Firefox for Android tablets makes first appearance

The mobile version of Mozilla's browser isn't done, but it's mature enough for developers to take a look.

Stephen Shankland principal writer
Stephen Shankland has been a reporter at CNET since 1998 and writes about processors, digital photography, AI, quantum computing, computer science, materials science, supercomputers, drones, browsers, 3D printing, USB, and new computing technology in general. He has a soft spot in his heart for standards groups and I/O interfaces. His first big scoop was about radioactive cat poop.
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Stephen Shankland
2 min read
A look at mobile Firefox, aka Fennec, on an Android tablet.
A look at mobile Firefox, aka Fennec, on an Android tablet. Lucas Rocha

Adapting Firefox for tablets is on Mozilla's mobile-browser priority list, and now the first version has appeared in "nightly" builds for developers to try out.

"It has now reached a functional state that is good enough for getting some early feedback," said developer Lucas Rocha on a blog post today. "Keep in mind that this is very early stage work. There are lots of rough edges and design is continuously evolving."

Mozilla Fennec logo

The design keeps elements of the smaller-screen smartphone version--tab switching that can pull out from the left side and other options that can pull out from the right side. But with the bigger screen, it also adds forward and backward navigation buttons, an address bar, and buttons for reloading and bookmarking.

With the smartphone version of Firefox now well under way, Mozilla has begun focusing on Android tablets--in particular, those using the Honeycomb version of Google's mobile OS.

Mozilla is banking on Android as a way to keep its browser--and open-Web mission--relevant in the fast-growing mobile world. Two earlier operating systems, Maemo (now MeeGo) and Windows Mobile 6.5, have faded into oblivion, Windows Phone 7 doesn't have the necessary low-level access to permit Firefox to run, and the dominant mobile operating system, Apple's iOS, only permits browsers that put a new interface on Apple's WebKit browser engine.

But it's got a long way to go. Net Applications' study of mobile browser usage shows Apple's mobile Safari dominates, with Opera Mini and Android's browser in second and third place, and Firefox not in the top five. The top browsers are preinstalled on mobile phones.

Apple leads the browser market when it comes to real-world usage on mobile devices.
Apple leads the browser market when it comes to real-world usage on mobile devices, based on data through August 2011. Net Applications