It’s been almost 9 years since we released the first Firefox for Android. Hundreds of millions of users have tried it and over time provided us with valuable feedback that allowed us to continuously improve the app, bringing more features to our users that increase their privacy and make their mobile lives easier. Now we’re starting a new chapter of the Firefox experience on Android devices.
Testing to meet the users’ needs
Back in school, most of us weren’t into tests. They were stressful and we’d rather be playing or hanging out with friends. As adults, however, we see the value of testing — especially when it comes to software: testing ensures that we roll out well-designed products to a wide audience that deliver on their intended purposes.
At Firefox, we have our users at heart, and the value our products provide to them is at the center of everything we do. That’s why we test a lot. It’s why we make our products available as Nightly (an early version for developers) and Beta versions (a more stable preview of a new piece of software), put the Test Pilot program in place and sometimes, when we enter entirely new territory, we add yet another layer of user testing. It’s exactly that spirit that motivated us to launch Firefox Preview Beta in June 2019. Now we’re ready for the next step.
A new Firefox for Android: the making-of
When we started working on this project, we wanted to create a better Firefox for Android that would be faster, more reliable, and able to address today’s user problems. Plus, we wanted it to be based on our own mobile browser engine GeckoView in order to offer the highest level of privacy and security available on the Android platform. In short: we wanted to make sure that our users would never have to choose between privacy and a great browsing experience.
We had an initial idea of what that new Android product would look like, backed up by previous user research. And we were eager to test it, see how users feel about it, and find out what changes we needed to make and adjust accordingly. To minimize user disruption, early versions of this next generation browser were offered to early adopters as a separate application called Firefox Preview.
In order to ensure a fast, efficient and streamlined user experience, we spent the last couple of months narrowing down on what problems our users wanted us to solve, iterating on how we built and surfaced features to them. We looked closely at usage behaviour and user feedback to determine whether our previous assumptions had been correct and where changes would be necessary.
The feedback from our early adopters was overwhelmingly positive: the Firefox Preview Beta users loved the app’s fresh modern looks and the noticeably faster browsing experience due to GeckoView as well as new UI elements, such as the bottom navigation bar. When it came to tracking protection, we learned that Android users prefer a browsing experience with a more strict protection and less distractions — that’s why we made Strict Mode the default in Firefox Preview Beta, while Firefox for Desktop comes with Standard Mode.
Firefox Preview Beta goes Nightly
Based on the previous 6 months of user testing and the positive feedback we have received, we’re confident that Android users will appreciate this new browsing experience and we’re very happy to announce that, as of Tuesday (January 21, 2020), we’re starting to roll it out to our existing Firefox for Android audience in the Nightly app. For current Nightly users, it’ll feel like a big exciting upgrade of their browsing experience once they update the app, either manually or automatically, depending on their preset update routine. New users can easily download Firefox Preview here.
As for next milestones, the brand new Firefox for Android will go into Beta in Spring 2020 and land in the main release later in the first half of this year. In the meantime, we’re looking forward to learning more about the wider user group’s perception of the new Firefox for Android as well as to more direct feedback, allowing us to deliver the best-in-class mobile experience that our users deserve.