Mozilla has released its Firefox 4 beta 1 for Android and Nokia's Maemo.
The mobile-optimized browser can be downloaded from this Mozilla Website. It includes features familiar to users of Firefox's desktop version, including Add-ons and the cheekily named Awesome Bar, which displays frequently visited and bookmarked URLs. By tapping the Awesome Bar, users can access the Awesome Screen, which displays history, bookmarks and tabs.
Firefox 4 beta also includes Firefox Sync, which encrypts and stores individual Firefox data on servers for later retrieval. "Firefox Sync makes it easy to surf the Web on your PC, get up and go and have everything (open tabs, saved passwords, browsing history and bookmarks) waiting for you on your phone just the way you left it," reads a Firefox Sync FAQ. "And what's more, the sync is two-way. So if you bookmark a great new site on your work computer, Firefox Sync will make sure that bookmark shows up on your computer at home."
But for Mozilla, much of the focus was on speed.
"A major focus of this release is to increase performance and responsiveness," Stuart Parmenter, director of mobile engineering at Mozilla, wrote in an Oct. 7 posting on The Mozilla Blog. "Two of the big architecture changes are Electrolysis and Layers." With the former, the browser interface runs "in a separate process from the one rendering Web content, resulting in a much more responsive browser." Meanwhile, Layers improves "overall performance and in graphics areas such as scrolling, zooming and animations."
Dense technical details of the release can be found on Mozilla Mobile team member Matt Brubeck's blog. In a recent posting, Brubeck suggests that Firefox 4 for Android and Maemo offers features not present in other browsers for Android, including the ability to let anyone write add-ons to customize the interface. In addition, Brubeck writes, the release "supports Web technologies such as SVG, ECMAScript 5, WebM and HTTP Strict Transport Security."
"Early Firefox for Android builds were very slow compared to the stock browser," Brubeck added. "Performance is critical in a mobile browser, and our work in this area is starting to pay off. The new beta version is much speedier, and we have plans to make it even faster."
Considering Google Android's market-share gains in smartphones over the past few quarters, it seems logical that Mozilla would make a speedy browser for the operating system a high priority.