Alternate mobile browsers

Orde Saunders' avatarUpdated: Published: by Orde Saunders

Chitika have released some interesting statistics on use of alternative mobile browsers. Their finding was that the significant majority of people use the default browser supplied with their Android or iOS device. For Android 91% used the default browser whilst iOS was lower at 85%.

Whilst the numbers are not particularly surprising in themselves, and Chitika's analysis covers the main points, there was something else that I found interesting in light of my recent mobile browser rundown.

Due to Apple's restriction on apps running interpreted code - which includes JavaScript - all1 the alternative browsers on iOS are actually wrappers round the Web View component that ships with the operating system. This means that the alternative browsers are actually using the same rendering and JavaScript engines as the system browser so, outside the UI, there is very little between them and the stock browser.

The situation on Android is different. Whilst there are some browsers - such as Dolphin - that are wrappers round a system browser component in a manner similar to the alternative browsers on iOS, there are a number of alternative browsers with different rendering and JavaScript engines such as Opera, Chrome and Firefox which are the three best mobile browsers available. This is particularly important on Android as the stock browser - especially on Android 2 - has poor feature support and performance.

What I find particularly interesting is that there is higher adoption of the alternatives on the platform where there is next to no difference between the stock browser and the alternatives but on the platform where there is both a greater need for an alternative and where the alternatives are the best available there is much lower adoption.

Footnotes

1. Opera Mini gets round this restriction by executing JavaScript on proxy servers and sending the results to the browser. However, whilst a good browser and very useful when bandwidth is restricted, Opera Mini is not a true drop-in replacement for the stock browser.