updated 01:39 pm EDT, Wed October 16, 2013
Stock Android browser in second, but suffers random crashes
A new study by troubleshooting site Fixya has ranked Apple's Mobile Safari as the most reliable browser for mobile devices by a huge margin over the second-place finisher, the stock Android browser. The ranking, which saw Internet Explorer for mobile coming in dead last with Opera and Chrome placing third and fourth respectively, was drawn from nearly 62,000 troubleshooting requests fielded by Fixya over the past year. The company weighted the problem reports against browser marketshare in order to produce relative usability scores.
The biggest complaint users had about the Mobile Safari browser was its lack of Flash support, making for one-fourth of all the problem reports and tied with "screen real estate," together comprising half of user issues. Lack of Flash support was also a major complaint with Chrome. Mobile Flash is still supported on the stock Android browser, but Adobe itself has abandoned the technology and is no longer supporting it -- reluctantly admitting that Steve Jobs' brutal assessment of the technology in 2010 was accurate.
Jobs cited stability, security and battery-life concerns as serious flaws in mobile Flash that Apple hadn't seen any evidence of Adobe fixing. Less than a year later, Adobe ceased development on mobile Flash. Even on browsers that still support it, the experience causes a battery hit, browser instability and is considerably slower than the desktop version, which itself is plagued with security issues.
Regarding Safari, Fixya pointed out that Apple's browser had a plethora of features not found or implemented as well in other browsers -- including Reading List, making "apps" out of bookmarks, easy tweeting of links and wireless printing. Safari's 1.31 usability score was nearly double that of third-place Opera (0.70) and five times that of Internet Explorer for Mobile (which came in last of the top five with a score of 0.28). The stock Android browser, which doesn't have a formal name, landed in second with a score of 0.87.
The top issue with the standard Android browse was "random crashes" (35 percent of reports), followed by password issues (20 percent), limited support (15 percent) and the fragmentation of browser versions (15 percent). Third-place Opera saw complaints about screen real estate (40 percent), meaning that the browser itself took up too much screen space; security issues, which accounted for 20 percent of complaints; data usage not working correctly (15 percent) and lack of Flash support (15 percent).
Finally, mobile Internet Explorer users said "poor rendering" was the browser's worst issue (35 percent). Font recognition and general unhappiness with IE's default Bing search engine each took 20 percent of problem reports, with 15 percent also complaining about compatibility. The browser is the default browser for Windows Phone users, putting them at a serious disadvantage compared to Android and iOS.