The Firefox web browser for Android has offered a way to “install” web apps from Firefox Marketplace for a while. But up until now that just meant you’d see a shortcut on your home screen and when you tapped it, the app would open up in a browser window (without the normal browser user interface).

Starting with Firefox 29 beta, installing a Firefox Marketplace lets you install web apps as if they were native Android apps.

Firefox web apps on Android

As of March 20th, you’ll need to install the beta version of Firefox for Android to use the new feature. Eventually it’ll be available in the stable version of the web browser as well.

Just fire up the browser on your Android device, tap the menu button, choose Tools, and then Apps to get to the Firefox Marketplace. When you tap the install button next to any app, the browser will download any necessary data and then open up the Android installation menu.

When you’re done the app will not only show up on your home screen, but also in your Android app drawer and it’ll display properly in your Recent Apps menu. Firefox maker Mozilla calls the new feature APK Factory.

Note that if you uninstall the Firefox web browser the apps will remain installed… but they won’t work. Tapping on their icons will bring up a Play Store listing for the Firefox web browser.

Since this is a feature of Firefox, web app developers don’t need to do anything extra to convert their apps into native Android apps. Just submit the apps to the Firefox Marketplace and Mozilla’s software will do the rest. Apps that are entirely hosted on the web will be updated automatically — the next time a user opens the app, they’ll get the latest features. If there are changes that need to be downloaded, Firefox will prompt users to download an updated installer.

In other words, there’s one less reason to buy a Firefox OS phone… since just about any app that will run on the platform is also now available as a native Android app.


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7 replies on “Install web apps as native Android apps with Firefox 29 beta”

  1. What will help Firefox sell phones is the “$25 phone” they still want to sell eventually.

  2. Not your best comment, Brad. Chrome OS apps are available in Windows via Chrome browser, plus Windows programs, it hasn’t hurt Chromebook sales. Same for Firefox, the more people they get to use their apps on Android, the more people will be inclined to give their OS a chance if the price is right.

  3. “In other words, there’s one less reason to buy a Firefox OS phone”
    I don’t think that’s the point. Mozilla wants people to use Firefox. I don’t consider Firefox OS to be a direct challenger to Windows Phone, iOS or Android. It’s targeted in markets where these phones are unaffordable by the average consumer. This gives consumers some extra incentive to use Firefox on Android in markets where Android is dominate like the US (that Mozilla isn’t targeting). One added benefit is this also allows more people to test Firefox OS apps.
    I have an inexpensive prepaid Android phone that doesn’t have a lot of internal memory. Firefox apps are designed not to take up much space, or use a lot of data. Who knows, maybe I’ll like the Firefox apps better than the Android equivalents.

  4. You use Firefox on *any* platform? Mozilla win, you use FirefoxOS device? Mozilla win, I see no downside for them …. and if manufacturers make dual-booting ( unlikely ) or phones that can run either OS ( specify at purchase and they Flash for you ) Then they also get to “not loose”

  5. I’ll have to at least partly disagree with your conclusion in the last paragraph. Like the article says, you can write your app for FirefoxOS and it will automatically work in android. I don’t have a lot of faith that it will happen though.

      1. There are three other, more popular mobile operating systems, so developers really don’t have a good reason to bother with FirefoxOS. At least not at this time.

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