Mozilla has ported the company’s “Fennec” mobile browser to smartphones based on Google Android, opening another avenue of opportunity for programmers writing applications for the open-source operating system.
However, Mozilla developer Vladimir Vukicevic warned on his blog April 27 that the build should be considered “prealpha,” has bugs that could force users to reboot their phones, and has only been tested on the Motorola Droid and the Nexus One.
Other caveats to note about the build, which users may download here at their own peril, are that the software requires Android 2.0 or greater (and likely an OpenGL ES 2.0-capable device); has poor memory usage and a quirky installation process; users can’t open links from other applications using Fennec; and the build must be installed in internal memory instead of on an SD card.
So what can users do with Fennec for Android? Vukicevic said there is an experimental version of Mozilla Weave that is compatible with this build. Weave lets users make browser data portable so that they can sync their history, passwords, bookmarks and tabs between the mobile and desktop versions of Firefox.
This provides some serious functionality that Google’s own mobile browser lacks (though Google Chrome has bookmark sync, so it’s clear Google is thinking about portability.)
To access Weave from Fennec on an Android phone, users must open the Mozilla Labs Weave page and click on “Experimental Version.”
Once the add-on is installed, users must reboot Fennec by swiping the screen left and clicking on the “gear” icon to open the browser tools panel, then clicking on Add-ons and then the Restart button at the top.
Because most users are learning about Fennec for Android from browsing news on their desktop computers, Vukicevic provided a QR code users can scan on their phones. Users can also type the following address into the phone’s browser: bit.ly/fennec-android.
GigOm’s Kevin Tofel installed the early app on his Nexus One and proclaimed it “very nice” in its infancy, but there is obviously room for improvement. Lifehacker’s Kevin Purdy put it through a detailed test here.
This is good progress for Fennec, which is looking for a home on smartphones at a time when Opera Software’s Opera Mini browser has found placement on Apple’s iPhone.