The Mozilla Foundation would like to see its Firefox browser running on more mobile phones. But since almost no handsets ship with Firefox pre-installed, that means getting the software onto more of the phones that are already out there – even if they use older hardware.
Up until this Monday, the mobile version of Firefox has required Android 2.2 and hardware that includes an ARMv7 processor. But now, however, beta versions of Firefox now include experimental support for a limited selection of ARMv6 devices.
Those requirements are considerably more lax than Google's requirements for the Android version of its Chrome browser, which requires not only an ARMv7 processor but also Android 4.0.
"Given that 55 per cent of the 133 million Android phones out there run on the ARMv6 architecture, there are a lot of new people to whom we can introduce the open Web," Mozilla's Karen Rudnitski wrote in a blog post announcing the change, adding, "but we can't support every phone all at once."
Support for ARMv6 is fairly new for Firefox. Bleeding-edge nightly builds for the older architecture have only been available since July. But Mozilla is now ready to give the browser a trial run with a wider group of users.
For now, the beta browser will run on ARMv6 devices with a clock speed of 800MHz or better and with 512MB of RAM, which includes such older but popular phones as the HTC Status, Motorola Fire XT, Motorola XT531, and Samsung Galaxy Pro GT-B7510.
Rudnitski says Mozilla is planning a "phased approach" that makes the browser available to groups of phones at a time, to see what the appropriate baseline hardware requirements for the browser might be. Phones that still aren't supported by the ARMv6 build won't be able to download it from the Google Play store.
Even on supported models, however, the browser isn't guaranteed to run flawlessly. In fact, in many cases it won't work at all. Mozilla is treating the ARMv6 launch as very much an experimental test bed, and it is calling upon potential users to not only try it, but also provide feedback.
Users who try the new beta browser are encouraged to get in touch with the Mozilla Foundation either through its beta feedback page or by joining the Firefox for ARMv6 mailing list, and also to file bug reports through the usual channels. ®