The madness of screens vs. browsers on the mobile web

This evening as I was doing some research on mobile web development, I got myself on a tear about the wild differences we face as web developers regarding screen sizes and default browser installations, and came up with this:

Make Model Resolution Default Browser Engine*
Amazon Kindle 600 x 800 NetFront
Apple iPhone 480 x 320 WebKit
Apple iPod Touch 480 x 320 WebKit
BenQ M315 128 x 128 Opera
HTC G1 320 x 480 WebKit
Kyocera Mako S4000 128 x 160 Openwave
Motorola Hint QA30 320 x 240 Openwave
Motorola Krave ZN4 240 x 400 Openwave
Motorola KRZR K1 176 x 220 Opera
Motorola RAZR V3 176 x 220 Opera
Motorola ROKR E2 240 x 320 Opera
Motorola SLVR L7 176 x 220 Opera
Motorola V980 176 x 220 Opera
Motorola VE240 128 x 128 Openwave
Motorola ZINE ZN5 240 x 320 WebKit
Nokia 6300 240 x 320 Opera
Nokia 2605 Mirage 128 x 160 Openwave
Nokia N81 240 x 320 WebKit
Nokia N810 800 x 480 Gecko
Nokia N82 240 x 320 WebKit
Nokia N95 240 x 320 WebKit
Nokia N96 240 x 320 WebKit
Palm Centro 320 x 320 NetFront
Palm Treo 680 320 x 320 NetFront
Palm Treo 750 240 x 240 Internet Explorer
Palm Treo 755p 320 x 320 NetFront
Palm Treo 800w 320 x 320 Internet Explorer
Palm Treo Pro 320 x 320 Internet Explorer
RIM Blackberry Bold 480 x 360 Blackberry Browser
RIM Blackberry Pearl 240 x 320 Blackberry Browser
RIM Blackberry Storm 480 x 360 Blackberry Browser
Samsung Behold T919 240 x 400 NetFront
Samsung BlackJack SGH-i607 240 x 320 Internet Explorer
Samsung Epix i907 320 x 320 Internet Explorer
Samsung Eternity SGH-A867 240 x 400 Openwave
Samsung Highnote M630 176 x 220 Polaris
Samsung Omina i910 240 x 400 Internet Explorer & Opera
Samsung Rant M540 176 x 220 Polaris
Samsung Rugby A837 176 x 220 NetFront
Samsung Saga i770 320 x 320 Internet Explorer & Opera
Samsung SPH-Z400 176 x 220 Obigo
Siemens SX66 240 x 320 Internet Explorer
Sonim XP3 128 x 160 Opera
Sony Ericsson C702a 240 x 320 NetFront
Sony Ericsson C905a 240 x 320 NetFront
Sony Ericsson TM506 240 x 320 NetFront
Sony Ericsson W595a 240 x 320 NetFront
Sony Ericsson W760 240 x 320 NetFront
Sony Ericsson X1 800 X 480 Internet Explorer & Opera

*Some service providers will opt to use a different browser than the ones listed here.

It is interesting to note the diversity on these fronts. Screen sizes are all over the map, and the browsers here are not the usual suspects we see on the desktop. As for browsers, while it is certainly possible on many of these platforms to install a different browser (Opera being the usual choice), most users don’t bother. Regardless, Opera is the dominant player in this space, with significant marketshare owned by all the other actors on the mobile stage. As I research this topic, the WebKit engine proves to be the vast trendsetter and it is interesting to see how many platforms besides the iPhone are picking this one up. And trends show that this landscape is evolving rapidly as mobile capabilities increase and users begin surfing the web on their mobile devices with greater and greater frequency. ABI Research sees web browser installations on smartphones expanding from 130 million in 2008 to 530 million by 2013. The mobile web is a vastly unexplored frontier in web design and we should start seeing more and more attention getting paid to this aspect of the online world.

Update: Amazon Kindle’s Basic Web is based on NetFront – table updated to reflect this.

2 thoughts on “The madness of screens vs. browsers on the mobile web”

  1. As I research this topic, the WebKit engine proves to be the vast trendsetter and it is interesting to see how many platforms besides the iPhone are picking this one up.

    This surprises me not at all, considering the history of WebKit comes out of the KHTML library, which was specifically designed to be a small, portable, widget (basically) that is easy to embed in many other applications.

    This is something I also wrote about for SitePoint recently when I talked about SVG’s progress and again the spread of WebKit with the vastly different screen resolutions we have to face, as you’ve observed, gives us lots of reasons to use something scalable like SVG.

    Cool table. πŸ˜‰

  2. Nice table!! I just “dogeared” this one for our mobile designers to have fun with. We’ve been designing for iphone mostly, but scaling down from there proves to be challenging, to say the least.

    Chris

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