Mozilla is starting the year in great shape releasing the first release candidate of Firefox mobile for Maemo devices like Nokia Internet tablet devices, just hours before 2009 came to an end.
Feature wise, it is Firefox. You get the awesome bar, a download manager where you can pause and resume downloads, one touch bookmarking and tagging, tabbed browsing, the site button for quick security checks, popup blocker, a password manager, the same rendering engine (HTML5, native Theora video, embedded fonts), spell checker, etc.
What makes Firefox for Maemo a product on its own is the efficient user interface designed from the ground up to take challenges like having no keyboard, less computing power, or a smaller display while taking advantage of tablets’ touch screens, and handling.
To maximize screen use, the location bar doubles as the title bar, and disappears when vertically scrolling a web page. Something similar happens with the navigation toolbar: it stays out of sight until you scroll it in from the right side.
Scroll from the left side and you get the simple interface to access multiple tabs:
To minimize typing, the awesome bar is available and search engines are also displayed among recommendations to quickly perform web searches. You can add more search engines from web sites that offer them (through the site button) or get them directly from Mozilla Add-ons or Mycroft.
Preferences are limited to a few important ones, and some features like private browsing are just not there. You can either clear all your private data or do nothing. There are no options to clear cookies, passwords, or downloads alone, by time range or, for a specific site.
Just like Firefox, it is extensible, making it the first mobile browser to market with this capability, and there are 40+ add-ons already available at Mozilla Add-ons. Some interesting ones like Hold4Tab which allows to open a link in a new tab by holding your finger on a link, should become default behavior in the near future.
Firefox for Maemo is integrated with Mozilla Add-ons so you can search within the add-ons page. You can install and configure from this single page as well.
Among add-ons, one of the most relevant is Mozilla Labs’ Weave which takes mobile browsing to a new level by keeping your desktop and mobile experiences synchronized: bookmarks, passwords, history, and even your tabs are shared via Mozilla hosted Weave server.
Once Weave is enabled a new Remote Tabs button in the tabs sidebar shows the tabs you have open in your desktops, making it pretty easy to continue any work you may have being doing.
Weave 1.0 is pretty close to final release and already in plans for integration with desktop Firefox, and integration with Firefox for Maemo shouldn’t be that far either.
All in all, Firefox for Maemo delivers a great web experience in your hands.
The biggest disappointment with Firefox mobile is that it is only available for Maemo right now, which is used by a tiny fraction of the whole mobile landscape. However, Windows Mobile is next in the pipeline with Android and Symbian versions also under development which will make it available to a far larger audience.
For more details, check the release notes. If you don’t have a Nokia Internet Tablet, you can download a Windows, Mac, and Linux (unbranded) version to try.