Irina Sandu

on mobile and Mozilla

Month: April, 2012

Android and mobile browsing insights – Week 17

Every week I post an overview on what’s been happening in the mobile (browsing) world and is relevant to Mozilla.

  • Chrome for Android to come out of beta
  • Opera to implement WebKit prefixes
  • Google / Oracle trial on IP in the Android code on-going
  • Google started selling hardware in the Play store
  • Browser for the S40 series to feature proxy-browsing
  • Apple released Q1 sales results
  • 760 million forecasted tablet install base for 2016
  • Facebook Android app to feature app discovery channels


Chrome for Android is expected to get out of beta in “a matter of weeks”, according to Google SVP of Chrome and Apps, Sundar Pichai. Product strategy is catered towards tablets and phones with large screens. The Google executive mentioned that the browser’s speed, tab management and sync features were the best received. Planned improvements are for the ability to view desktop sites and do full screen browsing. Google is going to battle the lack of Flash support by pushing HTML5 adoption.


Opera confirmed that it will implement WebKit prefixes, in order to combat a perceived WebKit monoculture in the mobile market. The changes will first appear as an experimental build of the Opera Mobile Emulator, soon to be released on They will be implemented in Opera Core, thus affecting both mobile and desktop versions of the browser.


The matter of copyrighting programming languages and their related APIs is being discussed this week as part of the Oracle / Google trial in the US District Court of San Francisco. The litigation is brought on by Oracle, who accuses Google of violating Java copyrights and patents as part of the Android source code and seeks tens of millions of dollars in damages plus future royalties from Android revenue. Hearings revealed that when negociations over a potential partnership between Google and Sun failed, Google reverted to developing a “clean room implementation” of the JAVA language and APIs, that became the Dalvik VM. The trial is expected to last 8 weeks and is considered to have the potential to affect the Android ecosystem.


Google started selling hardware through the Google Play store. The first device featured is the Galaxy Nexus, which is being sold unlocked and only available in the US. The news feeds into rumours that Google is planning to offer co-branded devices, particularly in the tablet area.


The default browser for the newly-launched Nokia Asha series has been updated to feature cloud-based compression, a mechanism for display websites also used by Opera Mini. The browser, which claims to compress data up to 90% and increase page load time by up to 3 times, is part of the Series 40 platform, which is sold on Nokia devices in emerging markets.


Apple released its results for Q1 of 2012. The company sold 35 million iPhones, accounting for a 88% year-over-year increase and 11.8 million iPads, which made for a 151% increase compared to same time last year. The iPhone sales figure is down when compared to Q4 of 2011, when it came up to 37 million. The difference is explained by the concentration of a new version release and the holiday season in the same quarter for the previous one, which resulted to exceptionally high results for Apple’s usual yearly shipment cycle.


Yearly tablet sales will grow from 56 million in 2011 to 375 million in 2016, according to Forrester’s latest report. The research firm predicts an install base of 760 million for the segment in 4 years’ time, 30% of which will be owned by businesses and 40% by emerging markets. Forrester defines a tablet as “a “touch first” slab computer that weigh less than 800 grams (1.75 pounds), have a 7- to 14-inch diagonal screen area, feature always-on operation, and 8-hour battery life.”.


Facebook has updated its app for Android to include social app discovery channels to native Android apps. This feature is already present in the company’s iOS application. This is part of the company’s strategy to become an important distribution mechanism for developers, including mobile ones.

Firefox for mobile – tracking progress

Below are highlights of the work performed in the past 2 weeks on our way to releasing native-UI Firefox for mobile. Not all of the features below will make it into the first release, some are being prepared for the consequent updates.

  • From the broader perspective, we are integrating Firefox for mobile into our Kilimanjaro project. The Kilimanjaro Event is an initiative to bring Mozilla projects (Firefox on desktop and mobile, Marketplace, Persona, and B2G) together in one integrated experience. It is an opportunity for our entire community to focus on products and features which are most important to Mozilla’s mission of an open internet and web platform.


  • At the product level, we are currently at 20 beta blockers and 53 for the final release.
  • One of the main points of focus for this release is make panning and zooming extremely smooth and minimize the amount of checker boarding a user experiences. We are tracking all of the remaining bugs to be fixed for this goal with bug 717774
  • Users will be able to see at a glance which websites in the Awesome Bar are bookmarks. This will be indicated by a star mark next to the title of the website. – bug  701330

  • We are thinking about how to give access in-product to file bugs directly into the Fennec component in Bugzilla. The mechanism would pre-populate as many sections as possible, such as device type and OS version, to save time. This is not a blocker for the release, but an enhancement for later iterations. – bug 747757
  • We are working on an issue where entering accented characters in text fields in causes the disappearance of the next letters typed. We saw this on phones with a hardware keyboard. If you have such a device and can test, please share what you see in bug 743468
  • Providing a good user experience when browsing depends not only on the browser, but also on the communication between Firefox and the website it needs to display. A big part of that relationship is the User Agent. We are driving Evangelism efforts to make sure that websites will recognize the agent for Firefox for mobile in order to take advantage of our advanced HTML5 support. You can follow progress and also contribute in bug 747123.
  • We are implementing a function to Undo the closing of a tab. This functionality is present in XUL-based Firefox and should be maintained in the revamped version. – bug 701725

  • We have a bug open to build Firefox for the x86 architecture. This is not a priority for the release, but something that we are investigating. – bug 723713
  • We are working on enabling Sync settings to be migrated from XUL-based Firefox to the native UI version, so existing Sync users don’t have to set it up again. This is a soft blocker for the release – bug 715550
  • We have an open bug to add a button for the user to quickly go back to the top of the page after panning down for a longer while. This way it is easier to just go back to the Awesome Bar and change the page. If you have suggestions for how to do this, you can propose in bug 746381
  • We are working on the list of add-ons that will be featured by default in Firefox. If you know some that would be very useful for mobile, add your recommendation to bug 744555
  • We now have a favicon for about:firefox. – bug 739215

Extra: Aaron’s blog post on how to become a Firefox for mobile tester and where to talk to developers.

Android and mobile browsing insights – Week 16

Every week I post an overview on what’s been happening in the mobile (browsing) world and is relevant to Mozilla.

  • Chrome for Android Beta has been updated
  • Version 8 of Dolphin HD has been launched
  • Samsung Galaxy S III rumoured to be revealed on the 3rd of May in London
  • Apple and Samsung meeting regarding potential settlement in patent litigations
  • First x86-based phone to launch this week
  • Windows 8 for ARM will be called Windows RT
  • Nokia issued a profit warning for Q1, quoted intense competition in string growth economies
  • Samsung might have overtaken Nokia in Q1 as biggest smartphone producer by volume


Chrome for Android Beta has been updated and its availability has been expanded to all countries that have access to the Google Play store. New features include:

  • the User Agent string changed to
    • Mozilla/5.0 (Linux; <Android Version>; <Build Tag etc.>) AppleWebKit/<WebKit Rev> (KHTML, like Gecko) Chrome/<Chrome Rev> Mobile Safari/<Webkit Rev>” for phones and
    • Mozilla/5.0 (Linux; <Android Version>; <Build Tag etc.>) AppleWebKit/<WebKit Rev>(KHTML, like Gecko) Chrome/<Chrome Rev> Safari/<WebKit Rev>” for tablets
  • the ability to request the desktop version of a website, to add bookmarks as shortcuts to the home screen and to choose which apps to handle links opened in Chrome
  • complex text layout and right-to-left text
  • 31 new languages


The Dolphin HD browser has been updated to version 8 to include a new interface for Dolphin Sonar, the browser’s voice control feature and redesigned menu bar, context menu and add-on bar.


The next flagship Samsung Galaxy phone, probably the S III, will be unveiled on the 3rd of May in London. This comes after news that Samsung’s latest release, the Samsung Galaxy Note series, has benefited from good sales. The phone is rumoured to have a quad-core processor, a ceramic case and a 1080p display. The launch in market is expected to occur in correlation with the London Olympic Games.


The CEOs of Apple and Samsung have agreed to meet in San Francisco court for settlement talks regarding litigation around mobile patents. The 2 companies are involved in legal actions against each other in 9 countries, while in the same time maintaining a tight business relationship with regards to device manufacturing. Samsung is one of the main hardware producers for Apple’s mobile products. If achieved, the settlement can ease some pressure off the patent-related restrictions the Android ecosystem has been affected by.


The first x86-based phone is confirmed to launch later this week, according to Intel CEO Paul Otellini. The device is rumoured to be the Lenovo K800, running on an 1.6 GHz processor of Intel’s Medfield line and targeted at the Chinese market.


Windows 8 for ARM will be called Windows RT and will represent a different built of Windows 8 than the ones for x86 architecture, called Windows 8 Pro and Enterprise. The version will not be sold separately, but it will be pre-installed on machines with ARM-based CPUs. Developers will have to use the WinRT development environment to build apps for that version.


Nokia issued a profit warning for the first quarter of 2012, marking the company’s second in less than a year. The reason quoted is intense competition in fast-growing markets, particularly India, the Middle East, Africa and China, which represent the OEM’s stronghold. The company does not expect any improvement of the situation in the second quarter of the year. Nokia is reported to be encountering market challenges in developed markets, as well, according to Reuters. The news venture reports that telecom operators in Europe have deemed the company’s Lumia line as “not good enough to compete with Apple’s iPhone or Samsung’s Galaxy phones”. In the US, the company announced the sale of more than 2 million Lumia devices in Q1.


Early surveys on Q1 phone shipments expect Samsung to have overtaken Nokia, the biggest smartphone vendor by volume, marking the finish of a 14-year reign by the Finnish company.  Samsung’s portfolio is heavily based on the Android platform, which is complemented by a series of Bada-based devices.

Firefox for mobile – tracking progress

Below are highlights of the work performed last week in Firefox on our way to releasing native-UI Firefox for mobile. Not all of the features below will make it into the first release, some are being prepared for the consequent updates. We are currently at 57 blockers for the native-UI beta and 43 for the final release.

  • We are building the Download Manager for Firefox mobile. Each downloaded item will have the options to Open it or Delete it close by, for easy management. Besides the name of the downloaded file, the source, size and time and date of the download are mentioned, too – bug 695178

  • We are adding features to Telemetry, our tool to get performance numbers from the browser, so we know how it performs out in the wild. We are going to use Telemetry to show us when checker boarding happens – bug 740048  – and to tell us when there are problems at importing a profile – bug 741042 .  In the case of checkerboarding, Firefox will display a door hanger notification to ask the user if she allows it to send the details of where it occurred, so we can replicate and fix it.
  • We are working on making sure that double-tap zoom is extremely fast. This is important so we made it a beta blocker – bug 721787
  • We added support for the Open Web Apps API, so that users can install HTML5 apps – bug 697309

  • We implemented the feature of editing bookmarks while in Firefox’s Awesome Screen – bug 724194
  • We made the HTML5 form validation popup prettier – bug 731654

  • Work on remote website debugging for Firefox mobile is on-going, you can track it in bug 739966
  • A good browsing experience does not depend solely on the browser, but also on the compatibility between the client and websites. We are working with website owners that didn’t update their website to recognize Firefox’s user agent string to make sure that they know how to do it, so that they are able to expose all of the advanced HTML5 capabilities that they are using to their visitors. – bug 739832

Android and mobile browsing insights – Week 14

Every week I post an overview on what’s been happening in the mobile (browsing) world and is relevant to Mozilla.


  • 64% of Androids run on Gingerbread, 23% on Froyo and 3% on Ice Cream Sandwich
  • Minor update to Ice Cream Sandwich has been pushed to the Android Open Source repository
  • Android has captured 50% of all smartphones in the US
  • Searches from smartphones and tablets combined will generate 25% of Google’s paid search clicks in the US by the end of 2012
  • The European Commission began an antitrust investigation of Motorola Mobility with regards to mobile patents
  • The European Commission extended a cap on roaming fees for voice and SMS enacted price limits on roaming data fees
  • The Nokia Lumia 900, the flagship device for Windows Phone 7 for the US market, has had its first reviews
  • Nokia is rumoured to be planning to launch 2 new Linux-based low-end devices for the emerging markets
  • Opera released a privacy-conscious mobile campaign tracker solution


Latest Android platform distribution, as reported by Google, puts v2.1 at 6% of the market, v2.2 at 23%, v 2.3 at 64%, v 3 at 3% and v 4 at 3%.


A new minor update to Ice Cream Sandwich, to 4.0.4, has been announced to be pushed into the Android open source repository. Timing of deployments to users’ handsets are not known, as they depend on several other players, such as OEMs and network operators.


ComScore reports that Android has captured 50% of all smartphones owned in the US in February 2012. The market research agency estimates that there are now 52 million users of Android in the country. On second place is iOS, with 30% of the smartphone market and on third RIM with 13%.


Searches from smartphones and tablets combined will generate 25% of Google’s paid search clicks in the US by the end of 2012, according to a report on the state of mobile search advertising. Mobile is forecasted to represent a “massive driver of growth for Google over the next several years at least.”


The European Commission began an antitrust investigation of Motorola Mobility with regards to their use of standards-essential patents related to WiFi, H.264 and 3G wireless networking. Some of these patents are involved in litigations with Apple and Microsoft in Germany and theUS.


The European Commission extended a cap on roaming fees for voice and SMS services that has been in place in the EU since 2007 and enacted price limits on mobile data fees paid while roaming. The package is intended to increase competition in the mobile industry at the EU-level. Starting with 2014, European consumers will be able to buy roaming service from any operator, not just the one they are using, whose price will be regulated, at a level which is yet to be announced by EU’s regulating bodies. Under the package, the roaming cap for voice will fall to 19 euro cents/minute, SMS sending will have to be under 6 euro cents / message  and data while roaming will be capped at 20 euro cents / megabyte beginning with July 2014.


The Nokia Lumia 900, the flagship device for Windows Phone 7 for the US market, has had its first reviews. The phones is being positioned in the country as an entry-level smartphone, a premium phone with an affordable price. The hardware, its screen and battery life were the aspects which were most praised by reviewers, and which have traditionally been strengths for Nokia-branded phones.  The overall design is considered to be a beautiful one, both on the hardware and software side. The aspects not so praised by reviewers were the browser, which scored worse than other native browsers on iOS and Android, as well as the ecosystem, which has failed to lift itself significantly off the ground since the first Windows Phone 7 launch. In the reviews it is noticeable the name for the platform as Windows Phone, without the “7”, as it was previously usually named in the press.


Nokia is rumoured to be planning to launch 2 new Linux-based low-end devices, similar to is MeeGo-based efforts, that will be targeted to emerging markets and will be the upgrade path from the S40 series. The company recently launched the Nokia Asha series for this target audience that run on the S40 Touch & Type platform.


Opera has launched a tracker for the performance of mobile marketing campaigns that is privacy-friendly. The solution does not track personally identifiable information and has been built following growing concerns in the industry around consumer tracking on mobile.



Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.