How do Mobile Browsers Behave?


One of my favorite sources of active mining is that of Peter-Paul Koch digging in to mobile browsers and how they behave. Sponsored by Vodaphone to do a study of various mobile devices and their respective browsers, PPK has been doing some serious analysis of what the landscape looks like.

Armed with a battery of tests he analyzes the various browsers manually (a painstaking task) but it yields some sweet fruit:

He breaks down the results into three areas (note: The results are very much still a work in progress, as noted by PPK, so please be aware of that before making any specific decisions on implementation or usability):

  • Mobile JavaScript/CSS Tests – These are the most comprehensive tests, analyzing a number of common DOM methods, Ajax, touch events, keyboard events, font styling, and custom events. Scanning the tables of results should be able to give you a pretty good picture of what mobile browsers are like.
  • Mobile CSS – Covering everything from CSS selectors (new and old) along with basic and advanced styling techniques.
  • Mobile W3C CSSOM – Covers aspects like screen size, mouse position, document size, and scroll offset.

In general, the results are terribly painful. The majority of the devices and browsers available today are a complete mess. Thankfully smart devices are making solid inroads bringing along good-quality browsers (WebKit-based browsers and Opera Mobile) but it’s going to be a while before those devices are widely available.

Peter-Paul gave two follow-up talks on mobile browser testing, at Google and at Yahoo, that are worth watching, for additional details.

Google Talk on Mobile Browsers

Yahoo Talk (also discusses mobile browsers)

PPK is also organizing the Fronteers conference, taking place this fall in Amsterdam. I plan on attending and speaking, as well.

Posted: May 19th, 2009


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