Data Monday: Embedded Mobile Browser Use

by Luke Wroblewski September 29, 2013

Though many Web teams consistently test their products on mobile browsers, few test on the embedded browsers found within the World's most popular native mobile apps. These experiences not only behave differently but are an increasingly significant part of mobile Web browsing activity.

  • In April 2013, Facebook was the most popular native app in the US on iOS and Android with 18% of time spent, Apple's Safari browser was 3rd with 12%, and much lower down the list was the Android Web browser with 4% of time spent and Opera Mini with 2%. (source)
  • When you consider Facebook users consume Web content inside a web view within the Facebook app, then Facebook is the second popular Web browser on iOS and Android. (source)
  • Facebook is not alone. Other popular native mobile applications like Twitter also keep Web content in embedded Web browsers. So the embedded experience might be the most common way to experience the web on smartphones.
  • This is a big issue for Web performance as embedded Web browsers tend to be significantly less optimized than native browsers. For instance, Apple's embedded version of Safari does not include optimizations like the Nitro JavaScript engine, certain Safari caches, nor the browser's "asynchronous" rendering mode. (source)
  • Most native applications also adjust their embedded Web browser experience to remove standard browsers controls and other native browser conventions/functions.
  • When you consider the amount of mobile Web traffic happening in embedded browsers and the fact they behave and perform differently, it may be worth testing your Web sites in these environments.