Android smartphones now can run Firefox 4.0

Android smartphone users finally have a chance to run a mobile version of the Firefox browser. It's the first time the smartphone version has been released on a widely used mobile OS.

Mozilla, the non-profit group behind Firefox, says Firefox for Android (originally code-named Fennec) is three times faster, in page load times and performance of Web apps and games, than the Web browser that Google packages with the mobile OS. The speedup was the result of big improvements to components of the browser's JavaScript engine.

The UI is optimized for small touch-screens, so browser controls are hidden when not in use, for example. But the browser is based on the same technology foundation as its desktop cousin, including extensive support for HTML 5. So mobile users will have the same familiar tabbed browsing, bookmarks, and add-ons, along with Firefox Sync, which lets users work with browser features - such as bookmarks, data from forms and passwords - across different computers and devices.

But there's one missing feature: it doesn't yet support Adobe Flash.

Mozilla announced the Android release Tuesday. The mobile browser initially had been released for devices running Maemo, an open source, Linux-based mobile OS developed by Nokia. It's available on Android Market, and can be downloaded on Maemo devices.

The new browser joins a crowded field of well-regarded rivals, all jockeying for space on Android smartphones, including: Dolphin HD, Opera Mini, Skyfire and xScope

Some of the new features in the Android Firefox release include:

- Sharing website pages via on-board applications such as email, Facebook, Twitter and others

- Customize the user's search engine list

- End-to-end encryption via Firefox Sync when accessing browser history, bookmarks, and so on across different devices.

- Ability to choose from thousands of browser add-ons to customize the browser's look, or add new features

- Support for maturing Web standards - such as Cascading Style Sheets, Canvas and SVG - used by developers for advanced Web pages

- HTML5 support including location-aware browsing, orientation and accelerometer, and desktop notifications.

- JavaScript engine changes, including: adding the JagerMonkey just-in-time compiler, enhancing the existing TraceMonkey JIT compiler and the SpiderMonkey interpreter

John Cox covers wireless networking and mobile computing for Network World.

Twitter: http://twitter.com/johnwcoxnww

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This story, "Android smartphones now can run Firefox 4.0" was originally published by Network World.

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