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Firefox Mobile comes to Android in 'Fennec'

Firefox-maker Mozilla brings Firefox Mobile one step closer to an Android release with an alpha build that bakes in a helpful and unique feature.

Firefox Mobile (Fennec) running on an Android phone

Mozilla is one step closer to getting its Firefox browser surfing on Android phones, and on the Nokia N900. On Friday the company issued an alpha version of Fennec, the code name for every instance of "Firefox Mobile" that's still in development stages.

Features-wise, Fennec alpha is very similar to the Fennec prealpha we got a peek at in April, but with the notable exception that Firefox Sync is now baked in. Firefox Sync is an account-based Web service that stores data on your currently open tabs, bookmarks, browsing history, passwords, and form-fills in the cloud, on Mozilla's secured Firefox servers. When you use Firefox Sync on Fennec or any other Firefox Mobile app, you'll be able to access URLs you've visited on your desktop from your Android phone. Firefox Sync spells out less typing on that comparatively cramped keyboard.

The fact that Firefox Sync now comes wrapped into the installation will help keep users' setup of the service to a minimum, which will encourage its adoption on mobile phones and on the desktop. It's also what drives the Firefox app on iPhone.

In addition to Firefox Sync, Fennec's support for browser add-ons is another important differentiating factor, especially as these add-ons have made Firefox the most mainstream alternative in desktop browsing to Microsoft's Internet Explorer. Fennec's design also keeps the settings tools and open browser tabs in the "gutters" of the screen real estate, which means you swipe left or right to access the controls. This declutters the screen of its buttons and makes your content the main focus.

Fennec is now available to download and test on Android phones and the Nokia N900. We advise that only experienced or intrepid users should download the Fennec for Android alpha release, which is intended for testing and feedback purposes, not for widespread use. Testers may encounter bugs and instability.

Interested parties can find the technical release notes here. You can find additional technical details and watch the demo on Mozilla's blog.