After a brief stretch in beta followed by some vague teasing, Firefox’s native Android app update is finally set to hit Google Play. While there are a raft of bells and whistles — a new welcome page, curvy Australis tabs, Flash and HTML5 support, for starters — it’s the browser’s newfound speed that is getting the MVP treatment. That rapidity is as good a place as any to start a quick hands-on, especially since the native browser lag on one of our older handsets, a Galaxy S, often makes us want to hurl it through a pane of glass. Mozilla claims it built Firefox to a new benchmark it developed called Eideticker, resulting in an overall browser experience twice as fast as the stock Android one. As advertised, initial loading is quasi-instant, and navigation, zooming and tab switching seemed smooth as well, even on the two-gen-old phone.
Feature-wise, preferences and other desktop settings imported easily with Firefox Sync’s shared password system, and the unfortunately named “Awesome Screen” is the new home page shown above, from which it’s fairly simple to launch your preferred sites. Flash and HTML5 generally displayed correctly despite a few minor rendering bugs, and the curved tabs and other design touches make it one of the more elegant Android browsers we’ve played with. Unfortunately, many sites display in full because they don’t yet detect Firefox as a mobile app, but the installation of the Phony 3.2 add-in lets it impersonate other smartphone browsers, and it seemed to work well. We also didn’t like that tabbed browsing now requires two taps to get to another page, unlike the previous version, but we imagine that was needed for the increased speed. Overall, Firefox is a welcome addition to the Android ecosystem — we bet you’re just as eager to start browsing as we are, so stay tuned for the app to hit Google Play later today, or jump past the break for a quick speed demo from the kind folks at Mozilla.
Version 12 of Opera’s desktop browser has been in beta for some time, but today it’s making the step up to a full release for Macs and PCs. Along with hardware acceleration, speed improvements and an overhauled security badge, the update includes new browser skins (some 100 themes are available). One of the biggest tweaks, however, is the addition of camera support — Opera 12 lets your webcam work with web applications, including an Asteroids-style game called FaceKat and Photo Booth. Head to the source link for more info.
It’s been barely over a month since the Firefox 13 beta began, but the wait for a completed version has felt especially drawn out. Thankfully, Mozilla has just wrapped up its work and set loose the polished code. The new release makes its changes felt right away, as you’ll see a new default home page with bookmarks and history. Opening a new tab page presents a list of most visited pages — a feature that we can swear we’ve seen in a few browsers before. A slightly fresher addition switches on Google’s SPDY protocol by default, which as its convenient acronym suggests should squeeze and streamline web traffic to load it faster. Mozilla won’t completely open the floodgates until tomorrow, but you can download Mac and Windows editions today from the source links below.
Similar to that other, foxy browser, Opera reached numerical version 12 (although in beta form), promising to be as fast and smooth as it’s ever been. Included in the new revision are a slew of under-the-hood enhancements, along with a few cosmetic alterations. For starters, Opera 12 now offers complete 64-bit compatibility for both Mac and Windows, while “experimental” hardware acceleration and WebGL support are also in tow. Furthermore, the browser added a “smarter” tab-loading sequence, speed improvements for faster page uploads and a way to customize the look with a bundle of new themes — of course, you can create your own as well. As for the backend tweaks, Opera announced it’s abandoning its Unite and Widgets features in favor of an extension-driven model. Those of you eager to take it for a spin can hit the Opera link below to get started.