for you [penny-arcade.com].
    • by jez9999 ( 618189 )

      Pre-alpha is where they release it before they have even started writing it.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by arndawg ( 1468629 )
      Pre-alpha is just PR talk. Just like how game-developers claim their new screenshots is pre-alpha build. "Oh. it doesn't look so good now. but it's just pre-alpha. We promise, in 3 months when it's released it will be AWESOME". (ref. bungie halo series)
    • When I'm working on a project and want to show something, I call it a P.C. (Proof of Concept) release (as opposed to pre-alpha) and offer no support or documentation. There are stages of development that occur before alpha.....

      After a project is requested, my first stage is brainstorming and usually involves several colors of dry-erase markers and a white board. This stage of development is unlikely to crash your smart phone.....but could be called pre-alpha.

  • by Kludge ( 13653 ) on Wednesday April 28, 2010 @09:05AM (#32013074)

    I like Firefox mobile on my n900. It works pretty well, gives me features not available in the default browser. I have not had memory leak problems with it. However, it does get sluggish if you turn on flash and visit pages with a bunch of flash ads. I should put adblock on it...

    • by rdnetto ( 955205 )

      I tried it, thought it was a little slow. How many slashdot pages/windows/tabs can you have running before the browsing becomes sluggish?

    • Possibly.
      Opera Mini for Android is a mistake. It being fast is about the only redeeming feature.
      Zero system integration. Change screen orientation and the page needs to reload.
      You can't set it as a browser of choice for other apps like barcode scanner or local search.

      It loads goddamned ages and takes way too much RAM. You could say it should be no problem because it loads once? Well, nope. No system integration = no clipboard. So you have to switch to the GPS app, memorize one coordinate, switch to Opera, t

      • Yeah, I'm not sure why Mini was released for Android. I want Opera Mobile. It was vastly superior than any other available browser on my Windows Mobile phone, and I loved it then. Not that I really miss it on my Droid since the built in browser is nice, but I think Opera Mobile will be nicer if they release it.
  • by Zeussy ( 868062 ) on Wednesday April 28, 2010 @09:24AM (#32013290) Homepage
    But I made the fatal mistake of putting it into landscape to get a better keyboard, and it brought my phone (Desire) to a crawl. I assume it was trying to rebuild the page layout, something bad happened and displayed a black page.

    It Shows promise, it is not usable (obviously) but the UI design seems better than the inbuilt browser. With tabs off screen to the left, and navigation buttons off screen to the right.

    Would of been nice to see pinch zoom working, and I am assume that it will (or a custom build that will).
    From what I have seen, when it heads into a more stable phase, I would probably swap right away.
  • Android momentum... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Fnkmaster ( 89084 ) on Wednesday April 28, 2010 @09:39AM (#32013504)

    I can smell the momentum in the air with Android. I was one of the first people (suckers/early adopters) to buy a G1 handset from T-Mobile. At the time I had a 2G iPhone. Used the G1 for a week, went back to my unlocked, jailbroken iPhone because it had a bunch of great apps that worked well, better form factor, better touchscreen, and much more usable.

    Fast forward 16 months, during which time the G1 has sat there and gathered dust. I've finally gotten fed up with my 3G iPhone, the closed ecosystem, the limited email application which is the dealbreaker for me (lack of IMAP IDLE still - msgpush.com is not an option for me, and switching email services to support the technologies Steve Jobs approves of is ridiculous). The other day I decided to blow the dust off my G1, update to the latest software (which on a G1 means running CyanogenMod since the official updates are still stuck at Android 1.6 for G1s, and CyanogenMod is a 1.6/2.0 hybrid - and despite rumors to the contrary, CyanogenMod is rock-solid stable on the G1) and see how much things have improved over the last 18 months.

    The openness of the Android platform is what really is blowing me away. Running CyanogenMod, installing themes, downloading up-to-the-minute app releases and bug fixes from open source projects and vendors without having to go through Market is absolutely liberating after 2 and change years of iPhone usage, and having to clamor for every feature addition and update. On Android, if you want a new feature, you can usually find it or you can add it yourself - K9mail is the best living example of this itch-scratching driving innovation.

    Anyway, more specifically on the topic - I don't know if Fennec/Mobile Firefox will be a winner or not in the short run. Most likely it will take a while to get there - remember how long Mozilla took to get to a usable desktop browser? But ultimately, more browser competition on Android will be a very good thing, and AdBlock would be sweet. The fact that we have these choices on Android drives innovation and competition, and is the reason that the platform is currently improving faster than the iPhone platform. And makes it a much more fun place to be as a geek than iPhone-land right now.

    • by D Ninja ( 825055 ) on Wednesday April 28, 2010 @10:04AM (#32013890)

      I absolutely agree with you regarding the momentum of Android. I know the iPhone still has a significant part of the market share, but, I was at a conference this weekend in which I saw a large portion of the crowd using Android phones. Much of that crowd was made up of college students and young professionals, many who were very technically competent. I know that people who have been asking me which smartphone to get have been getting recommendations to go with the Android platform. I can only assume that other tech-savvy folks are making the same recommendation to their friends and family.

      • by mjwx ( 966435 )

        Much of that crowd was made up of college students and young professionals, many who were very technically competent

        This is how Google and the OHA planned for Android to become accepted and why ultimately Android will win. They deliberately targeted the geeks, if a mundane is to come to a person for technology advice chances are that person will be a geek, as a sociable geek (I'm sociable for a geek) I get asked for advice all the time. The last time this happened a girl commented that the three smartest

        • by hkmwbz ( 531650 )
          So how did the iPhone come to be the dominant smartphone if it didn't target the geeks, which you claim is THE group to target?

          Also, even better than having to ask a geek for help with your phone is to have a phone that just works.

          • by mjwx ( 966435 )

            So how did the iPhone come to be the dominant smartphone

            When did that happen.

            RIM are still in the lead, as are Nokia in most of the world. 4% of sales does not make one dominant. Don't ever mistake marketing noise for actual dominance. Iphones are practically non-existent in Asia, which is the largest mobile phone market and considerably less popular in Europe (then the US) which has some of the most advanced mobile networks.

            The answers you seek are in my post above you, you simply did not want to r

            • by hkmwbz ( 531650 )

              4% of sales does not make one dominant.

              Total sales. I was referring to the smartphone market.

    • The openness of the Android platform is what really is blowing me away.

      Out of curiosity, are there any Android devs here who can comment on how easy/convenient the platform is to develop for?

      App store shenanigans aside, the iPhone seems to be a rather nice platform to write software on. How does Android compare? Is the documentation good? Can most apps be written without a maze of external libraries?

      (Genuine question here -- I don't own either, and have only developed for BlackBerry (ick))

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Big Boss ( 7354 )

        I've written code on Android. It's based on Java, and includes most of the standard Java SDK library classes. If you've written Java, or even C++, you should be fine. You can add external libraries if you like, but most apps probably won't need to. I really like the Eclipse integration they did, you can even do interactive debugging on the code while it's running on your phone. There is also a nice emulator you can use if you wish to test other versions of the OS and such. Overall, I find it quite easy to g

      • by JanneM ( 7445 )

        I'm just starting out with Android development, but I find it quite easy to get into. All the tools, emulator and everything is freely downloadable and fairly easy to set up. The online documentation is pretty good too - there's some hands-on tutorials that really help you get up to speed.

        The programming model is a little different, but fairly easy to understand. Any one view - one screen, pretty much - is a more or less self-contained task. Your application consists of one or more such views - your own or

      • The framework is extremely well thought out, and allows your app complete integration with the rest of the operating system. It has a very good way of handling resources for various screen sizes, dpi's, i18n, etc. It has excellent distinctions between "Activities" and "Services," to use their nomenclature. Basically, an Activity is the UI aspect of something, whereas a Service is the implementation of particular functionality. You could write your own Activity to an existing service, for example, the mu
    • by anethema ( 99553 )
      I am actually using a Nexus One for now. Not saying I wont get the new iPhone when it comes out, but I had the G1 for a while. This N1 rocks, but the G1 is so dog slow, even with the 1.6/2 CM rom etc and overclocking.

      The UI is like a slideshow in comparison to the iPhone. After using that phone for a while, I had to ebay it and go back to iPhone.

      That was my first foray into Android land, but this Nexus One is my second and the hardware is -really- nice. The UI still isn't programmed as well as far as physic
      • Well, I still find page rendering quite slow on the G1 relative to an iPhone 3G (i.e. under wifi so it's not a network speed issue), but the UI I find totally fine under CyanogenMod. With a complex page like Slashdot (in old mode, the new web2.0-style Slashdot pages just don't work for shit), it takes something like two to three times as long to render. That's annoying - in fact, EDGE browsing on my iPhone 3G is generally faster than 3G browsing on the G1 which is just stupid.

        One note - you have to use th

    • I'm running CyanogenMod as well on my HTC Dream (G1) and between K9Mail and Handcent SMS for my messaging needs and using Dolphin as my browser (which supports multi-touch), I'm very happy with my device.

  • How does this technology work? Since the android gui is written in a java dialect, and firefox is written in C/C++, how does a C++ program run on a java VM? As one big native plugin?

    anyway,having a runnin POC might attact other developers, that cannot be bad for fennec.

    • Maybe certain libraries were ported over using the NDK or just ported to java, but I doubt any porting of the front end was done. It was probably just a new browser written for android with Mozilla vision, not a port of the desktop version.
    • Android uses DalvikVM, which is a vm designed for mobile devices. It's not as advanced nor as fast as Sun's JVM, it doesn't use JIT yet and the JIT implementation it has is very new.

      Firefox will be a native port. Chrome Jr. that comes with Android is similar, it's webkit, which is also a native library.

    • Android has a C API [android.com]. I imagine they ported Gecko via that, and then implemented XUL using Android UI components.

  • Just tried it (Score:2, Interesting)

    by bloosh ( 649755 )

    I just installed it on my rooted, custom ROMmed and overclocked Motorola Droid.... and it worked! I played with it for about 10 minutes. It didn't crash my phone, reboot my phone or damage my phone in any way.

    It's absolutely alpha quality software at this point, so don't expect much from it. But it has lots of potential and I'm absolutely confident this will turn into a great browser on Android.

  • "Mozilla has unveiled a build for handsets running Android 2.0 or above."

    So I can wait around for TMO to declare that 2.0+ will NOT be released for my G1. I'll have to root it.

    Ok, one more reason.

    And for you who ask 'why would I rerplace Webkit with this?', I offer you some reasons:

    1. Rather than usae Steel, Firefox might let you set the user agent to 'Desktop' or equivalent, allowing you to get your regular fully-featured version of iGoogle instead of the neutered, 'mobile' version. Google has decided, in

  • The mobile version of Firefox, codenamed Fennec, has until now been restricted to Maemo Linux handsets

    O [mozilla.org] RLY? [ubuntu.com] Perhaps submitters should check to see if they know WTF they are talking about before they add flowery language to their story submissions. Wouldn't hurt if editors checked their veracity (AHAHAHAHHAHAHAHHA)

  • He says the browser might require me to reboot my phone. Isn't this a sign of a flawed operating system? An application shouldn't cause the entire phone to freeze.

    I was experiencing random glitches on my Motorola Droid. Verizon told me to do a factory reset because sometimes apps make the phone do strange things, hampering the phone's functionality. Shouldn't a proper OS keep apps from messing up the whole phone, no matter how crappy the app is?

  • At one point I had three browsers on my N900:

    1. MicroB, the stock Mozilla-based browser.
    2. Fennec (RC version IIRC)
    3. Iceweasel (Firefox), run via a chrooted Debian install

    In short, Fennec had the poor performance. clumsiness and nonexistent system integration of Iceweasel (as run on the N900) with the reduced functionality of MicroB, so I uninstalled it. Now I use MicroB most of the time, and Firefox if I want to spoof user agents, visit iffy sites that could benefit from NoScript, or do anything else more

  • It's not Firefox and it hasn't really arrived because it's not even alpha (!?) and it only runs on 10% of Android phones. But other than that, the headline is exactly right.

  • In over a year of having Android phones I've never once needed to hard reset Android. It's an incredibly stable OS, even with the crappiest crashing apps on an aftermarket ROMs I've never made it lock up. So if they've managed to freeze Android that's quite an achievement.
    • by mjwx ( 966435 )

      In over a year of having Android phones I've never once needed to hard reset Android. It's an incredibly stable OS, even with the crappiest crashing apps on an aftermarket ROMs I've never made it lock up.

      Same here, I ran CyanogenMod on my HTC Dream and whilst it did force close occasionally it always managed to restart by itself. I haven't had any such issues using the default HTC ROM or the standard ROM on my Milestone.

      Android is designed so that a crappy application cant bring down the entire system,

God made the integers; all else is the work of Man. -- Kronecker