Mobile browsing is one of the few boom areas for telcos, but browser competition is stifled as owners traditionally stick with whatever comes with their phone -- Safari on the iPhone, IE for Windows Mobile, Chrome for Android, Opera on everything else and so on.
Attempting to stir up some competition is Fennec, the cunning little fox from Mozilla that has had an extensive Alpha, going back to last October and is now available in beta, hopefully having recovered from last month's abortive pre-beta test.
Enter Mozilla Fennec
Fennec is the Mozilla Foundation's attempt to spread their Firefox desktop success to the world of mobile phones and other non-Desktop devices. The Foundation's official vision statement for the product starts out thus:
Fennec will bring a true Web experience to mobile phones and other non-PC devices, yet take advantage of the specific opportunities for new and useful user experiences enabled by mobility and telephony.
The stated goals of the project include providing a standards-based mobile browser engine that can be embedded in mobile platforms, to provide a full mobile browser platform that supports XUL-based add-ons and to enable mobile web application developers by providing useful tools, documentation and debugging facilities.
Mozilla Fennec Mobile Browser -- Welcome Screen
Firefox Gives Fennec an Edge
Needing a reason to get users to switch, Fennec's has several tricks up its sleeves. The primary one is the ability to sync the content from your desktop browser to your mobile.
This is something that the successful mobile Opera browser does, but that browser lacks Firefox's desktop market share. Mozilla must hope that with ever more people having multiple devices, their loyalty will follow them from the desktop to the street.
Another feature will be having access to same (or similar) gadgets and Add-ons that have made Firefox such a desktop success story.
Nice Use of Screen Real Estate
Giving web content primacy is another aim of the Fennec experience. You can browse web pages in a full-screen mode, with quick access to the browser tab bar with its thumbnails of other sites, performed by a drag to the left edge of the screen and the toolbar with a drag to the left, all quick, simple and space-saving.
Mozilla Fennec -- Tabbed Mobile Browsing
Features of Fennec
The feature list of the beta includes:
- Faster application start-up time
- Faster panning
- Faster zooming
- Initial implementation of bookmark folders and bookmark editing
- Support for plug-ins
This builds upon the feature set of the alpha releases:
Easy navigation to Web content:
- Bookmarks, including tags
- Smart URL bar ("awesome bar")
- Tabbed browsing with thumbnail images
- Integrated Web search - built into the URL bar
- Easy access to multiple search engines
- Maximize content by auto-hiding controls and URL bar
- Zoom in and out
- Instant Web site ID
- Password manager
- Popup blocker
- Clear private data
Devices services integration:
- Click on a phone number to initiate a call
- Searchable download manager
- Preferences pane
- Add-ons manager, including ability to directly find and install add-ons
At the moment, Fennec is limited to the Nokia N810 Internet Tablet running OS2008 ("chinook" or "diablo") but both the curious and those who want to build add-ons can try it out on a Windows, Linux or Mac desktop. Do keep in mind that the desktop builds are officially not supported.
Give a try and let us know if it would tempt you from your current mobile browser.