December 22, 2010

Firefox 4 beta 3 for Mobile

It's only been about a month and a half since the last beta release, but it's already time to announce Firefox 4 beta 3 for mobile.

Get Firefox 4 beta 3 for mobile from the Android market  The beta is now available in the Android Market, which you can find by opening the Market application on your phone and searching for “Mozilla Firefox.” The Maemo builds are available for download here. There are more instructions over at the official blog post.

The QR code to the left will take you to Firefox in the Android Market.

This beta improves performance over what's come before, and it also brings with it a long list of visible changes. In two areas in particular – Android integration and Sync – I think you'll notice a lot of improvement. Here's a list of what's most exciting!

Android integration


With beta 2, Firefox introduced a new more Android-like look; in beta 3, Firefox has taken more steps to have an Android-like feel.

  1. Notification icons in the system bar
    Firefox now puts its own notifications, with icons, in the Android system bar. For now, the notifications pertain to add-ons and downloads (progress and notification of completion):
    notifications!  full notifications

  2. Android keyboards
    There are a number of variants of the Android virtual keyboard that are optimized for particular cases. In beta 3, Firefox lets you use the one that's appropriate, depending on what you're trying to do. For example, when you're using the URL field on the awesomescreen, the Android keyboard with a "Go" button will be used. Similarly, when searching for add-ons, a search button will be present.

    Go in the keyboard  Search in the keyboard

    It goes beyond fields in the browser "chrome," too. The appropriate android keyboard will come up for field types like email, number, telephone, and URL in HTML5 forms.

  3. A native Android menu
    Android users have the benefit of a permanent hardware menu button, so it makes sense to let them use it to get to secondary browser functionality. Everthing accessible through this menu is also available somewhere on the on-screen user-interface, but the Android menu button can provide quicker and more convenient access to these tools.

    Android menu

    (The menu can also be extended by add-ons, of course, as in Matt Brubeck's Full Screen.)

  4. File pickers for uploading
    Android phones don't come with File Manager apps, and smartphones in general these days try to de-emphasize the idea of a file system. This means that when a website asks you to browse for a file to upload, the browser has to offer something a little different than a desktop-style file picker. In Firefox on Android, you'll see a list like the one on the left below. If I select the Gallery because I want to upload an image, I get something like what's below on the right.

    skitchbcrXR0  pick a photo

  5. Wrap text on zoom
    I'm cheating with this list a little, in that this item doesn't quite fit here — it's not actually in beta 3. If you're a fan of the Android "reflow/wrap-text on zoom" behaviour, and would like it in Firefox, you can get something very similar by using an add-on called Easy Reading. We're looking into adding this behaviour to the browser, but you can get a head start and help test it out with the Add-on.

    Easy Reading


Simpler Sync


Firefox Sync is one of the best things about using Firefox on your mobile, so we wanted to make sure that it was convenient to set up and completely simple to use.

  1. Fast Setup
    In the past, signing into Sync from your mobile has meant remembering and entering your username and password (to identify yourself) and your Sync Key (for encryption). This is great for privacy and security, but makes for a lot of fiddly typing on a small keyboard. In Firefox 4 beta 3, we've streamlined this process.

    To get going with Sync, you tap on "Connect" in the Sync prefs section (see below left). What comes up is a passcode (below right); you take this and enter it under "Add a device" in Firefox on a desktop system already associated with your Sync account. That's it - entering the code will pair Firefox on your mobile with your account. That code may look long, but remember — you're not doing any typing on a mobile device.

    sync not set up  jpake setup

    If for some reason you can't get to a copy of Firefox that's paired with your account to enter the code, you can always do it the old way. Notice that you can set up and use your own custom sync server, if you want to.

    sync account info

    For a more detailed description of the whys and hows of this new approach to Sync setup (called PAKE), Phillipp from the Sync team has a post here.

  2. Set it and forget it
    Once it's done, that's it, really. You need never do anything to it again - Sync will just work in the background. If you want to turn it off for a while, you can just hit the "Enable Sync" switch. If you're so inclined, you can dig into "Details" for more, well, details.

    skitchl8xqil  sync details

The Miscellany



  1. Copy and paste in the URL field
    Firefox allows for long-tap copying, pasting, and selecting all (useful for deleting) in the awesomescreen's URL/search field:

    skitchtM2xHE
      copy when highlighted

  2. When no suggestions, show searches
    Usually, typing in the awesomescreen's field will show matches from your history, bookmarks, and tabs open on other computers. When Firefox can't find any matches for what you've typed, or can only find a couple, it will list your search engines so you can just tap and search. In the screenshot below, I have installed a number of the shown search engines; Twitter and Wikipedia, both part of the default set, are just off-screen.

    searching

  3. Save page as PDF now works on Android

    Save as PDF  downloaded pdf

  4. See more Add-ons in the Get Add-ons section of the Add-ons Manager
  5. Opening links from other apps now works smoothly
  6. Correct rendering of Arabic and Persian text (on devices with Arabic and Farsi fonts)
  7. Content process crash reporting
  8. Support for web APIs: localStorage and orientation events (new on Android)

Posted by madhava at December 22, 2010 01:35 AM