Smartphone Browser Panorama – A Record Aside

Customers count on web sites to work on their cell phones. In two to 3 years, cellular assist will grow to be commonplace for any website. Net builders should add cellular net improvement to their talent set or threat shedding shoppers.

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How do you make web sites cellular suitable? The reply is apparent: By testing them on all cell phones, and by fixing the issues you encounter. However, that’s a ineffective reply. It’s inconceivable to check your designs on each cell phone on the market. Inside the cell phone panorama, there are not less than ten working techniques (OSs) and fifteen browsers that require consideration. Cellular units are costly, and never each net developer can afford to purchase 5 to 10 of them. Testing “on all cell phones” is inconceivable for many net builders.

On this article, I’ll offer you an outline of the cellular net market, in addition to telephone platforms and their browsers, so that you could resolve which cellular units to check on. Then, we’ll take a look at find out how to arrange a cellular take a look at mattress.

The smartphone market#section2

Net builders ought to focus their testing efforts on smartphones. All good cellular browsers run on one smartphone platform or one other. (Few non-smartphones have good browsers. That may change, however for now it’s true.) This begs the query: What’s a smartphone? Right here’s how I paraphrase the cellular trade’s more-or-less official definition:

A smartphone is a telephone that runs a recognizable OS on which the consumer can set up functions.

The smartphone market is split into a number of submarkets, every of which has a definite viewers. For extra data, learn Tomi Ahonen’s articles on smartphone shoppers and smartphone market share.

















Smartphone market overview
Market Share OSs Customers
Excessive-end 20% iOS
Home windows Telephone 7
BlackBerry OS6
Inside the high-end group, customers care about net browsing and functions above anything, and so they’re prepared to pay for these options.
Enterprise 35% BlackBerry
Home windows Cellular
Home windows Telephone 7
The enterprise group contains telephones that firms purchase for his or her staff. The IT division decides which OS can entry the corporate community in order that customers can retrieve e-mail and browse safe intranets.
Mid-range 45% Android
Home windows Cellular
Inside the mid-range class, customers are excited about music, a very good digicam, and/or simple texting (which requires a {hardware} keyboard)—all in an inexpensive machine.


  • In 2009, about 175 million smartphones had been bought worldwide. The market is predicted to develop by 90% this yr.
  • Android is transferring into the mid-range market with units such because the Vodafone 845 which have cheaper, much less highly effective {hardware}.
  • Now that Microsoft has launched Home windows Telephone 7, Home windows Cellular will disappear.
  • MeeGo was not out there on the time of this writing. It’s prone to hit the market within the first quarter of 2011.

A sport of platforms#section3

The present combat within the cellular world is about platforms. Whereas the working system is an important ingredient of a platform, app shops and browsers are additionally necessary.

A platform competes with different platforms in its market, and that’s the place it will get fascinating for net builders. Each platform has its personal default browser, and if a sure platform ought to win the conflict, its browser would achieve a big market share and pressure net builders to concentrate to it.

Within the high-end market, iOS and Android are the present front-running platforms. Nevertheless, in 2011, they might get competitors from Home windows Telephone 7 (Microsoft) and MeeGo (Nokia). BlackBerry OS6 (RIM) might attempt to enter this market, too.

Consideration have to be paid#section4

The issue is that almost all net designers and builders (to not point out the whole blogosphere) fall squarely within the high-end market. A cultural bias exists towards OSs aimed toward every other market. Because of this, most individuals deal with the wrestle between iOS and Android, and ignore the remaining. This has to vary.

Within the mid-range market, Symbian (Nokia) is dominant proper now, however bada (Samsung), BlackBerry (RIM), and the brand new mid-range Androids (Google) are sturdy opponents.

The enterprise market is conservative. Though iOS tries to penetrate this market, and Android presumably needs to do the identical, they haven’t but succeeded. BlackBerry and Symbian proceed to rule, with a smattering of Home windows Cellular on the facet.

The scenario is advanced, particularly for somebody who’s simply beginning out with the cellular net. I’ve created a cellular market overview desk that can assist you make sense of all of it.

The cellular browser market#section5

Though the platform wars will, in massive measure, form the longer term cellular browser panorama, net builders are possible extra within the current atmosphere. Let’s check out the present cellular browser market.

There’s just one supply of cellular browser market share data: StatCounter. It does have its limitations: Their browser classification is typically unusual, and the websites on which they measure site visitors choose themselves by subscribing to the service. Nonetheless, there isn’t a different supply of information. So what does StatCounter say for November 2010?














































World browser stats for November, 2010
Share Browser Notes
22% Opera StatCounter lumps Opera Mini and Opera Cellular collectively. My private estimate, primarily based on dialogue with Opera, is that about 90% of this quantity is Mini.
22% Safari StatCounter splits up iOS into iPhone, iPod Contact, and iPad. It contains iPad stats with the Safari desktop—not within the cellular statistics. Subsequently, this determine excludes the iPad.
19% BlackBerry This encompasses principally the OS5 and older fashions, which run a browser with a homegrown rendering engine. From OS6 on, BlackBerry makes use of a WebKit-based browser, and that may make our job loads simpler.
17% Nokia Nokia’s WebKit-based browser is available in numerous flavors, a few of that are higher than others. Sadly StatCounter doesn’t differentiate between every taste.
11% Android The Android market is fairly fragmented in terms of browsers. There are some refined variations between browsers on HTC and Sony Ericsson units. Count on issues to come up from these inconsistencies.
4% NetFront NetFront runs totally on older telephones from Asian distributors, notably Sony Ericsson. This determine contains the Sony PlayStation Transportable in addition to different gaming units.
1% UCWeb The preferred browser in China. It gives little performance.
1% Samsung StatCounter lumps all Samsung browsers collectively, from previous NetFront-based telephones to the brand new WebKit-based bada.

These are world stats; site visitors shares differ fairly a bit from nation to nation. Discover your individual nation’s stats earlier than deciding which browsers to assist. You could wish to examine your consumer’s log information to study which units individuals are utilizing to go to the location.

For those who’re , examine these site visitors share stats to gross sales share stats reported by Gartner; you’ll uncover many variations.

iPhone dominance#section6

For those who examine the site visitors and gross sales share stats, you’ll discover that Safari for iOS’s site visitors market share is out of proportion to its gross sales market share. Maintain this reality in thoughts whereas constructing cellular web sites, however don’t use it as an excuse to check solely on the iPhone.

There are two explanation why the iPhone dominates: First, iOS is the primary platform created particularly for cellular net browsing. Because of this, individuals who wish to surf on their telephone select the iPhone (or, typically, Android). Second, Apple made positive that those that purchased the iPhone would get a flat-fee information plan which inspires net browsing.

The flat-fee information plan is disappearing, nonetheless. AT&T within the US, and new iPhone carriers akin to Vodafone in Europe, now supply a capped information plan as a result of it’s of their financial curiosity to take action. Previously, shoppers reviled T-Cellular in Europe and particularly AT&T within the US as a result of they may not keep good information connections (and even voice connections) for iPhone customers. They’d no financial incentive to enhance their service as a result of extra iPhone information site visitors wouldn’t generate extra earnings for them. Therefore the change in plans.

Because of this, in addition to the rising recognition of different OSs, I really feel that the times of iPhone dominance are numbered, though I can not predict how shortly that may occur.

The most effective cellular browsers#section7

So what are Safari’s primary opponents for Finest Cellular Browser?

Presently I price 4 cellular browsers as “Wonderful,” my highest score:

  1. Safari for iOS—the very best cellular browser total,
  2. Android WebKit,
  3. Dolfin for Samsung bada—by far the quickest cellular browser, and
  4. BlackBerry WebKit, the brand new default browser for OS6 and better. (Presently solely out there on the BlackBerry Torch.)

All 4 browsers assist contact occasions, that are completely essential to any seamless touchscreen-based interface. Additionally, they’re all primarily based on the WebKit rendering engine. Apple created it, and Google, Samsung, and RIM made it the place to begin for their very own browsers. (As did Nokia, Palm, and most not too long ago LG.)

There is no such thing as a unified WebKit on cellular#section8

Nevertheless, WebKit and contact occasions don’t essentially make a superb browser. Just lately, LG launched Phantom, a browser for low-end telephones. Even though it’s WebKit-based and helps contact occasions, it’s not superb.

This underscores a basic rule of the utmost significance to net builders: There is no such thing as a WebKit on cellular. I examined 9 cellular WebKit-based browsers and so they all behave otherwise. Not wildly so: Baseline CSS assist is sweet, and JavaScript is certainly workable. Nonetheless, each has its issues and robust factors.

Due to this variability, it’s necessary to check your web sites in as many WebKit-based browsers as you may. Don’t assume your web site will work on the Android or BlackBerry WebKit-based browsers simply because it really works in Safari.

The Apple, Google, Samsung, and RIM default browsers kind what I name the Wonderful class. Beneath them is what I name the Good class: this contains Opera Cellular, Palm WebKit for webOS, and MicroB, the Gecko-based default browser for Nokia’s Maemo OS, which can quickly get replaced by MeeGo.

These browsers don’t assist contact occasions, and zooming varies in every implementation. From a pure CSS and JavaScript perspective nonetheless, you’ll encounter few issues.

Of the three, Opera Cellular is an important, as a result of it serves as a default browser for a lot of Home windows Cellular units the place the seller determined IE wasn’t ok. Presently, it’s an alternate for Nokia WebKit on Symbian, the most important cellular OS.

Opera Mini#section10

Opera Mini is a particularly necessary browser and it’s best to undoubtedly take a look at your websites with it, due to the distinctive manner it handles net browsing. It’s out there for iOS and Android, in addition to a number of different OSs.

Opera Mini is totally different from all different browsers we’ve mentioned to this point, together with Opera Cellular. The place the opposite browsers simply obtain the HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, interpret it, and render it, Opera Mini does one thing fairly totally different. Once you request a web page in Opera Mini, that request goes to a particular Opera Mini server. The server downloads the property, interprets them, and renders the web page. Then it sends again a picture of the ensuing web page to your telephone. You view the picture by way of the Opera Mini consumer.

The benefit is that the Opera Mini consumer wants little or no reminiscence, which makes it particularly suited to low-end, cheap units. As well as, the precise information obtain consists solely of a extremely compressed picture.

Opera Mini’s drawback is that it gives no client-side interactivity: If clicking on a hyperlink fires a JavaScript occasion handler for some Ajaxy goodness, Opera Mini goes again to the server to ask for directions. The server handles the script and sends again a picture of the up to date web page. Nevertheless, you will need to be aware that it is a characteristic, and never a failure. For many individuals world wide, giving up client-side interactivity saves some huge cash, each in machine and information plan prices.

Opera Mini will not be the one mini browser. The preferred Chinese language browser is UCWeb, which works on related ideas. I imagine its homegrown rendering engine is awful—in some conditions it could actually’t even deal with a easy hyperlink. Their swap to WebKit is barely a matter of time.

Nokia WebKit#section11

Within the first yr of gross sales, Microsoft bought 240 million copies of Home windows 7. A lot of them shipped with IE8, after all. In 2009, Nokia bought 432 million units. Over half of them had a Nokia WebKit browser as a default.

In different phrases, final yr extra copies of Nokia WebKit had been pushed into the market than IE. Nokia WebKit is staggeringly enormous. Nonetheless, its site visitors market share is modest; the common Nokia consumer doesn’t surf the net almost as typically as the common iPhone consumer. That might change, although, and your web sites have to be prepared.

There’s an older Nokia WebKit browser that runs on the S40 (the low-end OS) in addition to older Symbian units (as much as S60v3 characteristic pack 1). There’s additionally a more recent Nokia WebKit browser that runs on newer Symbian units. The latter is a bit odd, however workable. The previous is tougher. For those who’re undecided which browser your Symbian telephone has, run the Acid 3 take a look at. The later browser will rating round 50, whereas the sooner one will fail fully. Stephanie Rieger has written an incredible collection of articles about Nokia WebKit that’s filled with stuff you should know.

Websites aimed solely on the US/Canadian market can principally ignore the Nokia WebKit browser. Nokia has negligible market share in North America. Websites aimed toward audiences in different areas ought to be examined on this browser, nonetheless.

Outdated BlackBerry#section12

Earlier than OS6, BlackBerry ran its personal homegrown browser, which was not successful. Sadly, the overwhelming majority of BlackBerry house owners nonetheless have this older browser; OS6 has hardly hit the market but. However that’ll change.

JavaScript efficiency is the largest downside with the previous BlackBerry browser. (It’s just about absent.) On OS4.6 and earlier than, this downside was nearly unsolvable. OS4.61 and better supply not less than some script performance, but it surely’s very cumbersome up till OS6, so it’s best to simply overlook about scripting totally for older BlackBerry browsers.

What about IE?#section13

I’ve already coated a number of browsers that I urge you to check your website on—the entire take a look at browser depend is already greater than for the common desktop website. There’s a ray of hope between all of the gloom, nonetheless: IE doesn’t matter on cellular.

The default browser in Home windows’ Telephone 7 is predicated on IE7 and incorporates some IE8 options. That’s higher than Home windows Cellular’s default browser, which is predicated on IE6. Older variations are primarily based on IE4. Though Home windows Telephone 7 might grow to be successful, I imagine it gained’t ever command a 65% market share because it does on the desktop. I estimate that, in time, Microsoft will conquer 10 to fifteen% of the smartphone market, tops.

So the query turns into: Can we net builders mud off our IE data, and pressure IE customers to obtain further model sheets? Can we pressure all customers to obtain IE code branches over a cellular connection? Or can we ignore IE? I’m in favor of the latter.

Microsoft is conscious of this downside, and is aware of it could actually make IE Cellular matter by upgrading it to IE9 ranges. In reality, that is being executed proper now. If all our websites instantly work in a future model of IE Cellular, all the higher! And we’d even begin testing on it. However we’re not required to laboriously work round one IE bug after one other, as we do for the desktop.

Different browsers#section14

There’s a number of different browsers that you may ignore proper now however that might conceivably grow to be necessary sooner or later:

  • NetFront continues to be used extensively on older Samsung and Sony Ericsson units, but it surely’s manner behind the opposite browsers and can possible disappear within the not-too-distant future. A phrase to the sensible: Ignore NetFront. It takes a variety of effort to assist it.
  • Obigo is LG’s browser of selection, and it’s severe about maintaining with the opposite browsers. The place up till model 7.x it had its personal rendering engine, it’s now switching to WebKit. The primary WebKit-based Obigo browsers are anticipated in early 2011.
  • An Android beta of Firefox is on the market, but it surely nonetheless lacks necessary cellular options akin to contact occasions. Mozilla’s greater downside is that cellular customers won’t obtain one other browser simply because they will. So I believe you may safely ignore Firefox for now, though that may change if a tool or platform vendor begins utilizing Firefox as its default browser.

Now, let’s apply your new data of platforms and browsers to create a take a look at setup you should utilize.

Begin testing#section16

Begin testing proper now. Positive, you might solely have one or at most two telephones to make use of, however you’ll study loads simply by viewing your website on any telephone.

Probably the most tough cellular downside is one you may deal with immediately: The tiny show. Each cell phone has a tiny show by desktop requirements, and your website wants to slot in it. Begin experimenting instantly. Don’t fear that your units usually are not consultant of market share. Any cellular take a look at is healthier than no cellular take a look at.

Getting units#section17

Then it’s time to shell out some cash. You in all probability have already got an iPhone or Android. Purchase a BlackBerry or a Nokia Symbian—whichever is extra common the place you reside. Select a medium-new, common mannequin. This can characterize the smartphone lots that hardly ever browse the net—but.

For those who don’t have a giant finances, purchase a Nokia or BlackBerry non-touchscreen machine. When you’ve got cash, reserve some for a non-touchscreen anyway. Not all customers have a touchscreen, and it’s best to undoubtedly get acquainted with different enter modes. When you’ve got finances left for a 3rd or perhaps a fourth machine, take into account any platform I already talked about, bada, Home windows Telephone 7, or Home windows Cellular. Choose the one or two which have the best market share in your a part of the world.

Set up browsers#section18

Undergo my browser listing and set up completely each browser you may obtain on the units you have already got. Pay particular consideration to Opera Mini and UCWeb.

Take a look at companies#section19

By now you’ve gotten two to 4 units with perhaps six to 10 browsers in whole. For those who nonetheless have a finances left, purchase extra. With no finances to purchase units, you’ve gotten two selections: take a look at companies or emulators.

The 2 primary take a look at companies are Gadget Wherever and Perfecto Cellular. Evaluate them and resolve which one you want greatest.

These companies have rows upon rows of cell phones mendacity of their labs with webcams pointed at every of them, and you’ll entry them via your desktop browser to check something you need. This prices some cash, but it surely’s loads cheaper than shopping for the units.


Whereas emulators are the most affordable option to conduct cellular testing, I admit I’m not a giant fan of emulators, as a result of to be actually good, the cellular browser needs to be ported to Home windows (or Mac), and far can go incorrect in that course of.

Undergo the emulator listing and set up as many as you may. Sadly, most want an SDK to run inside, which can bloat your pc.

Browser listing#section21

After you have a cellular take a look at setup and shoppers who need their websites to work on cellular, make a generic browser listing to insert into your contracts. Your consumer must know which browsers their website is going to work on.

Two browsers are inevitable: Safari and Opera Mini. Shoppers will possible ask for Android, too, and the mobile-savvy ones will insist on BlackBerry or Symbian. Agree on browser variations; this in all probability will depend on the units, take a look at companies, or emulators you’ve gotten out there. There are a number of tough bits right here:

  • Keep in mind that BlackBerry OS4.6 or decrease can not run difficult JavaScript. In addition to, it’s best to let your consumer know that you could be want to modify off the script in later BlackBerries, too. Solely OS6 with the WebKit-based browser is secure to assist.
  • We already talked about Nokia WebKit’s variations. Attempt to miss the older model; it’ll prevent a variety of complications.
  • There was a serious Android WebKit improve between 1.6 and a couple of.0. Be sure your contract specifies which Android model(s) you’re going to check on.

Even when your consumer solely asks for the iPhone, make certain your website works fairly nicely on not less than one different cellular browser. By no means move up an opportunity to apply.

Progressive enhancement is your buddy#section22

Progressive enhancement is your cellular improvement buddy. Not every part will work on each cellular browser, however that’s OK. Not every part wants work on all browsers. If any individual makes use of Opera Mini and doesn’t see your animations, that’s acceptable. And be ready to modify off your script totally for older BlackBerries.

Progressive enhancement will grow to be extensively used as soon as cellular net improvement turns into commonplace. On the desktop you’re compelled to maintain your IE customers completely satisfied, however on cellular the scenario is kind of totally different. So don’t hesitate to show functionalities off for some browsers. So long as the consumer can learn the content material and use the navigation you’ve executed your responsibility.

Cellular: the brand new frontier#section23

I hope this enormous quantity of data has given you a place to begin in your personal adventures on the cellular net. It’s going to be troublesome; principally as a result of it’s so totally different from the desktop net. In addition to, the detailed browser data that we take as a right on the desktop will not be out there for the cellular net simply but.

That shouldn’t cease you from experimenting, although. Simply attempt one thing that is smart to you. Typically it gained’t work, however that’s all a part of the sport. And if it does work, please write about it. Your fellow cellular net builders want the knowledge.

Good luck, and bear in mind: you’re not alone.

Right here’s a studying listing of cellular authorities. Subscribe so that you could keep knowledgeable on the place the cellular market is heading:

  • Tom Ahonen, a former Nokia government, writes Communities Dominate Manufacturers. That is the place to go for every kind of stats. Studying his weblog provides you with a desperately-needed, non-web-centric basic overview.
  • Cloud 4 Weblog by Jason Grigsby. Jason is each an online developer and a cellular developer and pays explicit consideration to the media queries and native vs. net apps debates.
  • Imaginative and prescient Cellular is a cellular market evaluation and technique agency that publishes a really fascinating weblog that includes provocative op-ed items.
  • jQuery Cellular is John Resig’s newest venture. jQuery is the primary JavaScript library with a particular cellular browser technique. The Sencha library can be an possibility, but it surely has began out as an iPhone/Android-only library and is barely now including extra platforms.
  • Yiibu by Bryan and Stephanie Rieger, publishes glorious articles about cellular net improvement and the assorted Nokia browsers. The location as a complete is an instance of how we should always go about cellular net improvement.
  • Luke Wroblewski is an online designer with a selected curiosity in cellular. His contact gesture diagrams are particularly fascinating.
  • WAP Assessment by Dennis Bournique primarily follows the mid-to-low-end market. He’s identified for exhaustively testing the mini browsers (Opera Mini, UCWeb, and related ones). Dennis additionally options new cellular websites discovered on the internet, which you’ll examine for concepts.
  • PinchZoom is Brian Fling’s cellular net firm. There are lots of helpful articles right here.
  • The Asymco weblog by Horace Dediu follows the cellular market avidly, and has many a very good perception to share.
  • Cellular Business Assessment is one other high-level supply that covers the whole cellular world.
  • @EricssonLabs on Twitter will level you to an important cellular tales of the second.
  • This Is Mobility is by Mike Rowehl, a cellular developer within the net. Along with following the cellular world, Mike sometimes writes about how the cellular world views the net world, which makes for an fascinating change in perspective.
  • The Morgan Stanley Cellular Web Report (PDF; enormous) might be probably the most full overview of the cellular net presently out there, regardless that it’s a yr previous.
  • I based the cellular net mailing listing the place loads of thought leaders focus on cellular browsers, the cellular net, the cellular context, and different necessary subjects.
  • And at last the cellular part of my very own website, QuirksMode. I write concerning the cellular market as seen by an online developer, together with some densely technical subjects that may grow to be required data for cellular net builders.

Editor’s be aware: this text was revised on 12-16-10 to replace flat-fee Iphone information plan data.

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