Mobile Browser Choice Revisited

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Since my previous Mobile Browser Choice(March 2016) article, there have been some developments in the mobile browser space which makes the choice of mobile OS a little less of a hurdle.

There is one phone OS less, as Microsoft finally admitted Windows Phone development has ended. I’m sure Microsoft will be back with a new approach in future, mobile is here to stay.

The choice between iOS and Android and their differences, no longer affects your browser choice as much as before. Browser choice has expanded and there are a number of cross-platform browser options!

The mobile browsers

Mobile Browsers, Mobile Features

While there seems a breadth of browsers, there is consolidation of browser engine, with WebKit (~Blink) powering all the above.

All are built with sparse interfaces to let the content stand out. Nearly all offering ad or tracking blocking and reading modes to help get that content-first experience.

Samsung are matching Chrome feature by feature and its now the 3rd most popular browser in Europe.

Microsoft Edge enables you to sync your information across whichever mobile OS you choose - as does Firefox with Firefox Sync.

Brave gives you the option to fund the content you consume, while heavily blocking ads.

The small browsers try to help conserve data too, with UC browser and its news feed feature, while Dolphin browser has an article offline cache.

Chrome, Samsung Internet and recently Firefox and UC Browser all support progressive web apps.

Safari

With Safari this was less clear-cut.

Apple, through pressure and the increasingly louder calls that it was becoming the new IE, has finally announced Service Worker and Web Manifest support are underway.

It will be interesting to see if Apple allows Progressive Web Apps to go up against the app store. Remember this is the platform that launched, flying the flag of web apps and was the first to allow web app icons to mix alongside native apps.

I still fear new browser features will release on the other browsers first and Safari later.

Choice Wins

At the end of my previous browser choice post I hoped, "Mobile browsers get better, equally!". That hope has been answered.

There are no longer tough choices to make choosing a mobile platform and which mobile browser. Choice wins. Multi platform browsers and progressive web apps make it likely that you can browse how you want.

I still feel Chrome on Android will remain ahead regards cutting-edge features.

Thats not to write off the others. I still have a lot of respect for the Edge team Microsoft have put together, and the Samsung team and the speed they have iterated their browser and engaged with the web community.

Safari I feel will have to remain secondary to native apps otherwise Apple lose the lock-in to their products, if they are available freely online. How much sacrifice of app store revenue are Apple are prepared to make, to continue sales of their products and online services?

Which ever platform you choose there will be a version of the browser you prefer, but it will likely be rendered by WebKit. Its worrying how we are moving to a monopoly situation. Is WebKit the real mobile platform?

PWA Platform

Progressive Web Apps (PWA) can be the next platform - with Chrome, Samsung Internet and now Firefox Mobile supporting the concept and Safari in future. PWA can sit seamlessly alongside native apps right now on your device and soon in the app stores.

Desktop support is in progress, congratulations if you are a web developer you may be called software developer in future, as the two disciplines will be indistinguishable in future. As will any concept of a ‘mobile’ browser, as now the OS are starting to run on any form factor.

Truly multi-platform progress.

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