Mozilla improves Firefox for Android with overhauled app

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Mozilla is revamping its Android browser with a new app.
Image: Mozilla

Choosing a mobile browser can be a lot harder than it sounds. Although Firefox is sometimes overshadowed by competitors like Google Chrome and Microsoft Edge, it is a favorite of privacy lovers. Mozilla has been focusing on privacy with every update of its browser for the past several years.

So, it makes sense that the company is focusing on the same thing with a totally revamped version of its Android browser. Called Daylight, the refreshed app will be available to users in the U.S. on August 27. It introduces a lot of handy new features, including enhanced privacy settings, dark mode, and Collections.

New Look, New Foundation

Until now, Mozilla’s Firefox Focus browser for Android has been based on Google’s Blink web engine. The same can be said about most Android browsers. However, given that Mozilla puts an emphasis on privacy, it is fitting that Daylight is now built on the company’s own GeckoView engine.

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The move eliminates any sort of reliance on Google’s back-end tech. For those concerned about privacy, it’s an attractive feature. Aside from that, it will allow Mozilla to roll out updates on its own schedule without needing to wait on any third-party approval or testing.

As an added bonus, Mozilla claims that building Daylight on the GeckoView engine makes it about 10 percent faster than the previous Android version.

Users will be able to adjust their privacy settings in the new browser thanks to the addition of Mozilla’s Enhanced Tracking Protection. It helps prevent users from being tracked by third-party services as they browse the web. Daylight will have three levels of protection to choose from—standard, strict, and custom.

Fan Favorites

Mozilla appears to have leaned heavily on the preferences of its user base while designing the new Android browser. Daylight is bursting with features that users love on the desktop version.

For instance, the mobile browser will give users the ability to switch between light and dark themes. They’ll also be able to set the theme to automatically change as the day progresses.

Another nifty feature specific to the mobile app is that the search bar can now be positioned at the bottom of the screen. Anyone who owns a large smartphone knows that it can be difficult to reach the search bar when it is at the top. The change is a sign that Mozilla is adapting well to a new hardware landscape.

Meanwhile, Daylight will also get Collections, a feature that allows users to bundle and organize their tabs into groups. On a functional level, Collections are essentially just bookmarks. However, Vesta Zare, the project manager for Daylight, says that they are more complex than that.

She notes that most people use bookmarks for websites that are very important to them—like an online banking portal. Mozilla found that many users leave tabs open to keep track of things that are more short-term to avoid overcrowding the bookmarks bar. Things like recipes and wish list shopping items come to mind.

Zare says that Mozilla “saw the need for a middle ground” and came up with the idea of Collections. The feature lets users keep their tabs open so they don’t get lost without having to permanently bookmark them. At the same time, Collections keep tabs organized and grouped together to facilitate a more streamlined browsing experience.

Daylight might not lure users away from their current mobile browser, but it is certainly worth checking out.

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