Browsers and Platforms

Contents: Report Introduction Browsers HTML5 Native Apps Platform Choice The Wrap

One of the first questions we ask respondents is what browsers they use as part of their regular web use. To date, we’ve not given respondents the opportunity to nominate a mobile browser as their primary browser, which may have to change soon, but we do give them the chance to tell us “What other browsers do you regularly use for regular web use”.

Here are the results from 2008 through to 2011

What other browsers do you regularly use for regular web use (for example a mobile browser)?

2011

Browser Count Percentage
Mobile Safari 318 23%
Android 161 11.79%
Opera Mini 31 2.27%
Opera Mobile 25 1.83%
Blackberry 2 .15%
Palm 4 .3%
Windows Phone 7 2 .15%

2010

Browser Count %
Mobile Safari 413 29%
Android 52 3.8%
Pre 3 .2%
Blackberry 15 1.1%
Opera mini 36 2.6%
Opera mobile 20 1.43%
Nokia 11 .8%

2008

Browser Count %
Mobile Safari 200 16%
Blackberry 9 .75%
Opera mini 42 3.4%
Opera mobile 20 1.6%
Nokia 20 1.6%

(these numbers don’t add up to 100% as this is the percentage of all respondents who use these various platforms/​browsers)

There’s no surprise that since 2008, Mobile Safari has dominated developer’s mobile browser use. But in 2010, Android jumped significantly, and at the expense of iOS, despite the launch of the iPad in early 2010 (mobile Safari is counted as a single browser across all iOS devices). Other browsers/​platforms saw no statistically significant change.

Noteworthy in the light of the 2010 launch of Windows Phone 7 is how little uptake this device had among our respondents (around 45% of whom use desktop windows). This may be due to the relatively unexciting version of IE on Windows Phone 7 to date (this looks set to change later in 2011, with a very promising version of IE9 to land on the platform later this year or early 2012). It also should be noted that Windows Phone 7 launched around 4 months before our survey, giving the platform little time to gain real traction with this audience.

Also, despite the launch (also late 2010) of the Blackberry 6 platform, featuring a vastly improved browser, the sense that Blackberry is a business, rather than developers phone is underlined with similarly little traction. Perhaps the Playbook tablet can provide a way into this market for RIM, important not so much for its own scale, but for the impact it has as an early adopter market, and in gaining potential developers for the platform — there seems a clear correlation between the devices developers use and those they develop for.

Browsers respondents test with

Beyond the browsers developers use regularly themselves, we also asked respondents what browsers they test their sites with. Here, several browsers were included as possible choices (respondents could also nominate other browsers they test with). The results as relevant to the mobile and device world are

Answer Count Percentage
Safari iPhone 753 55.12%
Safari iPad 507 37.12%
Opera Mobile 103 7.54%
Opera Mini 75 5.49%
Android (Phone) 293 21.45%
Android (Tablet) 37 2.71%
Blackberry 81 5.93%
Windows Phone 7 39 2.86%

Developers are clearly showing signs of testing their sites in a far wider range of browsers than they regularly use, though whether it’s on devices or via emulators running on desktops is something we’ll have to include as a question in subsequent surveys.

How does this compare with previous surveys? In both late 2008 and early 2010, only Mobile Safari (21% in 2008, and 38% in 2010) and Opera Mobile (5% and 5.7%) featured among respondents answers. It’s clear from these changes, that mobile is moving toward the front and center of respondents focus when it comes to testing for web site compatibility.

Browsers respondents optimize web sites for

The next step beyond testing in a browser is optimizing for that browser (we left what this meant deliberately vague). Here too the responses are instructive.

First we ask respondents whether they “optimize their sites for devices other than laptops/​PCs”. Here’s how responses have changed over the last 3 or so years

2011

Answer Count Percentage
Yes 680 49.78%
No 563 41.22%

2010

Answer Count %
No 803 57.28%
Yes 458 32.67%

2008

Answer Count %
Yes 310 25.12%
No 813 65.88%

In 2008, only a quarter of respondents answered yes. In 2011, a plurality, and almost half responded yes. This is not folks testing to ensure pages work in a particular device, but optimizing for that device, a very significant change in the last couple of years.

We then asked respondents which devices they particularly focussed on.

2011

Answer Count Percentage
iPhone 662 48.46%
iPad 490 35.87%
Android Phones 364 26.65%
Android Tablets 83 6.08%
Blackberry (5 and older) 64 4.69%
Blackberry 6 80 5.86%
Google TV 12 0.88%
webOS 51 3.73%
Windows Phone 7 49 3.59%

2010

Device Count %
iphone/​​mobile safari 234 51%
blackberry 23 5%
android 47 10%
opera mobile 6 1.3%
Palm Pre 4 1.3%
wii 3 .7%

2008

Device Count %
iphone/​​mobile safari 136 44%
blackberry 13 4%
android 3 1%
opera mobile 5 1.6%
wii 5 1.6%

Here changes really are remarkable. While iOS continues to dominate, Android has gone from effectively no interest, to over a quarter of developers optimizing for Android phones (Android still has some work to do when it comes to Tablets, but the first Android Tablets had only been on the market a short time when this survey was done.) The total number of respondents focussing on each platform is telling. 50% more respondents optimizing their sites for Android Phones this year than iOS devices last year (while the number optimizing for iOS has more than tripled). In addition, Blackberry, webOS, and Windows Phone 7 all have non trivial attention from developers.

Opera, both Mobile and Mini, while having as many as 100 million active users, do not seem to be gaining a tremendous amount of developer interest. Perhaps developers assume their sites will “just work” on these platforms.

Almost completely missing in action is ChromeOS, eclipsed by even Google TV. Shipping behind so many new platforms and devices, it’s hard to imagine that what seemed such a promising platform can ever gain much traction among what should be it’s primary developer audience. One has to similarly wonder about the chances of Meego, certainly with this audience, despite the fact web technologies are one of the primary ways of developing for the platform.

As mentioned at the outset, something is definitely afoot at the intersection of the web and mobile platforms. Among early adopters, Android is clearly gaining traction, while a number of platforms continue to keep a foothold, and of course iOS continues to dominate. But all’s not plain sailing for Apple’s mobile platform among bell weather users. The next 12 months will be interesting.

Next we’ll look at how developers are using technologies like HTML5 and JavaScript

Contents: Report Introduction Browsers HTML5 Native Apps Platform Choice The Wrap