Blaze of controversy over iOS 4.3 V Android 2.3 browser speeds

18 Mar 2011

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Apple has slammed as flawed a report by a Canadian software company that claims its Safari browser on iOS 4.3 devices is slower by 52pc than competing Android 2.3 smartphones.

The study, by Ottawa-based Blaze Software, claimed that by its tests, Android’s Chrome beat iPhone’s Safari by loading 84pc of the websites faster, meaning Safari won the race only 16pc of the time.

The study was conducted using Web View (for Chrome) and UIWebView (for Safari).

“We saw that despite the optimised JavaScript engines in the latest iPhone and Android versions, browsing speed did not get better,” the report’s authors said. “Both Apple and Google tout great performance improvements, but those seem to be reserved to JavaScript benchmarks and high-complexity apps. If you expect pages to show up faster after an upgrade, you’ll be sorely disappointed.”

Apple slams the findings of Blaze report

However, Apple has slammed the findings, with various spokespeople pointing out that Blaze didn’t actually test the Safari web browser on the iPhone and instead they only tested their own proprietary app which uses an embedded web viewer that doesn’t take advantage of Safari’s web performance optimisations.

“Despite this fundamental testing flaw, they still only found an average of a second difference in loading webpages,” a spokesperson said.

Blaze has defended its study: “To perform the measurements, we made use of purposefully written apps that used each platform’s embedded browser (as stated in the initial report). Embedded browsers are software components available to mobile apps to invoke the browser, and are the only ways both platforms allow users to interact with a browser. It’s important to emphasise – we used each platform’s embedded browser, not our own browser.

“Embedded browsers are expected to behave, for the most part, the same as the regular browser. However, Apple is now stating that their embedded browser, called UIWebView, does not share the same optimisations MobileSafari does.

Blaze went on to describe Apple’s slamming of its study as a “bad interpretation” of its results.

“First and foremost, our tests were run over networks and conditions more favourable than the average user browsing on his mobile device. Second, on many sites, the gap was greater in absolute terms (for example, on wsj.com we saw a 5-10 second gap). The median gap was only one second, thanks in part to the great network conditions.”

The ‘blaze’ of controversy continues.

Editor John Kennedy is an award-winning technology journalist.

editorial@siliconrepublic.com