Mobile Firefox coming to Android, but not iPhone OS


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If Mozilla makes its upcoming mobile Firefox browser available on Android devices, the open-source organization could conquer the mobile landscape while giving user yet another reason to go Android. The blogosphere has been abuzz about a possible February release of mobile Firefox when German-language blog Camp-Firefox reported Monday that mobile Firefox will be arriving on Android the following month.
The publication has based its estimate on an alleged knowledge of Mozilla’s weekly meetings. However, a Mozilla engineer Ben Combee has denied the claim in the comments section of the article, warning that an Android version is still a few months away. The engineer did note, however, that the port is coming along pretty well and hinted it might be finalized before summer.
Just a few months ago Mozilla had been saying that an Android port is up for the debate. Watchful readers might note that the Fennec for Android project coincided with a sudden surge in mobile web usage that the Android platform recorded during holidays. This has been attributed mostly to high-profile Droid and Nexus One launches.

According to AdMob’s December 2009 Metric update based on the usage of mobile sites and apps (more on the report methodology here), Android was the #2 smartphone platform in the US in the fourth quarter of 2009 with a 27 percent share of mobile requests, or exactly half of the 54 percent share belonging to iPhone OS devices.
Quantcast, another mobile analytics company, corroborated AdMob’s findings in relative terms. According to Quantcast’s 2009 Mobile Trends report, iPhone OS led the pack in December 2009 in US with a 65 percent share of mobile web requests (iPhones: 41 percent, iPod touches: 24 percent). Quantcast’s metrics also put Android at the #2 slot with 12 percent market share, while RIM OS came third with an 8.7 percent share. Unfortunately, Mozilla won’t benefit from the iPhone’s lead because there will be no mobile Firefox for iPhone OS in the foreseeable future due to the fact that non-Apple frameworks, like Firefox’s Gecko engine, are a big no-no on the iPhone platform. There will be no BlackBerry version either.

However, with Android coming up fast in the US, Mozilla’s release strategy with mobile Firefox could strike a chord with lots of smartphone owners. Put simply, mobile Firefox is probably set to dominate the mobile web which is at the moment fragmented between various mobile operating system and browser flavors. Not only will mobile Firefox be a huge win for Google’s #2 mobile OS, but Mozilla will also release the browser for Maemo devices like Nokia N900 or N810 and ARM11-powered smartphones, including smartphones running Windows Mobile 6.5 or later and Symbian.

That should help mobile Firefox grab a large combined share of the mobile market while leaving Apple’s iPhone out of the picture. After three release candidates posted in January 2010 (RC1, RC2, RC3), mobile Firefox for Maemo devices is now nearly finished, meaning that the final release is upon us. Check out Mozilla’s Wiki for more info on mobile Firefox on Android.
Are you a desktop Firefox fan and also an iPhone owner? If so, are you concerned by the fact that your Symbian, Android, and Windows Mobile friends will soon be able to brag about Firefox on their devices while you will not? Meet us in the comments.