Firefox has a hard stand on Android. With a market share of way less than 1 percent, it’s clear that Mozilla needs to do something to breathe new life into its mobile product. However, if you’ve followed Firefox development on Android for the last couple of months, you may have noticed that it’s basically come to a halt. Enter Fenix.
Fenix is a completely new browser Mozilla is supposedly working on, and it's redone from the ground up with the recent browser engine GeckoView and Android Components developed by Mozilla. For now, we have nothing but mockups, but they look promising. And they remind me very much of the first iterations of Chrome Duet back in 2017.
Since our screens are only getting bigger, it makes sense to put the most used UI elements right at the bottom of our devices. It also makes sense that a swipe up reveals further actions, although I fear this might interfere with Android 9 Pie's gesture navigation. Oddly enough, there apparently is no way to quickly enter the tab overview—but it's right there, in the form of the home button, since the tab overview is part of Fenix' home screen.
And a look into Fenix' tab overview reveals another even more interesting change. Once you're done browsing the web and you close the application, your tabs will be saved in bundles called sessions. When you return to Fenix, you can either start a new browsing session or return to one you already started. The scheme below is a good visual representation of that.
Individual tabs currently in use are displayed full-width and can be saved manually as sessions. Supposedly, it will be possible to share browsing sessions with other users and devices through Firefox Sync. I'm a little skeptic how often those features will be used, and if it's possible to convince people to completely rethink their tab management, but overall, these look like thoughtful redesigns of Firefox' current UI. They might help people who otherwise never clean up their tabs and wonder why their phones are getting slower.
Mozilla wouldn't be Mozilla if Fenix didn't also include a number of privacy-focused features. It can natively block everything from ads to autoplaying video and audio, cookies, tracking, pop-ups, URL redirections, and for people with little mobile bandwidth, even images. Other features are familiar from Firefox and other browsers: There is a reading mode, custom tabs, and per-website permissions. Those are all old hats for long-time Firefox users, but it's good to see that we won't lose functionality through a product replacing another for once (looking at you, YouTube Music).
All these details are subject to change, since the browser is still under active development over at GitHub. Mozilla plans to release Fenix this summer, and will migrate current Firefox users at a later date.
If you want to give Fenix a try to see how it works, you can grab the latest nightly here (via TechDows)— look at the right column and get the arm/aarch64/x86 APK that fits your device. Thanks, Niall Burnes!
- Sören Hentzschel