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Firefox Android Cellphones

New Firefox For Android Beta Released 107

Posted by Soulskill
from the foxy-android dept.
Mozilla has announced the availability of a new beta version of Firefox for Android. The release notes list many of the new features and fixes, which include Flash support, improvements to panning and zooming, plugins loading only on touch, and a new "Awesome Screen." They point out that many Android phones are supported, and that a beta version for tablets will be coming soon. Mozilla is asking for help "testing everything from the faster startup and response times to compatibility for specific websites and graphics performance." Here's the download page.
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New Firefox For Android Beta Released

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  • With all that was held back when the N900 still was supported, it's a shame that it's left out of the fixes.

    • by OliWarner (1529079) on Tuesday May 15, 2012 @05:23PM (#40010965) Homepage

      As much as I hate to say it (as a N900 pre-orderer), the N900 is dead. The community is split between fourteen different forks and forks of forks and most of its users seem to have moved on to more popular devices (Android and iOS - I doubt too many bought another Nokia/WP7 after what Nokia did with the N900).

      Anyway all these together make for a rather unwelcoming development platform. You can't blame people for dropping it.

      • I've bought mine twice over since there isn't a good enough replacement (the N950 came close aside from not being retail available).

        Let me know when an Android-based phone has:

        * Root-out of the box
        * Hardware QWERTY
        * Removable SD storage
        * Large internal storage
        * Works with T-Mobile 3G/4G bands (if not just the latter)
        * FM+RDS Transmitter
        * USB Host
        * Onboard Wifi that can be repurposed for carrier-hostile tether
        * Debian-based userland
        * Relatively curve-free body (unlike most everything HTC).

        In short, a phone p

        • I'm typing this on a Droid 3 and it meets many of those requirements. It is most notably lacking out-of-the-box root, but I fixed that soon after getting the phone. I am still rather pissed that the bootloader is locked, so even when I change the ROM I can't change the kernel. And, with it rooted, wifi tethering is open to me if I wish. The body is also fairly rectangular. Except for the rounded corners, it's quite straight.

          It would be nice to have Debian beneath Android, though.

          • by pnutjam (523990)
            The droid bionic also fits the majority of your requested features. Lapdock seems pretty awesome too.
        • by evilviper (135110) on Tuesday May 15, 2012 @06:23PM (#40011503) Journal

          * Root-out of the box
          * Hardware QWERTY
          * Removable SD storage
          * Large internal storage
          * Works with T-Mobile 3G/4G bands (if not just the latter)
          * FM+RDS Transmitter
          * USB Host
          * Onboard Wifi that can be repurposed for carrier-hostile tether
          * Debian-based userland
          * Relatively curve-free body (unlike most everything HTC).

          Devices aren't rooted out-of-the-box, but it's trivial to root any Android device. USB cable to the PC (Linux/Windows/Mac) and run a shell script to invoke ADB and transfer the SU APK. Really, really simple.

          Hardware QWERTY is very easy to come by with Android.

          Just about all new Android phones have removable microSD.

          Size of internal storage varies from phone to phone. If you're willing to spend good money, you can get at least 64GB. Personally, I'm perfectly happy with very limited internal storage, and relying on said swappable microSD cards.

          I'm sure you can find plenty that'll work on T-Mobile's network. Personally I'd strongly recomend looking at Sprint first, though...

          FM Transmitter seems like a ridiculously silly requirement to me, (long-live bluetooth) but I imagine you can find an Android phone that has it.

          Any high-end Android phone will support acting as a USB Host... And if it doesn't, you just need to root it and install the appropriate app.

          Once you've rooted the phone, you can install a plethora of Wifi Tethering apps. There's at least one that claims to work without root, but I can't vouch for it... YMMV.

          Lots of people install a Debian userland on their Androids... It only gets ugly if you want to run X11 apps (NX Client, for me), and I'm hopeful that the new X server will get up to snuff soon.
           

          • by CastrTroy (595695)
            I actually thought tethering was built in on all Android phones. I have an LG Optimus G2x that I upgraded to the TMobile firmware, because they never released a 2.3 upgrade for my carrier (Wind Mobile), and both the original firmware and the T-Mobile gingerbread firmware supported tethering without any fuss.
            • by Calos (2281322)

              Up to the carrier. Some disable or hide the feature.

            • I actually thought tethering was built in on all Android phones.

              I don't know how this works for USians, but if you're a Telstra customer, your telco specifically states in their TOS that they have no problem with tethering.

              However, my last Android phone (Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 Mini Pro) was a POS with locked-down firmware that neither the manufacturer nor telco had any intention of upgrading, so I was stuck with no tethering for a while. But, my new Samsung Galaxy Nexus (Android version 4.x) has native tethering that works well, and (Yippee!!) Telstra hasn't felt t

          • by Calos (2281322)

            It's only trivial to root if the manufacturer makes it easy to unlock or an exploit is found.

            Fortunately, the winds are swaying towards manufacturer support. HTC makes it easy now. I think most Samsung devices are fairly straightforward. Last I saw, Motorola made it a PITA (should change once Google takes over). Even still, it takes more work for these devices. HTC for example, you need to make an account on their developer page, get some info off of your device and submit it, get a key from them, take the

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Best. Feature. Ever.

    • by MachDelta (704883) on Tuesday May 15, 2012 @05:44PM (#40011143)

      If your Android is rooted, try AdFree. It's a blacklist for your hosts file to block ad servers from almost any app, not just the browser.

      • by Calos (2281322)

        Better yet, some work is going on for an Android port of Privoxy. Much better control and more robust than IP-based blocking.

      • AdFree is effective and simple, and I would recommend it for pretty much anyone, but for more aggressive control I like DroidWall. It's a front end for iptables, and grants network access on a UID basis. Since each app is given a UID, this effectively means it works on a per-app basis, and it lists app names in the interface.

        Fair warning: While whitelisting is a superior strategy to blacklisting, it can bite you by blocking core functionality like updates, and it's not always clear what needs to be unblo

    • by markdavis (642305)

      Yes it is the best feature ever. And the ONLY browser that supports it is Android Firefox. No surprise that there is no support for it in the stock browser. But mysteriously- no support in Dolphin, Chrome, or Opera Android browsers.

      Unfortunately, it appears there is no listed AdBlock Plus addon for this new Firefox beta (yet). It could be that it just hasn't passed compatibility yet.

  • Why? (Score:1, Troll)

    by Threni (635302)

    They've come to the party extremely late, with a slow bloated competitor for the pretty good stock browser and the excellent Dolphin HD. It would be nice if Firefox for Android supported all the desktop add-ons but no. So..why would I install it over Dolphin?

    • by sethstorm (512897)

      It would be nice if Firefox for Android supported all the desktop add-ons

      That would heavily depend on the addons being architecture independent.

    • by markdavis (642305)

      Mobile Firefox DOES support most of the desktop add-ons. Apparently not in the beta version yet. I think it just is too new for many to have been tested against it yet, and it might also be because this beta doesn't use the standard Firefox UI... just not sure.

      If it doesn't support AdBlock, then you are right, there is not much reason to use it over something like Dophin, which apparently will never have such support.

      • by kbrosnan (880121)
        No it does not. Addons need to be re-written for mobile. Jetpack/Addon SDK make this process simpler but it still takes some work.
    • by Dynamoo (527749)
      I'm not even going to bother looking at this new version, every time I've tried FF on Android before it has been so slow and unreliable as to be unusable. I really can't see how it is salvageable. If you want something better than the stock browser, the Opera is pretty nice.
  • by shutdown -p now (807394) on Tuesday May 15, 2012 @05:25PM (#40010993) Journal

    They release new Android betas pretty often - there have been half a dozen last year [mozilla.org], for example. What makes this version so special that it warrants a /. front page story?

    • by markdavis (642305) on Tuesday May 15, 2012 @05:34PM (#40011047)

      >"What makes this version so special that it warrants a /. front page story?"

      Because it is the first Firefox for Android that uses the Android user interface, instead of a totally foreign one. It is a pretty big milestone.

      If they can improve the speed to match (or at least approach) the native Android browser AND support Adblock, I will absolutely use it for 100% of my mobile phone and tablet browsing, like I already do for all my desktops.

      • by PCM2 (4486)

        I benchmarked Firefox versus the stock browser on my Android 2.2 phone about six months ago and Firefox's JavaScript performance was already faster, in addition to doing much better on HTML5/CSS compatibility tests. The stock browser on an Android 3.1 tablet was faster than the same version of Firefox on the same hardware, though. Clearly Google has been steadily improving the Android browser; unfortunately, you have to upgrade the entire OS to get the new browser code, so owners of older handsets are stuck

    • by kwalker (1383)

      This one's available in the Market (Screw you "Play Store"). It means it's an actual Beta, no side-loading required.

      https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=org.mozilla.firefox [google.com]

      • Previous betas have been available in the Market, too. I've had mine for several months, and kept seeing regular update prompts (and installing those updates), hence why I was wondering what's so special about it this time.

        Other posters have clarified that - new UI and Flash support are notable enough, I guess.

        • by kbrosnan (880121)
          For phone users there is a completely rewritten Java based UI. This results in a much faster startup time and we have Flash support. Two of the largest complaints in the market feedback.
      • by PCM2 (4486)

        I think you meant this one. [google.com]

    • by evilviper (135110) on Tuesday May 15, 2012 @06:04PM (#40011331) Journal

      Firefox on android has always been a dog slow, steaming pile of crap. I just downloaded the Beta, and it seems this new version FINALLY isn't... It starts up pretty quick (the old one takes forever) have gotten rid of the nightmare UI elements like scrolling off the left & right sides of the web page to see controls and tabs.

      Plus, Flash support is a big deal, that it should have had from the start.

      I've kept Firefox around as a last resort, because web pages that won't work on any other Android browser, even with the user agent switched to desktop, usually DO work with Firefox, but otherwise, refuse to use it. The latest beta sure cranks down the pain level by leaps and bounds. Unfortunately, almost no ad-ons work for it right now, so I can't test much, and it looks like It's still a long way from something I'd use as my primary mobile browser, but it seems to be a hell of an improvement.

      • by CFD339 (795926)

        Agree completely. I've installed it and found it unworkable.

      • I have a Telstra T Tab tablet and I upgraded it to Android 2.2.2 and installed the flash plugin that was available and it works perfectly with the Dolphin HD browser. I am not sure if other Android devices have this available, but the Telstra tablet has flash support. If only I could get a keyboard to attach to it, then it could be a little laptop.

      • by JanneM (7445)

        On my older 2.2-based phone, Firefox was completely unuseable. Really - clicking something would take more than a second to respond in some cases.

        Same version of the browser on my new Android 4-based phone and it's a joy. It flies. Lately I've used the Aurora nightlies as my default browser for some time to try the new interface and it's really, really good. I abandoned Dolphin completely for Firefox once the new UI appeared. I basically only miss text reflow when zooming; other than that it is already ever

    • This is the Android native version. The old beta was the XUL version.
      It is very different from the last beta in almost all regards.

      XUL:

      - XUL UI
      - Electrolysis (one process per tab and uses a lot of memory)
      - Supports all XUL addons
      - No flash
      - Native as in NDK

      Android Native:

      - Android UI
      - Asynchronous UI and renderer (gecko), much reduced memory footprint with many tabs
      - Flash
      - Native as in Android UI native, Gecko is still using the NDK.
      - Needs specific addons.

  • by markdavis (642305) on Tuesday May 15, 2012 @05:31PM (#40011035)

    Ug- unlike the non-beta, this one has no Adblock Plus support (yet). That is the major reason for Android Firefoxt (well, that, and no Google-overlord spying as with the stock and Chrome Android browsers). Hopefully this will come soon.

    Also looks like no tablet support for it yet.

    Also still looks like you have to install an Addon to get it to switch to non-mobile presentation mode. That is annoying and should be built-in.

    • Re:No Adblock :( (Score:4, Informative)

      by Calos (2281322) on Tuesday May 15, 2012 @08:40PM (#40012429)

      (well, that, and no Google-overlord spying as with the stock and Chrome Android browsers)

      Out of curiosity, has anyone seen any evidence to back this up, or is it just speculation?

      Not saying I don't understand the cause for concern, but, given the number of people suspicious of anything Google, you'd think someone would have some evidence were it a problem.

      • by markdavis (642305)

        I have seen several reports about tracking with Google browser. And it has face validity (that is how Google does it's thing- for good or bad). Unfortunately, I don't have any such links nor remember any specifics; a result of constant information overload. Hopefully someone else has the info they can share.

        • by Calos (2281322)

          Well... I try to keep fairly abreast of such things, and have seen nothing about it, save for some initial concerns about Chrome on the desktop. Google pretty quickly addressed those.

          I've seen nothing suspicious show up in my Privoxy logs (when on my WiFi, my phone proxies through my main rig - Privoxy in the market isn't very robust yet). I've run an occasional packet sniffer to find ad hosts for hosts-based blocking on my phone and have seen nothing suspicious.

          Google analytics is baked into SO many websit

          • by markdavis (642305)

            If you are using the Android browser on a Google Experience device, you are signed into your "account", whether you want to or not. This means that Google knows who you are and that improves their tracking through Adsense. Then combine that with any Gmail use, for which they have 100% control and access, and your contacts that are linked to that account, etc...

            • by Calos (2281322)

              Err... On the stock browser, I just hit the "Sign Out" button. According the google.com, I'm not signed in. Is there some reason to believe that secretly I'm still signed in? On the Chrome browser, I was never signed in to begin with.

              To the rest of it - you're digressing.

              • by markdavis (642305)

                I have never seen any such button or setting anywhere in the browser or browser menus for any of my HTC devices, including now (I just looked). I also looked for such an option in the stock browser on the Xoom (ICS) and can't find anything like it there, either. Although that does have an "incognito" mode, and that mode's description says nothing about being signed out of Google's account.

                As for Chrome running on an Android device, I think it would be surprising if it didn't automatically pick up the curr

                • by Calos (2281322)

                  I have never seen any such button or setting anywhere in the browser or browser menus for any of my HTC devices, including now (I just looked). I also looked for such an option in the stock browser on the Xoom (ICS) and can't find anything like it there, either. Although that does have an "incognito" mode, and that mode's description says nothing about being signed out of Google's account.

                  Because like any other browser on any other platform, being logged in is not a browser setting, but a webpage setting.

                  • by markdavis (642305)

                    Good info. Looks like I wasn't "signed in" either. But I still suspect my account is linked back to them for tracking, regardless. It is all a bit scary at times.

      • by AmiMoJo (196126)

        The Android browser doesn't send all your private data to Google, but if you use Google services with it then there will be some information leaked. For example if you search via the URL bar then what you type in is sent in realtime to Google so they can provide suggestions. You can turn that off.

        In actual fact the Android browser has less of this than desktop Chrome does because it doesn't use phishing and malware protection feedback or integrate so tightly with Google services.

      • Other than Larry Page constantly sending me emails consisting of a screen shot of whatever porn site I just browsed, and "LOL!" written below, no evidence whatsoever.

        And before you go "Well, that settles it!", Firefox is my primary porn browser.

  • by Hentes (2461350) on Tuesday May 15, 2012 @05:32PM (#40011043)

    With the rapid release schedule a story for every FF release would already be more than enough, but now we are getting a new story for a BETA for every platform?

    • by cpu6502 (1960974)

      You read my mind. Firefox coverage here is ridiculous and overdone. Meanwhile other browsers like Opera and seaMonkey are basically ignored when they have new releases.

      • by i.r.id10t (595143)

        Seamonkey is just what you get when a firefox and a thunderbird get freaky on a friday night...

        Big deal about FF for me is that working in education, most learning management systems have historically supported IE and FF ... just recently Angel started supporting Chrome and Safari (but only on desktops) ... so FF availability for non-Windows platforms is pretty big in my book...

        • by cpu6502 (1960974)

          >>>Seamonkey is just what you get when a firefox and a thunderbird get freaky on a friday night...

          You have it backwards.
          Seamonkey existed first (originally called Mozilla/Netscape Communicator).
          Firefox, Thunderbird were split off from it.

  • by wbr1 (2538558)
    My little cheapo LG LS670(posting from it now) won't run it or chrome. But.. I can surf, mail, youtube, IM, track my runs, track hours, run squareup, bank, and more. WTF do I need FF for?
  • Testing now. If it syncs with my computers, I may be switching from Dolphin.

    • by PCM2 (4486)

      How much Flash do you use on your phone? To me, not being forced to download Flash ads is a blessing. Also, last time I tried the Flash Plugin, games and other, more sophisticated Flash UIs were quirky or broken. That might be the app designers' fault -- they weren't thinking of mobile phone touchscreens when they built them. But the point is, I found in-browser Flash to be pretty much useless on Android.

      • by Calos (2281322)

        Some websites almost require flash support. Big, popular sites? No, but ones I may be interested in nonetheless. Actually, some small businesses that outsourced their website design may be the worst offenders, but I'm still interested in the business. It's also useful for some things like college hockey scores - I like college hockey, and until recently, many live stats pages did not have a non-flash counterpart.

        In essence: the need for flash is diminishing but not yet gone. I'm happy to be able to use it

  • I cannot be the only one who read the title as "New Firefox" for "Android Beta." Language can be so ambiguous at times.
  • Just like its predecessor, this beta loads content too slowly to be usable as a daily driver. In high contrast there's the Opera mobile browser, which is the fastest page renderer I've found on Android yet. I'll also take Opera's "speed dial" feature over Firefox's "loathsome bar" on any given day.
  • by TheEyes (1686556) on Tuesday May 15, 2012 @06:42PM (#40011651)

    Seriously, the stock browser has been able to reflow text on zoom practically forever; why doesn't Firefox Mobile?

    This is the killer feature for me; with my poor vision I always have to zoom in pretty far to see anything on those tiny screens, and being forced to pan left and right to see every line is a huge pain. I like FF for its bookmark/password sync functionality, but when it comes to actually reading anything it's almost easier to copy the bookmark out of Firefox into the stock browser and go from there.

    • by caspy7 (117545)

      There is an addon for this.
      They are also working to add this.

    • I see that option in the preferences.

      That said, this beta is super slow, actually getting a click on a link to register takes 10 tires, and sync setup fails.

      So, back to the release version for me.

  • by dark_requiem (806308) on Tuesday May 15, 2012 @06:46PM (#40011693)
    This story is worthy of note. As others have mentioned, this is the first beta release to use the Android native UI instead of xul. I can attest it is *dramatically* faster, night and day. The previous xul-based builds were largely unusable, taking 30 seconds just to start, even on my heavily oc'd phone. The new native UI builds run smoothly and fluidly. I've been using the native UI builds since they were first released as nightlies (currently on Firefox 15 nightly), and they're a big step forward.

    That being said, these do have some big downsides. The native UI builds dropped support for things like text selection, copy/paste (can't copy what you can't select), and generally feel unpolished. Once all the features from the xul builds are available in the native ui builds, it'll be the best browser around, hands down. Until then, it's a nice tech demo from Mozilla.
  • I wouldn't ever remove the default browser because I'd be afraid of breaking a critical function, and I see no value in having to choose between two browsers when I want to browse on my phone.

    • I wouldn't ever remove the default browser because I'd be afraid of breaking a critical function, and I see no value in having to choose between two browsers when I want to browse on my phone.

      You can't remove the default browser (not without root hackery any way). This just gets installed along side it.

      • by Shavano (2541114)

        Thus my other point. If I'm going to have to have two browsers on my phone, it's not worth the bother.

  • I really tried to use the FF on my phone, messed with setting, got ad-ons, but it just was bad. Pages would never display the right, things wouldnt work, it was slow, took alot of memory...I switched to dolphin hd a few months ago, everything works, no crashes, very fast to open and load pages and a few more things.
    • by SurfsUp (11523)

      It's really impressively fast, but it's missing essential functionality. No pinch zoom? Makes maps.google.com a pain. No keyboard shortcuts? Huh?

      Impressive work, but not yet usable.

      • by SurfsUp (11523)

        Oh, not to be so negative, I really like the way it tells me "maps.google.com wants your location (ok/not ok?)"

  • Come on guys, some of us have keyboards. How hard can it be to implement Ctrl-t?

  • by advocate_one (662832) on Tuesday May 15, 2012 @11:05PM (#40013155)
    slashdot really NEEDS to fix the experience for mobile browsers... I've just tried the new beta on this site and it's a fscked up experience... just logging in is a real pain as the fancy login window doesn't work well with the onscreen keyboard... and the tabs and links on the pages do not work very well either... touch one and 9 times out of ten, nothing happens... even when zoomed right in on it... the tabs at the bottom of the page don't work either so you're stuck with whatever stories are shown on the front page...
  • Really, it seems they removed the only killer feature that Firefox had before, the way you could switch tabs.

    Before, it was move to the right then select one of the big tabs on the left. Now I have to tap into some small corner to show the tabs? Really? I think I just stay with the built in (ICS/CM9) browser which basically works exactly like that and also hides the navigation bar once the page is loaded

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