New wardrobe for Android Firefox surfaces

Mozilla makes public the first mock-ups of a new design for Firefox on Android, following a recent controversial decision to ditch its original interface.

The new look for Firefox for Android won't strike many as hugely different, but maybe that's because it looks more like a native Android app.

The new look for Firefox for Android won't strike many as hugely different, but maybe that's because it looks more like a native Android app.

(Credit: Mozilla)

It wasn't an easy call for Mozilla to scrap the Android interface it had been using for its mobile version of Firefox, but today the company released the first images of what Firefox for Android could wind up looking like in the near future.

At first glance, it may appear that not much will be changed. In the standard browser window, tab management will be moved from the left side of the location bar to the right, and the location bar itself will get rounded corners. Many Firefox-specific pages, such as the add-on manager and the default Start page, will undergo bigger redesigns. The open tab management window, for example, will take up the width of the screen, instead of being crammed into a left-side gutter as it is now.

Firefox for Android's new clothes

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However, the change in design is more of a cover story. The real changes to the browser will occur under the hood, as the current XML User Interface Language is ditched for native Android code. Native Android code will allow the browser to launch in "fractions of a second, versus several seconds," according to programmer Mark Finkle, who also anticipates lower memory use and better responsiveness to user input.

So what's controversial about a faster, more responsive interface that looks more like a part of the Android ecosystem? The design changes will come with a cost: the current Firefox Sync will break, and current add-ons for the Android version of the browser will have to be re-written. Those can be re-written, though, and Mozilla has clearly placed a higher value on app speed than app features for the moment. Design changes can be tracked in the Firefox for Android nightly channel.

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