Search is a large part of mobile browser usage, so we (the Firefox for Android team) decided to experiment with ways to improve our search experience for users. As an initial goal, we decided to look into how we can make search faster. To explore this space, we’re about to enable two new features in Nightly: a search activity and a home screen widget.
Android allows apps to register to handle an “assist” intent, which is triggered by the swipe-up gesture on Nexus devices. We decided to hook into this intent to launch a quick, lightweight search experience for Firefox for Android users.
Right now we’re using Yahoo! to power search suggestions and results, but we have patches in the works to let users choose their own search engine. Tapping on results will launch users back into their normal Firefox for Android experience.
We also created a simple home screen widget to help users quickly launch this search activity even if they’re not using a Nexus device. As a bonus, this widget also lets users quickly open a new tab in Firefox for Android.
We are still in the early phases of design and development, so be prepared to see changes as we iterate to improve this search experience. We have a few telemetry probes in place to let us gather data on how people are using these new search features, but we’d also love to hear your feedback!
You can find links to relevant bugs on our project wiki page. As always, discussion about Firefox for Android development happens on the mobile-firefox-dev mailing list and in #mobile on IRC. And we’re always looking for new contributors if you’d like to get involved!
Special shout-out to our awesome intern Eric for leading the initial search activity development, as well as Wes for implementing the home screen widget.