Safari sets the bar for mobile browser usability

People are increasingly relying on smartphones and tablets for their computing needs, which means that those users also depend on the mobile browser for their Web surfing. A new survey from FixYa compiles customer input to rank how users feel about the different mobile browser options.

There are other browser apps available for the various mobile platforms, but the report from FixYa focuses on the top five: Stock Android, Safari, Opera, Chrome, and Internet Explorer. Of those five, Safari stands out in two categories: market share and usability ranking.

mobile browsers
Safari blows the mobile browser competition away in both market share and usability.

With 58.12 percent of the mobile browser market, Safari has more than two-and-half times the market share of the second place Stock Android browser and nearly six times the market share of the third place Opera mobile browser. As for the usability score—an index assigned by FixYa based on the issues encountered by users and developers on the FixYa.com site—Safari wins the usability score with a 1.31, a score more than 50 percent higher than Stock Android, which is in second place once again.

There are three things listed as “Pros” for the Safari mobile browser in the FixYa report. It notes that the user interface is clean and exceedingly simple. The report also highlights the vast options available for working with an individual Web page—bookmark it, add it to the home screen, send it via email, tweet it out via Twitter, print it, and more. Finally, FixYa cites the Reading List as a benefit of Safari, enabling users to store Web pages for offline reading at their convenience.

Safari has its “Cons” as well, though. Two of the top three issues are actually inter-related. FixYa points out the lack of Flash support as an issue. I’m not sure why that’s still even talked about, since the Chrome browser also doesn’t support Flash, and Adobe no longer officially supports Flash for Android either. The second issue is that clicking on links such as YouTube videos redirects to the app, which is really a function of the lack of Flash support in the browser. Finally, FixYa reports that many users complain about the way the address bar at the top and the sharing menu bar at the bottom disappear as you scroll through the Web page.

It seems amazing that Safari, which is unique to iOS, has more than twice the mobile browser market share of Android—even if you combine Stock Android and Chrome together. Recent data from IDC shows Android with nearly 80 percent of smartphone shipments, versus only 13 percent for iOS. Of course, that data only represents the most recent quarter, so Android may still have some catching up to do in terms of the overall volume of devices in use.

Regardless, it’s impressive for one mobile browser to have nearly sixty percent of the market share and simultaneously blow the competition away in terms of its overall usability. Or, perhaps the superior usability is what drives its dominant market share.

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