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Firefox, Opera Upgrade Mobile Browsers

Thu, 03/31/2011 - 10:15am
Brad Smith

Web browsers on phones and mobile applications have become more important to consumers as smartphones and tablets become more common globally. That was in evidence at CTIA 2011 as mobile browser developers pitched their latest and greatest versions, with new browsers coming from Mozilla and Opera.

Mozilla was talking up its latest version of Firefox, Release 4 for mobile, which will formally launch in the next few weeks. And Opera announced Opera Mini 6 and Opera Mobile 11.

Firefox 4 for Mobile, out in a release candidate now, is aimed at the Android market and includes such features as tabbed browsing, an “Awesome bar” that saves the most-visited Web sites, integrated Firefox Sync and a wide-ranging number of add-ons. The latter includes a Twitter add-on that allows users to send tweets directly from the browser.

Thomas Arend, principal product manager for Mozilla, said the foundation also has developed a work-around sync that allows Apple iPhone owners to sync Web usages through a desktop Firefox session called Firefox Home. Firefox itself can’t be used on an iPhone because Apple prevents the use of Java on its phones.

The new Firefox for Android has several features that were available last year for Nokia’s Maemo handsets, as well as in beta versions. The tab browsing is reached by swiping the phone’s screen to show the open tabs on the left side; a touch opens the tab. When the browser is opened for a new session, the browser displays the tabs that were open in a previous session

By touching the Awesome bar at the top of the browser a screen is opened that displays what are essentially a history of the most frequently visited Web sites. A few strokes on a virtual keypad discovers particular visited sites.

Firefox Sync synchronizes the list of visited Web sites on mobile or desktop devices. Arend said this makes it possible to quickly locate information on a site on a mobile device that has only been visited on a desktop.

Both the new Firefox 4 for Mobile and the latest Opera Mini and Mobile browsers allow pinch-to-zoom capabilities. Opera’s new versions also have a share button so users can post to Facebook or tweet.

Opera said its Mini 6 is available as a native application for Android, BlackBerry and Symbian smartphones, as well as for Java phones. Opera Mobile 11 is available for Android, Symbian and for Windows 7 desktop in beta.

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