Mozilla this week put out its first beta release of Fennec, the mobile version of its Mozilla Firefox web browser.
We took a quick look at Firefox's little sibling, and we have to say Fennec is a very impressive and easy to use browser that maximizes your small screen space.
Fennec uses touchscreen features such as zooming, panning and scrolling. It also embraces a lot of features you'd expect in a mobile Firefox, including the ability to download add-ons, the awesome bar, easy bookmark management, and even about:config access for power customisation.
Add-ons: If you are into customising Firefox with add-ons, you'll love this feature in Fennec. Right now, the only add-ons available include Twitter, a URL fixer to combat typos, and a few security programs. We downloaded the Twitter add-on for Fennec and found that getting add-ons worked just like in Firefox: the add-on dialogue box appears and we choose to install it.
After that, Fennec automatically restarts. Once Twitter was activated, we entered a Tweet in the address bar and clicked on a little green button to post. This is a great solution and allows you to easily post a URL that you're viewing. The Twitter add-on automatically shrinks the address using tinyURL.
Awesome bar: Taking one of the most popular features from Firefox, Fennec's awesome bar remembers where you've been and allows you easy access to these sites. As an added feature, you can also search with Google, Yahoo, and Wikipedia right from the awesome bar.
Bookmarks management: The bookmarks icon is right next to the address bar and lets you save and manage your favourite sites. To go to a bookmark, you just click on the icon and then select your site.
Maximising Screen Space: Fennec is all about maximising your screen space. Once you start to scroll down a web page, the address bar disappears so you can see more of the page you're viewing.
Tabs: Getting to tabs in Fennec is so easy it's ridiculous. Just flick the web page to the right and you can easily add or close tabs from another sidebar. This is a fantastic feature, and will make mobile browsing far more productive.
Flash and other video codec support: Fennec boasts the ability to play anything from Flash to Quicktime to Silverlight. However, in our tests Fennec didn't fare well for playing video.
We accessed YouTube, the New York Times, and CNN to test video and none of them worked effectively. On YouTube we could get audio but no video (we couldn't even see the actual plugin), at CNN we couldn't even get the video to play, and at The New York Times the video was incredibly jumpy and was more like watching a slideshow. We hope these problems will be fixed before an official version of Fennec comes out.
Despite its video shortcomings, Fennec looks like a fantastic browser for the mobile web. According to the roadmap, the first devices to get Fennec will include Nokia's Maemo platform and Windows Mobile 6, followed by Symbian devices (work on Symbian begins in December 2009). Currently, there's no news to report for Palm, BlackBerry, or Apple iPhone users.
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