The future of Firefox for Android - gHacks Tech News

The future of Firefox for Android

Mozilla is working on a new mobile browser for Android called Fenix. The new browser is available as a development build currently.

The current Firefox for Android is also available but Mozilla focuses development resources on the new Fenix browser; that's the main reason why recent Firefox for Android releases look more like extended support releases that fix bugs but don't introduce a whole lot of new features in the browser.

While it was clear for some time that Mozilla planed to replace the current Firefox for Android with the new Fenix browser, it was unclear how all of that would happen.

Questions that we had no answers for included for how long the legacy Firefox for Android would be supported, when we could expect a first stable release of Fenix, and how Mozilla planed to migrate users from the old mobile browser to the new.

Firefox for Android future

A recently published support document highlights Mozilla's plans for the current Firefox for Android and also Fenix.

Mozilla's main idea is to maintain the legacy version of Firefox for Android until Fenix reaches migration readiness status. Firefox users on Android should be able to use the legacy version until Fenix is ready while Mozilla wants to minimize support costs.

To achieve that goal, Firefox for Android will move to the ESR branch after the release of Firefox 68. In other words: there won't be a Firefox 69 for Android that is based on the legacy version as it will use ESR versioning instead.

Timeline for legacy Firefox for Android

  • May 14, 2019: release of Firefox 67 for Android
  • July 9, 2019: release of Firefox 68 for Android
  • September 3, 2019: release of Firefox 68.1 for Android (move to ESR channel)
  • October 22, 2019: release of Firefox 68.2 for Android
  • December 10, 2019: release of Firefox 68.3 for Android

The legacy version of Firefox for Android won't receive new feature updates anymore when it moves to the ESR channel. The browser won't receive support for new web technologies anymore, nor will it receive any other feature updates. Bug fixes and security updates will be provided.

The releases will follow the Firefox desktop release schedule.

Mozilla has not specified a support end for the browser. It seems likely that the browser will reach end of support before mid 2020; Support ends when Fenix is ready and users of the legacy version of Firefox for Android can be migrated to the new mobile browser.

Mozilla wants to make it clear that the move to ESR won't give the browser the Enterprise attribute. The main reason why the legacy browser is moved to ESR is that it allows Mozilla to maintain it with minimal effort while work on Fenix continues.

The ESR version reaches end of life after Fenix is deemed migration ready by Mozilla.

Now You: Do you use Firefox for Android? (via Sören Hentzschel)

Summary
The future of Firefox for Android
Article Name
The future of Firefox for Android
Description
Mozilla revealed plans for the legacy version of Firefox for Android, the new Fenix browser for Android, and how it plans to migrate users.
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Ghacks Technology News
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Comments

  1. John Fenderson said on April 26, 2019 at 6:25 pm
    Reply

    I don’t use Firefox for Android because it is literally unusably slow on my device. However, the instant that there’s an Android Firefox that is at least minimally usable, I will switch to it. The existing selection of Android browsers is abysmal.

    1. SlowFF said on April 26, 2019 at 8:43 pm
      Reply

      Firefox for Android is slow on every device as is it’s desktop version. Try Brave for Android, the speed is brutal as is for desktop version.

      1. Alidl said on April 27, 2019 at 4:14 pm
        Reply

        The desktop version is good on windows.
        It was terible for me before 57 and after 57 it become more better on every release although it had a bug that caused my firefox to crash and made my cpu very high and the temp in my laptop increased when i tried to browsing facebook so i blocked all facebook and also disabled most of heavy APIs with WebAPI Manager addon and now it become good.

      2. bwat47 said on May 1, 2019 at 6:41 pm
        Reply

        the desktop version is not slow

    2. Anonymous said on April 26, 2019 at 9:42 pm
      Reply

      Try Focus. It’s not a full Firefox, but it’s fast and quite good. You miss Firefox sync though

      1. John Fenderson said on April 27, 2019 at 5:35 pm
        Reply

        @Anonymous:

        Yes, I’m aware of Focus — and I couldn’t care less about sync, so that’s a nonissue for me.

        However, given that there are a number of different Firefox Android variants, and I’m not sure which does what (the whole scene is rather confusing), I’m intentionally ignoring them all except whatever Mozilla decides to release as the canonical “Firefox”.

    3. AnorKnee Merce said on April 26, 2019 at 10:02 pm
      Reply

      Except for the initial slow-loading of a few seconds when launching Firefox for Android, I have no major problems using it. FF for Android can be used with the Adblock Plus and No-Coin extensions, unlike Chrome.

      1. Shadow_Death said on April 27, 2019 at 4:48 am
        Reply

        Kiwi Browser for Android offers chrome extension support.

      2. crambie said on April 27, 2019 at 12:46 pm
        Reply

        @Shadow I tried kiwi unfortunately the first two extensions I tried, a js a blocker and a text mode one, didn’t work. So I’m sticking with Brave for now. It’s fast and has js blocking per site and a sort of OK ad blocker but I also use Blokada.

        Having said that I don’t like the interfaces on any of the mobile browsers, they’re all clunky.

    4. Caspy7 said on April 26, 2019 at 11:26 pm
      Reply

      All reports I’m seeing from testers is that the new replacement, fenix, is genuinely quick and snappy.

    5. svim said on April 27, 2019 at 1:33 am
      Reply

      My experience with Firefox has been completely the opposite. Been using Firefox as my main browser going back to KitKat and experienced no solid reasons to switch over the years. Currently using Firefox Focus, as its by-design minimalism makes it a very responsive browser app.

    6. Omega X said on April 27, 2019 at 4:08 am
      Reply

      That’s literally the point of Fenix. Faster Android Firefox.

      1. John Fenderson said on April 27, 2019 at 5:36 pm
        Reply

        @Omega X:

        Yes, that’s why I’m looking forward to trying it out once it is released. I’m not interested in using a development or prerelease build. I can wait.

      2. Greg said on April 28, 2019 at 2:33 am
        Reply

        i did try Firefox Focus an it had terrible scrolling so i trashed it. , i just hope Fenix will have Addon support,

    7. Lambo-san said on April 27, 2019 at 8:37 am
      Reply

      @John Fenderson

      The Kiwi Browser on Android recently announced the support of Chrome extensions. The browser is basically a fork of Chrome and it has all the speed and benefits of it. Now with extensions like uBlock Origin and others, it’s the perfect browser for Android.

      I used to think like you before, I even put up with Firefox only because I could install real extensions, but now I don’t care about Firefox anymore. Even that Fenix browser will probably be slow. Because if they want it to support extensions, it has to be forked from Firefox, which is already slow on Android.

      There is another Mozilla browser on Android called Reference Browser, I gave it a try and it’s essentially a bare-bones Firefox for Android. It has the about:config page with all the bells and whistles in it, but you can’t tweak it to install extensions, so it’s basically completely useless.

      Give Kiwi Browser a try, you will forget about the joke that Firefox is immediately. Even on desktop, Firefox is a joke. They have been copying everything Chrome does since 2010-2011 when they released version 4, now since Quantum, Firefox feels like a gimped and slower version of Chrome.

      1. Alidl said on April 27, 2019 at 4:15 pm
        Reply

        Is kiwi open source?
        Is trustworthy?

      2. Mike W. said on April 27, 2019 at 8:47 pm
        Reply

        @Alidl

        Kiwi’s source code is available to view on Github.

        In regards to its trustworthiness, that is honestly your call. Kiwi and its developer seem trustworthy, but the dev has said that if privacy is the absolute #1 priority for you in a browser, Bromite is his recommended choice. I suspect that the reason for this is Bromite strips out a lot of the Google-related bits of Chromium, whereas Kiwi (much like Vivaldi) does not.

      3. John Fenderson said on April 29, 2019 at 4:54 pm
        Reply

        @Lambo-san:

        Thanks for the recommendation. I’m not interested in Chromium-based browsers regardless of whether or not I’ll use FF for Android. Just a personal preference. In the longer run I’ll be leaving the Android ecosystem entirely and this will become a nonissue anyway.

    8. Mike W. said on April 27, 2019 at 3:46 pm
      Reply

      Agreed. The only Android browser that I have found that is fast, scrolls smoothly, and offers decent adblocking is Samsung Internet of all things. I tried Kiwi and found it to be decent, but the built-in adblocker would break some websites. Thankfully I don’t use the browser much on my phone.

      1. Lambo-san said on April 28, 2019 at 12:02 pm
        Reply

        @Mike W.

        But the built-in adblocker in Kiwi doesn’t matter anymore. Did you read my first post?

        Kiwi now supports Chrome extensions, so you can install a real adblocker like uBlock Origin, a real tracking blocker like Privacy Badger and a real popup blocker like Poper Blocker or Popup Blocker Strict.

        Samsung Internet cannot compete with that unless they offer Chrome extension support too, which I doubt they will ever do.

      2. Mike W. said on April 28, 2019 at 8:18 pm
        Reply

        @Lambo-san

        I did and have tried the latest Kiwi release with uBlock and found it to still be a half-baked experience. It’s not bad, but whereas uBlock with Firefox works fine, I found some bugs still persist with uBlock running on Kiwi.

        I agree that Samsung Internet cannot compare with Kiwi w/Chrome extensions, but I find it hard to fully recommend Kiwi while so many bugs still persist with the integration of Chrome Extensions. It will be a serious player once that happens though, especially since Samsung Internet and Kiwi are the only decent Android browsers when it comes to a smooth scrolling experience.

  2. Anonymous said on April 26, 2019 at 8:34 pm
    Reply

    New Mozilla features in updates doing more bad than good in general, them going ESR is actually good news. Even then it has probably even more trackers than the desktop firefox, android apps being android apps. I’ll stick to Fennec F-Droid for now, a deblobbed mobile firefox (I thought firefox was free software ??), they said they couldn’t clean all the spyware, but at least they removed some of the crap. Contrary to the guys who put the crap in, those who remove it aren’t paid for that.

  3. skierpage said on April 26, 2019 at 8:54 pm
    Reply

    I’m posting this in Firefox for Android on a Pixel 2, it works fine. 62 tabs open (I’m optimistically disorganized), uBlock Origin adblocking, Ghostery anti-tracking.

    1. Anonymous said on April 27, 2019 at 11:19 am
      Reply

      Remove Ghostery, it’s spyware, and redundant with uBlock Origin.

      1. one of these anons said on April 27, 2019 at 1:06 pm
        Reply

        ^ Should’ve used a different username :D

        Sorry about that.

    2. Anonymous said on April 27, 2019 at 1:00 pm
      Reply

      You don’t need Ghostery if you’re using uBO. You’re better off using nothing than Ghostery.

    3. John Fenderson said on April 29, 2019 at 4:56 pm
      Reply

      @skierpage:

      I’ve heard the FF for Android works much better on newer phones such as yours. My phone is far from new (but I’m not going to upgrade my phone just to use a particular browser).

  4. edvat said on April 26, 2019 at 9:50 pm
    Reply

    The two only things I hope is left in the new Fenix is a real tab bar when using low dpi just like Dolphin browser have by default and Chromium has if you also use low dpi.
    The one thing that sucks with firefox for android is sorting bookmarks, yes they are sorted the same way as on my desktop when synced but editing/moving a bookmark to another folder, for example moving it from Mobile bookmarks to Other bookmarks.
    Mozilla implemented this by opening all folders in a treeview when you open to select a new path and this is impossible to do for me…it would take an hour to scroll from the top all the way to the bottom.
    Chromium have had the option to move bookmarks to other folders on android for years and all folders are closed by default when you open the treeview to select a new path.
    Like god ..what was mozilla dev team thinking..

    1. Alidl said on April 27, 2019 at 4:10 pm
      Reply

      Agree alot.
      Firefox for android bookmarking is really annoying.
      But for me the last time i used chrome, it was not better and it also made all tree of my folders open. What version fixed this?

  5. Andy L. said on April 26, 2019 at 10:30 pm
    Reply

    What mobile browser do you recommend that respects privacy?

  6. VioletMoon said on April 26, 2019 at 11:03 pm
    Reply

    Wonder what it means for Firefox Focus–Android only and quite good.

    1. Yuliya said on April 26, 2019 at 11:49 pm
      Reply

      Firefox Klar is Chromium: imgur.com/R6UzkZp
      It seems mozilla has forgotten how to make a rendering engine, so they’re begging Google to lend theirs instead. The good part is that they still know how to implement telemetry and data collection functionality: imgur.com/YxvrTNm
      Yaaayy.. *waves the white flag* (or should it be the rainbow one, since this is mozilla?)

      1. Kiki said on April 28, 2019 at 8:59 pm
        Reply

        Come on, either first inform yourself about the user agent, or at least have a proper look at your own image: Besides Chrome, it also mentions Mozilla, AppleWebKit, Focus, Mobile Safari – all the things (and their versions) it is compatible with.

        Your comment sounds more like a (failed) attempt at dissing mozilla…

      2. Yuliya said on April 29, 2019 at 2:07 am
        Reply

        That’s the Chromium user agent, in case you are not aware of.
        moz://a doesn’t need my diss, they manage to make themselves look like crap on their own.

      3. Milim said on May 4, 2019 at 7:47 pm
        Reply

        @Yuliya
        Hi
        I suggest you to read this.

    2. Anonymous said on April 27, 2019 at 6:40 am
      Reply

      It basically doesn’t mean anything for Focus.

      Mozilla has recently started unifying the code bases of all of their Android browsers with a library called “android-components”.

      Focus was already rebuilt with this library. Fenix is the rebuild of Firefox for Android on top of this library.

      So, at most it will mean that Focus now shares even more code with other Mozilla Android browsers and will therefore receive bug fixes even quicker.

  7. Jeff said on April 26, 2019 at 11:11 pm
    Reply

    Will Fenix be compatible with addons or will it follow (again) the chrome steps?

    1. crambie said on April 27, 2019 at 12:48 pm
      Reply

      It won’t have to start with, should/might do later. Which pretty much makes it a non-starter for me unless they include more functionality built in than usual.

  8. Yuliya said on April 26, 2019 at 11:15 pm
    Reply

    Fenix is only a shadow of a browser with its horrid tabs implementation (whatever they call them, sessions, containers, it’s crap anyway). Fun fact: one of the very first public builds, which I tried, and was barely working, one function which was well implemented was.. wait for it.. Telemetry! Nice privacy focused browser you’ve got there, mozillians, eh? lmao You can’t make this shit up.

    Anyway, I expect this will be the future of Firefox on desktop as well: deprecation in favour of the dumbed down, telemetry ridden (not that Firefox is any better these days, anyway) Fenix. Mozillians rejoice, as they will still have some crap of this sinking ship to defend, at least for the time being.

    Chromium all the way. Filtering needs to be done at the OS level on phones these days anyway due to developers greed, ads on webpages ae not the only ones you have to deal with these days, sadly, and Android 9 provides this functionality natively – coming from Google. That Google. Strange times we live in.

    1. Ber said on April 27, 2019 at 3:13 am
      Reply

      It’s still a early preview for a reason.

    2. Stulejarz said on April 27, 2019 at 9:56 am
      Reply

      >Assuming Chromium is privacy friendly

    3. Mike said on April 27, 2019 at 4:09 pm
      Reply

      In the old days they didn’t used much telemetry and because of that they browser was terrible.
      If telemetry be fair and anonymous, it is good.
      In the end they should know problems with their software so they can fix it!

    4. Hunter said on April 27, 2019 at 6:54 pm
      Reply

      It would be nonsensical to not have telemetry on an alpha product in active development. It’s the same thing with Firefox Nightly.

      1. Anonymous said on April 27, 2019 at 7:30 pm
        Reply

        Telemetry is on by default not just on alpha and nightly versions, but on all versions.

      2. user17843 said on April 27, 2019 at 11:04 pm
        Reply

        The problem is that mozilla has an unhealthy obsession with telemetry data.

        I bet most people would be shocked if the published the percentage of work hours spent on telemetry related stuff.

        They have created a company culture where no one can change anything without backing it up with telemetry data.

      3. Yuliya said on April 28, 2019 at 10:18 am
        Reply

        You know what else would be nonsensical, Hunter? To force telemetry on users of the stable channel who explicitely opted out of it. What kind of nasty company do you think would do this kind of nonsense? I’ll let you know: https://www.ghacks.net/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/telemetry-coverage.png

      4. Ali said on May 4, 2019 at 7:54 pm
        Reply

        https://www.ghacks.net/2013/08/21/why-you-may-want-to-enable-firefox-telemetry-data/

        I think if they would liked, they could silently do this but the fact that they do this thing transparently is a good sign.

        I also disabled telemetry may be from 6-7 years ago but now that i thaught about it, i think they can’t make a good browser if they don’t have telemetry so i enabled it on all my firefox instances except banking one that is portable.

      5. Ali said on May 4, 2019 at 7:58 pm
        Reply

        *tought :D

  9. ULBoom said on April 27, 2019 at 1:02 am
    Reply

    No, we use focus, works fine. Android FF is slow and has a very cluttered interface on our devices.

    1. Anonymous said on April 27, 2019 at 6:42 am
      Reply

      That’s 100% what Fenix will fix.

      It has a different user-interface and should be exactly as fast as Focus, as Fenix shares many components with Focus (and other Android browsers from Mozilla).

      1. Iron Heart said on April 27, 2019 at 7:54 am
        Reply

        @Anonymous

        Fenix is going to be a fail, as is current Android Firefox and all of its variants. Even Desktop Firefox is a failure by now.

  10. Anonymous said on April 27, 2019 at 1:13 am
    Reply

    I still remember when Fennec was announced fore Windows Mobile 6. It must’ve been 15+ years since and Firefox on Mobile is still lackluster. Give Mozilla a couple more years and I bet they’ll scrap the whole thing and does what everyone else already did, fork Chrome.

    1. Iron Heart said on April 27, 2019 at 7:52 am
      Reply

      Have you taken a closer look at their market share, recently? I could even see them dropping out of the browser market fully. They are already heavily invested in Internet of Things for a reason.

      1. Mike W. said on April 27, 2019 at 8:51 pm
        Reply

        Nah, Firefox will stick around in the browser game. The priority of Mozilla might shift to IoT development, but Opera is still kicking around all these years later with minimal (at best) market share.

      2. Iron Heart said on April 29, 2019 at 10:28 am
        Reply

        @Mike W.

        Except for the fact that Opera is based on Chromium anyway, minimizing their development expenses. Mozilla is developing its own rendering engine (Gecko), which is far more cost-intensive.

  11. gazoo said on April 27, 2019 at 7:00 am
    Reply

    FF on Android has never worked out well for me on various devices: slow, slower still rendering pages and terrible decisions on the UI. While it’s my choice on the Desktop (with many custom privacy-related changes), Bromite is my choice on Android.

    1. Alidl said on April 27, 2019 at 4:19 pm
      Reply

      Use webAPI Manager and disable heavy APIs
      The firefox for android will become far snappier.
      Yes, it was very bad and slow in the old but recently it become good.

      Although i installed Fennec Fdroid that don’t have binary blobs and may be also that be a reason why firefox for android is rather usable for me recently :)

      1. gazoo said on April 27, 2019 at 8:18 pm
        Reply

        Thanks for the lead on WebAPI Manager, Alidl. I didn’t know something like this existed (I must have missed ghacks write-up on this). So much of our modern privacy/security problems are wrapped around (new) browser APIs these days.

        There’s also a Chrome version which is nice (testing a couple that are Chromium-based recently: Brave and Vivaldi).

        It’s currently unmaintained (per the mozilla add-ons site) but I plan to play around with it a bit.

  12. Anonymous said on April 27, 2019 at 7:17 am
    Reply

    most android browsers have UIs that are more suited to desktop than friggin mobile devices. like why do they think it’s a good idea to put often used buttons like tabs and back/forward so far up screen like it’s normal for people to have giant hands or something. it’s so dumb and shows lack of understanding in super basic UI designs and simple logic.

    1. crambie said on April 27, 2019 at 12:50 pm
      Reply

      Brave now has a bottom bar but none are particularly slick when it comes to the UX.

    2. Anonymous said on April 28, 2019 at 6:16 pm
      Reply

      Fenix will have the URL-bar and buttons at the bottom.

  13. zakius said on April 27, 2019 at 9:24 am
    Reply

    “Mozilla’s main idea is to maintain the legacy version of Firefox for Android until Fenix reaches migration readiness status”
    seeing how they handled quantum migration (not at all) I doubt it

  14. steamrollerpark said on April 27, 2019 at 2:19 pm
    Reply

    Via Browser is the best.

  15. iori said on April 27, 2019 at 7:14 pm
    Reply

    so they are trying to pull the “quantum” on mobile, presonally i always used firefox for android with ublock and i have no “slowdown” or issues and im using a pretty old phone (nexus 5), in my desktop i use mostly quantum but when sometimes dont work i switch back to 52 ESR… in mobile its pretty much almost all the browser do the same thing so if they really want to stand out it needs to have addons

  16. John IL said on April 29, 2019 at 12:56 pm
    Reply

    Plenty of fast browsers for mobile platforms. Not sure that’s enough to sway users to use Fenix. I was disappointed in their Quantum project maybe it was simply over hyped but it has fallen behind over time. Mozilla is quickly becoming the company that makes niche browsers for those few who want them. That to me isn’t enough to succeed.

  17. Anonymous said on April 30, 2019 at 6:37 pm
    Reply

    To anyonw who is looking for a lightweight browser, I recommend Via Browser.

  18. Amonymous said on May 1, 2019 at 9:14 am
    Reply

    Let’s just hope it has Extension support and the ability to load in multiple search engines. I seriously hates how Chrome (both PC and Android) just lock you to one search engine. Kiwi doesn’t help either, although the new Extension support there is nice.

  19. djTrump said on May 1, 2019 at 10:49 pm
    Reply

    SAD!

  20. me said on May 2, 2019 at 6:40 pm
    Reply

    Try Naked Browser, it’s WebView-based – you’ll need to regularly update that – fast, geeky and the dev respects your privacy. Cookies & Javascript can be micro-managed, bookmarks & settings import/export, gestures, mht saving & fullpage screenshots. That said, it doesn’t support extensions and does nothing against ping tracking or web beacons, but neither does Brave.

    Brave – I’ve been interested for a while, but it’s becoming clearer the privacy features are mostly hot air, and cryptocurrency hype.

    Too bad Mozilla will be retiring Firefox just when it’s getting fun to use. Never mind most extensions don’t work, and I depend on word of mouth which ones actually do, it’s simply the most configurable browser out there. I hope they keep that functionality.

  21. Anonymous said on May 3, 2019 at 3:45 pm
    Reply

    There won’t be any “Fenix Browser”, as “Fenix” is just simply the codename.
    Mozilla Firefox for Android will be using GeckoView in the future.

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