Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Android passes Opera to become number one mobile browser

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For years, Opera has quietly dominated the mobile browsing scene. Even when the iPhone’s popularity skyrocketed, Opera’s massive installed user base kept their browser firmly in the lead. But there’s a new number one now: Android has crept into the pole position.

The reason for the shift is easy enough to see. Opera used to offer something no one else did: a capable browser that ran on very inexpensive phones. Even on older BlackBerry phones, the Opera browser was the way to go. Today, however, there are scores of low-cost smartphones available from carriers around the globe running Android.

That means budget-conscious shoppers around the globe no longer need to limit their list of potential devices to feature phones. And increasingly, those people are turning to Android devices when they plunk down their hard-earned cash.

In less than a year, the Android browser has seen its market share rise from around 14% to nearly 24%. Opera’s share had remained fairly stable at around 21%, briefly jumping to 25% in December 2011 before starting to slip during the post-holiday months. Android doesn’t appear to have stolen much of Opera’s share, however. Rather, Nokia’s browser appears to be the victim here — falling to about 11% from nearly 17% over the last twelve months. BlackBerry, too, has taken a beating, dropping seven percentage points as RIM struggles to figure out how to plug the holes.

The shift to Android will probably only become more pronounced in the coming months as more and more models flood the marketplace. Microsoft and Nokia have been building a response, of course, and their low-cost Windows Phone devices will soon be adding a splash of color to retail shelves around the globe.

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