Mozilla unveils alpha browser for Android

Fennec 2.0 ready for testing, says Firefox maker

Mozilla today released an alpha version of its mobile browser for smartphones running Google's Android operating system.

Fennec 2.0, which is built on the same Gecko engine that powers the better-known Firefox 4, adds integrated synchronization and boosts performance by separating user interface and rendering processes, said Stuart Parmenter, Mozilla's mobile team technical lead.

"This release includes Electrolysis, which allows the browser interface to run in a separate process from the one rendering Web content," said Parmenter in a post to the Mozilla blog today. "By doing this, Fennec is able to react much faster to user input while pages are loading or CPU intensive JavaScript is running."

The Electrolysis technology will eventually also run add-ons -- another feature Fennec borrowed from Firefox -- in a separate process.

Mozilla's baked its Firefox Sync service into Fennec 2.0, matching the move earlier this week when it released Firefox 4 Beta 4 . The service keeps bookmarks, passwords, browser history, open tabs and other data consistent across multiple computers and smartphones.

Sync is available to users of earlier Firefox editions through an add-on , and to iPhone owners via the free Firefox Home app, but this is the first time that the functionality has been included with Fennec.

Fennec 2.0 can be installed on many -- but not all -- smartphones running Google's Android operating system, said Mozilla, which posted a list that included the now-discontinued Nexus One; HTC's Desire, Droid Incredible, EVO 4G and Legend; and Motorola's Droid 2 and Droid X .

Mozilla has not officially committed to a beta or final release date for Fennec 2.0 for Android, but notes from a Wednesday meeting pegged Sept. 7 as a code freeze deadline for Beta 1. If Mozilla's developers meet that date, the first beta would ship later in the month.

Android smartphone owners can try out Fennec 2.0 by downloading it from Mozilla's mobile site.

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