The number one mobile Web browser: Google's native Android browser

The number one mobile Web browser: Google's native Android browser

Summary: After years as the top mobile Web browser, Opera has fallen to Android's built-in Web browser.

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StatCounter's mobile Web browser numbers show Android's native browser taking first place from Opera.

On the PC, Internet Explorer (IE), while declining for years, is still the top Web browser. On mobile devices, though, IE has never mattered, and Opera has long been the top dog. But, that's no longer the case. According to StatCounter, Android's built-in Web browser is now number one.

Android's browser appears to have taken first place for the same reason that IE still dominates PCs-it's what built into the most popular systems. True, the iPhone is the world's single most popular smartphone, but taken all together Google's Android devices accounted for over 50 percent of all smartphone sales, up by 30 percent only a year ago.

True, some vendors, such as Samsung, have long pre-loaded Opera on its feature phones. But, on the higher-end smartphones, Opera has had to reply on individual users downloading it. For years, this was enough, but no longer.

In February 2012, StatCounter reports that Android has 22.67% of the market, Opera comes in second with 21.7%, and the iPhone native browser, which has also been growing in popularity takes third with 21.06%. Nokia's native Symbian browser comes in a distant fourth with 11.24%.

However, I suspect that Opera may yet become the king of the hill in mobile Web browsers. That's because Google is bringing the Chrome Web browser to Android. True, it's only available on Android 4.0, Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS), but as more smartphone and tablets appear running ICS, Chrome will start to grow at the Android native browser's expenses. This should lead to a point where these two browsers will cut into each other's market-share leaving Opera once more on top.

Alas, for Opera, this won't last. Eventually I expect Chrome, which isn't even a player now on StatCounter's mobile Web survey, to take the number one spot. It's fast, it's good, and it will be built-in to tens of millions of smartphones. Opera has the first two, but without the third eventually it will decline.

Don't feel too sorry for Opera though. As StatCounter points out, while Opera's relative share of the mobile pie may be shrinking, the "Global internet usage through mobile devices, not including tablets, has almost doubled to 8.5% in January 2012 from 4.3% last year." In other words, there will still be more Opera users than ever in the coming mobile computer world.

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Topics: Browser, Google, Hardware, Mobility, Smartphones, Software

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18 comments
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  • Something's wrong here.

    Both the bar graph and the raw data on StatCounter's site (the one you linked to) clearly show Opera as number 1 at 22.24%, with Android second at 19.04%.
    msalzberg
  • Look closer

    StatCounter shows Android with 22.67% in Feb. 2012 and Opera with 21.7%. How they display their numbers are a bit confusing.

    Steven
    sjvn
    • I'd suggest you look at their raw data...

      and view the data as a bar graph, not as a line graph.
      msalzberg
      • Sorry but...

        He isn't the only one reporting this and his is actually behind a little bit.
        slickjim
      • Line graft matches the csv file

        The line graph matches the csv file. Android 22.67%, Opera 21.7%

        Techcrunch using the same info.
        daikon
      • @daikon

        I don't know if the csv file has been changed, but when I downloaded it, it showed Opera at 22.24% and Android at 19.04%. One of us is misreading it.

        Cut and pasted:
        Mobile Browser Market Share % Feb 2011 to Feb 2012
        Opera 22.24
        Android 19.04
        iPhone 17.69
        Nokia 14.67
        BlackBerry 10.36
        iPod Touch 4.81
        NetFront 3.3
        msalzberg
      • There are differences between Bar & Line graph's when you include a range

        @msalzberg, the confusion here is the difference between representation of bar graphs and line graphs when given over a range of months. Added to this is the raw data from the site reflects the type of graph you are viewing on the site.

        The Authors reported line graph and stats are still correct for the month of Feb 2012, and if you limit the range of the bar graph to Feb 2012 ONLY i.e Feb 2012 - Feb 2012 you will see that the bar graph also reinforces the Authors report (Remember a bar graph over a time period actually represents the average % over that time period). Hence the data you have reflects this (as it should) since Android has only passed Opera for a single month (the other 11 months, Opera was in the lead).
        Becksly
  • Hero to zero...

    Android is google spyware, its fragmented and the UI is a mess, anyway with Win 8 around the horizon, android will have the same fate as symbian.
    What is point that a fanboy like SJVN calling the android browser as number one? There is no credibility to it.
    owllnet
    • Remember kids...

      Don't feed the trolls.
      Nathan A Smith
  • I don't find the numbers terribly meaningful

    Use whatever browser suits you (I use Opera on my Android phone and Firefox on my tablet). The days when browser market share could be used as a monopoly tool are long gone.
    John L. Ries
  • To Be Fair...

    Personally I'm a dyed in the wool Linux user and for smartphones that means Android (love my GNex!). However, why did they split the ipod touch and iphone browser share? It's the same browser.
    Nathan A Smith
    • Umm

      Just guessing that the ipod does not count as a phone or tablet?
      strangefruit
    • Because they don't like to show that Apple has more than Android

      They count every crapware there is for Android as one. But will never count all iOS devices as one. It is just the only way they can show Android as a winner.
      wackoae
  • So, what's the point?

    It seems all the numbers say is that 99% of the users use whatever browser comes on the device. Most will never take the time to download a new browser.

    In other words, just like IE on the PC, if it is sufficient, people will live with it.

    Since Google is in the position to give away a native browser, that's what will be the #1 browser for the foreseeable future.
    Cynical99
  • Umm

    Just guessing that the ipod does not count as a phone or tablet?
    strangefruit
  • Easier solution ...

    Not really true. It may be the default since Google created Androif OS BUT from the experience point of view I would say Opera is better.

    For many years I stayed away from Opera on the desktop as it never worked quite right and crashed too frequently on my hardware. My latest Android acquisition led me to Android market.android.com Where I saw it. I tried it and I liked it, much more than the native browser. So now I am also playing with it on the desktop. If I like it I just might dump Firefox altogether since it has become much too unwieldy and SLoooooow......
    pmshah@...
  • Only because that is what's available...

    While not disputing the facts (except that the ipod touch is a mobile device and with viber becomes a true phone, thus joining iphone and ipod touch), I would also like to comment that the android browser is so simple as to be laughable.

    In Microsoft's world it would be like Wordpad against Word2010... no comparison.

    It's like on the PC, once you show them Opera (on mobile), or Chrome (on PC), users will wonder how they ever got work done without them.

    But the biggest problem is bundling all the Androids together... Samsung, Motorola, HTC.... and anyway browsers alone do not make a phone.
    grillomalta@...
  • Microsoft/IE issues...

    Microsoft ran afoul of the courts when it embedded IE into Windows. Could Google have the same issues with Android?
    gjm123