Right after Mozilla unleashed Firefox 9 for the desktop, the company launched the latest mobile version for Android-based smartphones and tablets, Firefox 9 for Android. What's important about this build is that Mozilla redesigned the user interface to work and look optimally on tablets. The company has also done an excellent job in keeping the app's overall size down, consuming a mere 128 KB once it's moved to the SD card.
"Firefox for Android leverages large tablet screen sizes and optimizes popular features for tablets," Mozilla said Tuesday in a blog. "The Awesome Screen integrates Firefox Sync and makes it easy to access your browsing history, open tabs, bookmarks and saved passwords across desktop and mobile devices so you can type less and browse more."
Mozilla said that it attempted to be more visual, more magazine-like in the browser's overall content presentation with this latest release. The left-hand thumbnail column, which is typically tucked away, has been updated to provide a tab-like feel, connecting the thumbnail to the actual page. Mozilla has also added an "Action Bar" menu next to the Awesome Bar that allows the user to access Firefox Preferences, Add-ons, downloads and more.
"The Action Bar adds the back, forward and bookmark buttons for easy access," Mozilla explains. "One-touch bookmarks enable you to add an icon to your Android home screen for your favorite websites and Web apps, making Web apps as easy to use as native apps."
Mozilla reports that it has also thrown in some tools especially for HTML5 developers including the HTML5 Input Tag for Camera Access that enables the tablet owner to take pictures and scan bar codes within the browser without having to load the external camera app. The browser also supports the HTML5 Form Validation API which automatically validates website form fields like numbers, emails and URLs without developers needing to write a custom code or use a third-party library.
To grab your copy of Firefox 9 for Android, head to the Android Market here.
Note to Kindle Fire owners: even though Mozilla reports that the new browser is compatible with the Amazon tablet, currently the tablet UI isn't appearing, and doesn't appear in later beta builds either. The interface reverts to the smartphone mode, shoving the open window thumbnails to the left and the bookmark star and settings icon on the right. The browser also doesn't seem to render HTML5-based websites correctly either like the revamped Facebook or Google Music.
Unfortunately, comments on the Android Market show that users are complaining about the new release, calling it "sluggish, unresponsive, and essentially unusable" and "still not ready for prime time" and "flaky when going back and forth between landscape and portrait.