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Fennec squeezes into Android users' pockets

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Mozilla has pushed out another alpha version of Firefox for mobile phones, Fennec, and it's inviting Android, and N900, users to have a shot with the little fox.

Fennec is the working title for the mobile version of Firefox, incorporating the irritatingly-named "Awesome Bar" and synchronising in real time with its bigger brother. Previous alpha releases of Fennec have only been available for Nokia's N900 internet tablet, with one "pre-alpha" release being built for Android. But now Android users get a proper "alpha" and are invited to download to see what they think.

The more-wary user might like to take a look at the video instead, which shows how Fennec recreates the Firefox experience in miniature - using sideways scrolling to provide access to tools and demonstrating how Fennec manages the add-ons which have proved so popular for Firefox.

But synchronisation is one of the more interesting features. Android users who've made the jump to Froyo will have Crome2phone already showing them how useful the continuity of browsing can be. But for everyone else the task of synchronising history, tabs, bookmarks, passwords, and form defaults is complicated at best, and one of the things that Fennec is really good at.

The new release includes separation of rendering and interface into distinct tasks, making it more responsive to the user. The concept of add-ons is supported, with Fennec having a special menu for adding and managing the additions which have proved so popular on the desktop.

The usual caveats apply - this isn't even a beta release, and can't be expected to be very stable. The Known Issues list suggests that scrolling speed could do with improving, and that some add-ons developed for earlier version of Fennec won't work, but these seem like minor issues for a first version.

We've not had a proper chance to see how stable Firefox is on a mobile phone, but early indications show a surprisingly usable little web browser, though as yet little advantage over the one built in. ®

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