The competition for Web browsers on Google’s Android platform seems to be heating up: although Opera Software’s Opera Mini has been available as an alternative to Android’s built-in WebKit-based browser since late last year, today a major new player might have turned up: Firefox. Mobile versions of Firefox have been known under the codename Fennec, and developer Vladimir Vukićević has just announced a “pre-alpha” version of Fennec for Android 2.0 devices. The build is very rough around the edges—Vukićević describes it as “pre-alpha”—but has advanced to the point where the developers feel it is ready for use by a wider audience. The browser is not available from the Android market; for how, curious users will have to download it directly and install it themselves.
Vukićević indicates the build has only been tested on the Google Nexus One and the Motorola Droid, and while they don’t believe it will damage anyone’s phone, OpenGL ES 2.0 is probably required and users may have to force-quit the application if they run into problems—or even reboot their phones. The browser’s memory usage has not been optimized (which can create problems on Android devices that don’t have a lot of memory), and Fennec must also be installed to a phone’s built-in memory—it can’t be run from SD cards.
Progress on a mobile version of Firefox is a good sign for Mozilla, which has struggled to get mobile applications out the door. The organization recently announced it would not be continuign development of Firefox for Windows Mobile, since Microsoft’s forthcoming Windows Phone 7 mobile OS will not permit native applications. Development is still underway on a version of Firefox for the upcoming combined Nokia/Intel MeeGo platform.