Chrome For iOS: A Failure?

Google's Chrome browser might be making gains on Android devices, but its presence -- and performance -- on iOS devices is pitiful.

Eric Zeman, Contributor

December 4, 2012

3 Min Read

New Chromebook: A Visual Tour

New Chromebook: A Visual Tour

New Chromebook: A Visual Tour (click image for larger view and for slideshow)

Google released a version of its Chrome desktop browser for the Android platform back in February. The mobile browser, which is available only for devices running Android 4.0 and up, syncs bookmarks and open tabs with Google's desktop browser and makes transitioning from a desktop to a mobile device fairly seamless. All the same tools and settings are there, so users don't lose their spot, so to speak, on the various websites they were using on their desktop.

Google eventually made a version of Chrome available to iOS devices in late June.

New data from NetMarketShare shows that Chrome's penetration of the mobile browser market is growing, but slowly. As of Dec. 1, mobile Chrome accounted for 1.14% of all mobile browsing sessions. When broken down by platform, however, there's a huge disparity between its use on Android devices versus iOS devices.

[ Read Google Play Store Downloads Surpass 25 Billion. ]

Chrome is being used on 4.03% of all Android devices. Keep in mind, Android 4.x is only running on about one-third of all Android devices. That means Chrome has reached about 11% of all the devices capable of running it.

In contrast, Chrome is being used on just 0.01% of all iOS devices. That's a rounding error, an insignificant percentage, a complete failure. Why has Chrome failed to thrive on iOS devices? Probably because it isn't a real version of Chrome.

Thanks to Apple, Chrome for iOS is unable to use Google's V8 JavaScript engine. It has to use UIWebView. The native iOS browser, Safari, uses the Nitro JavaScript engine. The difference in performance between Safari and Chrome on iOS devices is like night and day.

For example, using the SunSpider 0.9.1 test, Chrome scores 3672.1ms on an iPhone and 5707.6ms on an iPad, both running iOS 6.0.1 on the same Wi-Fi network. Running the same SunSpider test using Chrome on an LG Nexus 4 and Asus Nexus 7, both running Android 4.2.1 on the same Wi-Fi network, netted 1929.2ms on the N4 and 2200.7ms on the N7.

Conversely, Safari scores 940ms on the iPhone and 1621.8ms on the iPad under the same testing conditions. Simply put, Safari is much, much faster on iOS devices than Chrome is.

Speaking of Safari, it holds a commanding 61.5% grip on all mobile Web browsing traffic. That's down from a high this year of 66.22%, which Safari reached in July.

The native Android browser, which is installed on nearly all Android devices has climbed in mobile browsing share all year. It started 2012 out with 19.5% in January and has grown to 26.09% of all mobile browsing as of November.

Opera Mini, which ranks third, has just 7.02% of the mobile browser share. RIM's BlackBerry browser and Microsoft's Windows Phone browser (IE9 and IE10) have negligible shares of the mobile browser market.

Time to patch your security policy to address people bringing their own mobile devices to work. Also in the new Holes In BYOD issue of Dark Reading: Metasploit creator HD Moore has five practical security tips for business travelers. (Free registration required.)

About the Author(s)

Eric Zeman


Eric is a freelance writer for InformationWeek specializing in mobile technologies.

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