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Apple IPhone Software Loses Speed Test to Google’s Android

Apple’s IPhone Software Loses Speed Test
Photographer: Ramin Talaie/Bloomberg

Apple Inc.’s iPhone accessed the Web more slowly through mobile applications than phones using Google Inc.’s Android operating system, according to a report today by a Canadian software company.

The iPhone 4 was slower than Google’s Nexus S smartphone 84 percent of the time when accessing the Web through the browser that operates applications like Twitter and Facebook, according to Ottawa-based Blaze Software Inc. Blaze was unable to compare the Apple Safari and Google Chrome browsers that users access directly from the phone’s home screen.

The Android phone operated 52 percent faster on average over a Wi-Fi network after more than 45,000 page loads from 1,000 websites, Blaze said. The difference will become more obvious as users demand richer experiences and move to tablet computers with larger screens, said Guy Podjarny, chief technology officer of Blaze, which helps companies increase website download times.

“It’s not that Apple doesn’t care about speed, but Google is fanatical about it,” Podjarny said in an interview yesterday.

Apple gained $4.63 to $334.64 at 4 p.m. New York time in Nasdaq Stock Market trading. The stock has risen 49 percent in the past 12 months. Google increased $4.26 to $561.36 and is little changed over 12 months.

Seconds to Load

Apple regards the tests as flawed because the browser that customers access by tapping on the Safari icon on their iPhones has performance enhancements not available when users access the Web through applications, said Natalie Kerris, a spokeswoman for the Cupertino, California-based company.

“Despite this fundamental testing flaw, they still only found an average of a second difference in loading Web pages,” Kerris said.

Kerris declined to comment on whether Apple plans to update its so-called embedded browser with the performance enhancements found in the standard version of its mobile browser. A Google spokeswoman, Gina Weakley, declined to comment.

Web pages took an average of 2.14 seconds to load on Android compared with 3.25 seconds on iPhone, Blaze said. When loading lighter websites -- those that are optimal for mobile phones because the pages have fewer features, such as pictures, to be downloaded -- the difference between the two systems was less noticeable, according to the report.

That’s probably because there were fewer page elements, making a download more efficient, Podjarny said.

‘Retrofitting’ Speed

Google’s browser is probably faster because of the way it organizes the download, Podjarny said. Google’s software finds more efficient ways of getting different elements of a page, such as pictures or text, he said.

The difference in download speeds may be the result of corporate philosophies, Podjarny said.

Google, based in Mountain View, California, has a team devoted to making its browser and websites faster, employing tools such as downloading things in parallel and accessing page elements before they are needed, Podjarny said. The company’s platform is also newer, allowing Google to design for speed from the beginning, he said.

Apple has concentrated its resources on design, while “retrofitting” speed into a product line developed before download times were a priority, he said. The first iPhones appeared in 2007.

“The appreciation of speed has grown in the last year or two,” Podjarny said. “Before, people weren’t really expecting a fast browser on a mobile device. Google has the advantage of coming in a little later and seeing what matters.”

Disputed Methods

Android became the world’s best-selling smartphone operating system in the fourth quarter, outselling the iPhone two-to-one, according to Canalys, a U.K.-based research company.

Meanwhile, Apple more than doubled the potential customer base of its latest smartphone, the iPhone 4, in the U.S. this year, offering the device to customers using Verizon Wireless, the largest mobile carrier.

Blaze said it ran its tests on websites of the Fortune 1000 companies. The pages were loaded multiple times on different days, according to the report.

Some analysts sided with Apple in disputing the study’s results because Blaze accessed websites through its speed-measurement software. That software may have negated some of the improvements that Apple has made to its Safari browser, said Michael Gartenberg, an analyst at Stamford, Connecticut-based research firm Gartner Inc. Gartenberg doesn’t own Google or Apple shares.

Web-Page Variables

In a blog posting, Blaze said it stands by its findings. Blaze also added that, for now, it has no evidence that the optimizations that Apple is excluding from its embedded browser make a big impact to Web speeds.

Ben Bajarin, a director at Creative Strategies Inc., a Campbell, California-based consulting company, said his firm hasn’t been able to determine whether Apple or Google’s mobile browser is faster after doing tests for months. There are several reasons that make testing difficult and the operating systems take turns outperforming each other, he said.

The number of variables involved in loading a single page “is astonishing,” the Blaze authors said in their report. “We know there’s no such thing as a perfect Web page load measurement.”

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