Firefox is changing – at least on Android. Out goes the desktop-adapted version and in comes a mobile-optimised browser that promises to be much faster and more responsive than previously. That’s primarily down to Mozilla ditching the Chromium-based WebView engine of its existing Firefox app in favour of its own GeckoView engine. GeckoView is a packaged version of the Gecko engine that powers Firefox Quantum on the desktop, and has been built from the ground up with one eye firmly on performance. It also promises to retain all of Mozilla’s focus on privacy, with Enhanced Tracking Protection features found in the desktop version all present, correct and enabled by default.
That mobile optimisation is evident from the moment you fire up Firefox Preview for the first time: a minimalist interface loads quickly, answer a few setup questions (including an option to sign into your Firefox account) and you’re away.
The window is structured differently to the norm, with the URL bar at the bottom of the screen to reduce clutter and distraction. After a short period of adjustment it works well – key tools remain easily within reach, and it’s easy to read.
One new feature is Collections, the ability to group related pages together in a series of tabs. At present, extensions aren’t supported, but this should be rectified in a future build – and certainly before the app becomes stable and replaces the existing Firefox for Android browser.
We think Mozilla could be on to a winner here – it’s great to see it continuing to develop its own browser engines unlike the competition, and early signs point towards a much quicker, mobile-friendly browser than Firefox has managed so far.
What's new in version 2.2.0:
+ Add Firefox Preview as a search widget on your home screen.
+ Add a website shortcut to your home screen.
+ Send a tab from Firefox Preview to another device.
+ Launch private browsing from your Home screen.
+ More control over clearing different types of browsing data.
+ A notification that audio/video is playing with the option to pause or play it.
+ Long-press the URL in the address bar to display the options Copy, Paste or Paste & Go.
+ One-tap sign-in to Firefox Accounts if you’re already logged in on another Firefox browser on the same device.
+ Accessibility enhancements.
Early days, but Mozilla looks to be on the right track with this new Quantum-powered browser.