File Under: Browsers, Mobile

Firefox Mobile Alpha Lands on Android

The first official pre-release version of Mozilla’s mobile Firefox browser for Android devices has arrived, the company announced Friday.

Curious users with phones running Android 2.0 and above, or with Nokia N900 devices, can download and install it right now.

Codenamed Fennec, Firefox mobile is based on the same code as the big daddy desktop version of Firefox. It supports the same web standards and it even accepts add-ons. It also syncs up with your other versions of Firefox, so your history, Awesomebar searches, auto-fill form data and passwords will be the same as you move from desktop to mobile and back again throughout your day.

One of the strokes of genius design in the Fennec browser is the unique side-to-side swipe action, which brings up menus for things like tabs, bookmarks and settings. It minimizes the browser chrome and leaves more screen real estate for web pages. This new version has the sync features as well as pinch-to-zoom browsing.

We’ve seen pre-release versions of Fennec running on Android in the past, but they were patchy and bare bones. This is a real-deal alpha release. It may not be entirely stable yet, but it’s come a long way since its meager beginnings.

In a blog post, Mozilla tells us about some of the secret sauce in this release:

The main focus of this release is to increase performance and responsiveness to user actions. This is being implemented using two major technologies, “Electrolysis” and “Layers.” This Alpha release includes Electrolysis, which allows the browser interface to run in a separate process from the one rendering Web content. By doing this, Fennec is able to react much faster to user input while pages are loading or CPU intensive JavaScript is running. The upcoming beta release will start taking advantage of Layers to greatly improve performance in graphic intensive actions like scrolling, zooming, animations and video. We’re also working to optimize these actions using the hardware-accelerated graphics rendering capabilities showing up in today’s mobile devices.

And here’s a video demo:

Last year, I took an in-depth look at Fennec for Maemo (mobile Linux) on the Nokia N900. It’s pretty sweet.

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