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Firefox 4 Beta For Mobile Now Faster and Sleeker

Soulskill posted more than 3 years ago | from the almost-like-some-sort-of-fox dept.

Firefox 70

An anonymous reader writes "Mozilla has released Beta 2 of Firefox 4 for Mobile. Some notable improvements over the initial beta release include 'reduced memory usage, improved text rendering and a 60% install size reduction on Android (from around 43 MB to 17 MB).' Mozilla also makes mention that 'actions like panning and zooming are faster and smoother, and page load times are reduced from our previous beta. On Android 2.2, we're now around 25% faster on the SunSpider JavaScript benchmark than the stock browser.' A future beta release will enable GL acceleration, which should further improve the performance of the browser."

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70 comments

Flash? (1)

Wonko the Sane (25252) | more than 3 years ago | (#34138120)

Unfortunately there's no mention of Flash support.

Re:Flash? (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#34138146)

Why would there be? Flash is a plug in and it's mostly up to Adobe to make sure that there's a plug in available. I'm sure there will be soon enough, but I'm betting that Adobe will wait until the betas get a bit more finalized.

Re:Flash? (1)

Wonko the Sane (25252) | more than 3 years ago | (#34138162)

The plugin is included with newer versions of Android but Firefox does not use it.

Re:Flash? (1)

Nigel Stepp (446) | more than 3 years ago | (#34143730)

It is, however, used on the maemo platform (it's much slower than flash in the native browser, but still available for use by firefox).

Re:Flash? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34138182)

This ain't to firefox to handle it...

Re:Flash? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34140178)

Why wouldn't it be up to Firefox to support and load the Android Flash plugin?

Re:Flash? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34138396)

Why would they mention it? I've had flash on my N800 for ages, and while it doesn't use FF, it's a FF-derived browser. I think the N900 supports it out of the box.

Flash has been available on mobile for at least 5 years, so they probably just didn't think it worth talking about.

Re:Flash? (1)

Wonko the Sane (25252) | more than 3 years ago | (#34138934)

Why would they mention it?

Because it doesn't work, at least on Android with the previous beta.

Re:Flash? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34139176)

Unfortunately there's no mention of what mobile devices it supports. My phone runs Linux, but it's not Android. Right now I use Opera on it, does Firefox support it?

Re:Flash? (1)

Wonko the Sane (25252) | more than 3 years ago | (#34139798)

Unfortunately there's no mention of what mobile devices it supports

Android and Maemo

Re:Flash? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34141424)

Unfortunately there's no mention of Flash support.

I don't have Flash installed on my desktop. It's on my phone but I don't use it in my web browser (which is now Firefox 4 beta 2) as I don't have much use for Flash anymore. I only ever used Flash for watching video and with major video sites now embracing open video (http://www.youtube.com/html5 [youtube.com] , http://www.dailymotion.com/html5 [dailymotion.com] ) that use case is steadily diminishing.

Re:Flash? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34143152)

fortunately there's no mention of Flash support.

FTFY

Re:Flash? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34143558)

Dammit I want to watch South Park on my mobile phone.

Slashvertizing? Re:Flash? (1)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 3 years ago | (#34147992)

Has /. turned into the Firefox cheer brigade? How about articles about Seamonkey which also *just* arrived at the Beta stage. Or Opera 11 which is in testing stage.

It seems all /. talks about is Firefox and IE.

43mb to 17mb? (2, Interesting)

iONiUM (530420) | more than 3 years ago | (#34138166)

That's a significant change in size. Usually when such a drastic change occurs, it means they originally included many things that weren't necessary. That leads me to believe they really didn't care about this before.

Re:43mb to 17mb? (1)

Shikaku (1129753) | more than 3 years ago | (#34138214)

or they used squashfs (which incidentally is included with LZMA support in every modern linux kernel)

Re:43mb to 17mb? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34138230)

Frankly at 17 Mb i'm not sure they care now ...

Re:43mb to 17mb? (1)

GooberToo (74388) | more than 3 years ago | (#34139360)

They are working on it - clearly. Its not like they are claiming its done.

Besides, as for the default browser, it gets a free ride because a lot of what it uses is actually bundled in the core OS. As such, it appears to be smaller than is actually apparent.

Re:43mb to 17mb? (4, Funny)

Rik Sweeney (471717) | more than 3 years ago | (#34138398)

Usually when such a drastic change occurs, it means they originally included many things that weren't necessary.

Meanwhile, at Mozilla labs:

Developer 1: Hey Bob, did you run strip after you built the final release?
Developer 2: Ummm... (looks at shoes)
Developer 1: Oh Bob, you're such a silly sausage!

(I imagine that Mozilla labs is a utopia where no one ever gets shouted at)

Re:43mb to 17mb? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34139110)

(I imagine that Mozilla labs is a utopia where no one ever gets shouted at)

- Mozilla labs has many open source developers.
- Slashdot has many open source developers commenting on its site.

By reading the comments on this site, I just may agree with you!

Re:43mb to 17mb? (4, Informative)

kripkenstein (913150) | more than 3 years ago | (#34138496)

That's a significant change in size. Usually when such a drastic change occurs, it means they originally included many things that weren't necessary. That leads me to believe they really didn't care about this before.

That's not the case - we both care a lot about this, and did not include unnecessary stuff. See this blog post [limpet.net] , specifically the section "Installation size: Problems and solutions", for the reasons.

Basically, Firefox has some unique challenges to overcome, in that unlike other mobile browsers, it includes a complete web rendering engine (Gecko), unlike others which use the bundled WebKit. With some tricky methods (the custom linker mentioned there, and other stuff), it's now much better. You can also move a large part of it to SD now.

We're going to continue working on this - we know how much users care about it, and so do we!

Re:43mb to 17mb? (3, Interesting)

RichiH (749257) | more than 3 years ago | (#34140856)

> You can also move a large part of it to SD now.

That single sentence convinced me to give it another spin. Flash on my Desire is _extremely_ precious. Sure, this problem will more or less solve itself in a year or two, but when I see a _game_ gobble up 30 MiB, I truly question the developers' sanity and technical ability. It's nice that you guys are different :)

BTW: New & faster Firefox for N810? Pretty please? Or should I stop hoping to really use that beast? A clear no is better than an endless maybe.

In any case, thanks for your work :)

Re:43mb to 17mb? (1)

kripkenstein (913150) | more than 3 years ago | (#34141910)

BTW: New & faster Firefox for N810? Pretty please? Or should I stop hoping to really use that beast? A clear no is better than an endless maybe.

Sorry, we support the N900 but not the N810. There are just so many mobile hardware and software variations, we don't have the time to make Fennec run properly on them all I'm afraid.

I like the Nokia devices myself - familiar Linux environment, open, etc. - so I'm sad about this. But we'll be supporting the future versions of them (running MeeGo).

Re:43mb to 17mb? (1)

RichiH (749257) | more than 3 years ago | (#34142158)

> Sorry, we support the N900 but not the N810. There are just so many mobile hardware and software variations, we don't have the time to make Fennec run properly on them all I'm afraid.

Did you mean "any more"? I have Fennec running on my N810 as we speak..

Re:43mb to 17mb? (1)

kripkenstein (913150) | more than 3 years ago | (#34144224)

Sorry, yeah, I meant 'any more'. The current beta and newer versions aren't being tested on the N810, while older versions work, as you said.

Re:43mb to 17mb? (1)

ducomputergeek (595742) | more than 3 years ago | (#34138502)

Or it was debugging code. I know when we move from development to final deployment builds of our app, the size goes from about 40MB down to 12MB once all the debugging and tests are removed.

Re:43mb to 17mb? (3, Informative)

jac89 (979421) | more than 3 years ago | (#34138556)

Its due to a quirk of NDK apps on android. Before Firefox had to unpack its libraries and effectively have them in two places. Now they link back to the original packed files, its sightly slower but thats where the space savings comes from.

Re:43mb to 17mb? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34138834)

You need to consider what the development process was almost certainly like. Step 1 - get things to compile for the platform. Step 2 - start optimizing runtime stuff. Step 3 - start optimizing build stuff, wihch is where you see this size reduction. There's nothing wrong with this approach, I would have done it the same way...

Re:43mb to 17mb? (1)

SnarfQuest (469614) | more than 3 years ago | (#34139028)

I'll bet the main difference is something like going from -O0 to -O2, and dropping debug code.

Re:43mb to 17mb? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34139576)

You do realize that going from -O0 to -O2 in many cases causes executable size increases right?

Re:43mb to 17mb? (1)

VirginMary (123020) | more than 3 years ago | (#34140242)

I think what you really need is -Os.

Re:43mb to 17mb? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34143158)

Actually I was dinking around with this last night, and depending on the app, -O0, -O1 and -Os can all end up providing smaller code than the others, depending on how complicated your app is. The most notable example was hello world gaining an extra 20-40 bytes depending on compiler used. Furthermore for apps that it can compile, tinycc can actually produce smaller binaries than gcc or clang, with hello world coming out as 2-3k instead of the 6k min with the latter two.

Re:43mb to 17mb? (1)

Tukz (664339) | more than 3 years ago | (#34160028)

Or it's BETA with several DEBUG options included.
I promply deleted it from my Desire when it ate half my memory pool, since it doesn't even support installing on SD card.

Maybe I'll try it again now.

Horizontal fit? (1)

asvravi (1236558) | more than 3 years ago | (#34138208)

No mention of whether it will do automatic horizontal fit of the text as in the stock Android browser. This is the single key feature that made me go back to the stock browser.

Re:Horizontal fit? (1)

mbrubeck (73587) | more than 3 years ago | (#34138578)

This is a feature we want to add [mozilla.org] , but we haven't got it yet. Until then, you can try the Bigger Text [mozilla.org] add-on, which adds simple font size controls instead.

Re:Horizontal fit? (1)

delinear (991444) | more than 3 years ago | (#34138650)

Agreed, this is a fantastic feature for reading on such a small screen, being able to hold the phone in one hand and scroll through a whole article with the thumb of the same hand without any messy left to right scrolling perfect, especially if you're trying to follow some technical details on a build and need a free hand, but even for holding a hot coffee while you scan the news on the train. The best part is I've yet to see it break a site, it's very cleverly implemented.

14mb for a mobile browser is sleek? (-1, Flamebait)

not already in use (972294) | more than 3 years ago | (#34138268)

Describing a mobile browser that weighs in at 17mb as "sleek" is like describing Kirstie Alley as sleek because she dropped a couple pounds and no longer needs a scooter to go grocery shopping.

I think it might be more appropriate to say that Firefox 4 got it's stomach stapled, and while it has dropped considerable weight, there is now a bunch of extra saggy skin everywhere.

Re:14mb for a mobile browser is sleek? (0, Offtopic)

Dexy (1751176) | more than 3 years ago | (#34138438)

What an appropriate sig.

762 (0, Offtopic)

delinear (991444) | more than 3 years ago | (#34138674)

I just call all of them 'synecdoche'.

Re:14mb for a mobile browser is sleek? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34138746)

That doesn't sound unreasonable for a full-featured GUI browser. It's on par with Opera Mobile, which apparently will take up 20MB installed on Android.
Opera Mobile 10 for Symbian takes 8MB installed, but it lacks some features compared to the latest browsers.
You get browsers like QtWeb, that come with a fair amount of features in 7MB, but there are tradeoffs in disk size vs. features, run-time performance, memory usage, ease of upgrade, etc.

Re:14mb for a mobile browser is sleek? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34138754)

Why this has been modded as a flamebait!? Is criticizing Firefox forbidden here?

For the comparison, installation package for Opera Mobile 10 takes 5MB http://www.opera.com/mobile/download/versions/

17MB is extremely bloated for a mobile browser. The whole desktop package for the newest Opera takes just 10MB.

Re:14mb for a mobile browser is sleek? (2, Informative)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 3 years ago | (#34139642)

I have a 16 GB SD card in my phone, why do I care about a measly 17MB?

Re:14mb for a mobile browser is sleek? (1)

Tukz (664339) | more than 3 years ago | (#34160044)

Well, I care since HTC Desire only comes with 100mb of internal space and that's where applications initially install.
Only with FroYo came the ability to install on SD card, but that's up to the developer to enable.

And Mozilla didn't enable that in beta 3.
Don't know if it's enabled in beta 4.

Opera Mobile (1)

Dan East (318230) | more than 3 years ago | (#34138478)

How does this compare to Opera Mobile (not Mini)? I run Windows Mobile 6.5 (shed a tear for me) and use Opera Mobile, and am curious how much better a browsing experience I would have with Android + Firefox 4.

Re:Opera Mobile (1)

mdm-adph (1030332) | more than 3 years ago | (#34139238)

I don't know, but Android + built-in-browser should be fine, right?

Re:Opera Mobile (1)

Namarrgon (105036) | more than 3 years ago | (#34144844)

I ran WM5, 6, 6.1 and 6.5 for years before switching to Android, browsing with pIE, Opera, Iris, Torch, Skyfire and a couple of others. Opera & Iris were the best, and were usable but always somewhat sluggish and awkward, and I often reverted to my iPod Touch despite the lower-res screen. Then I switched to a Nexus One, and holy crap the mobile web is fun again :-) Chrome on 2.2 is easily faster than Safari on my wife's 3GS, and is far beyond compare to any WM6.5 browsing. Trying FF4b2 now, and while not up to Chrome yet, even at its worst it's still a lot nicer to browse with than anything on WM6.5.

Seriously, switch today, you'll kick yourself for waiting this long when you do.

Requirements? (1)

Terrasque (796014) | more than 3 years ago | (#34138622)

This device does not meet the minimum system requirements for Firefox.

Promising indeed!

Re:Requirements? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34138990)

Care to share yours for that +1 Informative mod?

Just downloaded it to my Droid (1)

AdmiralXyz (1378985) | more than 3 years ago | (#34138918)

I don't recommend it yet. Tried to go to Slashdot right after installation: it loaded about halfway, hung for 30 seconds (not even the buttons below the screen responded), then crashed back to the homescreen. A few issues to work out, methinks.

Minimo vs FF mobile (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34139442)

What's the difference between Minimo and FF mobile?

size doesn't warrant (1)

farble1670 (803356) | more than 3 years ago | (#34139530)

on many android devices the space for apps is limited. even 17mb is significant. considering the built-in browser works just fine, it's hard to justify using 17mb of space for a slightly different browser.

GPS? WTF? This is a browser! (0, Flamebait)

sockman (133264) | more than 3 years ago | (#34139914)

Why the heck does FF need the GPS location? *sigh* I really wish Android had a way to turn features off, not that I'm overly paranoid or anything...

Re:GPS? WTF? This is a browser! (3, Informative)

lowlymarine (1172723) | more than 3 years ago | (#34139978)

All browsers need GPS location to pass on to sites that use it, such as Google, Facebook, and Twitter.

Re:GPS? WTF? This is a browser! (0, Troll)

sockman (133264) | more than 3 years ago | (#34140050)

Exactly my point of being able to disable the feature. I disable the GPS and network based location providers in the settings, I'd prefer to keep some of them enabled and just disable the applications access to it.

Re:GPS? WTF? This is a browser! (1)

lowlymarine (1172723) | more than 3 years ago | (#34140148)

In some browsers you can: In Dolphin HD for example, you can go to "Settings -> Advanced Settings -> Enable location" and clear the checkbox to disable it. You're also prompted the first time you visit each site that wants GPS location, which goes for the stock browser as well.

Of course this is irrelevant in Firefox mobile, as no site recognizes your Android phone as such anyways, and so won't ask for location access. I don't see an option pertaining to disabling this, however, for when they sort out the user agent.

Re:GPS? WTF? This is a browser! (1)

_Sprocket_ (42527) | more than 3 years ago | (#34140880)

Why the heck does FF need the GPS location? *sigh* I really wish Android had a way to turn features off, not that I'm overly paranoid or anything...

You CAN turn that stuff off. I often do. But there are times when location is handy. For example, if I'm in an area of town that I'm not familiar with and find I've got some time to kill and want to do it with a cup of coffee.

Remember it's a Beta (1)

IRWolfie- (1148617) | more than 3 years ago | (#34139934)

I imagine the comments will be full of complaints about things not working even though it is a Beta. Much like the complaints against Diaspora even though theirs was an Alpha release.

A huge improvement, but still some major issues. (1)

lowlymarine (1172723) | more than 3 years ago | (#34139956)

So the important things first: Performance is VASTLY improved over the first beta. The first beta was basically unusable on my Captivate (AT&T Galaxy S). This beta, on the other hand, is actually fairly snappy. The JavaScript performance is excellent as well; in fact, on the Sunspider benchmark I scored around 3600 ms, which is a staggering 2000 ms faster than Dolphin HD. I can even run some of the IE9 Test Drive demos at acceptable framerates, bizarrely, and Google Instant works just fine on the desktop version of Google.com. But therein lies a major problem: Firefox mobile still doesn't broadcast an Android user agent. I tried several sites that I know direct me to mobile versions in both the default browser and Dolphin, including Google, Engadget, and Ars. All of them take me to the desktop version of the page in Firefox. When you manually go to mobile versions, nothing recognizes your phone as an Android phone, so for example you get a generic version of Google.com/m rather than the special Android one. This beta still doesn't work with the Froyo flash plug-in, either. And while the font rendering is better, it's still nowhere near as easy to read as the stock browser. Overall, I'm glad to see this project is being taken seriously and a lot of progress is being made. But it's still a long way from being able to replace the stock Android browser for most, I'm afraid.

Re:A huge improvement, but still some major issues (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34140508)

I tried several sites that I know direct me to mobile versions in both the default browser and Dolphin, including Google, Engadget, and Ars. All of them take me to the desktop version of the page in Firefox.

Odd. If I go to http://arstechnica.com [arstechnica.com] using Firefox 4 beta 2 on my Nokia N900 I get the mobile version of the site automatically.

Re:A huge improvement, but still some major issues (3, Interesting)

amn108 (1231606) | more than 3 years ago | (#34141868)

As a web developer I strongly disagree with the notion that a phone should include anything as specific as "Android" in the UA string. It just means every mobile-aware web developer out there needs to SPECIFICALLY cater for Android phones (otherwise there would not be a need for the string, would it?). The right way to do these kind of things is with CSS and it's 'handheld' media profile (http://www.w3.org/TR/CSS21/media.html#at-media-rule). And on top of it, don't go ape with fixed widths ;-) You can also get the screen size via client side scripting host (Javascript) if you care about such things. Most of the time, if the site has been designed well, it will work just fine on any modern Internet-enabled phone.

I think you would agree with me that polluting UA strings with specific product names is a BAD IDEA. You would say "yeah, they are already have been doing it for years with IE/Mozilla etc" but in any case, this has never been designed as a courtesy for web developers to make decisions as to what version of the site to serve. It's the last resort piece of information, in case you really need to know what browser user is running.

If you really feel strong about this, at least think about including a profile of the browser instead - like the string "mobile", not "Android". Because otherwise we would soon need "iPhone", "Symbian", "Windows CE" or whatever mobile product is on the market at a particular moment...

Re:A huge improvement, but still some major issues (1)

Abcd1234 (188840) | more than 3 years ago | (#34142252)

Damn right. UA detection is a hack, plain and simple. CSS is the way this should've always been done.

Re:A huge improvement, but still some major issues (1)

amn108 (1231606) | more than 3 years ago | (#34146188)

Would you happen to know how one can recognize a handheld (in a good abstract way CSS does) BEFORE serving the page to said handheld? Because CSS only kicks in after the page is at client side. Of course it can reshape the content to a great degree, including hiding and rewriting it, but there is the waste of having to send it in the first place, knowing that it will be "discarded" at client side. Also, many handhelds benefit from less page weight to have to wait for and parse, that's where it would help too...

Re:A huge improvement, but still some major issues (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34144374)

Browser sniffing is a cardinal sin, of course, but it's an interesting data point for the statistics.

Re:A huge improvement, but still some major issues (1)

KiloByte (825081) | more than 3 years ago | (#34142430)

Hell, that all-caps VASTLY of yours is an understatement.

Fennec 3 takes ~minute to fully start on my n900. First it takes a long time to appear, and then there's an even longer wait for it to become responsive. I used it only because the alternatives (Nokia's MicroB, Opera Mobile) are a bad joke for basic functionality.

Fennec 4b1 -- well, it's beyond words.

Fennec 4b2 -- 12 seconds to start, fully responsive the moment the UI appears. It's also insanely faster -- Fennec 3 takes a couple of seconds to refresh after a scroll, Fennec 4b2 doesn't let me notice the redraw.

What I miss is double click on a div zooming it to the screen width -- most web pages have margins that waste the precious display area, and multi-column layouts make absolutely no sense on a 4 inch screen. I guess it's either moved to some other command or perhaps a configurable option; lemme continue the search for it.

NTLM Authentication Support (1)

Zebra1024 (726970) | more than 3 years ago | (#34140582)

Firefox on Android supports NTLM authentication with websites which the built in web browser does not support. This is required to connect to some of my companies internal sites which are setup to use NTLM authentication.

Breaking News! (1)

dangitman (862676) | more than 3 years ago | (#34143334)

Morbidly obese patient is now slightly less morbidly obese.

Can I run Fennec on my desktop? (1)

knorthern knight (513660) | more than 3 years ago | (#34159146)

> Some notable improvements over the initial beta release include
> 'reduced memory usage, improved text rendering and a 60% install
> size reduction on Android (from around 43 MB to 17 MB).'

Can I run Fennec on my desktop? Pretty please? Scrap the crap they call a desktop browser, and use Fennec instead.

I remember way back when Mozilla 0.9x was a painfully slow and bloated browser-cum-mailclient-newsreader-HTMLgenerator. People were yelling and screaming for a *LIGHTWEIGHT WEB BROWSER* dammit. Phoenix was such a revelation, as it blew the doors off of Mozilla, and used a lot less space.

Now Firefox is a painfully slow and bloated browser-cum-RDBMS-cum-internet_app_platform. Can we please have a fast browser... period... end of story? BTW...

$ ll -og /usr/portage/distfiles/firefox-3.6.11.source.tar.bz2
-rw-rw-r-- 1 51423291 Oct 26 23:42 /usr/portage/distfiles/firefox-3.6.11.source.tar.bz2

Yes, the *BZIPPED TARBALL* is 51 megs fer-cryin-out-loud.

Re:Can I run Fennec on my desktop? (1)

boiert (934539) | more than 3 years ago | (#34248104)

Can I run Fennec on my desktop? Pretty please?

Yes you can [mozilla.org]

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