Thursday, March 17, 2011

Android 50% Faster than iPhone on the Web?

Today I came across a blog post that tested load times between iPhone and several Android devices.  As written: (see original post on Wired)

"Android phones whisk users across the web more than 50 percent faster than the iPhone, according to a study that compared the two top mobile OSes performance when downloading web pages.

The study, conducted by mobile website optimization company, involved more than 40,000 downloads of web pages belonging to the Fortune 1000 companies. Android loaded pages 52 percent faster when rendering full web pages than the iPhone. On average, Android phones took 2.1 seconds to render non-mobile optimized web pages, while the iPhone took 3.2 seconds.

Android bested the iPhone on site loading time a whopping 84% of the time."

Having run Gingerbread (a.k.a. Android 2.3) for two weeks now on a Nexus One, my general observation is that it is indeed faster that both FroYo (Android 2.2) and iPhone iOS for loading pages but I am pragmatic.  I would urge everyone to be pragmatic about these results.  They only show a single test (loading a web page) and the environment did not appear to be properly controlled.   The headline is hence somewhat misleading and sensationalistic.   What would be better is to do these sorts of tests in a closed environment and break the results down into HTTP request creation, transfer time, request bandwidth, server processing time, response transfer time, response bandwidth and client side parsing and display (assuming HTTP get).  Isolating the actual HTML/JavaScript parsing, processing and presentation is the real critical factor in making such claims in my opinion.  This test should not be done by loading a Fortune 1000 company's website on the open web as this represents a large an uncontrolled factor for the tests.  A counter argument would be that 40,000 loads does establish a fairly reasonable chance that the test results are somewhat accurate but no one can guarantee that the server itself was not busier when the iPhone requested the pages.  Let's look at what is behind each side of this competition.

iPhone's Safari also uses the WebKit open source browser engine, the same code base as Google Chrome and the Android browser (according to Wikipedia).  To me this seems somewhat relevant information.   WebKit's JavaScript engine, JavaScriptCore, based on KJS, is a framework separate from WebCore and WebKit, and is used on Mac OS X for applications other than web page JavaScript.  Unlike iOS, Android is open so anyone can add a browser to the marketplace.  I can write a basic web browser that supports CSS, AJAX, JS, and some HTML5 features in about ten lines of code using Adobe AIR, which in turn uses the Webkit implementation so if I choose, I can have the same browser as the iOS more or less.  Nevertheless, Android offers many different browser choices.  Some of these are:

Dolphin (hardware acceleration for Honeycomb (Android 3.0+))
Opera Mini (claims to be fastest)
Skyfire (supports Flash, 2,000,000 downloads)

and many more.  Here is an article on an Android browser shootout.

My second phone, the Samsung Galaxy S, runs Android 2.2 and is very stable.  The ability to view Flash is an important factor for me for both of these devices, which is why I gave my iPhone to my sister.  The one item I do miss is the iTunes Synchronization however I am debating getting out of the iTunes/Appstore altogether and find a replacement.  Any recommendations for  OS X music management software would be appreciated (please leave a comment).

The long and short of this is that while my perception is that Android is indeed faster at loading web pages, the key thing that wins my approval is multiple choices.  YAMMV! *

* Your actual mileage may vary  

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