Apple rules phone, tablet browsing market

Android's share doesn't match sales, but it's also gaining ground

Mobile browsing has more than doubled in the last year and now accounts for over 6 per cent of all online activity, a Web statistics company said today.

And Apple's Safari - the default browser on the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch - rules the usage share roost, representing 53 per cent of the mobile browsing market.

Two trends are clear, said Vince Vizzaccaro, a vice-president with metrics firm Net Applications, which released new figures earlier today. "Phones and tablets are stealing [browsing] share from desktops at an accelerated pace," said Vizzaccaro.

Users still do nearly all of the their browsing from a desktop or notebook computer, Net Applications' numbers showed, but that's changing: A year ago, desktop browsing controlled a 97.2 per cent share, compared to 93.2 per cent in August.

The other trend is Apple's clear-cut advantage. In the last 12 months, Safari's share has increased by 9.3 percentage points, and now owns a majority of the smartphone and tablet browsing market.

But Android also gained ground in the last year, boosting its browser share to 15.7 per cent, an 8.1-point increase. Google's operating system dominates the smartphone market but badly lags behind Apple's iOS on tablets.

The clear loser has been Opera Mini, which lost 12.5 points in the same period, reducing its share to 20.8 per cent. The Symbian browser that runs on Nokia smartphones has also been hit by the surge in sales of iOS and Android devices: It's down 3.6 percentage points in the past 12 months, and now controls just 5.8 per cent of the market.

Apple's iPhone and iPad account for the bulk of Safari's share, although the former - which has a nearly three-year lead on the latter -- remained slightly ahead last month. According to Net Applications, 27.4 per cent of all mobile browsing was done from an iPhone, while 22.5 per cent was conducted on an iPad.

Net Applications just revamped the way it tracks browser use by separating smartphone and tablet online activity from that on desktops and notebooks, a change Vizzaccaro said was prompted by the rise in mobile browsing.

"Mobile is such a big deal now," Vizzaccaro said.

Net Applications currently combines smartphone- and tablet-based browsing into a single number, but the company intends to break out tablets in the future.

Net Applications calculates browser usage share with data obtained from more than 160 million unique visitors who browse 40,000 websites that the company monitors for clients. More mobile browsing data can be found on the company's site.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer , or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His e-mail address is gkeizer@ix.netcom.com .

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