There was a lot of news about different Android browsers during this month. We got Vivaldi Beta, dark mode on Edge and Brave browsers and now we also published a Firefox Preview Nightly beta to our catalogue.
I have a bunch of launcher apps installed because I like testing them. "Internet browsers" is also one of the categories which I usually test but I don't keep them installed. Normally I just use Chrome Beta plus I have a stable Chrome app installed too.
At the beginning I was willing to make a short review about Firefox Preview Nightly but then I realised that there are a lot of interesting things to dig into and I decided to make a review for the Firefox ecosystem in general.
What is Firefox project?
Firefox browser is run by Mozilla Corporation which is usually associated with things like open-source, non-profit and privacy.
Are you a Linux user or do you have any friends who use Linux? There is a big chance that you will see Firefox as their default browser especially if they like open-source software.
Firefox project is super old and it started in 2003 by Mozilla Organisation. It evolved a lot since that time and it managed to keep its core focus on being free software focused on user needs. These core values were also kept when they started building their solution for Android.
Firefox development and testing workflow
Mozilla development workflow was established before the first version of Android OS got released. Most parts of this workflow were designed to fit its open-source nature and to be used by the open-source community.
First of all, it implies splitting releases into Stable and Nightly builds. Nightly build can be described as something similar to the beta build which has more frequent releases. And as usual, it comes with a chance to get new features (and bugs) ahead of others. Nightly builds are also known as "Developer Preview". In one of their blog posts they explained "why" and "how" release process was simplified.
Secondary, Mozilla has its own public bug tracker which can be used by anyone to report bugs and check progress on existing issues. This publicity is the main benefit of open-source nature which simplifies the testing process by 100 times.
All Firefox apps in beta
Before moving forward - here is a full list of Firefox browsers available on Android. Firefox also has many add-on apps on Google Play which we also added to the list (and some of them has a beta status too).
🔥Firefox for Android (App 1: Stable)
This is the first Firefox browser for Android. Only has a stable release track.
Experience a fast, smart and personal Web. Firefox is the independent, people-first browser made by Mozilla, voted the Most Trusted Internet Company for Privacy. Upgrade today and join hundreds of millions who depend on Firefox for a more personal browsing experience.
This is a standalone beta version of Firefox browser. Only has a stable release track.
🔥Firefox for Android (App 2: Beta)
Help refine and polish the newest features almost ready for prime time. With Firefox Beta, you get to test the latest performance, customisation and security enhancements before they make it to our next version.
🔥Firefox Nightly for Developers (App 3: Aurora)
This is a nightly build for Firefox browser. It has both Stable and Beta release tracks on Google Play.
Firefox Nightly is a developmental channel for new Mozilla Firefox releases.
A new browser by Mozilla with a focus on Privacy. It has both Stable and Beta release tracks on Google Play.
Browse like no one’s watching. The new Firefox Klar automatically blocks a wide range of online trackers — from the moment you launch it to the second you leave it. Easily erase your history, passwords and cookies, so you won’t get followed by things like unwanted ads.
🔥Firefox Preview (Stable)
The third version of Firefox browser. Code name - "fenix". Only has a stable release track on Google Play.
Firefox Preview marks a release of the early version for an experimental Firefox browser for Android. Built on GeckoView, Firefox Preview is a pilot for early adopters, developers, and anyone who wants to help make a better, more private Firefox for Android.
🔥Firefox Preview Nightly for Developers (Beta)
This is a nightly build for Firefox Preview browser. It has both Stable and Beta release tracks on Google Play.
Firefox Preview Nightly is a developmental channel for new Firefox Preview releases. It is intended for advanced users only.
Other Mozilla apps:
New Firefox Preview Nightly
This is the newest Firefox app by Mozilla. The main goal behind it was to reinvent the browser from scratch. The app is built on top of the GeckoView rendering engine which is an alternative to WebView (used by Chrome and many other apps).
Apart from using a faster engine than in the standard Firefox app, the new Firefox Preview has "user privacy" and "usability" as its core areas of improvement. As a result, we got some new features in Firefox Preview:
- Ads blocking and tracking prevention. There are two modes - "Standard mode" and "Strict mode" (default). Strict mode is blocking as many tracking solutions as it can and it promises to make page loading faster while it doesn't guarantee that they will work properly. It definitely blocks Adsense ads and Google Analytics. The standard mode is less aggressive and it meant to be working properly everywhere. But it doesn't block Adsense ads for example. With this feature, you can easily search for something on google without being bloated with adds about your search query on all websites.
- A bottom search bar. Many apps switching to the bottom tabs UI and a bottom search bar is a way to go for mobile browsers. The difference is small but the fact that you don't have to move your finger to the top border of your 6-inch phablet makes it super attractive.
- Dark mode (a must-have in 2019) - and it can follow system-wide setting too.
- Collections instead of bookmarks. I think that last time I used bookmarks in 2015 and since then I just remember all search queries to find a necessary tab in autosuggestions (thanks to Chrome) I definitely not gonna have the same feature on Firefox and it might become the main reason for me not to use it. Collections seem to be a fresh reincarnation for bookmarks which you can easily organise and share.
Firefox Preview UX
From the first open it becomes clear that Firefox team put a lot of work on UX improvements. It makes it easy to navigate between tabs, collections and browser menu. At the same time as I see a big impact of moving UI elements to the bottom part of the screen, I feel like it doesn’t change web browsing experience very much. Most of the time you navigate through web pages which are not optimised to mobile experience as much as browser app itself and that makes you click on all areas of the screen anyway.
The main thing that actually improves your browsing experience is an internal ad and tracking blocker. It just makes many web pages to load quickly and keeps them clean.
It also makes sense to talk about differences between Nightly and Stable builds. I have been testing this app for a week and I got around 4 nightly updates and 0 stable releases. None of the recent changes was major enough but when something will arrive - nightly users will definitely receive it first.
Currently, nightly build has a different default position of a search bar on the home page. It is located at the bottom while in the stable app it is located in the middle of the screen.
Firefox Preview on Github
Apart from that, you can find Firefox Preview source code on github. Its code name is "fenix". This code name is interesting because it sounds like "phoenix" and this name perfectly fits a project which meant to rebuild something from scratch. If you like open source software, you probably have a github account already. And if you do - you can fill up a new issue right over there in case if you fund any. Please keep in mind that before that, you need to check existing issues to avoid creating duplicates.
As a summary, when it comes to Firefox apps - now you know that “Nightly” is a synonym for “Early Access” in the Mozilla world. Which one will you prefer?