If you thought the Google Chrome lineup was complicated with its stable, beta, dev, and Canary channels, you haven't looked into Firefox for Android. For a while, we had stable Firefox, Firefox Beta, Firefox Nightly, Firefox Preview, and Firefox Preview Nightly (not to mention the separate Firefox Focus) — truly a mess if you're just looking for the latest version of the completely rewritten new Firefox. That's finally changing, as Mozilla is starting to simplify its lineup, leaving only three versions: Firefox, Firefox Beta, and Firefox Nightly.
Mozilla is still in the process of rewriting Firefox on Android with a faster codebase and modern enhancements, but as with any overhaul project, sometimes it takes a while to bring back features that the previous version offered. The newest versions of Firefox Preview and Firefox Beta (the latter of which recently switched to Preview's codebase) re-introduce functionality that was already available on the old Firefox browser, but there are a few new changes as well.
However many versions of Firefox you think there are on the Play Store, I can almost guarantee there are more. One of the numerous Firefox builds is getting a major update, and that signals big changes for the other versions. The Firefox Preview app that first launched last year is now moving into the Nightly channel. In the coming months, the old Firefox could be a thing of the past.
Mozilla has been working on its almost completely rewritten Firefox for Android app for about a year already. At the moment, the open-source project is receiving finishing touches so it can enter the stable release channel in spring. The company has now communicated that the browser won't get full add-on support at launch and will only work with about 100 recommended extensions.
The release of Firefox 57 'Quantum' last year included several major changes to the browser's structure, including a new CSS engine known as Quantum CSS (formerly called 'Stylo'). Simply put, Quantum CSS is the browser component that figures out what styles should be applied to what elements. Because modern sites often use thousands of lines of CSS with many overriding styles, the feature was designed to take advantage of multiple CPU cores, giving Firefox 57 a performance boost over previous versions.
Shortly after Firefox 46 went stable, the beta for version 47 is now available. As is typical for browser updates, the changes are minor and eclectic, but a few this time around can decrease the amount of mobile data you consume by a hair or two.
Much like Chrome releases, Mozilla's updates for Firefox are rarely mindblowing. Instead, we get a constant stream of smaller changes that slowly but surely upgrade all aspects of the user experience. The latest beta release for Firefox, v46, falls right in line with this pattern. The highlight of the update is that the browser will display recently visited webpages even when you are offline, using data stored in cache.
You don't need to do anything in particular to get the offline webpage feature going; if Firefox has it cached, it will display instead of the typical error messages you get when trying to browse offline.
Mozilla, keeping pace with their regular rapid release schedule, released an update for Firefox Beta today. v39 graduated to stable, sending v40 to the beta channel. With some focus on changes to the desktop version, there aren't major user-facing changes in this Android update. Still, there should be some performance enhancements along with a nice UI improvement for navigating forward and backwards through a tab's history.
The overflow menu has been home to the forward and back shortcuts for quite a while now, but there wasn't an efficient way to navigate by several pages. Starting with v40, pressing and holding on the forward or back arrow will bring up a list view of your history.
It may have become the underdog now compared to the ubiquity of Chrome, but Firefox isn't letting that excuse hinder its improvement and development. The latest beta of Firefox for Android proves that by fixing some issues, adding support for requested regional features, and enhancing performance thanks to a few HTML5 additions.
Most notable are the srcset attribute and <picture> element support in HTML5. These allow web developers to point to various sizes of the same image that load based on the device you are browsing on. When used appropriately, the <picture> syntax only downloads the image for its specific context (screen resolution, size, orientation), and hence leads to more responsive page loading.