After teasing “Something BIG” late last week, Mozilla has now launchedversion 14.0 of Firefox for Android, a major update to the open source mobile web browser. Described as “a snappy and dynamic upgrade” by its developers, the new release improves the browser’s overall performance while also updating its user interface (UI) and adding features.
One of the first things existing users will notice in 14.0 is a completely redesigned UI with a new “Awesome Screen“. Unlike previous versions of Firefox for Android, the browser now uses Android’s native UI elements to provide “a fresh, streamlined look”; past releases have used XUL, an XML-based language that is interpreted by the Gecko rendering engine.
The Awesome Screen replicates the functionality of the “Awesome Bar” from the desktop version and supports Firefox Sync, allowing users to synchronise their browsing history, bookmarks, passwords and form data from other Firefox instances to their Android device. The personalised start page includes a user’s most visited sites and the open tabs from the last time they used the browser. When searching using Google, all queries are now sent in encrypted form by default using the HTTPS protocol; this means that all traffic between the web site and the browser is secured using SSL encryption.
In Mozilla’s tests, Firefox for Android 14.0 ran more than twice as fast as the stock Android browser and Chrome for Android Source: Mozilla Under the hood improvements result in reduced start-up times and faster page loads. According to Mozilla’s benchmarks, Firefox for Android 14.0 performs more than twice as fast as the default Android browser and Chrome for Android in canvas rendering performance. To improve touch responsiveness, a new panning/zooming architecture has been implemented. Other changes include support for Adobe Flash content, better text readability through font size inflation, and enabling tap-to-play by default for plugins.
Changes aimed at developers include the addition of a new API to prevent the display from sleeping and the implementation of the Pointer Lock API, as well as fixes for the text-transform and font-variant CSS properties to better handle Turkic languages and Greek characters.
More details about the major release, including a full list of changes, can be found in the announcement blog post and in the release notes. Firefox 14.0 is available to download from the Google Play store for devices running Android 2.2 or later. Existing Firefox for Android users will have to manually update as the new version requests additional permissions to prevent the phone from sleeping and to “Modify global system settings, write sync settings”.
The current stable release of the desktop version of Firefox is 13.0.1 from earlier this month; according to the Releases wiki, Firefox 14 for desktops isn’t expected to graduate from beta until 17 July. Like its desktop counterpart, Firefox for Android sources and binaries are released under the MPL 2.0.