Research Estimates 60 Per Cent Mobiles Will Have Browsers

It won't be too long before most mobile phones won't have to be "smart" to offer a full Web browsing experience.

A new study by ABI Research says that by 2015 some 3.8 billion, or more than 60 percent of the installed base of mobile handsets worldwide, will include mobile browsers. The research firm estimates only about 30 percent of handsets currently offer a Web browser.

ABI Research analyst Mark Beccue said the advance of mobile browsers is evolving along two different technological paths.

"On one hand, highly sophisticated browsers, which we are calling full Internet browsers, will be found in all smartphones and a growing number of enhanced (or feature) phones. Such devices can host these browsers because they have advanced application processors, expanded memory capacity and adequate screen size and resolution," Beccue said in the report.

"These full Internet browsers typically require about 64 MB of memory to run," he added. "A real key to the growth of full Internet browsers in higher-end feature phones is the falling cost of sophisticated applications processors."

But Beccue said a new family of browsers are emerging along a separate path epitomized by the Opera Mini, which is available on a wide variety of mobile devices.

These proxy-based (or client-server or compression) browsers move some caching and processing off the phone to a nearby server, which lets the browser perform effectively on lower-cost processors.

These browsers also require far less memory, as little as 4 MB. "That means these browsers can be used on even the lowest-cost phones," Beccue said.

The news comes at a time when workforces are becoming increasingly mobile and consumer demand is driving booming sales of smartphones and new applications.

Enterprises with a global reach may be especially interested in the expansion of the mobile Web to lower cost handsets because it means they can extend Web-based email and other services to a broader segment of the workforce.

Likewise, companies engaged in ecommerce and Web-based emarketing also stand to benefit from the expected growth in mobile browsing since it will enable them to reach more customers.

"The only thing that's going to be a significant limiting factor on these enhanced phones is the screen real estate where you might have as big a display as a smartphone," Beccue told

"In the U.S. it's quickly becoming all smartphones anyway. The growth of mobile Web means has a lot of implications for enterprises as interest in cloud-based applications and services grows."

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