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back to article Firefox 4 squeezes onto phones

Firefox 4 is now available for Android, able to sync bookmarks with its desktop cousin and offer a stable, if occasionally slow, browsing experience. Available as a free download for Nokia's Maemo-based N900, and in the Android Market for 2.0 and above, the new beta release of Firefox takes a long time to start up, and …

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Only top end phones

The "official" version will only run on devices equipped with ARMv7 processors, which are generally top-end devices. Budget and older phones with ARMv6 processors (Orange San Francisco, Wildfire, etc) cannot run it despite having Android 2.0+

There is a "experimental" ARMv6 version, but it is truly shocking (at least on my elderly Android 2.2 equipped HTC Magic)

The official system requirements are here:

https://wiki.mozilla.org/Mobile/Platforms/Android#System_Requirements

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Unhappy

[insert title here]

yeah its equally shocking on my Gingerbread powered HTC Hero (running 2.3.3), its a shame they dont put any love into the ARM6 build...

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Unhappy

Same here

One more vote for an ARM6 build.

I'm not an expert but I wouldn't have thought the difference in processors would make it completely unusable.

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Anonymous Coward

Memory

"I'm not an expert but I wouldn't have thought the difference in processors would make it completely unusable."

I'm not an expert either, but from what I've been told the processors themselves aren't the problems on these devices, but the speed of the memory bus. Especially for the G1 and Magic.

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Been using the beta for a while

Beta 5 is a welcome and vast improvement for Android, less so for Maemo. The Maemo version works, but seriously chugs.

This beta does fix one very important bug - in previous versions, when you moved the app to the SD card, it didn't move your user profile, so that would eventually fill your free space with cached content. When you upgrade to beta 5, refresh the SD card install and that will be fixed. The install seems smaller in this version too, down to around 12MB on my phone, before user data.

Beta 5 on Android, from using it this morning, is also a LOT faster than previous versions. As fast as the native browser? Nope. But fast enough to use, and if you value Firefox's functionality (sync is worth it for me), it's a nice little system.

BTW, the tone of the article, especially the headline, seems to make out at first like this is a final release. I know you mention it's a beta, but the headline and intro don't come across that way. Just my 2p. Anyway, recommended upgrade if you're with the betas already, and if you haven't used them yet because they just chuffed way too much (and I agree, they did), then give this one a shot.

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FAIL

If it's sync you want

Then use Opera. It's had Sync for many years, just another thing that Mozilla stole.

Of course in Opera it's not just bookmarks it syncs, it sync other stuff too, including content block rules, notes, speed-dials.

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WTF?

Seriously

Are you the same person that keeps posting about Opera?

Serious question.

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Oh boy, here we go again

Will you Opera fanboys please get over the fact that some of us like Firefox? On the desktop, I prefer the Firefox browser, so Firefox is the browser I want to sync with. Opera Mobile is an excellent browser, but I do not use Opera on the desktop, so its sync capabilities are useless to me.

Also, Firefox syncs more than bookmarks. Being able to turn my desktop off, fire up my phone and reopen the tab I was just reading is very, very useful.

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ermm?

Opera has about 180m users according to their latest financials...

Personally, I can't understand why ANYONE would want to use Firefox in 2011, the only excuse I can think of is that they are too lazy to explore alternatives.

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Truly Open Source Then?

"according to their latest financials"

Thanks. Says it all.

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Happy

Sessions.

"reopen the tab I was just reading"

Wow this feature is called sessions and has been in Opera for years.

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Anonymous Coward

Firefox 3.x on my desktop

Also stalls for a second or two occasionally.....it's a right PITA.

Company won't let me install Chrome/Chromium, which would be my choice.

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Badgers

"it may have been a human dressed up as a fox"

Rule of thumb: If it's the same size as a person, assume it's a human in a suit. If it's the same size as a small dog, assume it's a fox.

Other tell tail (sic) signs would include talking, and or walking around on two legs.

If you get bitten by either it's probably a good idea to get a rabies jab, just in case. (you never know what diseases these furries are carrying).

Badgers is as close to foxes as I can get.

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Coat

Furries

I think it was the author's lame attempt to exclude anyone in The Reg from being part of a Furry Fandom.

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FAIL

Sucks balls

It's horrible to use. Brings even my high spec phone to it's knees, like the desktop Firefox it gobbles up all my RAM.

Sticking with Opera thanks...

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Anonymous Coward

FF4?

FF 3.x can be slow at times.

I've found FF 4 to be much snappier.

Surprisingly the Minefield Nightlies are even better and believe it or not more stabl

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sync for the built in browser

For everyone stuck with phones unable to run FF, grab Shaman off the Market for a passable rendition of bookmark and password sync with desktop FF4. I can live without the rest of the FF4 goodies until it slims down a lot more now sync's sorted.

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FAIL

Badly written...

Your reporting on this is bad to say the least.

1) Firefox has been available on Android for months and at least a month from the App store.

2) It crashes a LOT, skyfire and the default browser don't.

3) It appears to have just 4 add-ons

4) Skyfire is superior as it can play most videos, you can zoom more or less than you want, doesn't take ages to load, and again very rarely crashes.

I'm using FF on my computer and Skyfire on my phone until Mozilla release a half decent skyfire competitor.

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Skyfire

Skyfire is similar in concept to Opera Mini. The web page is rendered remotely and munged into a form for displaying on the client device. It means you get fast client and fast rendering. Great for casual browsing.

The downside (a massive downside) is you must register to use their browser and you're telling a Skyfire EVERYTHING you do on the web. If this sounds far fetched, look at their privacy statement - http://www.skyfire.com/about/privacy-and-security

They gather info about the pages you hit, where you came from, where you're going to. Everything. All to deliver you targeted ads, spam you and so forth.

I wouldn't trust a toolbar that did any of those things. Why would I trust a browser to do the same? If I had to use such a browser I'd pick Opera where at least no registration is required and therefore I stood a chance of preserving at least some anonymity.

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Some retorts

2) It's in beta and stability does need to improve. Comparing it to the default client is reasonable, comparing it to Skyfire which is a remote client is not. Firefox is a full browser engine in your phone, not a dumb proxy to a browser running somewhere else.

3) Currently I see 6 recommended add-ons and at least 15 odd on the website. I expect the number will grow in time. Indeed, one of the major reason to use Firefox as opposed to say Skyfire or the default browsers is you can install add-ons. Add-ons that block ads, change the user agent, reformat pages, fill passwords and so on. Just like with Firefox on the desktop. Indeed many desktop extensions are likely to be retrofitted to the mobile form.

4) Skyfire is a remote client. The client is comparatively dumb compared to a full blown browser because the page is rendered remotely. There is a place for this kind of browser, but you must be aware that it's basically spyware recording everything you do in order to deliver ads and spam to you.

I do consider Firefox work in progress, but tentatively I'd endorse it. It is slow to start, it does still have issues, but it is a full blown browser and does deliver a no-compromises browser engine in a handheld format.

However I think Firefox's main forte will be in Android tablets. It'll benefit from the faster CPUs and screen estate.

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Built-in and Opera

No-one ever seems to mention Dolphin, which has been around for ages, so is pretty mature and stable, performs well and has lots of available addons. Much nicer than Opera IMHO.

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FAIL

Because

Dolphin is just a skin on the Android Webkit browser, it's not a browser at all, unlike Opera.

Next you will be talking about KMellon.

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Works okay in Android

It is a little slow to start up and some of the user interface stuff like the swiping left / right to see buttons takes some getting used but it work quite well. Page rendering & layout is much closer to a normal desktop which is useful on sites which insist on redirecting you to "mobile" versions which are out of date or otherwise broken. Being able to sync bookmarks with a desktop Firefox is useful too but getting the sync code is a pain.

Biggest annoyance for me is it paints the damage area in the same kind of ugly checkerboard effect that the iPad / iPhone does when scrolling large pages. I think the chrome / engine could also benefit from more optimisation to reduce bloat & startup time.

I can't decide if I prefer it over other 3rd party browsers like Opera Mini / 10 yet. The latter is in beta offers a similar experience but crashed a few times for me. Biggest advantage for Opera is the turbo mode. Opera Mini's major advantage is it sidesteps some of the stupid address blocking controls some open wifi networks enforce because requests are actually served off to an Opera server.

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Boffin

Getting there

Javascript rendering seems faster than previous builds - Try espn.go.com that site brings most mobile browsers to their knees, it's quicker than Dolphin, Miren, Xscope or stock browser.

However it is slow to start and much much slower to exit. You have to keep hitting back arrow to exit the browser which means all websites have to reload till you get back to the home page, then and only then will the browser exit.

This is the only android browser I've come across that handles scroll bars. Animated GIFs also animate (Opera is the only other android browser that can do this).

Need to add a user agent option so I can force desktop or mobile view on some sites (if I just want to check sports scores the mobile sites load much quicker). Getting better and better with each release but not ready to be my main android browser especially with no flash support. Can't wait to see the final product - and I despise FF on the PC.

Opera fangirls - you obviously haven't tried other browsers on your android device. Opera has trouble rendering some sites properly (ESPN.COM being one) and will still re-direct you to the mobile version of websites despite setting the mobile view setting to off as well as no flash support. The only reason I still have Opera Mobile on my phone is because it can download from sites like filesonic, megaupload etc. whereas other browsers fail. It would also appear that Opera Mobile development has ceased (been in beta since forever) and are only focusing on Opera Mini.

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User agent

"Need to add a user agent option"

There's an add-on named Phony that handles this.

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Why Firfox wastes their time on this?

Surely he better to spend his time to make the desktops one run at good speed and not to crash all the time before he bloat out the memory on my phone too.

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Happy

What about

Miren? Aside from it's slow start times, I've found it to be a lovely little browser with a fantastic USP of instant back and forward. I think it's great!

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FAIL

Bread & Butter Fail

Why do one thing very well when you can do two things badly? :P

I want Mozilla to be successful but I'm astonished that they're still persisting with the mobile browser platform when they should have developers focussed on making their main product up to scratch instead.

As a side note the in built browser for Android is great. I've tried Opera and Firefox and I really can't see why anyone would want to use either of them in preference to the one Google supply. Oh yes, its' because Google are stealing all your information and reading all your personal emails, purely to be evil, I forgot.

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Dead Vulture

It's still a Beta for both Android and Maemo

The title of the article is misleading, and to be honest yet-another beta is hardly worthy of a complete article, along with screen shots, which only goes on to point out the painfully obvious that the beta is absolutely shite and so slow to the point of being unusable.

But since it's still a beta, it's impossible to say if this is likely to improve in a later build, meaning the entire article is somewhat pointless as nobody can draw any conclusions at this stage about the finished product.

Flash playback is possible in Maemo by adjusting properties in about:config - it works fine, just a shame the rest of the browser is so impossibly slow. Opera and the stock MicroB p1ss all over Firefox4/Fennec (I'm on a nightly beta, currently b6).

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Beta means not being developed?

"It would also appear that Opera Mobile development has ceased (been in beta since forever)"

It seems that it's just the Android version that is still beta, but note that Opera Mobile is still being developed, and out of beta (version 10.1 for Symbian, and 10.0 for Windows).

And anyhow, Firefox mobile is still beta - that hardly means development has ceased! (On the contrary, beta usually means the complete opposite, rather, that it *is* being developed still...)

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beta means regular updates

Opera Mobile for Android has been in the same beta since November. No announcements on Opera site on further developments. Opera Mobile 10 was the best browser I used for WM6, have not tried Symbian. Android version seems forgotten. Opera Mini was nice on my old phone but proxy based browsers are unnecessary on Android 2.1 or greater when you have browsers that can render sites just like on your PC. If your running Android 2.2 or greater Skyfire becomes irrevelant since Flash support is built-in.

Firefox for Android gets updated regulary (beta 2, 3, 4) unlike Opera Mobile for Android.

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Because....

Opera Mini 6 and Opera Mobile 11 are incoming anyday now apparently....

Android phones and tablers, iPhone and iFad, and most other devices under the sun.

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WTF?

Then... Less betas?

There must be less bugs in Opera Mobile of course, Opera is an older browser...

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Megaphone

DOLPHIN HD

Enough said - try it and I believe you'll like it - once you get past the garish green colour scheme.

Tabs, pinch zoom, doubletap zoom, gestures, loads of plugins.

I honestly don't know why it doesn't get any notice on tech websites.

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Happy

I hear about it a lot... In comments.

Dolphin HD seems to be a great browser. I'd love to compare it to Opera if I had a smartphone.

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FAIL

Do people still use that?

I don't even use that on a PC anymore.. too slow and bug ridden, using a WiFi connection IE 4 would be a more reliable choice. On the Android there's only one decent choice for a browser, Dolphin HD, it supports flash, tabs and runs at a very respectable speed, even on older Android phones. The only caveet is bookmarks are a little clumsy, but at least it is usable.

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Dolphin HD beats FF on Android

Another vote for Dolphin HD here. takes a little getting used to but functionality is great. Beats the stock browser / skyfire and FF hands down..

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Slow as a dog and lacks half the feature of...

...Skyfire or Dolphin.

These two are the top browser choices for anyone using Android, period. I use both, with Dolphin starting up with my work Google Apps Business home while Skyfire is for opening regular links from apps or Gmail.

Firefox is simply awfully slow on my otherwise very snappy X10, no way to use it as a browser as it is, sorry - time to go back to work and make it quick.

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Rafael L: Not on the mobile Opera...

yet again people build an argument NOT based on the article! AFAIK *mobile* opera has never had 'sessions' or 'open closed tab' - now if you had said 'open from history' ....

Oh, and Desktop FF (without addons) DOES have 'open closed tab' and also a very basic 'sessions', so it can recover your pages after a restart from adding addons.. :)

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