All posts tagged ‘android’

File Under: Browsers, Mobile

Firefox for Android Is Growing Up Fast

Fennec Firefox MobileThe newest nightly builds of Firefox Mobile for Android phones are fast, stable, and — unlike the previously released alpha we told you about last month — actually usable.

Development on Firefox for Android is progressing rapidly, and there are a lot of small tweaks and changes to be found in the new nightly builds. But the big news is that everything actually works now. The browser’s performance is much improved, especially in responsiveness, scrolling and zooming.

You can download it here. But be sure to read the release notes, which cover the system requirements (Android 2.0 and up) and the known issues.

This little browser called Fennec (as the mobile version of Firefox is still known at this point in its life) first arrived on Android phones earlier this year. I took it for a spin when the alpha was released in August, and while I noted it had already come a long way in a short time, I was both perplexed and disappointed after a spending a couple of days with it.

I was left wanting because, having seen just about every iteration of Firefox over the years, and having had a wonderful experience testing the Maemo Linux release of Fennec on a Nokia smartphone, I was used to Mozilla shipping alpha versions that were fast, innovative and left you really pumped about the final product.

Not so with this little guy. The first alpha version of Firefox for Android was slow. Really slow. And buggy. Zooming and scrolling were choppy. The Wired home page would mysteriously reload every 20 seconds, and some sites wouldn’t load at all. I double-checked my Nexus One’s system settings, thinking something must be wrong. Since it was alpha code, I planned to revisit it later and measure the changes.

Then I saw this tweet by Mozilla’s Mike Beltzner Friday morning, and I decided it was time.

This most recent nightly build of Firefox for Android fixes most of the performance issues. still doesn’t fare too well (probably our fault), but surfing the rest of the web is much more pleasant in the new Fennec. Scrolling and the pinch-zoom gesture are about as fast as Android’s stock WebKit browser. Page rendering is a touch slower in Fennec than in the Android browser, but we can expect that to improve.
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File Under: HTML5, Mobile

Video: Watch Flash Hand HTML5 a Beating on Mobiles

We’re not trying to throw gasoline on the fire or anything, but here’s an interesting video of Flash and HTML5 duking it out on two different mobile devices.

Developer Chris Black shows us two versions of the same animation, one done in Canvas and JavaScript and one done in Flash. He first runs it on a brand new iPod Touch (HTML5) and then on an Android Nexus One (HTML5 and Flash). The framerate is much higher and steady on the Flash version — 57 frames per second versus 40fps in Canvas on the Nexus One and 22fps on the iPod.

A few huge caveats here: The animation is very simple, and is hardly on par with most web animations. Also, the JavaScript code is not optimized as much as it could be, which may be hurting the framerate numbers in the HTML5 portion of the test. Lastly, it’s only an experiment. The HTML5 test measures the rendering speed of the mobile browsers being used, so it can’t be taken as a true head-to-head Flash/HTML5 benchmark. Read the comments on Black’s post and you’ll see people reporting different results across different Android devices. To that point, he uses an iPod Touch, roughly the same as an iPhone and not as fast as an iPad (none of which can play Flash content).

So what’s the purpose, then? Black says he’s trying to take the temperature of the different choices to decide where it makes the most sense for him to focus his efforts as a developer. Here’s his rationale, in the comments of his post:

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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.

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File Under: HTML5, Mobile, Web Apps

How Do Native Apps and Web Apps Compare?

Two roads diverge on a tablet screen. One is the path to the native app, the other leads to the open web.

Luckily, you can take both. The latest mobile devices ship with a thoroughly modern browser capable of handling emerging web standards. Beneath that is a modern operating system with access to the magic inside the hardware: the camera, GPS, gyroscope and compass. But if you had to pick one — native app or web app — which would you choose? Your decision will make all the difference in how you approach your design, development and distribution.

The Issues Native Apps Web Apps
Internet access Not required Required, except for rare apps with offline capability
Installation/updates Must be deployed or downloaded Hit refresh
User interface Native apps are responsive and functional Browsers can be clunky, but new advancements in JavaScript like jQuery Mobile are catching up fast
Device compatibility Platform-dependent, hardware-dependent Platform-agnostic, content can be reformatted with CSS to suit any device
Animation/Graphics Fast and responsive Web apps are getting closer, but will probably always lag
Streaming media Few problems with audio and video. Flash works, but only if the device supports it Flash works where supported. Browser-based audio and video are getting there, but still beset by compatibility headaches. Give it a year or two
Fonts Tight control over typefaces, layout Almost on par, thanks to advancements in web standards. Give it six months
Is my content searchable? Not on the web By default
Sharable/Tweetable? Only if you build it in Web links are shared freely. Social APIs and widgets allow easy one-click posting
Discussion and collaboration Only if you build it, and it’s more difficult if data is disparate Discussion is easy, all data is stored on a server
Access to hardware sensors Yes, all of them: camera, gyroscope, microphone, compass, accelerometer, GPS Access through the browser is limited, though geolocation is common
Development Specific tools required for some platforms (like Apple’s). You have to build a new app for each target platform Write once, publish once, view it anywhere. Multiple tools and libraries to choose from
Can I sell it? Charge whatever you want. Most app distributors take a slice, up to 30% Advertising is tolerated, subscriptions and paywalls less so. No distribution costs beyond server fees
Distribution Most app stores require approval. And you gotta wait No such hassle
Outside access to your content No, the reader must download your app Yep, just click a link
Advertising Control over design (though limited in iAds) and rate More choices for design, plus access to web analytics. Rates vary widely

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File Under: JavaScript, Mobile

iPhone ‘Pull To Refresh’ in JavaScript

When it first arrived in iPhone apps, the simple “pull to refresh” action was instantly hailed as a genius bit of user interaction engineering.

It’s an ultra-intuitive way of refreshing the displayed page content by simply pulling the page down with your thumb, then releasing it — sort of like pulling a lever on a slot machine. The official Foursquare and Twitter (nee Tweetie) apps use it, so if you’re into social networking, you’re already familiar. But so far, its use has been limited to native apps.

Now developer Wayne Pan has created the same behavior in JavaScript for use in web apps. It’s just a proof of concept implementation at this time, and he’s found some of the limitations.

Point your mobile browser at to test it. It’s a little jerky, but it does work. And his code doesn’t rely on any JavaScript libraries, so with a little tweaking, this behavior can be integrated into any web app and will work on Android and iOS devices. Nice work!

[Hat tip to Dion]

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