Firefox 4 for Android available in beta

Mozilla has released its first Firefox 4 beta for smartphones, with versions available for Android and Maemo handsets.

Firefox 4 for Android available in beta

The browser maker said the software – available for download and testing – was built around the same engine as the desktop version, but had been optimised for mobiles, with support for features such as “pinch to zoom”.

“People often ask us why Android needs another web browser,” said Mozilla mobile engineer Matt Brubeck in his blog.

“There are several other browsers for Android, but all of them use the built-in WebKit rendering engine (except Opera Mini, which uses a proxy server for rendering),” said Brubeck. “The same is true for iOS, which is also based on WebKit – as are the latest versions of BlackBerry, Symbian, and Palm webOS.

“Firefox for Android is built on the same Gecko engine as Firefox 4 for desktop,” he said, explaining that lets it support more web technologies than rivals, including SVG, ECMAScript 5, WebM, and HTTP Strict Transport Security. “Of course there are features WebKit supports that Gecko doesn’t, which is why it’s great to have a choice.”

Brubeck added mobile Firefox 4 – also known as Fennec – also offered syncing of bookmarks, tabs, history, passwords, and form data to and from handsets, as well as the Jaegermonkey JIT compiler that is used for running JavaScript.

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