A new version of the Firefox web browser has been launched for Android, with improvements in the performance of the application along with offering native widgets in the new user interface. Version 14 of Firefox has the potential to give Android’s default browser tough competition.
Initially, the Firefox port for Android had a UI built using the XUL framework. Later, Mozilla realized that XUL was not best suited for an Android browser. After developers focused on optimization, and wanting to bring about improvements in Firefox’s performance on phone devices, they decided to replace XUL with native widgets on Android. Version 14 is the first version to incorporate changes. The update is sure to impress Android users who also use Firefox on their desktop. Once tested on Galaxy Nexus which runs on ICS, it is clear that the program is quick to start, loads pages with efficiency, the text is readable and operations like zooming and scrolling are rather smooth.
The interface is a mix of custom drawn UI controls and conventional widgets. The design is functional, simple and intuitive. The top bar offers a coloured URL text box, a button for managing tabs and accessing the menu. By clicking on the plus sign next to a tab, a user can open up another tab, with the button displaying the number of tabs open, also offering a list of open tabs with page titles that can be scrolled through. Important elements of the UI are executed using standard Android widgets. The browser matches the original platform, making it look like a native application, offering only few different features such as elastic scrolling, something one is likely to find on iOS rather than on Android. Firefox for Android works flawlessly with the desktop version, enabling users to access their bookmarks. Firefox’s add-on system depends upon the flexibility of the XUL. Though not as flexible, it does have certain advantages since mobile add-ons can be installed without having to restart the browser.
To improve startup performance, Mozilla has built a tool for capturing raw videos from Android devices, enabling them to calculate the time taken to draw a window by a launched application. This technique was used to compare Firefox with other browsers on Android and changes were made until the best results were achieved, confirmed Mozilla’s Jonathan Nightingale. Mozilla is also working on the tablet version of the interface which is almost ready to be tested.