Phone Browser Speed test

August 20th, 2009

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So I was grocery shopping the other day. I’m standing in line waiting to pay when it occurred to me how addicted I am to the internet. With that in mind it figured it would be a good idea to find out which phone browser renders pages the fastest. After all surfing the web while in line is a lot more fun than reading the headlines on tabloids, looking at chocolate bars or trying to stereotype people based on what food they buy.

While the idea of figuring which is fastest is simple, actually figuring out required a lot of thought.

Since I spend a lot of time on HowardForums I took the homepage, converted it to a static page and moved all externally hosted images and elements so that they all load from the same server.

You can find it at http://www.howardchui.com/speedtest/

Now before we go to the results let me point out the numerous problems with my test:

First off, the internet is a highly dynamic thing. Sometimes it can be fast, sometimes it can be slow. Outside of paying your bill on time there’s only so much you can do about it.

Secondly, phone browsers are not all created equal, some support flash, others allow you to have multiple pages open at the same time, etc. All I’m testing is how fast a phone renders a page; from when it starts loading to when the load bar is full.

Each carrier is different. Some may take a shorter faster path to the HowardChui.com server while others may be slower.

These tests don’t take into account a phone’s user interface. If a phone is horrible to use but has a super fast browser it will do well on this test.

Some phones allow you to browse the page while it is being loaded while some don’t.

Some devices attempt to speed up page load times by using proxy servers. The proxy servers intercept the page you’re trying to load, compress them (text and images) so that they download to your phone more quickly. For devices like this (mainly Blackberries) I’m not going to bother by passing the proxies since they use them out of the box.

Other things to think about are how accurately a webpage renders a page, etc etc.

For some phones I tested over the mobile network and over WiFi and through my internet connection. My home internet connection is usually faster. This can reveal whether a phone is being held back by a slow processor or a slow internet connection.

How I tested:

To test I grabbed a stopwatch and timed how long it took each phone to load http://www.howardchui.com/speedtest. I repeated each test until I got what I thought were consistent results. I also repeated these tests at different times of the day until I got an idea of the best case scenario.

To ensure browsers weren’t loading pages out of their cache I tried my best to make sure that the browser caches were empty. Here are some examples: for iPhones I opened up a new window, closed the speedtest window, opened up Safari’s options and cleared the cache, then opened up Safari and loaded the speedtest page. For Android phones I opened up a new window, opened up the switch window menu and closed the speedtest window, cleared cache and then opened speedtest again. I tell you, after running these damn tests on a bunch of phones they get really boring.

Load Times

Thoughts:

Given all the problems with the test I mentioned already I wouldn’t make a big deal if one phone is say 10% faster than another. There are enough factors that you may very well find the opposite to true.

That said, if one phone is significantly faster than another then you can probably draw some conclusions from this graph.

While carriers networks can often theoretically support high speeds more often than not the devices are the limiting factor. Let’s say a phone is capable of 3.6mbps – does that mean it can load a 512kb webpage in half a second? Nope. While the data that makes up a webpage is generally downloaded quickly it usually takes the phone a few seconds (or sometimes many seconds) to render a page. A good example are the Blackberries in my test. I noticed they only take about 3 seconds to request a page, 12 seconds to download a page and then about 25 seconds to process the page.

With it’s blazing processor and lack of multitasking I wasn’t suprised that the iPhone 3Gs dominated the test. I was rather suprised at how quickly the N97 did since subjectively I didn’t find it felt that fast (it didn’t feel slow, just not that fast). While we’re talking about the N97 I didn’t test it’s HSDPA performance since the one I had was a euro varient (no HSDPA support where I live).

Subjectively, I found any browser that takes around 20 seconds or less generally felt ‘fast’.

While Opera on Windows Mobile isn’t a bad browser I’ve never found it to be fast.

Even with their proxy servers the Blackberries finished at the bottom of the test. Below even the LG Xenon which is a non-smartphone (albeit one of the most interesting ones on the market) and the Sony Ericsson K850 (not an old phone but not SE’s most recent). Unfortunately I didn’t have a Bold handy but even though it’s the fastest Blackberry you can buy I don’t think it would do much better.

Anyways, that’s all for now. I’ll add more devices as I get them.

Howard Chui
08.20.2009

Entry Filed under: Phones

7 Comments Add your own

    YL  |  August 24th, 2009 at 3:54 pm

    you’ve definitely put a lot of thought into this, but some of the variables you have controlled are very important aspects of browsing the internet. some other broswer tests that would be interesting, include testing mostly text vs mostly picture web pages, cache (you mentioned you browse howardforums a lot) and size (whether it can even load the full page on the broswer), zooming and rendering (since almost all) browsers need zooming to work, different browsers.
    As an aside experiment, testing the graphics performance to see it’s relation to browser rendering speed.

    GJ on the testing

    Cristhian  |  August 27th, 2009 at 9:45 pm

    My Blackberry 8900 with the WiFi Connection and the Hotspot browser a default took over 2min and then froze but is now up so yeah Blackberry is horrible with it’s trying to run EVERY script for things it doesn’t even support.

    Cristhian  |  August 27th, 2009 at 9:46 pm

    Update* I had to pull out the battery as I got the little clock of death.

    Dennis  |  August 28th, 2009 at 7:18 pm

    I just ran the speedtest on my Bell Curve and it took approx. 17 sec.

    Aym  |  August 29th, 2009 at 5:13 am

    Howard,

    For the WM devices, try SKYFIRE a mobile browser and it is VERY speedy with its cached pages.

    JOhn  |  September 1st, 2009 at 11:52 am

    Blackberry bold- it took me 48 seconds to run all the scrips and load the page.

    Duker  |  September 2nd, 2009 at 8:54 pm

    just did a test on my pre, got 20 seconds with WiFi and 40 without to fully download the page.

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