Science & Technology

Mobile browser

A mobile browser is a web browser designed for use on a mobile device such as a mobile phone or PDA. Mobile browsers are optimized so as to display Web content most effectively for small screens on portable devices. Mobile browser software must be small and efficient to accommodate the low memory capacity and low-bandwidth of wireless handheld devices. Typically they were stripped-down web browsers, but some more modern mobile browsers can handle more recent technologies like CSS 2.1, JavaScript, and Ajax.

Websites designed for access from these browsers are referred to as wireless portals[1] or collectively as the Mobile Web. They may automatically create “mobile” versions of each page, for example this one.


The first mobile browser for a PDA was PocketWeb[2][3] for the Apple Newton created at TecO in 1994, followed by the first commercial product NetHopper released in August 1996.[4]

The so-called “microbrowser” technologies such as WAP, NTTDocomo’s i-mode platform and Openwave‘s HDML platform fueled the first wave of interest in wireless data services.

The first deployment of a mobile browser on a mobile phone was probably in 1997 when Unwired Planet (later to become Openwave) put their “UP.Browser” on AT&T handsets to give users access to HDML content.[5][6]

A British company, STNC Ltd., developed a mobile browser (HitchHiker) in 1997 that was intended to present the entire device UI. The demonstration platform for this mobile browser (Webwalker) had 1 MIPS total processing power. This was a single core platform, running the GSM stack on the same processor as the application stack. In 1999 STNC was acquired by Microsoft[7] and HitchHiker became Microsoft Mobile Explorer 2.0,[8] not related to the primitive Microsoft Mobile Explorer 1.0. HitchHiker is believed to be the first mobile browser with a unified rendering model, handling HTML and WAP along with ECMAScript, WMLScript, POP3 and IMAP mail in a single client. Although it was not used, it was possible to combine HTML and WAP in the same pages although this would render the pages invalid for any other device. Mobile Explorer 2.0 was available on the Benefon Q, Sony CMD-Z5, CMD-J5, CMD-MZ5, CMD-J6, CMD-Z7, CMD-J7 and CMD-J70. With the addition of a messaging kernel and a driver model, this was powerful enough to be the operating system for certain embedded devices. One such device was the Amstrad [email protected] and [email protected] 2. This code formed the basis for MME3.

Multiple companies offered browsers for the Palm OS platform. The first HTML browser for Palm OS 1.0 was HandWeb by Smartcode software, released in 1997. HandWeb included its own TCP/IP stack, and Smartcode was acquired by Palm in 1999. Mobile browsers for the Palm OS platform multiplied after the release of Palm OS 2.0, which included a TCP/IP stack. A freeware (although later shareware) browser for the Palm OS was Palmscape, written in 1998 by Kazuho Oku in Japan, who went on to found Ilinx. Still in limited use as late as 2003. Qualcomm also developed the Eudora Web browser, and launched it with the Palm OS based QCP smartphone. ProxiWeb[9] was a proxy-based Web browsing solution, developed by Ian Goldberg and others[10] at the University of California Berkeley and later acquired by PumaTech.

Released in 2001, Mobile Explorer 3.0 added iMode compatibility (cHTML) plus numerous proprietary schemes.[11] By imaginatively combining these proprietary schemes with WAP protocols, MME3.0 implemented OTA database synchronisation, push email, push information clients (not unlike a ‘Today Screen’) and PIM functionality. The cancelled Sony Ericsson CMD-Z700 was to feature heavy integration with MME3.0. Although Mobile Explorer was ahead of its time in the mobile phone space, development was stopped in 2002.

Also in 2002, Palm, Inc. offered Web Pro on Tungsten PDAs based upon a Novarra browser. PalmSource offered a competing Web browser based on Access Netfront.

Opera Software pioneered with its Small Screen Rendering (SSR) and Medium Screen Rendering (MSR) technology. The Opera web browser is able to reformat regular web pages for optimal fit on small screens and medium-sized (PDA) screens. It was also the first widely available mobile browser to support Ajax and the first mobile browser to pass ACID2 test.[1]

Distinct from a mobile browser is a web-based emulator, which uses a “Virtual Handset” to display WAP pages on a computer screen, implemented either in Java or as an HTML transcoder.

Popular mobile browsers

The following are some of the more popular mobile browsers. Some mobile browsers are really miniaturized Web browsers, so some mobile device providers also provide browsers for desktop and laptop computers.

Usage share of mobile (smartphone and tablet) browsers for
Source Date Android
Chrome Internet
Safari Opera
StatCounter June 2017 4.24% 47.26% 0.59% 21.17% 5.01% 14.16% 6.03% 1.09%
StatCounter June 2015 15.81% 30.67% 1.76% 24.64% 10.37% 12.95% 3.79%
NetApplications June 2014 22.77% 16.67% 2.01% 47.06% 7.82% 4.69%

Default browsers for Mobile and Tablet

Browser Creator FOSS Current layout engine Software license Notes
Amazon Silk Some Blink proprietary and LGPL Uses split architecture whereby some processing is performed on Amazon’s servers
Android browser Google Yes WebKit BSD and LGPL Browser included with Android version 1.5 to version 4.1[12]
BlackBerry Browser BlackBerry Ltd Some Mango (ver 4.5, 4.6, 4.7, 5.0)
Webkit (ver 6.0+)
proprietary and LGPL
Blazer Palm No NetFront[13] proprietary installed on all newer Palm Treos and PDAs
Chrome Google Some WebKit, Blink (versions 28+) Freeware under Google Chrome Terms of Service, but uses components from the Chromium (web browser) project.[14] Installed as default on Google devices shipping with Android versions 4.1 (Jelly Bean) or higher
Dolphin Browser MoboTap No WebKit installed on all Bada
Firefox for Mobile Mozilla Yes Gecko, WebKit (iOS version only) MPL Currently released for Android and iOS, but default browser for Firefox OS devices (now discontinued)
Internet Explorer Mobile Microsoft No Trident proprietary on Windows Phone and Windows Mobile only
Iris Browser Torch Mobile Some WebKit proprietary and LGPL Acquired by Research in Motion – No longer supports Windows Mobile or Linux
Kindle web browser No NetFront proprietary Labeled “experimental”
Microsoft Edge Microsoft No EdgeHTML proprietary on Windows 10 Mobile
Myriad Browser Myriad Group Some Magellan (ver. 6.x)
Fugu (ver 7.x)
WebKit (ver 9)[15]
proprietary and LGPL Acquired from Openwave in 2008
NetFront ACCESS Co., Ltd. No NetFront proprietary
Nokia Series 40 Browser Nokia Some WebKit[16] proprietary and LGPL
Obigo Browser Obigo AB Some WebKit (to be released) proprietary and LGPL 100% owned by Teleca AB
Opera Mini Opera Software No Presto proprietary Capable of pre-processing web pages and formatting for small screens
Opera Mobile Opera Software No Presto, Blink (versions 15+) proprietary Capable of reading HTML and can reformat for small screens
PlayStation Portable web browser Sony No NetFront proprietary
Polaris Browser Infraware Inc. Some Lumi (Ver. 6.x)
WebKit (Ver. 7.x)
proprietary and LGPL Nokia, Samsung, LG Electronics, Kyocera and other phones sold in the US, China, South Korea, etc.
S60 web browser Nokia Yes WebKit LGPL on S60 phones (predominantly Nokia)
Safari Apple Inc. Some WebKit (WebCore) proprietary and LGPL[17] on iOS (iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad)
Skyfire Mobile Browser Skyfire Some WebKit proprietary and LGPL Renders Flash 10, Ajax and Silverlight content. Currently supports iOS and Android.
uZard Web Logicplant Co., Ltd. No MoRDAC (Mobile oriented Remote Display and Control) proprietary on Samsung, LG Electronics and other smartphones and cellular phones in South Korea
WebOS Browser Palm Some WebKit proprietary and LGPL The last WebOS, 3.0.5, was released on January 12, 2012
Browser Creator FOSS Current layout engine Software license Notes

User-installable mobile browsers

Browser Creator Current layout engine Platforms Software license Notes
360 Web Browser Digital Poke iOS
APUS Browser APUS Group WebKit Android (operating system), iOS Proprietary Freeware Includes HTML5 support, No images and Night Modes
BOLT browser Bitstream Inc. WebKit Java ME, BlackBerry Proprietary Discontinued December 2011
Chrome Google WebKit, Blink Android, iOS Freeware under Google Chrome Terms of Service
Cruiser Browser Airomo Inc. WebKit iOS Proprietary
UC Browser UC Mobile U3 (based on WebKit) S60, Java ME, Android, iOS, Windows Mobile, Bada Proprietary Freeware Proxy-rendering in Java and Symbian. U3 engine in Android.
Classilla Cameron Kaiser Clecko a modififed Gecko Mac OS 8.6, Mac OS 9 MPL/GPL/LGPL Although desktop, uses a mobile user agent by default due to the older machines it services.
Deepfish Microsoft Windows Mobile Proprietary Proxy-rendering browser (Discontinued)
Dolphin Browser MoboTap WebKit Android, iOS
Firefox for mobile Mozilla Foundation Gecko, WebKit (iOS) Android, Firefox OS (discontinued), iOS MPL Includes HTML5 support, Firefox Sync, add-ons support and tabbed browsing.[18]
ibisBrowser ibis inc. Java enabled phones, Windows Mobile
Kloop Kloop Inc. WebKit iOS Proprietary Includes an AI recommendation engine, Chrome extension available
Links Twibright Labs PlayStation Portable GPL Unofficial port, requires custom firmware
Mercury Browser iLegendSoft, Inc. Android, iOS Freeware
Minimo Mozilla Foundation Gecko Linux, Windows CE MPL/GPL/LGPL Discontinued
NetFront ACCESS Co., Ltd. NetFront, WebKit Linux, S60, BREW, Android, Windows Mobile, Others Proprietary
Opera Mini Opera Software Presto Java ME, Android, Windows Mobile, iOS, BlackBerry, S60, Others Proprietary Supports most features of stand-alone Opera, but can run on less capable phones by offloading memory-intensive rendering to proxy server (based on Opera Mobile running on a server)
Opera Mobile Opera Software Presto, Blink Android, Maemo, BREW, S60, Windows Mobile From version 14 it is based on Chromium.
Pale Moon Moonchild Productions Android Proprietary Freeware Built on Firefox code
Pixo Sun Microsystems
Skyfire Skyfire Labs, Inc. WebKit (ver 2.x+), Gecko (ver 1.x) Android, iOS Supports Flash and Ajax. As of 2010-12-31, it no longer supports Symbian OS or Windows Mobile
Sleipnir Fenrir Inc WebKit Android, iOS, Windows Mobile
Steel WebKit Android Discontinued
Teashark Java ME Proprietary Freeware
Tristit Java enabled phones, BlackBerry
Vision Mobile Browser Novarra Java ME, BREW Proprietary
WinWAP Winwap Technologies Windows Mobile Proprietary
Browser Creator Current layout engine Platforms Software license Notes

Mobile HTML transcoders

Mobile transcoders reformat and compress web content for mobile devices and must be used in conjunction with built-in or user-installed mobile browsers. The following are several leading mobile transcoding services.

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Khwaja Yahya

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